Harnesses are like a pair of shoes, a badly fitted one can effect movement, rub and generally be uncomfortable. This can impact how dogs walk, their behaviour in general on the lead and for puppies how they grow. It can encourage pulling to alleviate pressure or the position of the D ring can cause them to pull forward to keep balance. Many pet shops sell poorly designed harnesses.
There are lots of harnesses that state they are non pull this is usually because it is hindering the stride in the front legs or tightening around the armpits.
You want one that sits above the shoulders so they can take a full stride, is clear of the armpit area and sits before the mid section of the spine where the bones point towards each other. The ideal harness has a Y front, is fixed and a good size back section specifically for the dogs shape.
I generally (although this is dog dependant) do not recommend walking on collars as it can cause a lot of discomfort around the neck and throat not to mention cutting off oxygen in the way we hold it or if they pull. Short nose breeds should always be walked on a harness. A long line should always be attached to a harness too, NEVER a collar it can cause whiplash and worse.
Top 3 Harnesses I recommend
The Perfect Fit Harness is one on my recommended list, these come in a huge array of sizes and three pieces for the bigger breeds so if one part doesn’t fit right you can send one piece back and it works the same way as they grow, as you can buy the next size up for the piece they have grown out of it replace sections if ever damaged. This harness is fleece lined with neck clips for the dogs who also are not comfortable with putting their head through the harness.
The Tellington TTouch harness was designed and developed in the UK by Sarah Fisher to help dogs walk freely in balance on a loose lead, and to minimise pressure on important anatomical structures in dogs’ necks. The TTouch harness is manufactured in the UK from colour fast webbing and high quality D and O rings. It has contoured plastic clips on both sides of the neck piece and back piece. This enables the handler to fit the harness without triggering concern by putting the harness over the dog’s head or by lifting the dog’s front leg. It is easily removed by releasing the clips without the need to pull the harness over the head which can cause anxiety for some dog.
Blue 9 Balance Harness
The Blue K9 Balance Harness designed by Lori Stevens, Certified Dog Trainer and made in the USA, the unique Balance Harness™ has 6 adjustment points offering a customised fit for comfort, complete freedom of movement, and flexible lead attachment options. Its unique design offers you the flexibility of multiple adjustment points to ensure that your dog has a properly fitting harness to ensure comfort, proper movement, and safety.
A lot of shop bought harnesses have just one point of contact, all of the above harnesses have a ring at the front and a ring at the back (T Touch has a choice of two) for attaching the lead, making it both versatile and practical. By clipping a leash to the front of the harness instead of a collar, tension is reduced on the dog’s neck and back, helping to influence the dog’s balance and centre of gravity (thus improving gait and posture). Control is maintained simply by giving a gentle ask and release signal to the lead clipped to the front of the harness.
What is important is introducing the harness positively, we can often get away with putting things on puppies and some dogs because we can lift them up to do it, often we do not realise they are not comfortable with this. Dogs will give subtle signs that are often missed like lip licking, yawning, panting, cowering or them nipping us as an indication for us to stop. Over time when the harness comes out they can run a mile or sometimes even become aggressive.
Pair the whole process with lot of treats until they are comfortable; for sniffing the harness, putting nose towards harness, harness touching them, nose through hole, head going through, then dropping some on to a towel or snuffle mat to get the strap around their waist, then as soon as it’s on play with them and have fun. Listen when they are saying stop and go slower if they are.
Do not tie it instantly with going out on a walk particularly for any puppies/dogs that have never been on a walk or dogs that are a frightened outside as we can then accidentally teach them harness equals something scary. It’s important to take your time with the process, this will pay off in the end and ensure your dog is not anxious before the walk even gets started.
If your dog pulls remember to work on your loose lead walking, you must also rule out any anxiety on walks as this triggers pulling to get past things they are not comfortable with or physical discomfort as some dogs pull as a result of reduced mobility through the hind quarters.