Harnesses, Collars, and Leashes, Oh My! Pt 1

A Three Part Series on Your Dog’s Most Important Accessories

By: Erin Wigginton, CPDT-KA

Once upon a time the choices of what dog owners used to identify and manage their charges were limited. Now, we are faced with more options than we can possibly navigate and are all too often left in a state of confusion. Should we buy something functional or fashionable? Out of what type of material? Will my puppy outgrow it or will it adjust to her new proportions? The decisions can be overwhelming but not all are a reason for concern. Some choices are simply personal preference, like color or style. However, some choices require some research and deliberation. Those are the choices I want to discuss.

Part One: Harnesses

Sled dogs

Harnesses sometimes get a bad rap from dog enthusiasts and professionals. All I have to say to clients who complain that their dog pulls harder than they thought possible on the harness is, “Think sled dog”, and I am met with a dawning realization on their faces. I only recommend traditional harnesses for very small dogs (under 14lbs). It’s important to know, though, that there are some excellent no-pull harnesses available including the Freedom Harness and the Easy Walk harness. These harnesses offer a unique front-attachment so that, when on-leash, if the dog pulls the harness redirects the force and guides the dog into a turn. Therefore, the dog cannot pull forward or “hunker down” and pull with everything they’ve got. It is extremely effective at reducing a dog’s ability to pull on-leash.

freedom harnessfreedom harness 1

Although the Easy Walk harness can be effective for some dogs, my personal preference is for the Freedom Harness and I’ll tell you why. I work with a lot of “bully” breeds (pit bulls, boxers, and bulldogs) and they tend to be relatively naked of fur behind their front legs. For this reason, traditional harnesses constructed of nylon tend to abrade them in that area making the wearing of the harness uncomfortable or even injurious. The Freedom harness is different. The strap that fits behind the dog’s front legs is made of velvet making it soft and gentle to the dog’s sensitive skin. Other reasons I recommend the Freedom Harness (and use it with my own dog) are: the sizes in which one can purchase a Freedom Harness range to fit dogs from 14lbs to over 200lbs, the harness is very adjustable – a medium harness can be adjusted to fit dogs from 45 pounds to over 65 pounds – and rarely loses its fit once it is sized to the dog, it is durable and has a limited warrantee which allows owners to return a damaged harness (even if it’s chewed) to the factory to be repaired and returned for just the cost of shipping, and it is fantastically effective at reducing the dog’s ability to drag its owner around while remaining comfortable for the dog. Freedom Harnesses are available at Four Muddy Paws, Treats Unleashed, or Animal Crackers O’Fallon and online (my favorite site is www.good-doggie.com). Be sure to either measure your dog and compare to sizing charts available online or take your dog with you to the store and have a staff member fit the harness properly.

Next time I’ll expand on our topic and explore the endless world of collars. You’ll learn about my favorites, why I love them, and how to choose the right one for your dog. I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you and hear from you about yours! As always, please comment or ask questions below – we LOVE your feedback!

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