The importance of getting a properly fitted harness for your dog

With the dog sports of canicross (running with your dog) and bikejor (biking with your dog) becoming so popular it is inevitable that new people will come into the sport and want information on how to get the best experience for them and their dog. From our point of view the most important piece of kit you need for both canicross and bikejor is the harness for your dog. If you are going to expect your dog to pull any weight when running, then it is your responsibility to make sure that your dog is in the most suitable harness which allows your dog the best range of movement to suit their shape and running style.

Your dog should be comfortable and have free range of movement while running and pulling – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

 

We’ve recently seen a number of people out running with their dogs on a collar and lead, which for us is just not an acceptable way to exercise your dog, unless it is running to heel and not pulling at all. The pressure put on the neck (a very sensitive area) with your dog pulling is something that should always be avoided and we even walk with a harness for the same reason. If you are going to run with your dog, it is highly likely your dog will be faster than you and therefore pulling at some point even if off to the side, so ensuring their comfort and safety should be a top priority.

The next problem we’ve seen more regularly is well-meaning people who have been badly advised or have been mis-sold a harness and although the dog is wearing a harness, it is just not suitable for the purpose of running. For example there are no-pull harnesses which have been used because they have a fleece lining on the webbing and so it is assumed to be comfortable but anything which tightens when pulled into will not be comfortable for a dog and will not encourage freedom of movement. The other common unsuitable type of harness is one which has a strap across the front of the shoulders, these are often sold as ‘sport’ harnesses by the manufacturers so people are being misled into thinking these are suitable for the pulling sports – they are not. The reason being that this front strap restricts shoulder movement and will prevent a full, free range of motion when the dog is running.

Harnesses such as this with one strap across the front of the shoulders are just not suitable for running dogs in, although may be sold as such

Sometimes even when the correct style of harness has been chosen unfortunately the sizing is wrong and most commonly, too big. As a general rule a dog sport harness should fit snugly, many people feel that the neck is too tight, when in actual fact the neck of the harness should make it snug to put on and pull off over the head of the dog. You only need to be able to fit a few fingers in the neck of a proper fitting harness and there should be no gaping along the body when the harness is pulled into. If the harness is just sitting on the dog with no tension through it then it may bunch up or slide about, this is normal, these harnesses are designed for dogs to pull into. If you have a dog who doesn’t pull, there are harnesses which don’t do this and we can point you in the right direction for these particular harness styles.

The Non-stop Half Harness, one of the selection we have which suits pullers and non-pullers

It is actually quite rare for a harness to be too small, it isn’t easy to get a dog into a harness which is too small and unless your dog is young and has been growing, or put on a bit of weight, then it’s usually very easy to tell if the harness is too small straight away. If you think your harness is putting pressure on your dog’s neck (you might hear a coughing noise) this is not necessarily down to it being too small, in most cases the style of harness doesn’t suit your dog and in some cases the harness might actually be too big but is pulling back because of this and causing an issue.

Most owners will recognise a properly fitting harness as soon as they see it on their dog but without having anything to compare it to or someone to confirm the harness fits, it can be difficult to know for sure. We get asked all the time to check harness fit and we’re honest, if you don’t need a new or different harness we won’t try and persuade you to buy one and if your dog is running happily in a harness then 9 times out of 10, it is suitable. But if your dog isn’t in the correct style and size of harness to suit them then it’s a bit like wearing ill fitting shoes, they will pinch, restrict, rub or even stop your dog wanting to run. If you own more than one dog you might even find that each dog you own is suited to a different style of harness.

Choosing the right harness for your dogs might mean each dog is in a different style of harness, not every dog suits every harness, they are individuals

There’s loads of information on our blog about choosing a harness and we’re always happy to help anyone who wants to find the perfect harness for their dog, just drop us an e-mail to info@k9trailtime.com and we’d love to help. It really is the most important part of your dog sport kit, so it’s worth spending the time to get it right! Happy trails ūüôā

 

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Canicross kit by colour?

Here at K9 Trail Time we stock such a wide variety of canicross equipment now, that there is often a choice of colour in the harness you can choose for your dog and sometimes even in the type of belt for yourself. Whilst choice is a great thing, sometimes having such a wide range can make choosing the right equipment more difficult.

