Training and Behavior: Quality Control
Not all harnesses are created equal. Find out which style is best for your dog.
M. Christine Zink, D.V.M., Ph.D.
In recent years, harnesses have become popular attire for dogs. Harnesses with straps made of nylon webbing, leather, microfiber and denim, with all sorts of colors and patterns are designed to crisscross your dog’s body in just about every direction. It’s difficult to know which design is the best for your dog, or even whether you should use one at all.
Here are some reasons people switch from a collar to a harness for their canine companions:
1. Upper airway problems. Many small dogs and some large dogs have congenital or acquired abnormalities affecting the trachea or larynx that cause them to cough, choke or experience difficulty breathing when wearing a collar.
2. In some canine sports, such as mushing and weight pulling, the dog requires a harness to accomplish its job. In others activities, such as flyball, a harness helps owners hold their wiggling mass of canine muscle at the start line.
3. Many working dogs are required to wear harnesses so the public can recognize that they have a specific function to perform. This includes guide dogs for the blind, police dogs, canine assistance companions and bomb-sniffing dogs.
4. Dogs that have thick necks and relatively small heads, such as Greyhounds, can sometimes slip out of a collar, a potential danger for the dog.
What’s the best harness design?
If you use a harness because a collar restricts your dog’s breathing, it doesn’t make sense to use a harness that restricts the dog’s body in another way. In addition to being easy-to-use, safe and durable, a harness must allow the dog’s legs to have full range of motion. Many of the newer harnesses on the market miss this critical characteristic and impede full forward movement of the dog’s front legs.
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