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Discussion Starter #1
I keep saying you should say NO to harnesses and I get a lot of push back.

Here is a bonafide study of two service dogs vests and the results. The dogs were not on lead as measurements were taken on a treadmill (so they were not pulling etc.). One vest was custom made and the other adjustable. This happens when the dog is simply wearing a properly adjusted vest. Imagine the torque when you had a lead and the dog pulls.

 

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Your post made me look for further studies on harnesses. I found this one : To Harness Or Not To Harness? That Is The Question... - Avidog Zink Ventures about the various methods of harnessing dogs, and some of he results are rather counter intuitive. I always thought Y harnesses were ok! I am now going to watch my dogs very carefully to try and see how they are affected. The trouble is you need gear that allows a tracking dog to keep his nose to the ground and I would hate to put my dogs back in a collar for tracking as they can get pretty keen and can lean hard into their harnesses. I would rather the pressure was not on their throats. The important question for me is whether damage is being done to the dog as some movement restriction must be preferable to damage to the neck? I can only see the summing up of the study, not the full text unless I join or pay, is this addressed in the expanded text?
 

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Cool. Use a collar. I'm aware of the concern that harnesses may (and in some cases definitely do) restrict the gait, but I've yet to see any evidence - even anecdotal - that this has lead to injury. Conversely, there is a the wealth of reports concerning collar injury, many from veterinarians or other reputable dog professionals, and that includes studies (like this one on inner eye pressure or this one on force and pressure on the neck - sorry, couldn't find the full text free for the first). Personally, I find the argument against collars more compelling.

Not that I think most dogs wind up with collar injuries, especially when they're trained to avoid pulling. I use a collar myself on the puppy in many circumstances, since he's not super comfortable with harnesses (unless he needs to be tethered in the car or on a long line, harnesses in those scenarios are non-negotiable in this household). But I'm going to continue to disagree with you, 3GSD4IPO, that harnesses are somehow more dangerous than collars. The evidence just isn't there.
 

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While I use a collar for general walking, there are situations when a harness is much safer. This would have been even more dangerous than it was if she hadn't been in a harness.

 

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Spring is on the horizon. Small animals are becoming more active....squirrels and such. My mini-schnauzer walks very nicely with a loose leash in a collar. Although, his instincts consume his focus when he sees a squirrel. It is surprising how strong a 14 lb dog can pull. He will pull hard enough to rise on his hind legs only and straining on the collar with choking sounds.

I will be switching over to a harness during the Spring while all the varmints are increasing activity. I will reinforce the "Pass" command during this time. But I don't expect much success to overcome his instinctive prey drive.

I used a harness when he was a pup during walks when his neck was not very strong or developed.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
All dogs need to be trained. Your signals to a dog in training are much more clear with a collar and, a properly adjusted martingale collar is something the dog cannot slip. The harness I hate the most (and I really do dislike them all) is the front attach no pull harness. No No No.. TRAIN your dog and stop making excuses!! The next excuse is "my dog is reactive.. I must use a harness." Again, no.. you need to show your dog that you have your dog's back and he need not BE reactive. Collars do not "make a dog reactive." Bad handling makes a dog reactive.

What I found interesting in the article is the harness caused issues by itself.. just being ON the dog.

For tracking there is a Botcher harness. I don't use that.. I simply thread the lead from the collar between the front legs, between the back legs and out the back. I also do not tighten the line. If my dog speeds up I add serpentines, corners etc. to slow the dog down and then work to keep the line loose. Oppositional reflex in a tracking dog creates speed and speed creates mistakes! If you are doing a different kind of tracking (air scenting/search and rescue) or leashed tracking dog for wild game, get advice from the pro's doing those things. I do foot step tracking.. and I think that is also what AKC does.
 

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I agree that all dogs need to be trained. I also agree that a properly fitted martingale collar is something a dog can't slip. As far as the clarity of training communication? If you're not using the gear to make corrections (ie - collar pops, which are impossible in a harness, obviously) it really shouldn't matter whether the dog is wearing a collar, harness or is stark nekkid. When one views gear as a seat belt, and not the steering wheel, your argument falls apart.