Some harnesses come in a wide variety of colours

For example the Zero DC harnesses come in 132 different size and colour combinations as standard and you can custom order any combination of colours and sizes at an additional cost. This is great if one of the Zero DC harnesses is the best fit, shape and style for your dog, however that might not be the case. We’ve found that many dogs suit a different style of harness based on their individual body shape, style of running and what combination of activities the harness will be used for.

The Dragrattan harnesses only come in one colour of webbing which is red with a silver / grey or yellow stripe through it and though this doesn’t appeal to everyone, we have found these harnesses to be outstanding on some dogs, allowing them freedom of movement, good padding through the chest and a great fit on the neck.

The Dragrattan X-Back comes in one colour webbing only but it is fantastic harness on some working dogs – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

Another harness which only comes in black and the colour of the top strap indicates sizing only, is the Non-stop Freemotion. The Freemotion is undoubtedly one of the best dog sports harnesses you can buy, but people seem to be put off sometimes by the fact it is black and apparently this is ‘boring’. Now we can understand why people would want to choose bright colours and have ‘team’ colours for clubs and individuals, however when it comes to choosing the correct harness for your dog, you have to be guided by what works best for your dog.

Similar colour choice is available for belts, as some of the waistbelts for people have coloured patches on them but others are just in plain black. The belts which come in different colours might not be the ones which suits your body shape and requirements best, you ideally need to try each one on to see how it works and where the pull comes from to make a judgement on if it will be the most comfortable for you.

The belts which come in a range of colours are great belts but might not be the ones for you…

We have found that by talking to people about what their requirements are and finding out what is most important to them, we can help them decide for themselves which belt will be the best option and therefore save a lot of wasted time and money trying out many options before finding the right one.

The purpose of this blog is not to put anyone off buying any of the colourful harnesses or belts but just to encourage you to look beyond the colours when making your choices. We personally love to colour co-ordinate and ideally we like everything in red and black (with a hint of white!). However we also recognise that the best fit for dogs and people might be the plain old ‘boring’ black option or the out of colour scheme webbing and what’s important to us is that you get the best and most comfortable kit for you and your dog.

We like to try and colour co-ordinate (or not as the case may be!) – Photo courtesy of Horses for Courses Photography

If you need any help choosing your equipment, we’ve used everything in the range we stock extensively and so can advise you exactly how it works and should fit, so we can give you our honest opinion based on experience. Feel free to e-mail: info@k9trailtime.com for your free consultation with regards to any of the dog sports equipment we stock.

 

Dog Sport Harnesses – For dogs who sometimes pull

As I said in my last harness blog, I am always being asked about harnesses and what is the best harness for someone’s dog, the answer is never easy but one of the first things I always ask is ‘does your dog always pull out front?’. If the answer is no¬†then I will generally recommend a shorter harness, because these harnesses tend to suit dogs who are learning to pull, don’t always like to pull or are just a bit more laid back in their approach to the dog sports!¬†In some cases a mid length harness will also be suitable, for example a couple of the better designed mid length harnesses will allow a dog to pull when they choose but do not interfere or hang loose if they are not pulling out front.

SHORT HARNESSES (Also suitable for walking your dog in and if you like to let your dog off lead)

Non-stop Half Harness

The Non-stop Half Harness

The Non-stop Half Harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-half-harness.html

Recommended for:¬†Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle.¬†This harness is adjustable around the chest¬†has lots of neck and chest padding for dogs who need support when running. Once it is adjusted this harness doesn’t move at all over the dogs’ back which is great if you let your dog free run and it has a second ring hidden in an elasticated pocket underneath the belly which can be used for training.

Neewa Adjustable Running Harness

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness

The Neewa Running Harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/neewa-running-harness.html

Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. This harness is the only one we sell which is adjustable around the neck and the chest, which means it can be suitable for different shaped dogs or even a growing dog as a starter harness.

Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness

The Howling Dog Alaska Distance Harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/howling-dog-distance-harness.html

Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back or move from side to side when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. There is both a ring to attach your line to and a cord, so you can choose which suits your dog best. This harness is adjustable around the chest has lots of neck and chest padding for dogs who need support when running.

