Just as with any other tool, there are different dog harnesses to serve different purposes. Some are designed to discourage pulling, some are designed to actually allow the dog to pull. (Think sled dogs, right?) There are also other special purpose harnesses on the market. Here is our guide to choosing the right harness for your dog.
Purpose: Discourage Pulling
This is the one that most pet dog owners want. Harnesses that discourage pulling come in a variety of designs. Some have a D-ring in front of the dog's chest so that when he pulls, the leash pulls backward on him. Another type is called a "martingale harness". These gently squeeze the pup's rib-cage when he pulls. If your dog doesn't respond well to the first type, you can try a martingale harness. Many dogs respond very well to them and instantly understand what the squeezing means. They'll back off, take the tension off the leash so they can breath again. Unlike collars that are designed to choke when the dog pulls, a martingale harness won't cause damage to the throat or neck vertebrae.
Purpose: Encourage Pulling
Harnesses that encourage pulling tend to have a wide piece of fabric or leather in front of the dog's chest to give him a sturdy "platform" against which to push. (Leverage, if you will.) The leash typically attaches on top or on the sides. There is nothing wrong with this style of harness, as long as you want your dog to pull. Sled dogs and cart dogs use these to do their jobs.
Unfortunately there are many harnesses for pet dogs on the market that use this design and people buy them because they think the padded chest area will protect their dog's skin from chafing. A harness will only chafe in the chest area if the dog is pulling, so a better solution (if he's not supposed to pull you around) is to instead buy a different type of harness!
Purpose: Prevent Escapes
Some harnesses are designed to be hard for the dog to escape out of. Those are usually martingale-style harnesses, because the squeezing action around the chest when the dog pulls also works when he's pulling backward - trying to back out of the harness. It's important to note that they're hard to back out of, but not impossible. Some dogs are genuine Houdini's, so you have to know your dog. You might need to use a combination of escape-resistant harness and properly-fitted martingale collar.
For deep-chested/narrow-waisted breeds, spook harnesses are impossible to escape from. They have an extra strap around the waist and if fitted correctly, close to the skin on both chest and tummy, it's literally impossible to back out of. (They're called spook harnesses for "spooky" dogs. The ones that practically jump out of their skin at the smallest unexpected noise. Those poor pups need extra security... or rather their owners need the extra security of knowing they won't lose their frightened pup when the noisy trash truck drives by!)
Purpose: Visibility in the Dark
A new type of harness on the market are ones with LED lights embedded in the mesh of the straps. They're great for visibility at night! They come in both rechargeable and regular battery-operated, and they come in a range of pretty colors.
Reflective harnesses are also a great solution. They're made by various manufacturers and usually use the same technology as safety gear for humans.
Purpose: Car Restraint (Seat Belts)
For many years there have been car restraint harnesses on the market but many independent tests have shown them to be not at all a reliable way to protect your pup in an accident. However, there are now car restraint harnesses that have been actually crash tested using the USA 30-mph child safety ratings and passed. Those harnesses are made by Sleepypod and we're very proud to be able to offer them to you in our product line up! Car restraint systems need to perform two goals:
- Keep your pet from falling or impacting against the car interior and getting hurt or killed
- Prevent your pet from becoming a projectile and hurting other occupants in the car
The Center for Pet Safety crash tests have found that most systems on the market simply break from sudden deceleration forces, allowing the pet to both fly around in the car and get injured. Let's bring market pressure to bear to encourage more manufacturers to improve their quality and pass crash testing like Sleepypod does.
When you're shopping for harnesses for your dog, be sure to choose the right one for the job!