- My Favourite Front Clip Harnesses
The first time I saw one I thought it was a gimmick, and they sort of are. No magic piece of equipment will stop your dog from pulling without training. I've seen dogs choke themselves, pinch themselves etc just to get to a tree that they really want to sniff.
No matter what equipment you have, you still need to teach your dog that you don't intend to be pulled. Refuse to move unless your dog is willing to move in a cooperative fashion (see - Dog Walk A Drag?).
Harnesses are generally considered safer and more comfortable, but if you attach the leash to the back clip, you might as well be a sled and your dog Balto.
1. There is no pressure applied to the dog's neck when they hit the end of their leash or when their human tightens their leash up. This is important especially for small breeds, who are prone to developing a collapsing windpipe, but also for big breeds, who could damage their own thyroid gland.
2. When the dog and you are entering a tugging contest, the dog is pulled sideways, which gives you some torque against them. If they hit the end of their leash hard enough I've seen them spin right around to face their owner - and boy, do they look surprised.
When the dog pulls, their shoulders are squeezed and compressed by the U shape strap, and if your dog does this habitually, it's awfully hard on their body.
Instead a T shape is better.
My favourite of these, and the one I use for my Bernese Mountain Dog, is the Ruffwear Front Range harness.
Don't let it fool you - this loop is extremely strong.
Gretel's loop was not even frayed after a year and a half of her massive bulk hitting the end of her leash excitedly whenever she saw another dog.
I got the one pictured above when Gretel was a teenager at 60 lbs or so. I sized the medium down as small as it could go, and by the time I had buy a large nearly two years later, she had surpassed 100 lbs. As it was she could still get the medium on, but it was snug.
There are only two down sides to this awesome harness.
1. Since the medium can fit a half-grown to full grown Bernese mountain dog, the XXS size is still pretty darn big. A Frenchie or pug could fit it, but not a Chihuahua, min pin, or other dainty breeds.
2. It only has buckles around the thorax, not around the neck. That means your dog has to stick their head into the neck hole to get dressed, and a lot of dogs HATE having things go over their head. It can be enough to make them hide from their owner no matter how badly they want to go on a walk. Once the harness is on everyone seems comfy enough, but it's can take some training and patience to teach your dog to "get dressed" and put their head in the neck hole.
That first problem can be solved with Kurgo's TruFit harness, another sturdy alternative which goes down to smaller sizes. Even better, it comes with a seat belt attachment and - unlike a lot of seatbelt harnesses on the market - it's actually crash tested!
But sadly, the TruFit also has to be put on over the dog's head.
So that brings me to my next favourite, the Perfect Fit.
(Cavaliers often have a problem where part of their brain leaks into their spine - thanks, inbreeding! - so I'm not taking any chances)
It also has buckles around the neck, too, so your dog doesn't have to put their head through anything when you're dressing them.
The downside is that Perfect Fit doesn't guarantee the strength of the front ring. It's intended to be used in combination with the back ring, although I used it front-ring only and never had any problems. Then again, my dogs don't do THAT much pulling. Occasionally hitting the end of their leash in excitement is the most that happens. Plus Ginny isn't exactly Miss Muscles.
If you're looking for something a little slimmer, consider the Blue K9 Balance Harness.
If your dog hate putting their head through the neck loops, look at either the Perfect Fit or the Petsafe 3-in-1, both of which have buckles on the neck portion so you can find a way to put on the harness without stressing your pup too much.
Now - time to go for a walk!