MID LENGTH HARNESSES (Can be used for dog walking if any loose ties are secured or removed)

Zero DC Short Harness

The Zero DC Short harness

The Zero DC Short harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/euro-short-zero-dc-sports-harness.html

Recommended for: Dogs who pull out front and who also drop back when running. This harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, dog scootering and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The ring to attach your line to has light padding underneath to prevent the clip of your line dropping in your dogs’ back if they slow down or drop back. This harness is adjustable around the chest and can fit a wide range of breeds, as sizing range starts very small and goes very large.

Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport simple in it's design

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/dragrattan-multi-sport-harness.html

Recommended for: Out front pullers and also dogs who like to drop back sometimes, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The back is left open for the dog to arch through and because the point to fix your line to is the cord at the back, rather than a cord at the base of the tail, this harness can suit a wide range of shapes and sizes of dog. It also has a belly strap which can prevent an escape artist from wriggling backwards out of the harness, unlike many of the other longer harnesses. The front part of the harness also stays securely in place if your dog switches from side to side on the trail.

Howling Dog Alaska Second or Tough Skin Harness:

My Sprollie Donnie modelling the Second Skin harness,

The Howling Dog Alaska Second Skin harness

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/h-d-second-skin-harness.html

Recommended for: Out front pullers, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. It can be adjusted around the middle and the fact it is only mid length means it can suit dogs who are short or long in the body. This harness is super lightweight and is excellent for encouraging young or novice dogs to pull into a harness because it is so soft and flexible on the dog.

Every dog we fit at K9 Trail Time is an individual, much in the same way a person is, so we base our recommendations on the information you provide about your dog and never just on sales margins or the most fashionable brand at the time. We have also tried and tested every single type of harness we sell so you can be sure we are offering you advice based on experience.

If you would like to contact us about a harness for your dog please e-mail: emilyt@k9trailtime.com

Dog Sport Harnesses – For dogs who really pull

I am always being asked about harnesses and what is the best harness for someones’ dog, the answer is never easy but one of the first things I always ask is ‘does your dog always pull out front?’. If the answer is yes then I will generally recommend a longer harness, because these are harnesses designed to capture the pull of a dog and support a dog in any sport where they are required to pull weight in some form or another (person, bike, scooter, rig or sled). In some cases a mid length harness will also be suitable, for example a couple of the better designed mid length harnesses direct the pull along the harness from underneath and therefore act in the same way as the longer harnesses, without having the full length to them.

Our recommendations for dogs who pull are below:

LONG HARNESSES (Not suitable for allowing dogs to free run where loose straps may get caught)

Non-stop Freemotion Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/non-stop-freemotion-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this is a highly adjustable harness, so if your dog is long or short it can be adjusted to suit, it can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The spine of the dog is left free to arch and the elastic side straps allow for freedom of movement in every respect.

The spine of the dog is left free by the top straps and the harness can 'breathe' with the dog

The spine of the dog is left free by the top straps and the harness can ‘breathe’ with the dog

Zero DC Long Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/euro-long-zero-dc-faster-sports-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this harness¬†can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle but cannot be adjusted in any way, so does not suit dogs who are particularly long or short in the body. There is no material over the dogs’ back, so the dog has total freedom of movement through the back.

The Zero DC Long Harness has no material over the back to restrict movement

The Zero DC Long Harness has no material over the back to restrict movement

Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/neewa-adjustable-racing-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this is another adjustable harness so if your dog is long or short it can be adjusted to suit the length of your dog. It can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. It has a high neck which offers great padding through the chest and¬†does not interfere with the dogs’ airways but might not be suitable for dogs who pull down through the neck when they pull. There is no material over the dogs’ back so the spine is left free to arch when moving.

The Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness has a padded neck and chest piece for your dogs comfort

The Neewa Adjustable Racing Harness has a padded neck and chest piece for your dogs comfort

Dragrattan X-Back Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/dragrattan-x-back-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, it can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport where the line length is long enough to allow for a near horizontal angle. The x-backs are not suitable for use where the attachment point is higher than the back of the dog and the line angle to the harness means the harness lifts at the back. This doesn’t rule out the x-back for canicross but does mean you shouldn’t use a short line with this harness, on a small dog, with a tall person!

