Even if your dog is generally well behaved and calm, it’s a good idea to have a harness or a collar for them when you are taking them on a long journey. Some dogs can get hyperactive or nervous when they are in unfamiliar territory, and a good harness or collar will help to ensure that they stay close by, safe, and comfortable while you are on the road.
Do You Need a Harness or a Collar?
The first thing you need to decide is whether to get a harness or a collar. For small dogs, and dogs that are well behaved, a collar is a good choice – it is something that you can leave on a lot of the time – making a good back-up to the ID tag, so that you are more likely to get reunited with the dog quickly if you get separated from it.
However, traditional collars are not always ideal. It is easy for a dog to slip out of a flat collar, and if your dog pulls on its leash even a little bit, it is at risk of suffering from a neck injury, hypothyroidism and a number of other health issues as a result of the pressure that the collar puts on the neck. Dogs that tend to pull on collars could end up becoming more poorly behaved because of the pain that the collar causes, which is counter-productive.
A no-pull harness is a better choice for medium-sized dogs that have a habit of pulling, since it will help you to train them and keep them safe, without putting them under physical stress.
Choosing the Right Dog Harness
There are a few different designs of no-pull harness. Standard harnesses are easy to put on and remove, do not put pressure on the neck, and will keep your dog safe. The RAC Advanced dog harnesses have generously sized straps that will not chafe or irritate your dog. The straps spread the weight and pressure, so that your dog will always be comfortable, and at the same time give you, the handler, plenty of feedback and control.
How to Measure for a Dog Harness
To determine the right size for a dog harness, measure your dog around the rib cage (the girth) and then add two inches. The correct spot to measure is just behind the dog’s front legs. If your dog is between two sizes, choose the bigger size for maximum comfort.
A harness that is too tight will make the dog uncomfortable. One that is too loose will not reduce the level of control you have over the dog.
Using a Harness
When you are using a harness, the dog should be beside you, walking at your pace, rather than in front of you – where they are more likely to pull. Most dogs pull because they are either excited, or scared. They may be desperate to get out and get some exercise, or they might feel uncomfortable in a strange new area.
For this reason, it’s important that you get your dog used to wearing a harness in a calm and familiar environment. Reward them for good behaviour, and ignore them when they behave badly. Stay calm and be patient and consistent. Get the dog used to having the harness put on them, and clip the lead so that the natural position for the dog is to be walking alongside you. Practice steering the dog and guiding them while they wear the harness, so that they get used to your cues to stop and turn. Use the harness on a regular basis, even in familiar areas, and consistently reinforce positive, non-pulling behaviours, until you feel confident about taking your dog out for long journeys, and in unfamiliar and potentially busy tourist areas.