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Why use a harness?

A harness can be a helpful tool, but it is not necessarily right for every dog and there a few factors to consider when purchasing one.

Lead walking

When practicing a skill such as walking politely on the lead without pulling, a harness can be a helpful differentiation point, in addition to the collar. If you are training loose lead walking to a collar, it means that if you come across a dog, or another trigger that your dog is likely to pull towards it means you can quickly transfer the lead to the harness so that the pulling occurs on the harness therefore you’re not undoing any hard training work that you have done on the collar. Moreover, it means that if your dog is scared of something then no pain is associated on their neck if they do pull. If you’re working on recall and your dog is not coming off the lead yet, then, again, if you can utilise the harness your dog can have more of a relaxing walk and if they do see something incredibly exciting that you know they will pull towards then transferring the lead to the harness will mean if they do pull, again, you’re setting them up for success and they will not undo any hard work.


Moreover, from a safety perspective, when travelling in the car you want to make sure your dog is suitably restrained and attaching a seat belt to your dogs harness will do this. You never want to attach the seatbelt to your dogs collar as if you have to break sharply this could break their neck.

Also they can potentially slip out of their collar into the road if it is not tight enough.

If your dog does not want to wear a harness or cannot, then crate training to the car is another option.

What kind of harness should you use?

There are a lot of harnesses on the market and just like some clothing or bra’s there’s not a one size fits all approach!

There are hundreds of harnesses on the market – it can be so hard to know which one to use.

First and foremost, harnesses must fit the dog at all times from a safety and comfort perspective. As the dog grows the harness will also need to be changed to fit them.

If a dog’s harness is too big and they’re off lead, it could get caught on trees or branches and hurt them.

Style and shape

If a dog has large pointy ears, or large eyes then it will be very uncomfortable if a tight fitting harness is going over their head. Therefore, training the dog around a suitably sized harness is sensible.

Step in harnesses aren’t ideal as we have to lift a dogs paws and chest. Also leaning over a dog is not sensible as it can feel threatening to some dogs as when a dog fights with another dog they can lean over each other which can feel similar.

Catching a dog’s hair in the harness can be painful too therefore unclipping it carefully is important.

Some dogs are naturally touch sensitive so after speaking to a vet to consider any medical issues then desensitising and counter conditioning them will need to be done too.  Also, if a dog is sound sensitive, then the noise of the clip can be intimidating, and again counter conditioning and desensitisation will need to be used.

Sometimes the reason for avoiding a harness is part of a bigger issue – the dog may have anxiety with going outside – this will need to be addressed separately, as there could be many components to this – such as noise, fear of dogs or people. If a dog is used to living on the streets then they will not be used to being restricted to a lead.

I recommend the Perfect Fit Harness. The customer service is excellent and you can send back pieces after trying them on your dog or cat.

I’m not endorsed by Perfect Fit.. I just think they are great!

Adapted from Sarah Whitehead Inner Circle.

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