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Dog Harness Instead of a Collar. Take One For a Walk

Updated on January 31, 2015

Vest Type Harness

Most of my life it seems that a dog collar was the popular way to go instead of a harness. In recent times I'm seeing more dogs with a harness than ever before. Trainers, veterinarians, groomers and other dog experts are recommending a harness. If you've never used a harness before or don't know much about one read on and learn about the benefits, how they work and if you may want one for your dog.

What Is a Dog Harness?

A dog harness is a piece of equipment that has straps, material, rings and buckles that secures to the dog's chest and rib cage. They normally have straps made of nylon or leather or a vest design with a soft mesh fabric. This design allows better weight distribution on the dog when they are pulling during a walk. They are an alternative to a leash for walking purposes. Like a leash they come in various styles, colors and materials to satisfy your particular taste or need.

How Do You Like Your harness?

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Different Types of Dog Harnesses

This article will mostly discuss the most common harness made for walking your dog. But first here are other types of dog harnesses that exist.

  • Assistance dog harness. The most common is a guide dog mainly used for a blind person. This harness has a guide bar attached to it and is not used to bear weight.
  • Dog training harness. They're used specifically for training, some contain a chest plate to protect the dog for attack training.
  • Car safety harness. This harness acts a seat belt for your dog which will prevent them from getting thrown around in the car during an accident and keeps the dog from roaming and distracting the driver. Some states are initiating laws that would need a car harness if your pet is not in a crate.
  • Sled dog harness. They're used for a dog that is hauling freight. They are much more padded and spread out on the dog's body more to help distribute the heavy weight.
  • Full body harness to aid lifting dogs. They're designed for a dog that are arthritic, injured, older or with leg problems. It's a full body design with two handles on the top to help lift a dog up stairs or up off the floor.

Do you prefer a dog harness or a collar?

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Weight Pulling Harness

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Pug Harness

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Advantages of a pet Walking Harness

A great benefit of a harness is to cut the risk of injury especially to smaller dogs. Dogs such as a Chihuahua, Pomeranian and Yorkshire Terrier get a lot of pressure put on their throat and trachea from a traditional type neck collar. This can cause choking, irritation, coughing or even collapse a delicate windpipe. This can happen from a pulling dog, an unintentional sharp jerk of the leash or the leash getting caught on something while running. Their necks are so small I cringe just thinking of something like this happening.

If your dog pulls, not well-trained, gets easily distracted causing them to create a sudden movement? If so, a harness will help out greatly. There are harnesses with a front ring for leash attachment. This front clip harness is more effective for a bigger, stronger pulling dog because when they pull it forces their body sideways taking away their leverage. The design of a harness distributes the weight of the dog pulling around their torso instead of their neck. This not only reduces the risk of injury but gives the dog walker better control of the pulling dog. It is easier to control a pulling dog because your resistance on the harness spreads out over a larger area of the dog increasing your control. Have you ever let your dog's pulling go on because you were afraid of them getting hurt? I have, a harness will give better control because you will not feel inclined to resist their pulling. If your dog does not pull than feel free to use a rear clip attachment ring above the back.

Is your dog's neck so small that a traditional collar seems to find its way over their head causing the dog freeing themselves from you? Depending where you are at the moment might be scary. It can allow them to run away, dart across the street and get hit by a car or hurt by another animal. Many harnesses design with the smaller dog in mind to give security and prevent this from happening. A proper size harness is very hard to slip out of since it wrapped around their torso.

Large Dog Harness

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Harness Disadvantages

Probably the biggest one is the price. Most harnesses cost a few more dollars than a collar. If you decide that your dog is better off with a harness please buy one. The benefits of a harness far outweighs the disadvantage of price. This seems to go for most pet issues, the less cheaper way is almost always less beneficial but with a harness this is even more important.

Another disadvantage of a harness is it's harder to put on than a collar. It will take a few more seconds to suit up your dog for a walk. Most people don't even take a collar off, just attach the leash and you're on the way. Again, just like price, If your dog requires a harness it's worth the few extra seconds. With some practice this process will become the new hassle free routine.

ID tags usually attach to the ring on a collar. The same be done on a harness but the problem is that the harness does not stay on all the time. So if you are home and your dog escapes the yard they will not have an ID tag. For this reason have a collar with tags on all the time. Make sure to have your contact information and address on your dog.

Use a Soft Tape Measure

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Sizing The Harness

Buying the proper size can very difficult especially with different design harnesses. The most important measurement is the girth, this is the area around their chest directly behind their front legs. Another size measurement needed is their neck and the weight of your dog. Use a cloth measuring tape, if you do not have one use a string and then measure the length of the string with a straight ruler. Determining your dog's weight might be difficult. Have you ever sat them on a scale before? Usually this is a frustrating experience. The easiest way for me is to weigh myself first and then pick up my dog and step back on the scale, the difference is their weight.

If you are buying the harness in a store take your dog with you and attempt to fit your dog with it to make sure it seems like the right size. If you are buying one on the internet most sellers give the proper measurements needed for each size harness. Make sure you buy one that is returnable if it doesn't fit right.

There is no right answer all the time whether to use a harness or a collar. Sometimes you will need a harness for specific reasons mentioned. If you are not sure whether a harness is right for your dog then go to where you can get the advice available, your veterinarian. If your dog is better off with a harness than I would suggest to buy one. Don't use the money or slight inconvenience as an excuse. I have seen too many times when people do not do the right thing. The safety of our dogs are just as important to us as our children.

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