I was running the Town Lake Trail in downtown Austin earlier today. I enjoy seeing all the dog owners with happy dogs on leash out enjoying nature and the great Austin weather. I saw a few people struggling to control their dogs who were lunging at one another – not sure whether a meeting would have resulted in curious sniffing or a brutal dog fight. Yikes.
As they struggled with their dogs, neither of which had a harness on, it got me thinking about my own dog, Jiminey, who I had to put to sleep in 2015 after it was discovered he had severe pain due to a pinched nerve/disc in his spine. The veterinarian said it could have been due to repetitive jumping down (compounding the spine) or possible neck/back stress due to using a collar and not a harness. I believe it was a combination of both but I’ll never know for sure.
The next time I become a dog mom I will err on the side of caution and use a harness from day one. I used a harness probably 40 percent of Jiminey’s life, but perhaps the damage had already begun. By damage I mean, when your dog pulls you as you cling to the leash – it is not good for his neck and spine. Imagine having a collar on with a leash and trying to forge forward pulling someone that is at least 120 lbs heavier than you. I feel my neck hurting just imagining the scenario! And doing that every day for years? Surely some damage is bound to occur.
The solution is a harness. In last month’s blog post I discussed the dangers of dog walks, and one way to control dogs better on leash is to use a harness. A harness provides more comfort for the dog and more control to the handler. Neck and spine stress seem to be reduced with the use of a harness.
A quick Google search of the term “dog harness” returns nearly 32 million results. Wow. That means if you don’t have knowledge or experience with harnesses, then it is time to do your research! There are hundreds of different styles and brands of harnesses, and like any retail product, some are better than others. Puppia seems to be a brand widely used by dog owners in my circle. I like the Puppia brand for smaller dogs. In addition, I have had experience with a variety of “no pull” harnesses which I find to be rather effective for large or unruly dogs. There are basic harness designs and those with more material – it just depends on your preference and if it fits your pooch correctly.
My advice to you is to invest in a harness early so your dog gets accustomed to wearing it. This way you won’t have to write a post like this one day. Maybe if I used a harness from the start, I’d still have my Jiminey Cricket with me today. I am not sharing this to be preachy, but to be helpful! There are so many options out there it is hard to decide what is best. A good quality harness is definitely a better option!