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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I'm at a loss. I've done so much research and tried so many harnesses, but really can't find one that's a good fit for my dog. No matter how much positive reinforcement we do, he now hates all of the harnesses we've tried. I'm not 100% sure what bothers him about them, but my guess is that all of them end up having a strap that sits up against the armpit. I'm trying to find something that is soft (not just straps, but some kind of padding) because sometimes he needs to have it on for long periods of time, and sits a bit farther back on his body. He is most likely a lab/pit mix, about 65 lbs. I really need a harness because he's leash reactive right now, and just the collar won't do the trick.

I currently use the Freedom, but he absolutely HATES it.
Any tips?
Thank you!
 

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One option is a basic nylon buckle harness (not a no-pull) and slide those fuzzy seat belt covers onto the straps in the arm pit area. Think dollar general as seen on TV type fake fleece covers.

No-pull harnesses often tighten uncomfortably around shoulders and/or affect the dog's natural gait. They also tend to be less secure from escaping/slipping the harness.

Step-in harnesses give good freedom of shoulder movement and sit differently under the arms but are some of the easiest to slip out off if a dog backs up against leash pressure (pulling forward rarely a problem)

Most secure harness that I have found is the Ruffwear Webmaster. Many sevice dogs wear them day in and day out. Pricy though if the dog decides he does not like it.

I have leather buckle harnesses from Stillwater Kennel Supply that I like for their strength and because unlike sliding nylon adjustments, they will never loosen during use.

Julius K-9 makes a harness that does not get up into the arm pits. Have not tried it myself though
 

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Would a harness with a second body strap like the Ruffwear Webmaster work? You would be able to cinch that back strap up a bit so the harness doesn't ride forward. The Julius/Comfort Flex type stay away from arm pits but can be easily backed out of.

My 13 pound princess dislikes harnesses too. She doesn't mind collars but her trachea gets sore using one so she's stuck. A cookie held in the neck loop and she allows it. She is fine once it is on and hasn't had any chafing, just hates getting it on no matter what kind it is. Comfort Flex, vest harness, Ruffwear Frontrange, mesh all hated.

I sewed a tube to fit over a backpack body strap. Worked great, if chafing is a problem then go for it.
 

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I use a Hurtta padded y-harness for Kane and have never had a problem with rubbing under the armpits.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the tips!

@Shell - are there any step in harnesses for medium/large dogs that you've seen recommended? The Julius K-9 is one that I've been eyeing but I didn't realize it's easy for dogs to back out of those :-(

@Kathyy - I think the Ruffwear Webmaster would be perfect, that's the one I have my eye on. However, the $60 price tag (esp considering I've already spent upwards of $100 on different harnesses) is out of reach. I'm trying to see if there are any off-brand harnesses that are similar. And I know you know how it feels to keep buying harnesses and none of them actually making your pup happy!

@Jen2010 - how's the Hurtta for pulling? Also, it looks like it's only padded around the front part, not around the chest/ribs/back, is that right?
 

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I use Coastal Pets step in harness sometimes, they are simple and durable. However, it is EASY to back out of.

The closest "off brand" design that I can think of to compare to the Webmaster is the Outward Hound harness/backpack. You could of course just not put anything in the backpack. Runs about $15 online.

If you did decide to put some small weight in the backpack, some dogs find this to be a "job" and are mildly less reactive while "working". Light weight only to start, maybe a hand towel wrapped around a paperback book in each side (quiet, no rattles and not sharp spots against the dog's ribs)
 

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I second the ruffwear suggestion. I have both the webmaster ans the front range which runs at little cheaper at $40. My boxer/german shepard mix tends to be an escape artist, but the front range is comfy enough to wear for long hours while we hike and camp. I also use the front range for my little pit mix (4 months old), so far it's the only harness that seems to fit his broad shoulders.
 

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Harness offers the dog the opportunity to pull. They afford little control to the owner. Dogs can slip out of them. And, as in your case, some dogs absolutely HATE harnesses.

There are many collar opportunities out there that are comfortable for the dog while allowing better control on leash. Leash reactivity is a training/behavior (often hard wired) issue, not a collar issue.
 

