It's true! Many harnesses are designed to help the dog pull harder. Think of sled dogs. While harnesses are better for dogs that are escape artists or spook at shadows, it pays to select a harness that won't turn a lovely dog walk into an Olympic field trial. How does a harness encourage pulling? Let's compare two different harness designs to see how.
First, here is the type you find in most pet stores:
This harness has a fleece-lined chest piece. The fleece prevents chafing... when the dog pulls. The broad chest piece also gives the dog something to push against. The girth strap behind the front legs does nothing but keep the dog from backing out of the harness. There is nothing here to discourage pulling and the entire design of the harness gives the dog leverage and strength.
When our foster dog Coney showed up with this harness, we took one look at it and put it back in the bag. The only time we've had him wear it was to model it for these photos. He's not a sled dog but he's young and energetic, so we don't want him dragging us around the neighborhood.
Here's a closer look at the pulling action of this harness. The red arrow shows how he can push forward against the broad chest piece, indicated by the red line.
Here's the type of harness we prefer:
The style is called a martingale harness, which means that it is designed to gently squeeze when the dog pulls. Greyhounds usually wear martingale collars that gently squeeze the neck because greyhound heads are slightly narrower than their muscular necks and standard buckle collars can slip right off. Martingale harnesses work on the same principal, but they squeeze around the chest.
Note that on this harness, there is no front chest piece to push against. In this case the loop that goes around the front of the chest just holds the harness in place, while the girth strap is the important part. When the dog pulls, the girth loop tightens around his chest behind the arms. If a dog pulls hard in this harness, it becomes hard to breath, so he immediately stops pulling. Martingale harnesses are ideal for teaching a dog not to pull. The squeezing action is also pretty good for preventing escapes.
This particular harness is called a HarnessLead. A very innovative design, made in the USA and proudly featured in our dog section. It's made from soft cotton rope that won't chafe. The three rubber stoppers allow you to adjust the harness to fit dogs of any size, which means the harness will work for your dog's entire life. You can size it for your new puppy and then adjust the rubber stoppers as he grows.
Next time you need to shop for a dog harness, remember to select one that actually does what you need it to. If you want to discourage pulling, don't buy a harness designed to help the dog pull!