Wondering whether a harness is the right choice for your canine companion? There are a number of reasons a dog lover might choose a harness over a collar.
Physical Safety: Neck and Eyes
First, dogs who pull while wearing a collar can put pressure on their necks, potentially injuring this sensitive area. While some people note that dogs have a lot more muscle mass around their necks than we do, which could mean their necks are less sensitive, there are delicate structures like the thyroid gland and trachea at the front of the dog’s neck. These can be negatively affected by pressure, even from a flat collar. In addition, a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association notes that intraocular pressure increases significantly when dogs pull against a collar, as opposed to pulling with the same amount of force into a harness. This is a dangerous situation for dogs with certain eye conditions, and one that is easily alleviated by choosing a harness instead of a collar.
Emotional Safety: Conditioned Emotional Responses
Even if it doesn’t cause a physical injury, it can be uncomfortable for your dog to put pressure on their neck via pulling on the collar. And if they get a running start, they can hit the end of the leash with great force. This can lead to a negative association with whatever they are pulling (or running) toward: All the dog knows is “When I pull toward XYZ, I get really uncomfortable.” This correlation can increase stress or fear of certain people, other animals, locations, or situations.
Logistical Safety: Decreased Escape Risk
In addition to these physical and emotional issues, many dogs learn how to slip out of collars that aren’t fitted correctly, which is dangerous for them and you. If your dog puts on the brakes and starts backing up, any resistance you put on the leash may actually serve as assistance for their sliding the collar over their ears and off. A properly fitted harness is a great way to overcome these is a great way to overcome these issues.
Choosing the Right Harness
With so many harnesses for sale, it can be difficult to find the right product for your dog’s needs. The best harness will be easy to use and comfortable for your dog, without restricting movement or causing chafing or rubbing.
If your dog pulls hard on their leash, consider a harness that clips in the front. This takes away some of the dog’s leverage, so when they zoom toward the thing they want, their body is turned and they stop making progress. If you also enjoy hiking and adventuring with your dog, a back-clip harness is a bit easier to keep from getting tangled in your dog’s legs. Some people find they need both: a front clip when pulling is an issue and a back clip for adventures. There are harnesses that offer this versatility!
Make sure that whatever harness you purchase is well-made and durable. If your dog is a big-time adventurer, get a harness that is water-friendly and easily cleaned. This way you won’t be worried about swimming or mud splatters. When your dog wears their harness, keep an eye out for any chafing or signs of discomfort (including licking or scratching areas the harness touches on their body).
Finally, don’t settle for a harness that requires more instructions to use than IKEA furniture assembly! Make sure that you can easily work the clips and adjust the straps, and that you can figure out which part of your dog goes in which part of the harness. Walks and adventures are much more fun when they don’t start with an epic struggle between human and harness!
If you’re in the market for a harness that meets all of these needs, and also looks great, please check out the Happy Harness from TransPaw Gear. After many years as a professional dog trainer, I created this harness because I saw that my clients clients were struggling to find equipment that fit all of the above criteria. I know that walks and adventures are fundamental to the bond between humans and dogs. And a harness that works for both ends of the leash is any easy way to bring even greater joy into those activities that you share with the dogs in your life. Here’s to unleashing adventure and harnessing fun!
Bio: Joan Hunter Mayer is a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, and the owner of TransPaw Gear and The Inquisitive Canine. The TransPaw Gear Happy Harness was invented by Joan to meet the need she saw among her dog training clients for a harness that was versatile, comfortable, easy to use, and escape-proof. Joan offers in-person or online training and behavior modification services to help her clients learn how to get the best out of their best friends. She resides in Santa Barbara with her husband, Nolan, and their dog, Ringo.