How to choose the right harness for your dog. Try it out with professionals who will help you choose

Do you find it hard to decide when there's so much to choose from? If you're like me, it's best to try out the harness first before you buy it for your four-legged friend. Today, the selection of dog harnesses is truly varied. There are harnesses for mushing, canicross and regular dog owners! We tested some harnesses for you to see how it's done and why it's important.

Just like when you buy clothes or shoes for yourself online, online stores with pet accessories also provide size tables and instructions to help you choose the right one. Until recently, I thought that the size of the harness, or making sure it's the proper size for your dog according to size tables, is the most important thing. I measured the circumference of the dog's neck, the length from the withers to the base of the tail, etc., and then I chose the design I liked best. However!

It's not as simple as I thought. In order for the harness to really fit the dog properly and serve the purpose for which you are buying it, it's not just the measurements that are important; you have to try it out to see how it "fits" when your dog is on the move - walking and running. Moreover, what may seem too tight to me as a layman may be deemed too large by a professional. ‘The correct size of a harness will usually look small when it’s on the dog,’ says a specialist from the MushGO organization; she organizes tours throughout the Czech Republic in which people and their pets can try out accessories.

It's one thing to measure your dog, but assessing whether the harness fits properly is an entirely different matter. I listened to the advice of a specialist, who explained to us that harnesses are a very individual matter and they vary from one type to another. It's therefore impossible to say with certainty that certain types of harnesses are suitable for a specific breed. In addition to the way the dog is built, the purpose for which you are buying a harness is equally important.

The same harness you use for dog sports should not be used for regular walks. Some harnesses may require more force from the dog to ‘stretch’ - that is when the end of the harness is above the base of the tail when fully extended. ‘That's the first thing we ask dog owners - why they are buying the harness for their dog?’ adds the professional musher.

In other words, if you buy a basic harness for walking your dog, but you go jogging with your dog and he (naturally) pulls the harness, the harness can block his shoulder blades, cut into him under his ribs or armpits, slide from the centre of his chest, rub against him, etc. On the other hand, a long harness for sports that may fit the dog perfectly when he's running may not fit the dog at all when he's on a slow walk. These are all factors you should take into account.

One type of harness is suitable when dogs are pulling a load, such as in mushing, dog-trekking or canicross, i.e. for sports. And then there are harnesses suitable for regular walks in nature or the city. The advantage of a personal consultation, however, is that they will simply explain everything to you, you will get to try out different harnesses with the dog, and you will see the difference when the dog is walking and running. According to the expert, the long harness I chose for my dog has the following advantage: ‘A long harness allows the dog to make full use of traction force - it can fully lean into and pull the harness.’ And that is exactly what I was looking for. After trying out four harnesses and making sure that the chest, shoulder blades, armpits and ribs are as they should be, we chose a harness.

If you are not able to receive a personal consultation, I recommend at least taking a photograph of your dog in various situations in a harness and sending it to experts for an assessment.

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