The Magic Harness

Cali, aged about 4 months, shows off her new red Sense-ation harness.
Cali got her first Sense-ation harness when she was only a few months old.

Lots of dogs have poor leash manners. This is partly the fault of their humans (not enough training or the wrong kind of training). But it’s also partly just how dogs are.

They are eager to explore. To check out interesting smells. To meet fascinating people. To chase smaller animals. Also they lead pretty dull lives, mostly inside, often alone. Going for a walk is stimulating and fun. So they pull.

There are a couple of problems with this. One is that it’s annoying for the human and makes walks with the dog a chore, rather than a pleasure. If you don’t think that walking your dog is one of life’s greatest pleasures, a) I feel very sorry for you and b) please read Dog Walks Man.

The other problem is that, since most dogs’ leashes are attached to a collar, when the dog pulls, she puts a lot of pressure on her throat. Some dogs have thick, muscular necks and don’t really feel it. But for many dogs, the pressure could cause damage.

Luckily, there is an easy solution. It’s not 100 percent guaranteed to work, but with many dogs, the results are close to miraculous.

What is this magical cure? A chest-fastening harness.

A standard harness with the leash hooking into a ring on the dog’s back will not help. It will actually enable the dog to pull harder (no throat pressure).

But something about a chest-fastening harness inhibits most dogs from pulling. I tried it with a friend’s 6-month-old puppy just this week, and the change was instantaneous.

Several brands are available, and they all fit a little differently. Some are a little complicated to put on, at least initially. The best thing to do is go to a large pet store and try a few on the dog.

Note: Don’t confuse chest-fastening harnesses with the halter-type deals that go over a dog’s nose. Dogs hate those. And if either the dog or the human pulls or jerks too hard, the dog can seriously injure her back or neck. I do not recommend those at all.

That’s not always possible. I’ve had great luck with the Balance harness (also rated #1 by the Whole Dog Journal) and the Sense-ation harness, which is easier to find. I dislike the Easy Walk because even if I’ve adjusted it correctly, it loosens up and slips around on the dog. I either haven’t tried or I’m neutral on several other brands.

What are you waiting for? You could be enjoying a walk with your dog!

3 thoughts on “The Magic Harness

  1. I browsed some images of the sense-action harness on dogs with Google images, and sorry but I think it looks terribly restrictive. Not only does is go across the shoulder thereby restricting shoulder movement (which can give shoulder injuries in the long run), the belly strap also sits very close into the “armpits”, because there is no backstrap that goes along the dog’s spine, the chest strap connects directly onto the belly strap right over the dog’s shoulder. Just from the look at it, the belly strap would tend to rub in under the front legs on the dogs, and be pulled even further forward into the armpits when pulling in the front of the harness.

    That said, the H-shape is likely more effective at stopping pulling than a Y-shaped harness, precisely because it is more restrictive ~ makes it harder for the dog to move forward unimpeded & suddenly.

    It is also important to remember that any front attach harness, even an extremely well fitting/adjustable balance harness (such as e.g. Indi-dog’s Vari-fit harness – Y-shaped and highly adjustable), must be used with caution, because if the dog launches suddenly forward and is abruptly pulled to the side with the front attachment, it can cause shoulder injuries. I think it is important to mention that a balance harness should always be used with a double ended leash, where one end of the leash is attached to the front clip, and the other end to the back clip on the harness, and then use the back attachment to brake sudden forward movement, and the front attachment only to gently steer and turn the dog once the strong forward movement has been halted/reduced

    Liked by 1 person

  2. H style harnesses should generally be avoided IMO. Y front harnesses are much less restrictive of movement. The Balance, Freedom, and Perfect Fit harnesses are all good. Like anything, head halters can be (and often are) misused. I very (very) rarely see anyone using them who has properly conditioned the dog to like them, which is time consuming, and honestly to much work for me unless I had a truly huge and strong dog.


  3. We have always harnessed Ray, with the leash attaching to both harness and collar. It probably saved his life when he jumped through a fence, not realising there was a100ft drop on the other side! Without his harness, he could have slipped his collar, or suffocated (probably not likely with a Martingale) … and died. Without his harness I would not have been able to climb over the fence and haul him back! We love the harness! 🙂


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