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A couple of the harnesses were too big after she lost weight and one is for fancy. She just plain dislikes things going over her head and I like shopping for her. She isn't a harness slipper but upside down she decided enough was enough so she slipped out of the Comfort Flex and as the Julius is the same shape I'd expect dogs could slip it easily as well. Same with the Front Range, Bucky doesn't slip harnesses but he panicked when leash was wrapped around a pole and off it came. They know how to do it, play bow with front legs forward, lower head and wiggle back a little. They have the Ruffwear Approach which has the second body strap like the Webmaster but never been in a harness slip situation wearing them.

I had the opposite experience with a couple medium sized dogs. They had a terrible time doing LLW in a collar. Put them in a harness and they were much happier with less pulling. The leash was in their face when attached to the collar I think. Bucky pulls less on a limited slip collar but I can plainly see it's because it hurts his neck and that's about as gentle a collar as you can get. I'd rather he not be hurt if he does get into a panic. Not good for a fearful dog to get hurt when he's reacting. It is all on me whether they pull or not, not the tool I use. If I physically couldn't handle a dog pulling that would be different. Bucky does his best weight pull act and I can still hold the leash with a single finger so definitely doesn't apply for us.
 

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@Jen2010 - how's the Hurtta for pulling? Also, it looks like it's only padded around the front part, not around the chest/ribs/back, is that right?
Yeah I guess you're right - it's not padded under the belly. As far as pulling, I've never used a specific no-pull harness, but I do find with my dogs that they pull less in a harness rather than just in a collar. I'm not sure why. Maybe because they are big dogs so I have more control when they're in a harness so they know pulling doesn't get them anywhere. In a a collar though, they make more progress when they pull so they do it more.

Kane absolutely hates when I put his harness on, but once it's on he's fine, he just doesn't like it going over his head. So I have a method that gets it on as quickly as possible so he doesn't have much time to resist. He also doesn't like putting things on that require me to squish his front legs into them (like sweaters). I've found if I ask for his paw then gently put it though he's better than if I just grab his paw and try to do it.
 

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Was glad to see another recommendation for the Balance harness! I had pretty much given up on finding a harness to fit my 60lb girl that didn’t restrict her shoulder movement and didn’t sit right in the “armpit”. Because you can adjust both the back strap and the chest strap (instead of just neck/girth adjustments) you can really customize the fit. Like you I’ve been through a lot of harnesses that weren’t right for my dog; I’m SO thrilled to have found the Balance harness!
 

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Does the dog hate having the harness put on. Or does the dog hate wearing the harness?
Some dogs don’t like you bending over them to put it on.
It also should not be worn for long periods. It should only be worn for walks. Think about having to wear tight clothes for long periods when you normally
don’t wear any. Plus it can wear away fur.
A front clip harness is your best bet for a reactive dog.
I would try Ruff Wear Front Range Harness or Petco recently started carrying similar ones by Good to Go - front clip harness. These are padded and more “vest like” than rubbing straps.
Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thank you for all the recommendations!

I've heard good things about the Balance, but I can't find it in any stores locally and their online return policy doesn't seem great. We can't try it on in person and I'd hate to end up with yet another harness in the graveyard, and another $50 in the trash bin. I wish someone I knew locally had one to try it out, but no luck so far.

I have seen the Ruffwear front range ones locally, so I may just need to try one of those out.

Thank you!
 

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While it can't get you back the money spent, those harnesses that are of no use to you would likely be quite appreciated by a local rescue or humane society. Better than gathering dust at least.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Figured I should follow up on this thread, even though it's been months. I gave in and got the Balance. It's been working really well for us so far! It doesn't sit in his armpits, it doesn't go over his head, both of which have made it "acceptable" to him.

My only complaints are:
- we go to the river often, and when it gets wet, it gets super loose
- there is no padding on the straps, so when he pulls hard (like when he sees a cat), it leaves some marks on him and rubs off his hair

I still can't believe I paid $50 for a few nylon straps with plastic buckles, but it is what it is.
 

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Harness offers the dog the opportunity to pull. They afford little control to the owner. Dogs can slip out of them. And, as in your case, some dogs absolutely HATE harnesses.

There are many collar opportunities out there that are comfortable for the dog while allowing better control on leash. Leash reactivity is a training/behavior (often hard wired) issue, not a collar issue.
I use a Dean Tyler made for Mastiffs and have zero pull or control issues.
Also have zero slip out issues (Granted that has a lot to do with mastiffs having a huge head).
The same does not apply to all dogs and breeds not sure why you always think it does.
 
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