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A dog harness is piece of equipment for dogs, generally similar to harness tack for horses. There are various designs depending on the type of use, whether it be for assistance to a person with a disability, hauling a cart or sled, or pulling a human being, such as in skijoring or pulka. Harnesses are also commonly worn by non-working dogs.
A harness is commonly worn in conjunction with a collar and used as an alternative for leash attachment. While a collar only encircles the neck, harnesses have a loop that surrounds the torso as well, with connecting straps between them for reinforcement. This design allows for distribution of force which may prevent choking and a lower chance of slipping out than may be possible with only a collar. Harness usage is growing in popularity among many pet owners- especially for those with smaller breed dogs. Recently, pet clothing frequently sports a properly-placed buttonhole for hooking a leash to the harness worn under the garment.
Also available are dog harnesses designed to look like clothes and reduce the stress placed on a small dogs neck while walking on a leash.
Sled dog harnesses
Sled dog harnesses vary depending on whether the dog is hauling freight or racing. Harnesses come in three main types: the freight harness, the H-back harness, and the X-back harness. Dog sports are growing and more types of harnesses are being developed, including the Y-back style and guard or distance harness. This type of harness is quickly becoming a favorite for those who enjoy skijoring.
The freight harness, often an H-back harness with a wide chestband and sometimes extra padding, is designed to help the dog pull heavy weights efficiently, and may feature a spreader bar behind the wheel dogs and before the sled or cart. The straps form an 'H' or ladder-like effect across the back of the dog. These harnesses help distribute the weight of the cargo over a broader body area.
Racing harnesses are lighter and shorter than freight harnesses. The X-back harness, so called because the straps form an 'X' across the back of the dog, is used more frequently than the H-back, with short versions that ride farther forward on the dog's body recently gaining in popularity.
The Y-back or hybrid harness is similar in appearance to the H-back. The tugline attaches to the harness on top of the dog's back and stretches parallel to the ground or upwards to the skier, bicycle, or other load.
In contrast, dogs that participate in weight pulls (as compared to a regular freight harness) will wear very heavy, padded harnesses, with broad chestbands to help spread the weight and prevent harm to the dog.
Dog training harnesses
Harnesses are not only good dog handling tools, as they are also used for training. There are a variety of dog training harnesses, usually made of nylon or leather. Both of these materials are perfect for this purpose. Commonly, nylon harnesses are cheaper than leather ones. There are specially designed harnesses with fully padded chest plate for agitation, protection, and attack training. The chest plate absorbs the shock during the hit, thus preventing serious injuries to the dog. This is especially vital for those dogs who are trained on daily basis.
Assistance Dog Harnesses
Assistance Dogs may also wear different harnesses, although not required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. A Mobility assistance dog may wear a special, custom designed harnesses that allow them to bear a small portion of their handlers weight so that the dog may offer balance assistance, counterbalance, bracing, and stability. These harnesses generally include a rigid metal bracing handle. Other assistance harnesses include light weight soft handles to allow for minor support. Guide Dogs work in a specially designed guide harness which allows the dog to communicate properly with the handler while leading. A guide handle is different than a rigid mobility handle- generally a guide handle is slanted at an angle to allow for a more natural and comfortable hand position for the handler, and are NOT intended to bear weight. Custom harnesses for Assistance Dogs are generally (but not always) made of high quality leather and can range in price from $100-$600.
Car safety harnesses
Safety harnesses designed for use in an automobile restrain the dog in a car seat using the car's seat belt. These harnesses are marketed as reducing the risk of injury to a pet that is riding in a vehicle during a traffic collision. The harnesses are also said to keep the pet from distracting the driver, or escaping from a vehicle. The Center for Pet Safety found "a 100-percent failure rate to protect either the consumer or the dog."
In 2012, New Jersey assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Essex) introduced bill A3221 that would require dogs and cats owners to restrain their animals while traveling in a moving vehicle. If enacted, pets not travelling in a crate would be required to wear a safety harness. NJ drivers who violate the law would be subject to a $20 ticket, as well as possible conviction for animal cruelty offense.
Public opinion summary
In a 2012 poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind, New Jersey voters split over proposed legislation to require automobile drivers to restrain pets. The poll question was: “Do you favor or oppose legislation that requires safety restraints or crates for dogs while traveling in a car?” and nearly half (45%) of New Jersey voters favored the bill, while four in every ten (40%) opposed the legislation. Dan Cassino, professor of Political Science, noted: “The people who are going to be most impacted by this bill – people who actually own dogs – don’t like it.”
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- Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind, (September 29, 2012). Voters split on doggy seat belts in New Jersey (Press release)