The Dragrattan X-Back is great for strong pullers in situations where the line angle is horizontal - Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

The Dragrattan X-Back is great for strong pullers in situations where the line angle is horizontal – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

MID LENGTH HARNESSES (Suitable for dogs who prefer not to have a harness near their tail or may have had issues with hips or rear legs)

Howling Dog Alaska Second or Tough Skin Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/h-d-second-skin-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. It can be adjusted around the middle and the fact it is only mid length means it can suit dogs who are short or long in the body. This harness is super lightweight and is excellent for encouraging young or novice dogs to pull into a harness because it is so soft and flexible on the dog.

My Sprollie Donnie modelling the Second Skin harness, he has been my chief tester because he is such a strong puller!

My Sprollie Donnie modelling the Second Skin harness, he has been my chief tester because he is such a strong puller!

Dragrattan Multi-Sport Harness:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/dragrattan-multi-sport-harness.html

Recommended for: Strong out front pullers, this harness can be used for canicross, bikejor, scootering, sledding and any other pulling sport without worrying about line angle. The back is left open for the dog to arch through and because the point to fix your line to is the cord at the back, rather than a cord at the base of the tail, this harness can suit a wide range of shapes and sizes of dog. It also has a belly strap which can prevent an escape artist from wriggling backwards out of the harness, unlike many of the other longer harnesses.

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport is proving to be a very popular choice of harness for dog sports this year - Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

The Dragrattan Multi-Sport is proving to be a very popular choice of harness for dog sports this year – Photo courtesy of Hound and About Photography

Every dog we fit at K9 Trail Time is an individual, much in the same way a person is, so we base our recommendations on the information you provide about your dog and never just on sales margins or the most fashionable brand at the time. We have also tried and tested every single type of harness we sell so you can be sure we are offering you advice based on experience.

If you would like to contact us about a harness for your dog please e-mail: emilyt@k9trailtime.com

Product Feature – The Neewa Running Harness

The Neewa Running Harness is one of our more recent additions to the range of shorter harnesses at K9 Trail Time and I have to admit when I got in some samples, I wasn’t sure about the high padded neck at the front of the harness. The neck sits much higher up than any of the other sport harnesses we sell and I always advise people to avoid anything that sits too near the throat.

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness is unusually high but this doesn't cause any issues

The neck on the Neewa Running Harness is unusually high but this doesn’t cause any issues

However, when I actually used this harness on my dogs, I realised that the neck is very cleverly designed to fold slightly when the harness is on the dog and being pulled into. As a result the neck bends away from the throat and causes no issues whatsoever.

The Neewa Running Harness is also fully adjustable on the neck as well as¬†the chest¬†and the only harness I will sell that is adjustable in this way. I have always felt adjustment in the neck has a potential for weakness in the harness, but I feel the strength of this harness is in no way compromised by the adjustment and having it means it is the perfect harness for a growing dog to get used to having a harness on. It’s also very useful if you have more than one dog the harness needs to fit, I have used a size Medium on my 20kg collie but also on my mum’s very differently shaped 12 kg cross breed.

The range of dogs the Neewa Running Harness can fit in each size is quite broad due to the adjustable neck & chest

The range of dogs the Neewa Running Harness can fit in each size is quite broad due to the adjustable neck & chest

The harness is padded in all the areas it needs to be and my only constructive comment would be that if there were a bit of padding under the d-ring to attach your bungee to, then this harness would be the perfect shoulder harness. I would recommend this harness for anyone whose dog is perhaps unsure about pulling into a harness yet, as it can be secured so it doesn’t move about on the dog’s back if your dog isn’t pulling out in front. I would also suggest this harness for dogs who are growing and this will be their first running harness. I don’t suggest you start running puppies in them but you can start training your voice commands and get them used to the feel of pulling into a harness on walks.

The Neewa Running Harness is a very practical shoulder harness for most activities

The Neewa Running Harness is a very practical shoulder harness for most activities

The Neewa Running Harness is also useful for people who let their dogs off lead on runs and can even double up as a car harness (although it has not been crash tested). It can be used for all the dog sports and even just as a walking harness, so it is truly multi-purpose too. It comes in a range of sizes and¬†colours which means there is something for everyone’s taste and colour scheme and a size to suit most dog breeds.

