Looking for that perfect dog harness

ilovepocoOctober 26, 2011

I have a rescue dog (a Sato, likely a Chihuahua-Terrier mix, about 25 lbs). She is very short-coated even in the winter (I'm in MA). The skin under/behind her front legs is very soft and almost hairless, and I've had so much trouble finding a harness that didn't rub her raw there.

She needs a harness because her neck is bigger than her head and she's learned to twist her collar off unless it's way too tight for comfort. I've found some web or fabric harnesses that close with velcro that are almost right, but nothing seems to fit her well - they either fit in the girth (but then the shoulder/neck area is way too loose) or they fit in front (but then the girth is too small).

Does anyone know of a comfortable, soft harness that would fit a dog with a body like a Bull Terrier? That's the closest body type I can think of - she's got a blocky, stocky body, heavy tapering neck, and small head.


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I have an Iggy mix (small lurcher) and because of his very deep chest and very long, graceful neck we must use a harness on him as well. He also has that tiny waist and not so large head. He was also a rescue, and had no voice for nearly six months after I got him. It came back gradually and my thoughts on that, was the previous owner must have used a collar on him, and perhaps a choker one at that.

I took him into one of those strictly pet store chains where dogs can enter and fitted him to a webbed harness. Most of the better ones (twenty and up) have adjustments in several places for girth and of course the front legs go through the harness and they have a chest strap down across the breast and through the front legs. It fits him snugly but with ample room to slide your fingers under all the webbing and the legs through the proper sites ......well, no way has he been able to get out of it. He's on his third one now.

It is designed similar to what they call an agitation harness. You may be getting one with not enough straps. Or you may want to look into the soft 'vest' harnesses. An appropriate one is out there and if yours is the mix you say, then you'll want one plenty sturdy to take a sudden jerk. That's the ploy mine uses and he's also not got a lot of hair and tender exposed skin. No way would I trust velcro fasteners on my pooch.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 1:49PM
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I use the Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness. It's fully adjustable and controls them from the chest ... it works great.

I attached a link to one I found on Amazon.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazon Gentle Leader

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 1:26PM
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My dogs harnesses are from 2Hounds Desigh. They're lined in velvet. Very comfy and no rubbing (I have retired racing greys so short fur, almost bald in some spots.) The harnesses are adjustable at many different points, so might want to look into this style. I also like the design because the harnesses clip apart at two sites so no need to make a dog lift his/her legs to get the harness on. Very safe and comfortable. You might also want to consider martingale collars for her which are looser when not in use, and tighten if the dog pulls on walks. I'm not sure how small these harnesses come, but take a look.

Here is a link that might be useful: Two Hounds Design

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 1:09PM
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I second, third, and fourth the Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness. I have 3 of them! They don't even hit the dog in that tender area.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 9:46PM
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I ordered a custom one for my Dachshund because he was pulling too much( I know, he needs a trainer). He's black/tan so I got him a red and black plaid. It has Velcro under the belly and around the neck and a fastener as well at the neck. I throw it in the wash all the time because he's so low to the ground, it gets dirty. Fits him like a glove. Hug-a -dog.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 2:15AM
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Thanks everyone... I use a Gentle Leader on my big dog (retriever) and it works for him but it's very stiff (even though it's well broken in) - not sure it's right for the little dog.

Two Hounds and Hug-a-Dog look good - I will check them both out.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 11:25AM
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Thanks for posting this question. I recently adopted an adult Basenji and he needs a harness when going for long walks in the woods. He's only 19 pounds and all the store brands are just too wimpy in his size. The only problem is he has issues with being touched too much so I have no idea how I will measure his chest. At this stage I will have to leave on him anything I put on him - I'm only gonna git one chance before the snapping begins.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 9:32AM
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Hi. I work at a dog bakery & store store and I help customers fit harnesses on dogs. Try the Planet Dog Hemp Harness. Very soft and it works on most dogs, even if dog is chesty or boxy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planet Dog Cozy Hemp Harness

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 6:57PM
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I am looking for a harness for a very strong 90 pound hound. He is insecure and barks and pulls when confronting new people and dog on walks.

1) Started with control collar (ie slip collar or choker collar)
2) Went to prong-type control collar - not that much better
3) Tried the Gentle leader Large size (60-130#). Watched the whole video (1hr +) before fitting it. The plastic piece on collar broke in two weeks.

Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 4:59PM
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We have been using Mutt Gear Comfort Dog Harness for our 75lb German Shepherd as well as our 35lb Siberian Husky. There are other brands with similar styles, but I came across this one at the recommendation of a friend and I had a coupon. Our Shep pulls and barks as well when meeting new people and sometimes when she sees her dog pals in the neighborhood. The various collars (prong, choke, etc) did not work for us. She does still bark with the harness, but I have more control with her in the harness and am able to get her attention so she hears my commands to sit and stay.

In a pinch if I forget her harness, I use her leash as a makeshift harness. Slows her right down when she pulls. This is basically what I do -- Leash into harness

Here is a link that might be useful: Mutt Gear Comfort Dog Harness

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 11:27AM
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robertz6, I think you need to hire a trainer or sign up for obedience classes. A lunging, 90 lb dog is rarely controlled with a harness.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 11:32AM
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Annz, that occurred to me as well. The hound belongs to the neighbors, and they rarely walk him. I mentioned a training class and they said no. I walk him most days for my enjoyment and his.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 1:44PM
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Good on you Robert6!! Thats 1 lucky dog!!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 7:40PM
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I'm the original poster - lots of great info in this thread - I'm glad it's helping people.

I bought a martingale collar from Two Hounds. It works great. When she tugs on the collar to try to slip out, the loop tightens just enough to keep the collar from slipping off. She actually doesn't even try anymore. Excellent quality, fun colors and prints, soft and comfortable.

Previously, I ran into a large group of rescue greyhounds and their owners in the woods, and when I asked them what products they recommended they all called out "Two Hounds!"

So far the collar meets our needs. We have a large suburban property that is fully fenced (with buried apron wire - we used to have Jack Russells and they loved to dig) with 24/7 doggie door access. So I really only need the collar to get to and from the many off-leash areas nearby (or the vet). If I had to walk her on a leash much, I'd likely get one of the Two Hounds harnesses. Totally satisfied.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 1:38PM
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We use the Champion harness system for our 80-pound German Shepherd Dog. It hooks onto a strap, which hooks onto the seat belt. So far, so good.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 6:54AM
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One of above posts led me to the site "centhound.com" where the 'No-Pull Harness' from Wiggles Wags and Whiskers was recommended. This site SEEMS TO BE open-minded and hopefully objective, rather than a sneaky ad.

Anyone have experience with the 'No-Pull Harness'?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 5:45PM
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Clue me in here...I just don't "get" harnesses for dogs, unless they are pulling sleds or similar. For walking, training, and/or out-and-abouting, why not just learn to use a good collar? When my doggie and I took obedience school, we all learned how to fit and use martingale collars, followed by tactics to teach our dogs to focus and walk beside us on loose leashes. I just don't see how you can control a dog, particularly a large one, with a harness, particularly when it misbehaves - for example, reacting poorly to other dogs, or if it wants to chase squirrels, cats, or other dogs' toys.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 12:41AM
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I found a dog car harness very good for my dog in the car, and even worked when walking. The concept I had to get used was that dogs change their behavior more from a system that makes them feel controlled, rather than a system/collar that may cause pain/choking/other. I would say a good harness will be easier on both dog and walker than some control chain collars.

Since my dog passed on, I walk the neighbors hound with serious barking and insecurity problems. The Gentle Leader worked to some extent. Just walking with no distractions, it improved his behavior. But when strange people or dogs where encountered, he violently twisted his head back and forth. The plastic stop piece broke after two weeks of use.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 5:28PM
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"Clue me in here...I just don't "get" harnesses for dogs, unless they are pulling sleds or similar. For walking, training, and/or out-and-abouting, why not just learn to use a good collar? When my doggie and I took obedience school, we all learned how to fit and use martingale collars, followed by tactics to teach our dogs to focus and walk beside us on loose leashes. I just don't see how you can control a dog, particularly a large one, with a harness, particularly when it misbehaves - for example, reacting poorly to other dogs, or if it wants to chase squirrels, cats, or other dogs' toys."

Easy, by teaching a dog leash manners. It combats the oppositional force reflex. All the dogs I train end up in harnesses. It takes pressure off the neck. That also answers why I don't like attaching leashes to collars. In the event that you or they stop short, it puts pressure on the neck. People will tell you that their necks are invisible and nothing can hurt them, but this isn't true and is made up to justify using choke and prong collars. There are many nerves close to the surface of the skin on the neck (especially important blood supplying ones in the back) and you've also got the delicate hyoid bone close under the chin, so if the collar hikes up or if someone God forbid actually places it there, you can break this bone and it's incredibly painful.

Have you tried the Walk Your Dog With Love harness? I highly recommend this for managing strength while LLW training (although this is best done naked starting in the house) and for the occasional tug of a reactive or fearful dog. However, a harness shouldn't be used to replace training. Nothing should.

