All About Halters, Harnesses, and Leashes

Julius K9 Harness

In the first section of the article, I discussed and evaluated the many different kinds of training equipment used for walking your dog. In this section of the article I evaluate and compare head halters, harnesses, and leashes for your dog.

Head Halters

I remember when the first nose halter style training equipment came on the market. It was the Halti and it was first introduced in the mid 1980’s. Until that time the only other training collar options for training dogs was the Correction or Choke Chain.

I ran out to buy a Halti for my Siberian Husky, who like most Huskies, pulled like a freight train on a flat collar. I remember being very happy to have found an alternative collar to the Correction Chain but I remember being very nervous about my dog being able to slip out of the Halti as the only point of leash attachment was a ring under the chin. Since then, they redesigned Haltis to have a safety strap that runs from the head halter to the collar for extra security. These days there are now many different kinds of halter options available for your dog.

Nose Loop Halters

There are two basic kinds of halters made; nose loop halters that fasten under the chin or nose loop head halters that have their own built in collar and the line feeds out behind the neck. Both kinds of halters are designed for the same purpose and that is to redirect the head position when a dog tries to pull ahead. “Where the nose goes, the body follows.”

The halters that attach under the chin redirect the head and snout so when the dog tries to pull forward they only manage to turn themselves around. Head halters are designed to keep dogs from being able to charge forward and pull but they can also help redirect lunging and jumping up behaviours too. In the case of Snow Dogs, dogs pulling, lunging, and jumping up is a very common problem that often responds well to using a halter.

Sadly, not all dogs tolerate the feeling of the nose loop halter. Many dogs require an acclimation period to be able to use this type of training equipment. For those dogs that just cannot get used to wearing a halter, using a walking harness may be a better option. Make sure that you check out our review of the Dogmatic Halter, Dogmatic Headcollar Review for Huskies.

What’s Good About Halters?

With a flat collar, you end up with very little control over hard to manage behaviours like pulling on the lead but with the design of the head halter, the pulling or lunging forward behaviour is pointless for a dog to do because their head position is redirected back toward you. Virtually, all pulling and lunging behaviours are eliminated by using a halter to walk your dog.

Head halters make it very easy to redirect a dog’s focus from an undesirable target because the dog’s gaze can be turned to look at you. Many dogs that are normally hard to control with a flat collar are able to be walked in control using a head halter.

There are several different makes and configurations for head halters so you can find the make and model that best fits your needs and best fits your husky. Halters do not place pressure or cause trauma to the trachea and thyroid gland like flat collars do so many Vets are very happy about that.

What’s Not So Good About Head Halters?

There is some acclimation time before dogs are comfortable wearing a head halter so you most likely cannot just pull this equipment out of the package and immediately begin using it. Some dogs will never like wearing the halter because it feels too foreign to them. There can be an issue with poor fit and the nose loop riding up and sitting to close to the eye of the dog. For halters that attach under the chin, when a walking dog switches sides, you have to constantly readjust the leash position so that it does not cross over the dog’s face.

You should also only use halters using a very short leash length as using them with a long lead could cause injury to the dog’s neck. When your dog is on a long lead and he begins to run forward, he can build up speed and forward momentum. When he hits the end of the leash while traveling at a high rate of speed, his head and neck can get violently jerked back or to the side causing injury to the neck and spine.

And a minor issue for some people, head halters often get mistaken for muzzles by members of the public. Some people do not like the social stigma attached to people thinking that your dog is “vicious” and needs to wear a “muzzle”.

Harnesses

Many people think that dog harnesses are all the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Harnesses are designed for doing a particular job. Before buying a harness for your dog, you must be clear about how you want to use the harness. Is it for walking or running with your dog? Is it to help your dog curb his pulling and lunging issues? Do you want a sled harness so that your dog can pull a sled? Or do you need a harness to help senior dog or a dog with hip issues with their mobility.

Everyone one of these activities requires a different harness design. When buying a harness, take your dog with you so that you can try out the harness. These harnesses must be well fitting or they will cause chaffing and abrasions on your dogs body. Depending on the design of the harness some models have better directional control and ease of movement than others.

The harness featured in the photo at the top of the page is a Julius-K9 IDC Power Harness.

The Different Kinds Of Harnesses

Walking harness

These harnesses have the attachment point on the back between the shoulders. It is designed as an alternative for walking a dog using a neck collar. These harnesses put no pressure on the neck or trachea. Most walking harnesses are a single duty harnesses and really do not help with issues of dogs pulling or lunging. There are numerous brand names and configurations of harness designed for this purpose. Find the harness that best fits your dog. Walking harnesses are not designed to be used as a pulling harness.

