The final style of dog harness we will discuss has some type of padded chest plate and is designed for strong pulling. There are variations in the actual padded chest plate design but in general, they have 3 points of contact (one over each shoulder and one between the front legs) which connect the chest plate to the back of the harness. Chest plates are typically made of leather or nylon and have some type of padding like heavy felt. The back of the harness usually consists of a belly/side strap and a handle with a d-ring on top.
The reason why this type of harness is so popular is the padded chest plate allows the dog pull vigorously into the harness while not restricting the dogs breathing or barking, making them ideal for protection dog training. The key to this type of harness is in the 3 point connection which distributes the force across the chest. This allows the dog to be easily restrained from one point (the handle or the d-ring) and direct all of the energy forward. The belly and side straps are really only there to position the top portion in the center of the dogs back.
These types of harnesses are easy to put on and take off and we’ve actually made it even easier by using quick release buckles on the side straps. Once you have adjusted the belly/side straps based on the girth of your dog, you just slip it over the dogs head and quickly snap up the side straps. It is a very simple, quick and strong system. You may also hear these types of padded, quick release dog harnesses referred to as protection dog harnesses, tracking dog harnesses or even strap harnesses.
This concludes our discussion on dog harnesses and covers approximately 90% of the dog harnesses out there. Of course there are more types of harnesses like sling harnesses, lift harnesses and jump harnesses for tactical maneuvers or search and rescue and we can discuss those another time. However, there is one additional type of harness which is definitely worth mentioning and that is a hybrid or dual purpose harness. A dual purpose dog harness combines the back vest portion from a patrol harness with the 3 point padded chest plate of a protection dog harness. It is a very popular dog harness, especially with law enforcement and the military because it combines the best of both types of harnesses.
So we highlighted a couple of common misconceptions about dog harnesses in part 1, now let’s talk about the different types of dog harnesses. I will identify how each type of harness (or group of harnesses) differs in key areas like the back, the sides the belly and the chest.
Let’s start with the patrol dog harness, service dog vest and multi-purpose dog harness as they are all variations of the same type of dog harness. This group of harnesses all feature a nylon back piece that is lightweight, durable and padded for all day comfort. In additional to the standard nylon, we also have a breathable mesh fabric back piece that is excellent for warmer climates. On top of the back piece is an easy grip handle and a d-ring to attach a leash or long line. The sides typically have an area to attach Velcro service dog patches and may also feature additional d-rings depending on the harness. The belly strap is adjustable, within a certain range, by either slides or Velcro and features various types of release buckles making it easy to put the harness on and take it off. The chest strap is approximately 2″ wide and is usually adjustable, within a certain range, with either slides or Velcro. An optional Y-Strap can easily be used with these harnesses. A Y-Strap connects the chest strap to the belly strap providing more stability between the straps.
This type of dog harness is extremely popular because of its versatility. It is used by law enforcement, the military, service dogs and even for dog sports like schutzhund. The chest strap is wide making it comfortable for your dog during moderate pulling, the handle on top is easy to grab and the adjustable straps allow you to get a proper fit for your dog. The back piece is lightweight and does not impede the dogs movement when running, jumping, sitting or even laying down. The Velcro strips on the sides, if equipped, allow you to prominently display service dog patches like police, service dog and do not pet. And this dog harness comes in a wide variety of colors including black, blue, coyote brown, gray, orange and red. You can see all of our harnesses here: Dog Harness
In our next post we will discuss protection dog harnesses which are designed for strong pulling and have 5 points of adjustment.
Let’s talk about dog training equipment. The first piece of equipment I would like to discuss is the dog harness. We get more questions about dog harnesses than any other piece of equipment. But first I would like to dispel a few common misconceptions about dog harnesses.
Number 1. A lot of people want a dog harness because their dog pulls while walking and they want a harness to stop the pulling and give them more “control.” The fact is most dog harnesses are designed to alleviate pressure from key areas allowing the dog to pull more easily. The exact opposite of what they want to achieve. In general, a harness does this by moving the pressure point from the neck to the chest/shoulders and widening the impact area to dissipate stress. That is why a harness typically has a wide chest strap, a padded chest plate and straps that angle across the shoulders. A dog harness also typically has a handle on top as well as a d-ring for attaching your leash. Which brings us to myth number 2.
Number 2. A harness gives you more control. Actually a dog harness can give you less control of your dog. Why? Because the handle and/or d-ring for the leash is located on top of the harness behind the dogs shoulders. This leaves the dogs head, neck and feet free to twist and turn, jump and wiggle anyway they want. And anyone that has ever tried to hold a twisting, turning, lunging dog stable by grabbing the handle on a harness knows it is a difficult task at best.
Number 3. Another question we get constantly is which harness will fit my dog from puppy to adult. And the answer is generally none. Unless of course your dog is going to stay the same size from 6 months to 6 years. For example, do you wear the same size shirt or shoes that you did when you were a child, young adult and adult. Probably not… So no matter what style of harness you choose, we have different sizes that are intended to not only fit the different breeds of dogs but also the different stages of growth in the same dog. Now that said, dogs tend to grow very rapidly from 6 months to 1 year, a little slower from 1 year to 2 years and by 2 years old they have usually reached their adult size. They may continue to “fill out” after 2 years but generally they don’t get any taller. So if you are purchasing a harness for a younger dog and want to plan for future growth, you may be able to get away with one size larger, knowing that you may have to add an extra hole or two to make it fit properly.
In the next segment on dog harnesses, I will talk about what harnesses are good for and which style of harness is best suited for a particular use (protection dog harness, tracking dog harness, service dog vest, etc.)