Furthermore, you seem to forget that dogs are not robots that come into the world, and our lives, always already completely & perfectly trained. Sometimes management gear is necessary (those dreaded front-attachment harnesses!) while training is accomplished. Not making "excuses", simply stating a fact.

Use whatever you want on your own dogs, but why is it that you seem bound & determined that anyone who chooses NOT to follow your path is in the wrong & obviously had no clue what they're doing?

Here's another article about harnesses.
I'm sure you'll disagree with everything in it, but it's good information for those reading this thread who aren't all about the correction.
 

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I do game tracking in woods and moorland, you really do not want a line near the ground in those terrains. The dogs use a mixture of ground tracking and air scenting. You would be surprised how much you can communicate to a dog through the line to a harness by slightly changing the angles or the pressure. When you and the dog are a team it feels as if you each know what the other one thinks.
 

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Forgot to say. For effective communication the line between the handler and the dog must be under light pressure in my game, a bit like holding hands. It can get a bit heavier with excitement but a trained dog will have learnt not to lose his cool when sighting or finding ( and to remain mute!).
 

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I do game tracking in woods and moorland, you really do not want a line near the ground in those terrains. The dogs use a mixture of ground tracking and air scenting. You would be surprised how much you can communicate to a dog through the line to a harness by slightly changing the angles or the pressure. When you and the dog are a team it feels as if you each know what the other one thinks.
I can definitely see how this would work & be an effective, gentle method of communication with your dogs. Sadly, when most people refer to "communicating" with their dogs via the leash, it's not gentle or used with a light touch for guidance, but in order to deliver a correction of some sorts.
 

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For tracking there is a Botcher harness. I don't use that.. I simply thread the lead from the collar between the front legs, between the back legs and out the back. I also do not tighten the line. If my dog speeds up I add serpentines, corners etc. to slow the dog down and then work to keep the line loose. Oppositional reflex in a tracking dog creates speed and speed creates mistakes! If you are doing a different kind of tracking (air scenting/search and rescue) or leashed tracking dog for wild game, get advice from the pro's doing those things. I do foot step tracking.. and I think that is also what AKC does.
IGP tracking is as much obedience as it is tracking. For AKC, ASCA, and CKC tracking, as long as the dog follows the track and finds the articles, how they get from point A to point B isn't as important. Also, once you get past a TD, and into the higher levels, you will have obstacles like fences and heavy cover, which is why they all require a back clip harness instead of a Bottcher, or just running the line under the dog.

Some dogs track better with no tension on the line. Some dogs track better with tension on the line. Some dogs are naturally fast. Some dogs are naturally slow.

If you want to see some serious tracking, take a look at the ANKC track and search dog trial rules. http://ankc.org.au/media/9241/12-tracksearch-dog19.pdf
 

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Interesting discussion.

Although, I will go out on a limb to say....I believe most of us are simply walking our dogs and not engaged in tracking or scenting work.

Strong prey drive can be very difficult to overcome. I will opt for the harness while Spring and the prey are very active to reinforce the "Pass" command. I'd rather use the harness than risk injury to the neck/throat area.

I do not know the term for the harness I will use. It is a loop around the chest and neck with straps connecting the loops on the chest and back. The leash attaches to a D-ring on the intersection of the chest loop and back strap. I have used this type before without strain on the neck. The load is distributed across the chest and shoulders of the dog. This eases the stress on the neck/throat area.
 

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Well, I didn't touch on training because I assumed this was a thread about safety, but okay.

Again. Use a collar. Use it while tracking. No one is saying you cannot or even should not use the tool you feel is best for you and your dogs. We're disagreeing that it's also the tool that's best for everyone else and their dogs, and with the ludicrous idea that we're somehow wrong for disagreeing with you.

The summary of this study says harnesses change gait. That does not automatically equate "cause issues". If you have other studies or access to the full article that shows evidence that the change of gait causes long-term physical issues for dogs who wear harnesses an average amount of time (or even all the time), let us know. I, at least, am open to learn, but what you've presented so far is not convincing.

