In my business as a professional dog walking/pet care service, I stress safety as the most important aspect of the job. This encompasses several aspects of care.
When you look at your pet, what do you see from day to day? Do you sometimes wonder if they are feeling their best? Do they sometimes seem down and sad? We are constantly trying to gauge the overall physical and mental health of our pets.
Much of what is in question we turn to our pet health care professionals. What is in the scope of what me and my team have control over is far more direct.
I titled this article relating to equipment, which is the difference in having a fun and relaxing walk with your furry companion, and returning home ready to pull your hair out.
When you step into your local pet store, you find a wall of various leashes, collars and harnesses of all shapes and configurations. It’s important to know your dog and it’s tendencies when deciding what to buy.
Herein lies the challenge, at what point do you really know your dog? You start out with what makes sense for a puppy and realize a few months later that that no longer works.
Knowing this, accept that at some point you will have an array of leashes, collars and harnesses hanging by your door from the gradual experiment.
The main question to be answered is collar or harness. I have two dogs and my little Dachshund will not walk in a harness, he hates anything that wraps around him. My other dog is oblivious to whatever I put on him.
Now I have to evaluate what works best for each dog. Frankie, the dachshund, is a happy, compliant dog while walking which makes a collar a fine fit for him. Rusty, my dachshund, terrier mix is an enthusiastic explorer of a dog which makes a harness a must for him.
When I first started this business it was an education as to the different configurations and sizing of the different harnesses. They are each designed with a purpose in mind. Below is a list of the most common harnesses which I will elaborate on each one later.
1. Wonder Walker
2. Easy Walk
3. Gentle Leader.
The Wonder walker is my harness of choice. Its design is obvious with respect to a dog’s anatomy. It is comfortable for the dog to wear and if fitted properly, escape proof.
The Easy walk harness is basically the same design with the exception of a couple of design changes. For example, with The Wonder walker there are two black straps and one strap that is colored, which always goes across the dog’s back. With the Easy walk, the color schemes are not always an indicator of what strap goes where.
Remember this, as I tell new walkers while training them. A manufacturer will always have their product logo where it is in plain sight, not on the dog’s belly.
The Gentle leader is a harness, collar hybrid, sometimes called a head harness. It has a loop that fits around the dog’s snout and then a bigger loop that fits around the dog’s neck acting as a collar. When applied correctly, the leash connection ring will always hang down under the dog’s chin. The design of this harness is so that when the dog pulls, its head is pulled downward, changing it’s perspective.
When it comes to collars, they are pretty straight forward with the exception of what is called a prong or pinch collar.
To a novice on the street, this can appear to be a torture device! It is a ring of individual links with little balls at the end of each link that wraps around the dog’ neck. The concept of this design is to emulate the way a mother dog carries her pups around and keeps them in their place.
In general, I strongly recommend a harness for a dog that tends to pull. In addition, the leash should be attached to the chest ring instead of the back. Attached on the chest, the dog is pulling against itself as opposed to the dog having all the leverage when the leash is attached on its back.
I will close with a quick comment about leashes.
First, I really don’t recommend flex or retractable leashes. I know a lot of people use these and I see them walking their dogs at the park with their dog ten feet away from them. If your dog is not within six feet of you, it’s not in your control. Ten feet away from you and whatever bad thing the dog might get into will happen before you can correct it.
Finally, get a leash that isn’t slick. It should be easy to grip. For bigger dogs that might be a little rowdy, a leash with a secondary loop half way down the leash affords greater control when needed.
I hope this guide helps every dog owner to have a fun and relaxing walk!
Please let me know what you think!