Furthermore, it doesn't make sense to use a choke or prong collar for reactivity. You're just adding yet another negative association to whatever the dog is already reacting to. If you cause enough pain, you may succeed in suppressing the symptom behaviors but you won't cure the reason for the acting out. You may end up with a whole new host of even worse behaviors, like aggression at a new target (since dogs are associative learners and associate what they see with what they feel, so the pinch from a prong when your dog is looking at children can turn very dangerous very fast), or a dog that attacks when other dogs or people walk by without so much as a warning.

Here is a link that might be useful: Is it harmful to attach a leash to your dog�s neck?

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 4:35AM
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How do I say this politely.... I think that article is a bunch of BUNK!!!!

Dogs who constantly pull against a leash attached to their collars simply have not been properly trained. Or perhaps more accurately, their handlers have not been trained at all. At the dog club to which I belong, harness are forbidden, simply because they are ineffectual. We train our dogs to focus on us, their handlers, while walking on a loose leash. When we change speeds or directions unexpectedly, our dogs react instantly and follow us. I can't see how they could possibly get the message fast enough on a harness. We do not allow our dogs to attack other dogs or people, and invest much time, exercise, and patience training so that they learn such behaviour is unacceptable. Our club has established a solid record in our community with the police and by-law officers, and our dogs are welcomed in many public places, even some which are nominally no-dogs-allowed. There is not a single dog among our membership of whose behavior I would ever be concerned, even the pits, rotties, shepherds, and akitas.

There is nothing inherently bad or cruel about prong collars. Some dogs, particularly large working breeds with a lot of muscle and fur around their necks, can't feel any correction from a smoother collar. A harness would simply allow such dogs the leverage to drag their handlers wherever they wanted. However, such collars must be fitted and used correctly. I certainly wouldn't recommend their use by anyone unfamiliar with them, but neither would I recommend anyone get a large powerful dog if they are unwilling/unable to spend the time to effectively train and control it.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 9:12PM
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Harnesses are ineffectual? What is that even supposed to mean? Harnesses are a means of attaching a leash to your dog. Are you saying that you can't do this with a harness??

That's nice that you think the article is a bunch of bunk. Emily Larlham is world renowned and hugely respected in the field of dog behavior and training. I don't know you, but I'm placing my bet on her as the more educated, more experienced, more talented person. You belong to a dog club. Wow. Very impressive! Your dogs get to go special places? You should win an award. People like Emily train service dogs. I train service dogs. Dogs that go on a regular basis where no other dogs are allowed. Examination rooms at hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, malls, colleges, airplanes, anywhere and everywhere that isn't a sterile environment. But I'm very impressed with your club's dog's extra special outings. Give yourself a pat on the back for me, would you?

"When we change speeds or directions unexpectedly, our dogs react instantly and follow us. I can't see how they could possibly get the message fast enough on a harness"

You see, this has me doubting your "expertise". When heeling, a dog is supposed to keep their eyes and focus on the handler, physical force shouldn't be required to get a dog to heel at your side. By your statement, I guess you're not able to get dogs to heel without attaching a line to them. So am I supposed to be impressed by that? It's really not some huge accomplishment to teach a dog to heel with or WITHOUT a leash. I don't even use a leash to teach heeling. I do naked training for just about everything. It's an ultimate test of your training skills when you can't fall back on physical force to coerce the dog to comply. If you've taught the dog correctly, there's no physical force required. The dog simply chooses to comply without you forcing them. They stay at your side because you've taught them well. Your marker was precise, your reinforcement was sufficiently motivating, you were able to maintain their focus, you were consistent, and all the other elements were in place.

"even the pits, rotties, shepherds, and akitas."

Is that supposed to mean that you breed discriminate? Is training a pit bull, a rottweiler, a shepherd or an akita supposed to be some huge feat? People train these breeds every day. Day in and day out. Big deal. These are some of the most numerous breeds in rescue. Dime a dozen.

Yes, there is something inherently bad and cruel about driving spikes into your dog's neck. But it's very easy for you to say otherwise being that you're not the one getting the collar corrections with them. If your dog isn't complying and you need to issue corrections, then you failed at training and you should issue the corrections to yourself rather than punishing the dog for your own ineptitude. Train better, fix your own mistakes and the dogs will improve with better teaching.

I know you're going to stick like glue on this and insist that the dogs messing up is anyone's fault but your own and you're going to continue to punish the dogs for your own mistakes so I'm just not going to waste anymore time on you. Subpar training gets subpar results and then people use corrections and correctional tools as a crutch. Anyone can bully a dog into complying. I'm not impressed.

