Choosing the right dog harness, and understanding how to adjust it properly, is very important. For further information on how to keep your dog safe and comfortable when out on walks, read the following article.
Manufacturers use printed illustrations, photographs with written guidelines to demonstrate how to successfully fit and adjust their harnesses. Unfortunately it’s rare to be given a hands-on practical demonstration, although this would be the ideal answer.
When choosing the correct harness size, it is best to use both the girth measurement and the weight of the dog. Manufacturers understandably place great emphasis on how to get these measurements right,as a properly fitted harness can prevent accidents.
Choosing a larger harness for a dog to grow into should be avoided, as the chest strap can slip down over the dog’s front legs, allowing the dog to jump over it and escape.
Reasons why dogs escape from harnesses
Improper fitting is the main reason why dogs are sometimes able to escape from a harness. The importance of getting a properly fitted harness cannot be stressed highly enough. The best answer is to choose a harness that’s easy to put on and take off, using only simple adjustments. It’s important to be familiar with these adjustments, in case a dog gets into difficulty and needs to be released quickly from the harness.
Most harnesses come with clear guidelines from the manufacturers: Julius-K9 provides specific instructions for each of their products.
For example, with Y-straps and IDC® chest pads, it’s advisable to attach a chest pad to the chest harness, as the chest pad itself can be opened independently. This means that when putting the harness on the dog, the chest pad does not have to be pulled over the dog’s legs, nor do the front legs need to be lifted. For anxious or lively dogs, it’s best to use a collar with the harness and to attach two leashes while you are setting the harness up.
The Y-strap, which connects the belly strap and the chest strap to the collar, is designed to prevent dogs from escaping.
Choosing harnesses for different body shapes
- Long bodied dogs, such as Daschunds, require a harness that allows the leash ring to sit on the middle third of the dog’s body.
- In contrast, short bodied ( “nose heavy”) dogs with wide girths, such as Pugs, should have the leash attached to the front third of the body.
- The width of the straps running in front of the chest and under the belly is crucial when it comes to pressure load, as a narrower strap puts a higher load on the body of the dog.
- The best answer is to use a 40 – 50mm strap for dogs weighing more than 18kgs.
- Even for dogs that weigh just a few kilograms, do not use straps that measure less than 14mm.
- A wide chest strap is the best way to ensure even load distribution.
- Taking accurate measurements of your dog is essential when choosing the correct harness. A poorly fitted chest harness can cause the chest strap to slip down the dog’s legs and if the harness is too loose, the dog will be able to escape.
- If the chest strap of the harness is choking the dog, or if the breathing is visibly impeded in any way, the size or fitting may be wrong.
Using pads for chest and belly straps
- You can adjust the fitting of a harness by adding attachable chest pads to the chest strap. These pads can be washed separately, and come in various sizes. When using chest pads, as with the main harness, it’s important to select the correct size, especially if you plan to take the dog on active walks. For example, a chest pad covering the chest of an English Bulldog is likely to be too big for a Hungarian Pointer.
- A chest pad does not need to fully cover the front of a dog’s chest for normal activities. Over-sized chest pads can create an extra weight load for a dog, especially if they get wet.
- A pad lining the belly strap can be helpful for lifting a dog into a car, but it is prone to getting water logged and muddy when the dog is running free.
- With older dogs and dogs with restricted movement, it can be worth using a chest pad with an added handle. This can be useful for lifting the animal, and also for guiding it (for example, in crowds or beside busy traffic).
- Stressed or anxious dogs are better suited to a chest harness that can be put on in one move, by simply pulling it over the head. Y-harnesses are best avoided for these types of animals, as they need to be pulled over the dog’s legs, and they often have several buckles.
To summarise, when choosing the ideal dog harness, you need to consider the body structure and shape of the individual dog, and choosing the correct design of chest pad is important for optimal comfort.