There is no doubt that dogs are the animals closest to mankind. They have been involved in supporting their owners’ work for thousands of years, which is why the need for equipment arose pretty early on. But how did we get from the “pulling harness” to the urban dog harness?
Initially, dogs were used for pulling loads which – just like in the case of horses – was accomplished by using multiple types of harnesses. The development history of the neck harnesses, chest harnesses and Y-shaped harnesses is largely due to the activities of the Scythian, Hun and Hungarian equestrian peoples, but the role of the Indian peoples living in cold climatic conditions is also significant.
Until World War I, the focus was on optimizing the pulling power of dogs, but it was obvious that in addition to their physical strength, other abilities would also be put to use by mankind. Dogs’ excellent orientation abilities, for example, were almost as useful as modern technology, so during the war they acted as couriers, with good equipment that had storage functions. By the end of World War I, harnesses for guide dogs trained to aid soldiers with eye injuries were also in use. Guide dogs are still outstanding examples of the highest level of human-dog collaboration to this day.
Thus, special roles emerged along with special harnesses, and as a result, developments began to focus on additional components of dog harnesses. The storage function is provided by the side bags attached to the dog harness, while the handle on the guide harnesses is still of great importance to this day.
Harnesses started to be used primarily in urban environments, as towards the end of the 20th century, keeping dogs in cities as pets gained mass acceptance. Instead of the interdependence between sled dogs and humans, a more emotional bond is what became dominant in human-dog relationships. People want to spend more and more time with their dogs, so a market opened up for a number of new types of dog equipment.
Different versions of the leash and the collar have become an essential part of everyday life, their appearance has been shaped by ever-accelerating and fashionable city life. The use of dog harnesses became common in the late 20th century. In an increasing number of countries, dog harnesses are essential for the training and work of service dogs. Of course, at first they did not reach the stimulus threshold of urban hobby dog owners in terms of aesthetics and usability, in their case collars meant the standard gear. It’s safe to say that until the very end of the 20th century, dog harnesses did not offer any significant aesthetic experience or practical solution to hobby dog owners that would have caused them to become massively popular.
The breakthrough required a ground-breaking design and features that could be utilized while getting around in the city. This became a reality at the end of the 20th century with the release of the “Powerharness”. It had a striking, reflective saddle-part with an option of attaching interchangeable patches to it, and a chest strap that could be easily adjusted with a hook and loop fastener. For the first time, a precisely developed, mass-produced handle appeared on the harnesses, which also represented serious added value in terms of appearance and stability. That’s right, we’re talking about the JULIUS-K9® dog harness.
This was the time when everyday dog owners began to realise what the basic purpose and function of a dog harness was. The dog harness is ideal for guiding, holding, and possibly lifting the dog, and is much more comfortable than a collar. In the first two decades of the 21st century, users also became more aware that different types of harnesses, due to their special design, were intended for various different activities.
A large percentage of family dogs live in cities. Apart from quick walks around the block, they are often taken on longer weekend excursions. There is a suitable harness available for either of these activities, in the same way that owners can choose the sneakers or hiking boots that match their goals.
Today’s successors to the former animal harnesses optimized for traction are the Y-shaped harnesses. This type of harness is more of an ideal addition for excursions and running sports. And for everyday urban use, a more robust chest harness that also functions as a high-visibility vest, but above all can be easily and quickly applied, would be most ideal.
Summarizing the role of urban harnesses, Powerharnesses:
- supports stopping, restraining, helping the dog on stairs or other terrain obstacles
- the harness design makes it possible to attach accessories that help the dog get around safely
- ensures good visibility of the dog
- the robustness of chest harnesses may be more ideal for older dogs with movement or sensory or possibly mental problems, for whom stimulus-rich urban life is uncomfortable
- for dogs who are insecure in traffic, the chest strap and sturdy saddle may provide mental reinforcement
- the person leading the dog can easily hold the dog by using the handle fixed on the saddle, avoiding situations that cause insecurity
- the rigidity and curvature of the handle can also be crucial in dealing with emergencies where stopping and guiding the dog is the most important consideration
On one hand, we still have the work and sport related elements from the past, while the indispensable equipment of urban dog owners also became available. The decision is up to the owner, to choose the most optimal harness for a given activity.