Anti Pull Harnesses

These harnesses are designed with the attachment point at the front of the chest. The concept of these harnesses is to prevent your dog from pulling or lunging forward. When the dog tries to pull forward the front attachment site causes the dog’s body to be turned back towards you making pulling forward futile. These harnesses place no pressure on the neck or trachea of the dog. Once again, a good fit to your dog’s body is essential so the straps do not dig into or chaff your dog.

Combination Anti-Pull and Walking Harnesses

There are some companies that manufacturing versatile combination harnesses. These harnesses have leash attachments sites both at the chest and at the back between the shoulder blades so that you can switch for walking or for no pull functions as needed. A good fit is extremely important for the comfort of your dog.

Sledding Harness

These harnesses are designed to make pulling easier for dogs. They have padded shoulder straps and a design that helps to distribute the weight of the load evenly across the shoulders and down the back. The attachment site of the harness is on the back near the back hips where to dog can be hooked up to the main pulling lines. A sledding harness is designed specifically for this job and should not be used as a walking harness.

Weight Pulling Harness

Some people participate in dog weight pulling contests. The harnesses used for this kind of activity are extremely specialized with very heavily padded shoulder and harness that distributes the weight of the load evenly and efficiently on the dog. A regular sled pulling harness should never be used for this purpose.

In the case of sled dogs, the weight of the load being pulled is distributed over numerous dogs while in the case of pulling competitions, only one dog pulls the weight of the sledge. The force exerted on the dog is far greater in this activity.

Carting Harnesses

These harnesses are designed to be use with dual shafts (poles that run from the cart to the dog). These poles help to steer the dog and to attach the dog to the cart. The attachment sites for the poles are located near the front outer shoulder area of the dog.

Full or Partial Vest Style Working Harnesses

These are specialized harness/garments created for working dogs. Police dogs, tracking dogs, service dogs all have specially designed gear to help the handlers control their dogs.

Specialized Lifting Harnesses

There are a few types of harnesses created to help support the hind end of disabled dogs while they are walking or they are trying to get to their feet. These harnesses are fashioned to work with the hind legs and have handles to help owners lift up the hind quarters of their dog. This special equipment helps with senior dogs, dogs with hip dysplasia, dogs with arthritic hips, or dogs that are recovering from hip or knee surgery. These harnesses help by not only removing some of the weight off the dog’s back end, but by also helping to steady the dog as it walks.

What Is Good About Harnesses?

Harnesses are much better option for dogs that pull on the lead. The harness keeps pressure off the neck and throat. When you use the right type of harness you can have superior control of your dog’s movements while keeping your dog safe and health. Specialized harnesses help dogs so they can do their job better and be safe while they work. Lifting harnesses help give elderly or disabled dogs an extended lease on their mobility.

What Is Not So Good About Harnesses?

Before you can buy a harness you have to do make sure to educate yourself about the many different kinds of harnesses or the harness you buy may not do the job that you need it to do. Some halters are very difficult and complicated to put on your dog. Harnesses have to fit very well on your dog’s body or they can cause chaffing or contact abrasions.

Walking harnesses (with the attachment on the back between the dog’s shoulders) very often cause the dog to pull more and to ignore your attempts at controlling his movements. With a walking harness, unlike with a neck collar, you cannot redirect a dog’s forward movement when he is wearing this equipment. Harnesses are not as effective at controlling pulling behaviours as head halters are.

Also, some harnesses can alter the natural gait of a dog as natural shoulder movement may have pressure put on them and thereby hindering their movement. This is also why it is so easy for the dog to get chaffs and abrasions under the arms and across the chest while wearing a harness.

Leashes And Leads

Most people don’t think too much about the leash that they buy beyond the colour or pattern they chose but other than the collar, halter, or harness, your leash is the only other means you have of controlling your dog.

There are many different kinds of leashes and leads made to specifically suit your dog walking needs. When buying a leash owners should give some thought to the size of the dog (both now and also at full size), the temperament of the dog, as well as breed of the dog. Small dogs need leashes that are light in weight. Big dogs need sturdy leashes with heavy duty clasps and stitching. Heavy pullers need leashes that are comfortable and safe for owners to hold. Here are just some of the many different kinds of leashes and leads available to buy.

Types of Leashes And Their Uses

Standard Leash

These leashes are the most versatile leash and can be used in a variety of situations. They can be made from a variety of materials including leather or canvas webbing. A standard leash is usually 6 feet long. These leashes are used for dogs of average weight and temperament. The bigger and heavier a dog, the wider and sturdier the leash should be made. The 6 foot length of a Standard Leash while keeping your dog in close beside you tends to be very restrictive for dogs that like to roam on a walk.

Leads

Leads are usually much shorter than standard leashes. They can be anywhere from 4 to 2 feet in length. Their short length makes it ideal for controlling the larger and hard to handle dogs as it keeps the dogs in much closer to you than the Standard 6 foot leash.

