Travel and the Perfect Canine Harness
Before I start into the specifics of selecting harnesses for travel, I want to share with you why we are big believers in using harnesses rather than collars, especially for little dogs.
First, a harness will help avoid any respiratory problems, beginning with the obvious one – collapsed trachea. Respiratory problems aren’t limited to just that, however. Collars used for walking, training or running can also exacerbate bronchitis or other throat aliments. A little money spent now on a harness might avoid pricey and painful medical treatment later.
A harness also helps with keeping a dog calm. A collar, especially when pulled tight, puts pressure on receptors found in a dog’s neck. Pressure on these receptors will excite a dog, making it bark, pull, and even lunge.
Putting a dog in a harness also will often give an owner better control of an eager puppy and can help correct a dog’s poor behaviour without the risk of injury. We will never recommend a choke chain. They once were popular, even among trainers, but we know better now. There are always more humane ways to deal with a pulling, assertive dog. Our favourite for this is a loop that gently sits around a dog’s muzzle. If the dog pulls, the loop leads the dog’s head under its body as if it were bowing after a great performance. That also means that the dog must look back at the owner! You also can’t beat obedience training for eager dogs … or for any and all dogs and owners!
For all these reasons and more, I have worn a harness right from the beginning.
Buying the right harness for your dog can be overwhelming without some help. I recommend you first go online and do a little research. To give you a bit of a head start, here are the basic styles of harnesses:
No Pull: Often used more as a training tool than as a long term harness, these babies should allow your dog to walk in a straight line without twisting or straining, while discouraging pulling by tightening gently around the chest. There are many variations on this harness, some more effective than others. I never needed one of these; I was more of a “drag me to go out” kind of puppy, not a puller. The bipeds often felt terrible as they pulled me behind them.
Step-In: As the name suggests, this is an easy harness for both canine and owner because, basically, all the dog has to do is step-in. My very first harness was a nice fawn coloured, leather step-in harness by Buddy Belts. We loved it. These types of harnesses are easier to put on than a standard adjustable harness. The step-in design usually provides a good fit and disperses the load so the harness will not pull on your dog’s neck and cause trachea problems. The step-in design has one down side: you can’t adjust the “armhole” size.
Slip-On: This the classic go-to design for nearly all harnesses. Fashion designers usually prefer this style. They often feature one strap around the neck and another around the middle. The straps fasten with Velcro or plastic clips, and for really gentle pooches, the straps may even fasten with buttons and snaps. Many canine coats, jackets and dresses are basically slip-on harnesses with more fabric.
Hybrid: There are some harnesses that seem to straddle more than one category. My Puppia Soft Harness (a.k.a. the blue bra) is one such harness. It is almost a step-in, as I just pull it over my head, but it also has a strap that slips around my middle. Many love Puppia harnesses since they they are soft, comfortable, and don’t “dress the dog.” Puppia harnesses are not fancy, swanky or flashy. Rather, they are playful, colourful and very effective.
Having done your research, resist buying anything you might like online. Take time, first, to visit a pet store with you canine companion. Try on different types of each of these harness options to see how they fit, how your dog reacts to them, and what size works best. Some dogs prefer the thin-barely-there harnesses; others like the hug of a fuller harness. Let your dog – not just your own personal taste – be your guide.
Harnesses and Travelling
What harness you choose for your trip depends, as with most things, on what you plan on doing while away. We tend to like a lot of different activities, so these are my preferences and why.
My Hybrid, Puppia soft harness (the blue bra) is a go-to. Aesthetically, the bipeds and I feel the blue bra leaves a lot to be desired, even if it does come in a rainbow of colours. Where it wins, hands down, is in versatility and durability. The harness is made of a soft mesh that when wet, will also keep me cool. In our case, that makes it ideal for sailing, the beach or really hot weather. It’s also a fantastic harness for messy activities such as going to the beach because you can just rinse it and hang it up to dry. I have had my Puppia for almost 3 years and it just will not fall apart.
Where we find fault is with the step-in nature of the harness: you can’t control the width of the arm holes or how much fabric goes around the neck. For a tiny little one like me, this means that even the XXS is loose and not a perfect fit. Additionally, it’s tough to get in and out of the blue bra quickly. Therefore, it’s not ideal for airplane rides when I need a harness on until security, then off while I sleep away in my carrier.
Most of my harnesses – about 98% – are slip-on harnesses. That style allows for an exact fit with no extra fabric floating around my arms or neck. The Velcro fasteners mean that if I get hot, the straps can be loosened, and in the winter, we can fit a little sweater underneath. That flexibility is wonderful.
This style of harness also allows for the most variety in design. This is why almost all canine fashion or couture designers use some form of slip-on harness. Designs may not have much of a back at all, or they may have warm fur trim for colder days, or even a back-pack for carrying my own poop bags!
I have a few – okay, maybe more than a few – variations on this design. They are my “dog about town” harnesses. They are comfortable, stylish and not dangerous to my delicate throat. When flying, I always wear a slip-on harness; easy on, easy off means extra comfort for me as I sleep in my carrier harness free.
Where we find fault with slip-on harnesses is with the Velcro commonly used to fasten the straps. Velcro is not a fun thing when you have long fur. All too often, if rushed, the bipeds will get some of my fur caught in the Velcro – and that can hurt when it is being removed. Thankfully, this is now a rare occurrence since we are now all used to paying attention.
When we travel, we rarely take more than three harnesses with us: my blue bra and two “designer duds.” Of course, it all depends upon how long we plan on being away and what we plan to be doing. If I am going to a really fancy event, then I bring my Kiki Hamann “Montecristo Evening Jacket” harness – a harness cleverly and beautifully transformed into the perfect evening tuxedo.
What harness do you prefer? How many have you tried? How many do you take with you when travelling and why?