When we think of walking a dog, images of strolling along the sidewalk, leash in hand, with our dog trotting along on the other end come to mind.
However, a standard leash and collar combo may be less effective for more powerful breeds, such as pitbulls and pitbull terriers.
Many pitbull owners struggle with dogs that pull on their leashes, and may just not have the strength to keep up. Others worry that a collar might injure their pit bull, possibly causing permanent damage!
This can make walking your pitbull a more stressful and tedious task than it needs to be. So, are harnesses a good alternative? And how do you know which harness will make your and your dog’s life better and safer?
Why Choose a Pitbull Harness Over a Collar?
Both dog harnesses and collars have their pros and cons, with collars adding a bit more control at times. However, in the cases of big dogs, such as pitbulls, harnesses can offer more protection from injury.
Related: The Best Collar For Your Pit Bull
With a harness, the pulling force is spread over a more extensive area, putting less strain on your dog’s throat and back. Harnesses, especially front-clipping ones, also offer greater control, making it easier for their owner to have control in a tense situation.
Pitbulls are also quite intelligent, meaning they are smart enough to wiggle out of an ill-fitting collar. This might be a problem with a very loose harness, but the risk is much less.
One downside to the traditional harness, though, is the lack of room to attach a pet ID tag. Therefore, investing in a special clip-on tag or getting a microchip implant might be good.
Choosing the Best Harness for Your Pitbull
Your walking equipment is an investment. At the end of the day, it could make a big difference to the health, safety, and general happiness of both your dog and yourself.
So how do you choose the best dog harness?
Aside from the basics, such as their size and weight, you should also know their personal quirks. Are they very active? Are they heavy chewers? Do they pull? These are all things you should know before you shop.
General Rules for Pitbulls
We know every dog is unique, but some behaviors are specific to certain breeds. For example, we know that a pitbull harness needs to be durable. They are strong and active dogs and therefore need something that can last.
We also know that many pit bull breeds are pullers. Therefore, choosing a harness with a front clip and good padding is a good idea. A harness with a back clip may be fine on a calmer dog but could put a lot of pressure on the spinal cord of an active one - making a front or side clip a safer option.
We also know that most pitbulls have short coats, meaning that they could be prone to chafing and irritation. Always make sure that your harness is the right size .
It is also important to choose a harness that's made from good, breathable material. Ideally, it should have padding or other soft material around the rough edges.
It's usually a good idea to ensure that any harness is brightly colored or contains some kind of reflective trim. Reflective trims will ensure that your dog is easily visible to cars and can help you spot them easier if they make a run for it. This is especially useful if you plan to walk early in the morning or the evening.
Types of Harnesses
There are many different types of harnesses. Most brands will offer unique features or accessories, such as tactical or lightweight harnesses.
However, generally, there are only three main types that an average everyday owner would need. These would include something along the line of -
- A comfortable standard dog harness for everyday use
- A more lightweight and breathable dog harness for heavy exercise and hot climates
- A strong no pull harness for heavy pullers and/or aggressive or reactive dogs
At Spark Paws, we offer stylish examples of all three. Here’s a rundown of the differences so you can choose the right harness for you.
The Comfort Control Harness
This is your standard everyday multi-purpose dog harness. It should come with adjustable straps and decent lightweight padding to provide the most support and comfort for a large dog.
Many will automatically come with no-pull technology, but cheaper versions may have less customization. For example, the harness pictured above has multiple D-rings, which allows you to choose whether the leash will attach at the front, back, or side. This means it's more suitable for whatever training level your dog is at and what kind of task you are setting out to do.
This is the best dog harness for any pitbull owners with standard weight and temperament dogs who are looking for a safer, more comfortable alternative to leashes.
At SparkPaws, almost all of our standard harnesses incorporate no-pull technology and multiple D-ring sets for customization.
The Activewear Harness
Despite being mostly short-haired, pitbulls are still susceptible to heat stroke and other heat-related complications.
Therefore if you live in a very hot climate or normally bring your dog along for more intense activities, such as running or hiking, it can be a good idea to go for a more active harness.
These harnesses are usually lighter than most standard dog harnesses. It is made of lightweight and breathable material, allowing the dog’s body heat to escape and stopping them from overheating.
At Sparkpaws, these are traditionally made with the same tried and tested fabrics as human athletic wear, ensuring that your dog stays comfortable and cool.
The Heavy Duty Harness
Pitbulls sadly tend to have a bad reputation. This is why a pitbull owner needs to know, and be able to say, that they have good solid control over their dog.
No pull harnesses should also be sturdy and durable to ensure there's no danger of breaking when pulled. You can normally tell a harness is a no-pull harness because it will be larger and sturdier than a typical harness.
There are a few more types, such as tactical dog harnesses, but these usually wouldn’t be necessary for the average dog.
Always carefully research the weight requirements, and ensure a harness won't be too loose or heavy for your dog.
Can My Puppy Wear a Harness?
The short answer is yes. Most professional trainers agree that puppies can start wearing a dog harness from around eight weeks old.
Harnesses are perfect for puppies as they reduce the risk of strangulation and may be more difficult to wiggle out of or chew than a standard collar.
Remember that puppies grow rapidly. Therefore, you need to check to make sure that your harness is neither too loose nor too tight, as both can cause major problems for you and your pup.
How to Safely Put on a Dog Harness
Usually, a harness is either an overhead harness or a step-in harness. Either one is fine for a pitbull.
It's always a good idea to let a dog inspect and get used to the harness before putting it on.
For overhead harnesses, you first want to identify the biggest hole and gently slip it over your dog’s head. Then you can carefully slip each paw into the correct slot before buckling up the harness.
You must spread the harness on the floor for step-in harnesses with the outer part facing the floor. You can then encourage your dog to step in or gently coax their paws into the slots. Clip it at the back, and then gently pull the remaining strap over their head.
Adjust the straps as need be. Don’t be alarmed if your dog seems uncomfortable or unsure, and it may take a while to get used to the sensation.
You can typically tell if the harness is too tight or too loose with the two-finger method - you should be able to comfortably slide two fingers between your dog and the harness with only a little bit of pressure.
Related: How to put on a dog harness
There are a number of different types of harnesses, with the three main types being your standard comfort harness, active harnesses, and no-pull harnesses. You should be able to pick between these three depending on your dog’s ability, weight, and personal preference.
A harness should have some padding and be made of a softer material. It should be light, bright, and not too tight. The fabric should also be breathable and allow for some airflow.
A harness that clips in the front or on the side is usually better for a heavy puller and should never exert too much pressure on any part of your dog’s body. Puppies can also wear harnesses and are probably safer doing so, but they will need to be checked often to ensure the harness still fits.
Whatever harness you choose, make a good investment. A good quality harness can make a difference to you and your dog and should not be taken too lightly. At the end of the day, it is your and your dog’s safety and comfort that matters most.