When to use a harness

SPORTS: Harnesses are used in sports but shouldn’t be used on young dogs. Photo Credit: David the Dogman

I HAVE noticed over the past five years or so that more and more people are using a harness on their pet.
If one studies the dog’s skeleton it is very obvious that the harness can do much damage to the spine.
A young dog pulling and an owner pulling could cause irrevocable damage to the young spine.
A dog harness is piece of equipment for dogs, similar to harness tack for horses. There are various designs, depending on the type of use.
Harnesses can be used on guide, on working dogs that haul a cart or sled, or even in sporting events, such as in the Scandinavian practice of skijoring and pulka. Harnesses are also worn by non-working dogs for training purposes.
A harness is often worn in conjunction with a dog collar and used as an alternative for a dog lead attachment. While a collar only encircles the neck, harnesses have a loop that surrounds the torso as well, with connecting straps between them for added reinforcement and control.
The design allows for distribution of force which may prevent choking; a dog will also not be able to slip free from a harness as they may easily do from a standard collar.
Assistance dogs will sometimes wear a harness if part of their job requires guiding or providing physical mobility for a disabled person.
Generally, the harness design includes a built-in handle for the person to grip; this type also offers reinforcement to the handler as well as a padded breast plate for the dog’s comfort. Overall sturdiness of the design depends on whether the dog is gently leading, acting as a brace, or physically pulling a wheelchair.
Sled dog harnesses vary depending on the purpose of the animal; the two basic duties of a sled dog is hauling freight or some sort or racing.
Harnesses come in three main types: the freight harness, the H-back harness, and the X-back harness. Dog sports are growing and more types of harnesses are being developed, including the Y-back style and guard or distance harness.
The freight harness is often an H-back harness that forms a ladder-like effect across the back with a wide chest band and sometimes extra padding.
The construction distributes the weight across the chest and over the shoulders because of the broadness of the area; is designed to help the dog pull heavy weights efficiently. They may also feature a spreader bar behind the wheel dogs and before the sled or cart.
Racing harnesses are often lighter and shorter than freight harnesses. The X-back harness gets its name from the straps that form an ‘X’ across the back of the dog. It is used more frequently than the H-back, with short versions that ride farther forward on the dog’s body recently gaining in popularity.

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