The Neewa Running Harness comes in 5 colour options

The Neewa Running Harness comes in 5 colour options

For more information on sizing or to buy please visit our website here:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/neewa-running-harness.html

 

K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross ‚Äď H is for Harness

Your dogs’ harness is probably the most important bit of kit you can buy for canicross and is also probably the bit of kit you will have multiples of too! Getting the right harness for your dog can be very¬†tricky as your dog will potentially change shape the more you train and become a more confident runner, which can mean the best type of harness for your dog will change. I spend hours of my time with people in person, on the phone and via e-mail or messages, helping them¬†to get the best harness for their dog because I think it’s really important in this sport that your dog is comfortable. For canicross your dogs’ harness must be snug on the neck so it doesn’t slip around and potentially cause rubbing, it must allow freedom of movement through the front legs and not cause any restriction or pressure points along the body. The purpose of the harness is to capture your dogs’ energy and send it through the bungee lead and the waist belt to propel you forward. Your dog is meant to be pulling so the harness you choose must be suitable¬†for this. There are so many different shapes and styles to choose from now that making a decision can be confusing, but K9 Trail Time is dedicated to helping you get the right harness for your dog, so I have written many, many blogs about choosing a harness and am always happy to help. The harness for canicross should be your¬†number one item on your canicross shopping list and for that reason, I have chosen harness as my word for ‘H’ in this A-Z of Canicross.

Harnesses come in so many shapes and styles now, it's worth getting help to choose the right one for your dog

Harnesses come in so many shapes and styles now, it’s worth getting help to choose the right one for your dog

 

Why We Love X-Back Harnesses

As the title of this blog suggests, here at K9 Trail Time we love the X-Back style of dog sports harness. Right from day one I have used an X-Back on one or other of my dogs, and of course we have switched around brands and styles of harness over the years, to test out new ones and see what works best, but I keep coming back to the X-Back style.

We have been using X-Backs for a number of years now for all the dog pulling sports - Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

We have been using X-Backs for a number of years now for all the dog pulling sports – Photo courtesy of Sled Dog Photo

What is an X-Back harness? – X-Backs are a particular style of dog sport harness which are thought to have originated in North America well over 100 years ago. The harness itself gets it’s name from the sections of webbing which cross over the back in a ‘x’ shape. The harnesses are designed to reach to the base of the dogs’ tail and have traditionally been used for teams of huskies pulling sleds on snow.

The X-Back harness, is a traditional style harness with webbing crossing over the back

The X-Back harness, is a traditional style harness with webbing crossing over the back

Why would you use an X-Back harness? – I recommend these harnesses for dogs who are confident pullers and who have a fairly ‘steady’ gait when running. By this I mean the dog¬†runs evenly and is consistent when pulling in a harness, this could be either at a ‘trot’ or a faster ‘bounding’ action.

X-Backs are great for strong pullers

X-Backs are great for strong pullers

Why would you not use an X-Back harness? – If your dog doesn’t pull out front or tends to ‘zig zag’ when running, then I would say this probably isn’t the harness for your dog. Sometimes if your dog arches its back a lot too, then it might be that a harness with no straps crossing over the back might work better. It has also been noted that if the angle of your line comes too steeply from the point of attachment at the back of the harness, then the X-Back cannot work as it was designed to and this is why the X-Backs are not made for much smaller dogs.

Make sure your harness is not being pulled up by too steep a line angle

Make sure your harness is not being pulled up by too steep a line angle

Why we love X-Backs – The X-Back harness has been around for so long and has worked so well that it has become the iconic symbol of sled dog sports (canicross, bikejor and dog scootering have all developed from sledding). It’s simple design means it is lightweight, has no points of weakness (buckles or clips), isn’t complicated to put on and is generally one of the hardest wearing harnesses you can buy.

We love X-Backs (even if Donnie's face doesn't say so in this picture!)

We love X-Backs (even if Donnie’s face doesn’t say so in this picture!)

A few of the X-Backs we stock:

The Dragrattan X-Back:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/dragrattan-x-back-harness.html

The Dragrattan Collared X-back (for dogs with a more narrow neck and shoulders):

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/dragrattan-collared-neck-x-back-harness.html

The Non-stop Nansen Nome:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/canicross/canicross-harnesses/non-stop-nansen-nome-harness.html

If you need any help with sizing or fitting an X-back harness do drop an e-mail to info@k9trailtime.com and we’ll be happy to help.

Happy Trails!