Just like a pair of bad fitting shoes could ruin an adventure for us, the wrong fitting harness can have exactly the same effect on our dogs!
Drax sporting a Zero DC Harness while trailing.
Why does a dog need to wear a harness during Mantrailing? A harness is recommended to wear for Mantrailing to ensure a dog does not place unnecessary strain onto it's neck/posture and that any pull motion is distributed evenly across the dogs body to minimise risk of injury and discomfort for the dog. Trailing a dog in harness as opposed to on a collar also reduces the risk of influencing or restricting their trailing behaviour, this is really important in activities such as this where watching a dogs body language is important for dog to handler communication. Having a harness specifically for Mantrailing can also act as a prompt to your dog so they know which activity they are about to do, helping to get them in the right frame of mind for 'working'. Why is it important to have a well fitting harness for Mantrailing?
1. It ensures the dog is comfortable whilst working. 2. It allows for freedom of movement and full motion of the joints. 3. It doesn't restrict breathing ability. 4. It avoids any rubbing or chaffing. 5. It allows the dog to work more efficiently. 6. It minimises risk of injury long/short term. 7. It distributes any pull motion evenly and safely across the body. 8. A bad fitting harness can even be aversive to a dog and create a negative association to Mantrailing!
Cooper trailing in the TrueLove harness.
Choosing a harness for your dog for Mantrailing
There is a huge variety of harnesses available on the market for dog sport activities which can make it super hard to choose the right one for your dog. Here is some advice we have put together to help you make an informed choice when choosing and fitting your Mantrailing harness.
- Long Vs Short harness
Dog Sport Harnesses can be split into 2 types; long and short style (see diagram below). A short style harness finishes before the last rib, where as a long harness sits more like a full body suit, running along the ribs and finishes at the base of the tail. Short harness styles are the preferred style for Mantrailing activity as they sit closer to the body and follow the dogs body movement more closely, where as long style harnesses are designed specifically for consistent pulling and therefore due to the changing behaviour pattern of trailing, results in them not sitting correctly unless under tension and therefore can often move out of place and become irritating or aversive to the dog whilst they are working. Shorter style harnesses also tend to be less invasive for handling and feel for dogs who are more sensitive to touch/handling.
- A 'Y' front shaped harness ensures that the shape of the harness does not restrict any movement within the dogs joints for range of movement. You can see in the diagram below how the fit does not interfere with the skeletal system.
Checking if your Mantrailing harness fits correctly.
FIT - The harness should be snug but not tight. To ensure this, you should be able to place 2 fingers sitting side by side between the harness and the dogs body in all areas.
LAST RIB - The sides of short harness should not go back past the last rib to avoid putting pressure on the internal organs. Please note that some Mantrailing harnesses are designed to sit slightly further back than a typical short harness, however, it should still not sit beyond the last rib, it should slope up the ribcage and finish before the final rib.
STERNUM - The 'V' of the harness neck should sit on the sternum bone and not above to avoid it sitting on the throat area which would obstruct breathing.
ARMPITS - The harness should not come in too close to the armpit area to avoid rubbing, chaffing and/or discomfort.
What to look for in an INCORRECT fitting harness.
Rasping, coughing or choking noises when in movement, particularly when pulling into the harness.
Redness, inflammation, hair loss or chaffing on the skin where the harness makes contact, particularly in the armpit area.
Excess material over the shoulder region which will prevent full range of movement of the scapula.
Any straps which restrict full range of motion of the scapula and leg joints, these typically have one strap which goes across the front of the chest from one side to the other, however, there are some other styles which can restrict movement too.
Where can I get further advice on purchasing a Mantrailing Harness?
If you're looking to purchase a new Mantrailing harness or would like additional advice on selecting the correct harness for your dog, we can recommend our partnered retailer Sporty Paws who stock a large range and variety of harnesses suitable for Mantrailing. You can view their online store for more details by following this link: https://sportypaws.co.uk/product-category/mantrailing/.
PS. Don't forget to chat to your Mantrailing UK Instructor first, they'll be able to give you a 10% loyalty discount code for you to use at the checkout when purchasing your new harness!
Blog written by Head Instructor Emma Cook at Paws4Sports