Maybe one day you'll wake up and improve yourself and see how much better the dogs improve as a result.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 5:28AM
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Last link before I go.

Here is a link that might be useful: Choke and Prong Collars: Health Concerns Call for Equipment Change in Dog Training

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 12:14PM
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How about we continue to discuss what types of dog harnesses have worked well for people, on this thread?

And let those interested in harness vs. other start their own thread?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 5:17PM
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After the Gentle Leader did not work out for the 90 pound hound mix, tried the Halti Harness. Very poor instructions (compared to the Gentle Leader which had a DVD which took an hour plus to watch). For example, Halti divides the five sizes of harnesses by dog breeds, but what about a mutt, could they have not included a range of dog weights for each size as well?

As I stated above, the Gentle Leader was returned after it broke in two weeks of use. The stop piece is made out of plastic, the thin pivot pin was either plastic or light metal. Needs a better design, IMHO.

So this week on our walks, I have been switching between a pronged control collar, the Halti, and a harness designed for dogs in cars. The Canine Car seat Harness was available at Petsmart (think they switched brands since then). Bought it around nine years ago for my 70 pound mixed breed dog, the hound can just fit into it. Worked well in the car for my dog. And I found it also worked pretty well in regular walking. While my herding dog mix did well in a regular collar, the Car harness made him a bit more responsive in his early years. The size I purchased was a large, and the hound just barely fits into it. The next size larger would almost certainly be the right choice for the hound.

Since the hound would not go into the pet store, I selected the likest size Halti (which was one size too large) and took it home. This type of collar/harness does fit around the mouth, but unless either the dog or walker pull sharply, leaves enough slack for the dog to eat.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 5:22PM
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We use a harness on our dog, not because he is unruly, or pulls at the leash, but because he is a sight hound, and a small one and is extraordinarily quick and agile. We live in the country, but leash walk him many times a day and it is bred into greyhounds or lurchers to do just exactly what he is doing. He sees small prey before we do, and in an instant he puts to chase and so quickly that it's not unusual the leash is yanked from your hand before you have a chance to brace yourself. A miniature greyhound like this has a very fragile bone structure, but enormous strength and musculature for their size. If he should suddenly bolt it is done strongly enough he has pulled me over when on a hill even though he only weighed fourteen pounds. I don't want that pressure applied to his long, slender neck. It's for his protection so the jolt will be distributed across his heavy breast and shoulder area. His previous owners had evidently used a collar on this little fellow and he had no ability to bark for nearly six months after we resuced him. I had assumed he had suffered a vocal cord surgery to de-bark him. Eventually his voice returned and I'm now guessing he had injuries over his larynx from a collar. He is a house pet, and responds verbally even outside so it's not a control or behaviour issue. It's a safety issue. His safety. I would have also considered a martingale collar for him, had I known about them then.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 2:16AM
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I use a harness for safety in the car. It is nicely padded for comfort, and easily adjusted for a good fit. I purchased it at Petco.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 7:44AM
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Colliope's mention of losing the leash made me think back. I used a retractable 16 foot leash, the German one, can't think of the name. But that was only on my dog, a friendly calm 70 pounder.

On the 90 pound hound, while still trying various harnesses, I quickly settled on a nice wide six foot leash. It had a number of good features -- strong, adjustable end for the walkers hand, and strong snap on dog end that won't accidentally come open. In a age of poor fitting stuff, its nice to find a easy adjust that stays in place.

The adjustable end has a strong plastic snap (like a fanny pack often has), so that its easy to unsnap the end and close it after finding a nice bush outside the sandwich shop. Better than having to unhook the dog on his end so that one could make a slipknot over a branch.

Those who find it difficult to bend over/down may appreciate the well-designed six foot leash over other types. And cost is not to be ignored either. I went thru three of the pricier German reel types (about $35-40 for larger dogs) in the nine years I had my 70 pound mixed breed. The well made six foot leash with adjustable end was only around ten or twelve bucks and I still have the first one.

Those with multiple dogs to walk might find a climbing type clip (carbonier) on their belt to be a good idea. Walkers could attach one or one dog leashes to it. I saw a large one at the hardware store, maybe nine inches long and three dollars. Some of the smaller ones we normally see might not have room for a large plastic handle that some retractables have.

Tried three German retractables, two rope-types and one flat fabric (maybe 3/4" by 1/30" thick). Changed my mind back and forth which was the best type. After ten years I think the fabric material is my favorite. Easier for someone else to see (red in color), and wear may be more visible. Does occasionally fail to auto retract if not straight.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 5:21PM
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