For the first of my reviews/opinions about dog collars, I want to start with what I consider one of the least helpful with respect to obedience and training – the traditional (back clip) harness.
A traditional harness wraps around the dog’s chest and under its neck, and the leash clips onto a ring above and between the dog’s shoulder blades. (On the dog’s back; thus the name “back clip”.)
In the olden days, harnesses were intended primarily for sled dogs and hunting/tracking dogs. Because the harness puts pressure on the strongest part of the dog’s body – the shoulders when it’s moving forward – sled dogs and tracking dogs can pull without getting hurt or minding.
Now translate that into modern-day dog-owner language: “your dog won’t mind!” Harnesses make it difficult and cumbersome to give any “correction” – or as I like to call a tug on the leash, “communication” – to your dog through the leash. Just as they pull without feeling anything, you can pull the leash without them feeling you. A dog pulling on leash can have lots of bad consequences: the dog doesn’t learn to “follow your lead” in a very literal as well as metaphorical sense; he doesn’t learn patience and trust in his leaders/owners; and it will be his decision whether to befriend or fight dogs and people that you pass – just to name a few. Also if your dog exhibits any fear/anxiety at sounds or sights in the city, excessive barking or leash-aggression, you can’t effectively use the leash to stop the bad behavior. For dogs that lunge or snap and are a genuine danger to passing dogs, people, or even the handlers themselves, the traditional harness is a good way to ensure that someone is going to get bitten.
That said, there are certainly cases where the traditional harness won’t hurt and even where it is necessary. It won’t hurt if you have a giant sleepy Labrador sweetie who doesn’t pull on leash, follows you like glue, and doesn’t do anything but lick other dogs and people – in other words a perfectly balanced and low-energy dog. Even if your dog DOES have some behavioral issues you still might need a harness if your dog has a weak or injured back, neck, or trachea, as most other collars have more physical impact.
So in short, for the traditional back-clip harness…
- Comfortable to wear
- Dog can pull and run comfortably and without discomfort or injury
- Good for dogs with delicate or injured neck or trachea
- Suitable for sled-dogs and tracker/hunter working dogs
- Difficult to communicate to the dog with a leash-tug
- Will not stop, and will often encourage, leash-pulling
- No control over dog’s head or mouth
Overview: Use if your dog needs it for medical reasons, if you are jogging/biking with your dog, if for any other reason he needs to run while on leash – or if your dog has ZERO behavioral problems and is perfectly obedient!
Next installment (part II): The Front-Clip (E-Z Walk) Harness