/ Travel & Leisure

Would your dog prefer a harness?

Before I got my first dog, I’d always assumed that I’d be using a collar and lead to walk my future four-legged friend. So why did my boy come with a harness?

Some quick internet searches later, I realised why. Yorkshire Terriers can be prone to collapsed tracheas – they’re not the sturdiest of dogs, despite thinking they are – the advice is to avoid using a lead attached to a collar as they can put pressure on the windpipe.

The harness my dog came with wasn’t the best. It was a puppy harness that he’d obviously had a while. It also got covered in paint after an unfortunate incident involving a nearby wall and a local builder who didn’t see the need to put up a ‘warning, wet paint’ sign. One swift trip to the dog groomers later, and I was on the look-out for a new harness.

Spoilt for choice

The trouble is, there are hundreds of the things out there. So it’s hard to choose the right one for your dog’s breed. They range from basic, a couple-of-quid models, to fancy ones that – literally – come with lights and whistles. Plus some harnesses looked like they still put pressure on the dog’s neck.

You can even buy ‘anti-pull’ harnesses. These sound like a godsend, if you’re fed-up with being dragged down your street by an over-eager hound, but none of the dog experts we’ve spoken to recommend them. Instead, you need to train your dog not to pull.

Still, at least we’ve come a long way from the days when Barbara Woodhouse instructed owners to use choke chains. Even back then, my family couldn’t quite believe that a dog expert on the telly was recommending them.

Barking up the right tree

My search for a new harness also led me to discover that, each month, thousands of other people are also looking online for info. This is why we’ve tried out 11 dog harnesses ourselves so we can help any dog owners out there to choose the best one. We’ve also teamed up with the Blue Cross to make a video to show you how to train your dog to wear a harness.

As well as having my own dog, I regularly walk a dog that does use a collar with a lead – a 13 year-old, very well-trained Parsons Terrier with impeccable recall, even in the presence of squirrels. But looking in my local dog walking haunts, she’s in the minority and harnesses are becoming more popular.

So what’s your preference to use with a lead – collar or harness? Is your dog a breed that’s better off with a collar or would you only use a harness?

Comments

Each case will be different and I sure am no expert, but it is worth bearing in mind that one of the advances in agriculture was when they stopped using collars around horses’ necks and started to use harnesses. Even animals as strong as horses don’t function so well if their breathing is restricted.

Patrick Taylor says:
28 May 2018

Could Which? do a helpful article on inherent or common defects in breeds or point readers to such a resource. I note we have had a couple of Conversations however they all seem to exist in isolation. For instance what is the current state of play on puppy farms and the RSPCA’s contract?

Funnily enough I could not get anything on the use of dof harnesses on the RSPCA site though they do sell them. Perhaps their indexing system is poor.

Have you tried https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/. I haven’t looked too hard, but they seem to offer a lot of advice, online and in downloads, about buying a dog, and about puppy farms,

Patrick Taylor says:
28 May 2018

Valid point. I wonder how many people would look to the Kennel Club given its association with pedigree lines. they may assume it is a bit grand.

Teacup puppies

The miniaturisation of dog breeds can often lead to health issues and so called ‘teacup’ dogs may suffer from congenital and respiratory problems, fragile bones and many other defects. To produce small sized dogs, breeders may use unscrupulous practices such as breeding from runts in litters, denying the pups essential nutrition, selling the puppy before it is eight weeks old or breeding from the b***h at the beginning and the end of her heat cycle so that the pups conceived may be premature.

Sadly the advertising of such dogs is becoming more and more common. Often it may be no more than a marketing ploy to describe a traditionally small breed, when the puppy will not grow up to be any smaller than a standard dog within the breed concerned – of course, a breeder cannot be certain how big the puppy will grow.

The Kennel Club does not recognise any teacup breed, and will not record dogs as being teacup on its register. There may be breeders who take care and breed a smaller than average dog responsibly, or who mistakenly use the term teacup to describe a small dog, but the Kennel Club would advise puppy buyers to take extreme caution if considering buying a dog advertised in this way.”

This perhaps underlines the sort of advice or link that Conversations might usefully spread widely. The Kennel CLub is rather small …. “The Membership of the Kennel Club consists of a maximum of 1,500 UK Members plus 200 Overseas Members and a small number of Honorary and Honorary Life Members. “

Dennis Lane says:
3 April 2019

Harnesses are fine for some dogs, but for a dachshund,they could be detrimental, largely because they have long backs,and can,and do, suffer from spinal issues,so restraining them from the centre of the back could cause problems, particularly in the miniature version of the breed.