Harnesses, collars and my vanity

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When choosing a collar or a harness for your dog, the most important rule is: it’s for your dog, the one and only, unique, special, unmistakable individual. So think about your training goals, the size and personality of your dog and, most importantly any medical issues your dog has (or is prone to).

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If your dog has health issues, ask your vet what’s best for him. For many toy breeds a back-attaching harness is better, it does not make the pressure on the chest problematic (big breeds are less sensitive to this). But they won’t be good if your dog pulls as when the dog pulls on it his attention is re-directed from you. The front-attaching ones, like collars, direct your dogs attention towards you when pulled (pulling itself is another, separate matter). Harnesses might be a better option for dogs like pugs, who, when too much pressure is created, risk that their eyeballs will protrude from sockets. They are also a better choice if your dog has respiratory problems or neck injuries. They might also give you more control, but they are not a replacement for training. Some dogs, however, simply don’t like them, especially when they’re not used to them.

Collars are quick to put on and you can easily attach your dog’s ID tag and/or any medical or vaccination information. Traditional ones can easily be adjusted as your dog grows, so they are more economical. The leather ones get better with age (more personalised, too) as the oil from the dog’s coat softens them. Rolled ones are better for dogs with long coats, flat ones for short-haired dogs, martingales are perfect for dogs whose necks are wider than their heads. They are not ideal for training, especially with a more boisterous dog, the risk of neck injury is definitely something to take into consideration.

Obviously, you can use both a harness and a collar interchangeably -some dogs distinguish between work (harness) and play (collar) thanks to this technique. There is also a hybrid option: the head halter, that looks like a fabric muzzle-one strap runs around the back of the head with another strap around the muzzle. It’s many trainers preferred option.

There are many specialist harnesses on the market (I have successfully used some for dogs with back problems), so ask yourself, your dog and your vet, do your research and enjoy the experience.IMG_1845

Lily’s wearing made-to-measure harnesses (‘norwegian racing dog’ type) as she’s a small, fearful dog who for the first three years of her life didn’t go outside at all. When she arrived here she had a harness and a collar each with a lead attached and we were advised not to take them off (ever) as she wouldn’t let us put them on again. I got rid of the ‘problem’ within about five days.Oh. I took both the harness and the collar off immediately. I’m a rebel, me. And I like a challenge. My vanity and weird need to compensate to her for things she didn’t have makes me buy too many harnesses in various colours, with funny patterns and cartoon characters. She’s not bothered, sensible as she is, she knows two would be sufficient (one would always be in the wash, Lily loves running in the mud).

I’m trying not to promote any brands here as it’s my (very) personal blog. If you want to know what Lily and I like, I don’t mind answering, simply post a question in the comments section.

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28 thoughts on “Harnesses, collars and my vanity

  1. I ordered one of the harnesses that redirects Fergus to me, it arrived yesterday and we’ve been
    practicing with it. It definitely has cut the pulling down to almost nothing. He walks a little awkwardly because the leash attaches at his chest, but if he and I can walk (or trot) side by side, he’s fine. He’s getting lots of praise and a tiny treat every time he turns back to me. For an inveterate “puller” this is working really well!

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    1. Well done then πŸ™‚ It’ll get easier and easier πŸ™‚ As to the front-clip harnesses: they do help with training-but I try not to depend on them too much (the perfect situation is when the dog can be reliable enough to walk without the lead and ALWAYS come back). For any dog who pulls a harness is definitely much safer and wiser option in my opinion.

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      1. We’re getting better at coming back when called pretty much every time, but there are settings and situations when he’s got to be on a leash and I don’t want to struggle with him pulling. I’m just glad to find that THIS approach shows promise!

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    1. I know! I have loads, too and keep buying them…and as Ardbeg loved t-shirts and coats he had his own ‘wardrobe’, well, a huge box for his clothes (we’ve got another one for accessories). I’m addicted and have to try everything that I’m curious about-most of our ‘educational’ toys end up in the shelter but I still have to check any novelty 😦 I’m beyond help!

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  2. I think a head-collar is great, especially for big, strong dogs, but as a training tool, not just to control the pulling so you don’t have to fix the problem. My dog, however, didn’t like it until she got used to it, which did take a little time and some treats.

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    1. I know quite a few dogs that are not particularly keen on them (and many trainers who love them). You’re right, it’s really good for training once the dog gets used to wearing it.

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    1. ow, thank you, it says: ‘my vanity’ in the title for a reason…I’m in love with little Lily and anyone saying she looks stylish must be a highly qualified expert in harnesses and collars πŸ™‚ ha! you’ve made my day!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you πŸ™‚ I like them as well, there’s something about dogs wearing colourful harnesses/collars that makes people smile. Plenty of people were scared of the Great Dane, Dolly when she was wearing her black leather collar. Now she’s got a girly, flowery one and she no longer intimidates people with her size! She’s the softest, most friendly dog in the world btw πŸ™‚

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      1. I love Great Danes. They are beautiful dogs that are just big teddy bears! I love how they think they are lap dogs haha. Yes bright collars are the best for sure.

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      2. I love them as well. And Dolly was Ardbeg’s girlfriend. I’m sure one of my posts is going to be about her. She’s perfect (and bigger than me and Lily together).

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  3. Very informative post! Im thinking I should try a harness with the front clip for my boy, Styx. Having been a stray it has taken awhile for him to feel at ease even clipping a leash to his collar or current harness and while for the most part he does really well off leash there are areas around where we live that require him to be leashed. He pulls A LOT until were about 15 minutes in then settles down but with his strength the pulling is just too much. Is there a particular harness you may recommend or should I just look for one with the front clip? I have also tried the head halter with him but he goes into a frenzy as he does not like anything near his face. Not sure if I gave it enough of a chance or if I felt it was too stressful for him. Thank you again for sharing this!

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    1. I like Ruffwear and Hunter (norwegian racing dog ones) as they are reliable and last. Good for active dogs and we used to use them with Ardbeg when we were exploring. I climb as well, so sometimes I needed to lift Ardbeg (well, climb with him) so I needed padded, strong harness for that. And I love the ones I order from small producers as they are taylor-made and I can have anything I want πŸ™‚

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      1. I think we’ve established we’ve got things in common πŸ˜‰ I had some other floating vests and they weren’t good, so I was convinced they simply never work. But Ruffwear does πŸ™‚ Ardbeg was terrified of water most of his life (and then, he loved it, but he was a rubbish swimmer). Lily likes water, but here, in the UK, the sea is cold, so the vest is still useful for me and my paranoia. She loves the seaside πŸ™‚

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