Walking is a great source of exercise: a regular brisk walk not only benefits general health and well being, but can also prevent excessive weight gain for owners and their dogs. A survey by JULIUS-K9, a company manufacturing dog equipment, discovered that older people tend to reduce the length of their regular dog walk, often stopping it altogether because of resulting muscle, joint and bone pain.
This survey highlighted the fact that while there are many health benefits from dog walking, there is a small risk of minor injuries, as well as delayed healing of some ongoing health issues. In particular, there is a syndrome known as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) which can happen when using a collar and harness while walking a dog on a leash. Mini vibrations occur because of the pressures applied by the motion of the dog’s shoulders combined with the repeated movements of the person holding the leash. This ultimately puts a strain on the handler’s joints.
Diseases associated with vibration damage to the human hand and arm, include Raynaud’s Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and tendonitis.
To find out more about these issues, a study was set up to investigate the similarities of strain experienced by the dog and by the handler while walking a dog on a leash.
Measuring instruments specially devised for the purpose of this investigation showed that dozens of these mini vibrations take place every minute. However the study also found that by using a specially designed harness, these vibrations, along with their harmful effects, could be reduced.
Julius-K9 company director Julius Sebő holds the world record for dog harness patents, with more protected international intellectual property in the field of dog harnesses than anyone else. He has been researching the advantages of harnesses for over 20 years, and has designed a series of innovative harnesses, such as special bullet proofed military harnesses, carrying and abseiling harnesses and even walking devices. Harnesses designed using his patents can now be found in most countries around the world.
Sebő explains “As a dog harness designer, it has been helpful to interact not only with search and rescue dog handlers (especially those at the peak of their profession), but working as a volunteer at animal shelters, I have also had many interactions with a wide cross-section of dog owners. Their feedback provided the foundation for my first dog harness patent in 2014. This harness reduced the impact of the force used on the body of the handler and the dog when walking. It was important to receive feedback about dogs in these specialist areas where pulling on the leash is a normal part of the activity. Search dogs, as well as dogs in shelters were the perfect subjects for my research; in both cases, it is normal for the dog to be straining at the leash. It was through this work that I developed the modern version of the Y harness for dogs that’s used for dogs tracking missing people. The nearest traditional equivalent is the Kummet harness for draught animals. With this harness, it’s very noticeable that the rhythmic stretching and relaxing of the two shoulder straps in the neck area takes place in a synchronised fashion, linked to the speed of walking. The pressures caused by this stretching and relaxing can cause a search dog to be temporarily distracted, and they place a strain on the hand holding the leash, which is significant for dogs being walked in dog rescue centres.”
These special dog harnesses, designed to cushion jolting and to reduce pull, were developed initially for dog sports and dog search activities, not for normal dog walking. However the good news for dog owners is that they are now being adapted for daily use by pets.
The prototypes of the harnesses designed on the basis of the above research are currently being tested by the staff of our German search dog partner company, K-9® Suchhundezentrum. Led by Alexandra Grunow and his team, this design is taking shape, and should soon be available for people who like to walk dogs as part of their normal daily lives. Later in 2018, you will be able to purchase a dog harness that adapts itself to the stresses and movement of your dog. You’ll find this new product under the brand name JULIUS-K9®. It’s hoped that these new harnesses will make it even more enjoyable, and even healthier, to go on long walks with your dog.