For training my dogs, I can communicate just fine with my voice, body language, and rewards. The harness and lead with my preferred training method are not communication tools, but safety tools. And yet, the puppy has learned very quickly that pressure on both collar and harness mean the same thing; circle back to me. Ideally he'd never hit the end of his lead on either tool, but he's eight months old. His brain's all over the place. Stuff happens.

And again. Attaching the dog to me is 95% about safety when it comes to my training and handling. If I have a dog who might pull because they:
  • are young and excitable
  • have come to me untrained
  • have had trauma that causes fearful and/or aggressive reactions
  • have high prey drive that causes lunging
  • obsessively chase cars, bikes, etc.
  • have a genetic disposition that inclines them to reacting fearfully and/or aggressively (to dogs or people)
  • are highly excitable and easily frustrated, causing frustration-based reactive behavior
  • have not been exercised in a while (e.g. post injury recovery or when weather has been unsafe for several days)
  • has been mishandled in the past, which may or may not have caused or exacerbated any of the above issues
I'm darn well going to put them in a tool that means I can control them. For my safety and for those around me. What tool that is will often depend on the dog and the issue, but I find front-clip harnesses (NOT the ones that actively tighten around the dog's shoulder) are often the least invasive, most effective method for me. I'm sure some people use them instead of training. Many, many do not. Just like some people use prongs or e-collars instead of training. I'm lucky in that my reactive dog is ~8 kg (under 20 lbs) which means I can often get away with a regular harness, but a front clip does make managing (not training) him when he gets over threshold easier.

But as you continue to insist, despite all evidence, common sense, and writing by noted professionals, that reactivity is super easy to 'fix' by showing leadership and suppressing reactive behaviors, I doubt any of this will sink in. I truly hope that you never have to manage a genuinely reactive dog.

PS: nobody said collars cause reactivity. The point several people made was that the symptoms of reactivity can make collars more dangerous for a reactive dog than average. But bad handling doesn't cause all (or, I would argue, most) reactivity, either. See bullet list above.
 

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Collars do not "make a dog reactive."
"MAKE" a dog reactive? Maybe, although I believe some dogs are genetically predisposed to reactivity. But collars, even martingales, and especially correction collars, can most certainly exacerbate reactivity.

As for "clear signals", or communicating through the use of a collar? I think a person would have to be very limited in their training 'vocabulary' in the first place, for this to be a practical means of communication.
 

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I’m not sure why you’re so against people using harnesses, but they can be much better options for many dogs. They’ve done autopsies on many dogs in collars that show collapsed tracheas and other damage.
To say an owner causes their dog to be reactive is unfair to many. No one wants a reactive dog. Some dogs were reactive long before they went to someone’s home (rescues, rehomed, etc...)
 

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I’m not sure why you’re so against people using harnesses, but they can be much better options for many dogs. They’ve done autopsies on many dogs in collars that show collapsed tracheas and other damage.
To say an owner causes their dog to be reactive is unfair to many. No one wants a reactive dog. Some dogs were reactive long before they went to someone’s home (rescues, rehomed, etc...)
i agree. I have four dogs, the one I brought up from a pup is dog neutral and can be taken anywhere, he is calm on and off lead and has never so much as growled at another dog, no matter how obnoxious they have been. The three other dogs are rescues and all have some degree of reactivity. They came to me with the problem, they have improved up to a point but will never be as relaxed as my home -reared one who thinks the world is a safe place and has been carefully socialised and trained from a few weeks old.

It is probably more or less impossible for somebody who has not personally owned a reactive dog to understand the depth of the problem. I admit that until I started helping with rescue dogs I was as clueless as most owners of "normal" dogs are. It has really opened my eyes to the problems the owners of such dogs face, not least the incomprehension and scorn of owners of well-behaved dogs. Thankfully, I have met some wonderful trainers I could begin to learn from who have made a massive difference to the dogs.
 
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