Types of Dog Harnesses

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A harness is a helpful piece of equipment to include in your dog training toolbox, but it's important to learn the differences among the various types. Not all harnesses are created equal. Consider that one type of harness may reduce leash pulling behaviors, while another type may do the opposite, making your dog pull more. While harnesses are ideal for puppies and help to put an end to your dog's wheezing, coughing and choking associated with collars, it's important to choose one that's suitable for your dog and your training goals.

Back-Clip Harness

As the name implies, in this type of harness the leash clips to a ring found on the dog's back. While this harness may be a good choice for small dogs predisposed to tracheal collapse, it's not the ideal type of harness to use if you own a large dog with a history of pulling. Indeed, a back-clip harness actually encourages pulling because it allows dogs to put their whole weight into pulling action.

Tip

  • One advantage of a back-clip harness is that the leash clips to the back and avoids your pup tripping over the leash.

Front-Clip Harness

As the name implies, in this harness the leash clips to a ring found in front, located in the middle of the dog's chest. This front attachment is what makes a difference in curbing pulling behaviors. A front-clip harness allows you to lead your dog from the front allowing you more control and steering power. When a dog wearing a front-clip harness pulls, the harness gently steers the dog to the side, facing the owner. Fleece-lined harnesses are available for dogs with sensitive skin and prone to chafing in the elbow area.

Tip

  • A front-clip harness may be a better choice versus a collar for puppies as it takes pressure off their delicate necks as they learn the ABC's of walking on leash. Also, a puppy is less likely to slip out of a harness than a collar. It's important to get puppies gradually accustomed to wearing a harness by allowing them to wear it for short periods of time and ensuring it's fitted properly. Ask a professional for help.

Warning

  • While front-clip harnesses work great for pullers, reactive dogs suffering from severe behavior problems may require a different tool. A head halter that controls the dog's head may be a better option.

Two-point Harness

A two-point harness offers two points of connection, meaning that it allows you to clip the leash to both chest and back attachments or either one. The advantage of using this type of harness is that two points of connection increase your ability to communicate your intentions to your dog. This multifunctional harness offers the opportunity to attach the leash to both the front ring and the back ring so to provide leverage with powerful dogs. Some models offer a double-ended leash that can be attached to both connection points simultaneously.

Tightening Harness

Some harnesses are designed to tighten when the dog pulls. Models may range from harnesses that put slight pressure across the dog's chest and shoulder blades when the dog pulls, to harnesses with straps that tighten around the dog's armpit areas or even around the rear legs. Tightening harnesses train dogs to stop pulling. The moment the dog pulls they tighten and the moment the dog stops pulling the uncomfortable sensation stops. While some harnesses add just slight pressure, harnesses that tighten and cause pain or fear should be avoided.

Warning

  • As with other training aids, harnesses are not meant to be a substitute for training. If you are using a harness to reduce leash pulling, invest time to train loose-leash walking.

Working Harnesses

These harnesses are crafted with working dogs in mind. Whether your dog is tracking, mushing, skijoring, bikejoring or weight pulling, there's a harness made to help your dog accomplish these specific tasks. Harnesses meant to haul are built to distribute weight and prevent harm to the dog. Service dogs also require special harnesses. For instance, dogs employed for mobility assistance require a customized harness with a bracing handle that allows counterbalance and forward momentum. Guide dogs use special harnesses meant to help them communicate with their handlers while leading.

Tip

  • It's always best to consult with your veterinarian or professional dog trainer for help choosing the safest and most effective walking equipment for your puppy or dog.

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