There are a lot of options on the market when it comes to gear. With this quarters focus in our Canine Enrichment and Fitness Club being walking a 5K with your dog I want to break down different leashes, harnesses, head collars, and collars I recommend and why.
We are going to start with leashes. When I am walking in my neighborhood or on a moderately busy city park walking path or trail I like to use a leash between 6-10 feet in length. If you use a leash greater than 8 feet you want to be sure you practice your leash handling skills. This is for safety of you, your dog, and passerby’s. I like a little longer leash because when I am taking a stroll with my dog then it allows them some space to move about, sniff, and explore. If you are going to be walking in a community doggie 5K then you want to use a 6 foot leash to keep your dog close to be courteous to those around you. If your dog is trained to walk nicely on a leash I highly recommend getting a hands free leash as it will free your hands up to move about when walking. I do caution, you want to be sure your dog is trained to walk nicely before using a hands free leash!
In regards to harnesses, as a whole, harnesses are my favorite walking tool for dogs. They are versatile, can be used for dogs who are strong and pull as well as small dogs where you don’t want to damage their necks if they pull on a collar. My favorite harness is a Freedom Harness. They can be used for front clip or back clip, depending on where you are and the function in which you are using the harness. It is very important that you condition dogs to any equipment you are going to use. Many times I will actually train my dog to help me put the harness on them. This way it isn’t a wrestling match to get them suited up for the walk. We will be discussing how to do that in our Canine Enrichment and Fitness Facebook Group soon. I also like the freedom a harness provides for dogs to explore and move about. For older dogs or dogs who are already trained to walk nicely on leash I really enjoy using the Ruff Wear Front Range harness. If you are a person who enjoys hiking and there are times you need to assist your dog in intense inclines then Ruff Wear also has a number of full body harnesses you can use.
For some dog and human teams a head collar is a necessity. This could be due to the overall strength of the dog or that your dog responds by lunging and barking with specific triggers. A head collar will assist in redirecting your dog in those situations. I don’t often use a head collar for leisure walks or decompression walks when I am using a longer leash unless needed for purposes of safety and control. It is important, if you are choosing to use this tool that you work a training program to acclimate your dog to wearing this type of equipment before using it for walks. This can be a 4-6 week process. If needed you can work with a professional training for fitting and a training plan to help your dog become accustomed to this piece of equipment. At Canine Craze we offer training plans for clients wishing to use head collars. My favorite head collar of choice is the gentle leader. It is easy to custom fit and also works for many dogs with different lengths of noses.
I use my dog’s collar in specific situations. Once a dog is trained to walk nicely on a leash you can easily use their collar for these walks. I personally continue to use a harness when I am doing leisure walks and only use their collar when I am doing training that requires them to heel with me (such as through stores or when in crowds). The other time I may use a collar instead of harness is when a dog finds a harness aversive. I had a dog I once owned that hated things on her back or body. If you have a dog who finds it extremely uncomfortable to have things on their back or body then having them where a harness doesn’t make sense and using a collar makes the most sense. Flat buckle collars are the most common. If you have a dog who escapes then having them wear a martingale collar is a great idea for safety. Martingale collars tighten when the dog pulls ahead or backwards eliminating the changes of your dog slipping their collar off their head. The part that tightens can be made of chain or fabric. I personally purchase martingale collars that are completely made of fabric.
In the end the most important factors when using a variety of equipment are; is it safe, is it functional, and are you comfortable using it? If your answer to these three questions is yes then you are using the equipment that makes the most sense for you and your dog as a team.
Need help teaching your dog leash manners? Canine Craze offers a Leash Manners class that is both offered in-person and is part of our e-learning training package. To learn more about this you can visit Canine Craze Online Learning or you can learn more about our in-person classes by visiting our website.