Dog Training Tools: The Sporn Dog Harness
What's a Sporn Dog Harness?
You may have never heard about a Sporn dog harness until some dog trainer recommended it or you found the harness in your favorite pet store's training aisle. So what is a Sporn dog harness, and most of all, how can it benefit your dog?
The Sporn harness was invented by Joseph Sporn in 1992. At a first look it looks like a regular harness, but it is crafted in such a way that makes it unique. For starters, it is built so to ensure comfort. The restraints that go under the elbows and around the belly are made of soft fabric (Sherpa sleeves) so to prevent friction in these areas covered with delicate skin.
Secondly, the Sporn harness is built in such a way as to prevent pulling. While regular harnesses are crafted in such as way that they embrace the body and have a ring on top to attach the leash, these actually can encourage pulling for the simple fact that the leash is positioned right where the dog's strongest center of gravity is, allowing him to use all his body weight.
If we think about it, dogs are put at an advantage compared to us because they have a low, wide, horizontal body spread on 4 legs which gives them a more stable center of gravity compared to us, vertical beings on two legs and blessed with an unbalanced center of gravity to start with. On top of this, dogs also get a good level of traction courtesy of their legs moving in one direction at once and their nails do their work too. Not to mention a dog's opposition reflex, that instinct to pull more when dogs feel pressure from a tight leash as they pull. This explains why a dog may pose a deaf ear when you ask him to heel.
You may therefore wonder why a Sporn harness would reduce pulling if the leash is still attached to the dog's back area where his center of gravity is. In this case, the Sporn harness works to reduce pulling because when the loop to which the leash is attached on the back tightens causing the dog to feel pressure underneath his legs so he instinctively slows down. This pressure is not painful--according to the company, it likely works because dogs have special nerve endings underneath their legs that trigger a response to the brain causing them to pull less. A good fit is crucial for the Sporn harness to work correctly. See video below for more instructions on its use.
Which Dogs Benefit from a Sporn Harness?
There are several dogs who may benefit from a Sporn harness. When it comes to training tools, a Sporn harness is a much more humane choice than choke collars, prong collars and shock collars. Yet, it must be considered that it is still a slightly mild "corrective" device which works by putting pressure, so it works on negative reinforcement; but a much, much better option than choke, prong and shock which I don't advocate their use.
Dogs That Pull, Pull, Pull
Obviously, any dog who pulls and breathes heavily, coughs and gags may benefit from a Sporn harness. The company is so confident it works that it guarantees it stops pulling. This can be a relief for owners who are tired of having their shoulders dislocated. Personally, I am more inclined to use a front-attachment harness such as the " Walk Your Dog with Love" or the Sensible harness. However, both front-attachment harnesses and Sporn harnesses work by ultimately tightening some body parts so they basically are somewhat similar in the long run--and regular buckle collars can also put strain on the neck.
Breeds Prone to Collapsed Tracheas
Many toy breeds and small dogs in general are predisposed to a medical condition known as "collapsed trachea". In particular, Poodles, Yorkshire terriers, and Pomeranians are at risk for this condition. While there may be a hereditary component for this condition, there are predisposing factors such as obesity, exposure to irritants, respiratory infections, and the use of collars. To circumvent the problem, it's best to not use collars in these dogs in the first place and switch to a harness.
Brachycephalic Breeds Prone to Eye Proptosis
If you own a brachycephalic breed, you may be familiar with all the snoring, snorting and sneezing sounds, but are you are aware of eye proptosis? Some breeds are more prone to this. If your dog has prominent, bulging eyes, a short nose, and shallow eye sockets you need to be aware of this horrific conditions where your dog's eyes may pop pout of their socket. Predisposed breeds include the shih tzu, Pekingese, pug, Lhasa apso and Boston terrier. A dog of these breeds pulling too hard or wearing a collar that is too tight may be at risk. A harness is again, a better choice.
Pros and Cons About Sporn Harnesses
As with other training tools, Sporn harnesses have pros and cons you may want to keep into consideration when choosing training equipment for your dog. Following are pros and cons of using this type of training tool.
- It seems to work. Many websites have rave reviews of how owners have a noticed a difference in their dog's walking habits.
- It's more humane than choke, prong and shock collars.
- May help dogs prone to collapsed trachea and eye proptosis.
- The padding prevents chafing of the skin.
- Some models have a mesh-covered elastic web in the front that stretches with movement for extra comfort.
- It's a management tool, and as other harnesses, shouldn't be used as a substitute for training a dog to walk on a loose leash.
- It doesn't really completely stop a dog from pulling, it just takes less effort to control the dog as he actively pulls.
- It is still a corrective device that works on discomfort; yet not to the extent of other tools based on pain.
- Some people may find it difficult to fit on their dogs-- meaning they can't easily tell how to put it on correctly.
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