Slip Leads

These leads are usually made of a round cord, varying in diameter, and are used as a loop placed around the upper part of a dog’s neck. These leads are often used in the show rink. These leads are NOT recommended to be used for puppies, untrained dogs, or dogs that pull on the leash as the loop will tighten around their necks causing harm.

Waist Leashes

These double ended leashes are designed so that one end goes around and clips off at the waist of the owner while the other end fastens to your dogs collar, halter, or harness. It not only offers hands free walking but it makes correcting your dog or scooping poop much easier as your hands are free.

The other benefit for these leashes is that shoulder, elbow, and wrist and finger joints are not very strong and tend to injury easily by a trying to hold on to a Standard leash if you have a heavy pulling dog. With a Waist Leash, the large core muscles of your body are much better able to handle the force of the pull than fragile limb joints.

Multi Dog Leashes

These leashes are designed with multiple ends that branch out to attach to more than one dog. You can also buy a SPLITTER, which attaches to the clasp of a regular leash and that branch off to attach to multiple dogs at once.

Retractable Leashes

These units have a retractable/extendable line that can be controlled by the owner. This kind of leash gives dogs more freedom to move around while walking without the issue of needing to control many feet of slack line. These leashes should never be used with young puppies as they often lunge forward suddenly and will cause injury to their necks or bodies.

Long Lunge Lines

These are very long thin leashes (usually 10 ft., 25ft, or 50ft. Long). Long Lunge Lines are used to allow dogs to be able to run ahead while tracking or training but still allow the trainer to have control over the dog. These lines are also a great tool for teaching distance recall but the long length of the line can be cumbersome to handle.

What Is Good About These Leashes?

Having many different kind of leashes allows you to be able to find a leash that works for your specific requirements and dog.

What Is Not Good About These Leashes?

With so many choices people can be using the wrong kind of leash or the wrong weight of leash for their dog. Some leashes, like retractable leashes, may actually be quite dangerous to both the owner and the dog. Every year owners are hurt when their fingers get caught or mangled by the retractable line or by lines that cut into the flesh of legs or ankles.

Dogs can also be hurt when they pick up speed while running forward and then hitting the end of the line. This sudden stop causes injury to head and necks from the sudden jerking motion. Dogs can also get injured by getting tangled up in the thin retractable line. All too often lines can snap or the hand held retractor fails and the dog is suddenly loose from their only means of restraint.

Long Lunge Lines can easily become tangled around people or around dogs causing harm also.

Leash Materials

Some leashes are more comfortable to use than others. Leather leashes are strong, durable, and comfortable on your hands but they are expensive and require care to keep them supple and strong. Nylon or canvas web leashes are inexpensive, strong, and can be used in any weather as they can be easily cleaned up using some soap and water but their material is not very comfortable in your hands.

How To Correctly Measure For A Dog Leash

Did you know that you should make some measurements to determine the correct length of leash you should be using with your dog?

There are some measurements that you will need:

  1. Using a tape measure, measure the distance from the floor to the base of dog’s neck when the dog is standing.
  2. Then with the owner standing, measure the distance from the floor to the owner’s waist.
  3. Now, subtract dog’s height measurement from the owner’s floor to waist measurement. If the dog is taller than the owner’s waist, then use the measurement of 0 Feet.
  4. The difference of the two measurements PLUS 48 to 60 inches (4 to 5 feet) is the optimum leash length you should be using to have the best control of your dog.

Leash Width

In addition to optimum leash length, there is an optimum leash width that you should be using with your dog. If a leash is too narrow it will be ineffective to control the dog or the weight of the dog and it may cause the leash to break. If you use a too wide and large of a leash on a small dog or puppy, the weight of the leash may be intimidating to the dog.

The correct leash width to use is as follows:

  • Small dogs should use a leash width ½ inch or less. This includes leashes used on puppies.
  • Medium sized dogs should be using a leash that is ½ inch to 1 inch wide.
  • Large Dogs should be using a leash that is at least 1 inch or wider.

Always take the time to educate yourself and choose the right training equipment for your Husky.

As always we welcome your questions, comments, and stories on this topic. When we share our wisdom and our stories, we may well be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.

Helping All Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.

6 COMMENTS

  1. We have a Husky and were told we should not use the invisible fence. At this time we dont have the money to fence in a huge part of our yard. We’re using a Dog run. What harness would be best for hooking her out on her dof run? She is outside for about 30min to 60min at a time for bathroom breaks, playing ect.

  2. Such a great post thank you! I thought I knew a lot about harnesses and collars but I learned so much for this post. Thank you!

  3. I would also think it prudent to mention that ,even with small dogs, attaching a dog to the body can be quite dangerous. Having been pulled off my feet by a 45 lb Catahoula and having to explain the grass stains inside my pants in addition to my own aches pains and strains, I never suggest tethering a dog to the handler.

    I was prepared, and aware of the high motivation situation and yet still lost my feet and was dragged.

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