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The Best Leashes and Harnesses For All Dogs and All Occasions

The Best Leashes and Harnesses For All Dogs and All Occasions

Recently, a client came into the School For The Dogs shop and was disappointed that we didn’t carry leashes with more cushioned handles. Her dog, she said, pulled so much that he often cut off the circulation in her hand. Didn’t I have a leash that could keep her hand from getting crushed?

I felt bad disappointing her, but I admitted we didn’t carry any leashes designed to make pulling easier on the hands. At School For The Dogs, our approach is to keep a dog from pulling in the first place, and a fancy leash isn’t a tool that will prevent pulling any more than buying a treadmill will cause you to lose weight.

In both cases, purchasing the right tool isn’t the issue: using it properly is.

99% of the time, there should be such little tension on the leash that something flimsy could suffice.

Ideally, a leash and collar or harness should be safety precautions to keep a dog from chasing a squirrel into the street, not tools to control a dog’s movements. For this reason, I sometimes ask my clients to practice “walking” their dog inside using dental floss or a crepe paper streamer.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, there should be such little tension on the leash that something that flimsy could suffice. For this reason, my preference is usually to use a leash that feels invisible—in other words, you want it to be as lightweight as possible.

My current favorite leashes are the lightweight nylon Mendota, which come in a variety of girths, lengths, and colors. I ideally want to forget it’s there at all! I also like using hands-free leashes, like the rope Found My Animal leash, which is long enough to buckle around my waist or even to put over my shoulder, or the Buddy System leash, which adjusts to your waist size with a simple clip.

Selecting A Harness

THE FREEDOM HARNESS
I’d say that three-quarters of the time, our clients report that switching to a front-clip harness solved their walking issues, full stop.
If there is one piece of dog walking equipment that has any kind of “magic wand” quality about it, it’s probably the front-clip harness. I’d say that three-quarters of the time, our clients report that switching to a front-clip harness solved their walking issues, full stop.

The harness I usually suggest is the Freedom Harness, which has both a back-clip and a front-clip, along with velvet straps that keep a dog from chafing in the sensitive underarm area, and a center chest strap that helps keep the chest clip in place at the dog’s sternum.

My second favorite front-clip is probably the Ruffwear Front Range harness, which also has a clip at the back and in the front, and is soft under the dog’s arms. In my experience, both are much easier to put on correctly than other front-clip harnesses on the market, such as the Easy Walk and the SENSE-ation, although those are pretty good, too.

Four reasons to use a front-clip harness

  • They take the strain off your dog’s neck.

If your dog pulls at all, I’d rather he be wearing a harness of any kind than a collar, since I can’t think of a good reason why we should do anything that messes with our dogs’ ability to breathe.

A back clip harness will, however, usually increase pulling. This is because your dog has more weight and control when a leash is clipped to the middle of his body than when it’s clipped to the front. Think about how dogs are affixed to sleds: By their backs. If your goal is to have your dog pull something, then by all means, clip their leash at the back.

  • They give you more chances to reward your dog.

Because it wraps around a dog’s upper body at a central point at the chest, when your dog pulls at all, he’ll naturally get turned to one side or the other, which usually means he’s going to look back at you, even for a moment. And looking at you is a great thing to reinforce!

  • They cause the leash to pull at your dog, rather than the other way around.

Imagine a leash attached to the front of your dog, and there is tension on the leash (as stated above: If the leash is anything other than slack, it means there is pressure being exerted at both ends). Assuming you’re walking forwards, which is in front of which? The leash clasp is in front of the dog, of course.

So, the pulling causes the leash to pull at him from the front. The result? The dog is going to pull in the other direction… And if he’s out in front of you, that means the pulling will be back towards you! If he’s moving towards you, well, that’s something else you can reinforce with a reward.

  • They allow you to hook a leash to a dog in two spots.

If it’s a harness that has a spot for two attachments, like the Freedom or the Ruffwear Front Range, you can attach a leash to both. This can be done with the Found My Animal leashes and the Freedom double-ended leash, both of which have clasps at both ends; if it’s one that has only a single attachment, you can have a leash attach to the harness and also to the collar.

THE RUFFWEAR FRONT RANGE HARNESS

Using two leashes at once

Why two leashes? For one, from a safety standpoint, it’s never a bad idea to double up on leashes. However, having two points of connection can also help your dog learn the subtle physical cues you give to indicate where you want to turn.

You are already giving physical cues when you are holding a leash connected to a dog, whether or not you mean to, but you can become more purposeful about it by, say, making sure to reward your dog as soon as he begins to move at all in the direction that you are decreeing.

This is sometimes called “Silky Leash” training. It is, in some ways, not unlike training a horse to go in the direction his reigns are pulled, although we are using positive reinforcement (rewarding the dog for going in the right direction) rather than using coercion, also known as negative reinforcement (taking away pain or pressure once the horse complies).

The bottom line

Click through to the earlier post on leash training for more tips on how to teach your dog to walk without pulling. With the right tools and plenty of practice and positive reinforcement, your dog walks will get easier.

This post originally appeared on Rover.com

9 Summer Safety Must-Haves for Dogs

9 Summer Safety Must-Haves for Dogs

The only thing better than having copious summertime adventures? Watching your dog have them, too. Pretty much all my favorite moments this summer have included my dog. My iPhone is brimming with photos of Amos with his head out the car window, nose hair blowing in the wind, of him swimming (I think he actually might be part fish) and even eating watermelon.

But lots of activity also means that the chances for accidents and discomfort is a lot greater than during the 8 months a year he spends mostly on the sofa. A few key products, however, can help keep things as easy and breezy as they should be.

On the Water: The Right Life Jacket

Dogs have the strongly built in instinct to kick their legs when they’re in or even near water, starting practically from birth. That doesn’t mean that every dog likes pool time, of course. A good dog life jacket can help you acclimate your dog to water — it may keep a new swimmer’s initial panic at bay. If you take a dog on any kind of boat, however, you shouldn’t skip the vest. If things turn bad, your dog might not be able to swim, or might only be able to tread water for so long. I’m particularly fond of the ones that have fins.

Life Jacket, starting at $14 

On The Beach: Puppy Sun Screen

dog sun block

Sunscreen for dogs? Well, yes. Dog skin cancer is a real thing. Dogs with short white hair (or no hair) and light skin are particularly susceptible — bull terriers, Chinese crested, Dalmatians, to name a few. The good news is that human sunscreens can work on dogs, as long as you don’t use ones that contain zinc oxide. There are also plenty of sun screens made especially for dogs. It’s a good idea to check with your vet before applying any kind of SPF to your dog, since he or she will be able to advise you regarding any specific sensitivities your dog may have.

Doggy Sunstick, $9.94

On The Go: The Dog Bike Helmet

If you’re going to riding your bike with your dog, get him a helmet. Admittedly, there isn’t a great selection of them out there. Someone needs to get this idea on Shark Tank, stat! The only ones that exist are on the flimsy side. But, if I had an accident and my dog suffered a head injury, I would probably want to kill myself. I figure having a modicum of protection against the unlikely event of an accident that would send him crashing to the ground head first is… better than none! Added benefit: When you are on a bike with a dog in a helmet on your back, EVERYONE pays a lot of attention to you on the street. And a major of part of accident avoidance is simply being noticed!

Dog Helmet, $32  

On the Street: Paw Wax & Summit Boots

paw waxNo one really wants to have anything to do with hot pavement in the summer - least of all your dog. Come summer, my daily routes with my dog are sometimes planned to specifically avoid the darkest pavements, which heat up the most. Two good ways to save those poor puppy foot pads from frying: Mushers wax is a great sealant that can be usually be quickly and easily rubbed into your dog’s pads before a walk.

 

Paw Wax, $8 for a 1oz container

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ruffwear boots

 

 

The other option is to use dog boots. The gold standard for, uh, canine footwear, is probably RuffWear, which makes a variety of boots for different activity levels and terrain. For summer use, I’m partial to the lightest weight ones, the Summits. It can take some training for a dog to get used to wearing booties, but I’ve found that many pooches seem to respond better to wearing them in the summer than in the winter.  I think when they discover that shoes make cement-walking a much less painful experience, they’re all in.

Summit Trex Dog Boots, $60 for a four boot set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Remdawg the Tripawd makes sure his remaining paws stay cool. Photo by his person, Brianna Kuna 

 

On The Road: The Right Car Restraint 

Buckle up, dog. Seriously. 

The right restraint for your dog may literally be a matter of life and death. The risks are both for us and them: unrestrained dogs can suffer death or injury due to short stops, airbags and accidents, and they also increase the risk of driver distraction. While a seatbelt may be the answer, not all have achieved the stamp of approval from The Center for Pet Safety, which is the gold standard for crash testing vehicular-related pet products.  Among those that have been approved by them: Ruffwear's Load Up Harness, which has been crash tested up to 75 lbs, passing the same frontal crash tests that ensure the effectiveness of child safety restraints. The harness attaches to existing seat belts for a universal fit, and is easy to put on and adjust.

Load Up Harness by Ruffwear, $79

At The Pool: The Best Fetch Toy 

Bumi toy by west paw

My dog must be descended from a long line of fish. Once he sees a body of water, all he wants is for someone to throw something in for him to fetch. My go-to for these occasions used to be a tennis ball. While I've heard that the fur on the balls is hard on their teeth, I haven't seen any solid evidence that backs that up. However, Amos definitely enjoys ripping them to shreds, and that can easily lead to him swallowing pieces of rubber or fuzz or both, which can't be good for him. Sticks are another good option, but sometimes they're in short supply, and we've also had the problem of them breaking and getting lodged in the roof of his mouth. Ouch! Enter the Bumi -- the ultimate floating toy. Part of the West Paw line of Zogoflex toys, this thing erases any stress involved in our water-fetch games. It is latex-free, dishwasher safe, and very difficult to chew into bits-- indeed, West Paw, a Montana-based company offers a guarantee and will replace one if it gets chewed up. It fits in the mouths of dogs of almost any size, and it also works as a tug toy, stretching out to twice its size. Water-tug adds a new element to our endless summer games of fetch. Of course, it's a fun game on land too! 

In The Heat: Products To Cool The Pooch

Some dogs are experts at finding a cool spot to sprawl out, be it a marble doorstep, the building foyer, or a puddle. Save them the trouble by packing a Polar Pad. These pressure-activated memory foam mats contain a special gel-infused foam that absorbs and dissipates heat. They're waterproof and stay cool for up to two hours. For extra coolness, you can pop it in the fridge or spray it with water. Honestly, you might want to get two... because your dog might not want to share his with you! 

Polar Gel Pad, starting at $32



Another recent discovery that has made a big difference in making sure my dog doesn't overheat when we're on the road: an ultra portable pool. Small enough to literally fit into a backpack, it provides just enough space for a small-to-medium sized to sit or lie down. Even when filled with water, it can be easily be moved around, providing the perfect spot to cool off. 

Portable Pool, $35