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We all love hiking with our dogs! I don’t think there’s a better sight than a dog’s wagging tail as she happily sniffs out all the interesting scents on the trail.
Hiking is a great way for you and your dog to get some exercise and to work on her training in a challenging environment. Exploring a new trail every week is also a good way to keep your dog’s life fun and interesting.
Although a simple leash and collar might be enough for many dogs to walk around the neighborhood, lots of owners opt for a harness when taking their dog for a hike.
Here we outline what makes a good hiking harness for dogs along with what we consider to be the best dog harnesses for hiking.
Although all dogs should wear a collar for identification purposes, there are many benefits of using a hiking harness rather than just walking your dog using a leash and collar.
A dog wearing only a collar can damage his throat and neck by pulling on a leash over time. If this dog lunged after a squirrel he could sustain immediate injuries.
Harnesses distribute pressure through a dog’s shoulders, back, and chest, and relieves the pressure on his throat, which is especially important if your dog pulls on the leash.
Certain harnesses are designed to discourage your dog from pulling – although those harnesses can shorten your dog’s stride and actually affect his musculoskeletal development!
Another benefit of using a harness while hiking is that you have more control over your dog because it’s harder for him to twist out of the harness. This can be important if he has yet to master loose leash walking, or is especially big or energetic.
As well as making your life easier, having better control over your dog makes him safer as well. You want to be able to stop him from darting out into a busy street after a squirrel!
When hiking, a harness allows freedom of movement and more security than just a collar. Dog hiking harnesses can help you keep your hound from chasing after animals, prevent them from pulling on the leash after all those interesting scents on the trail, and can be used to help maneuver your dog over obstacles.
So what should you look for in a dog hiking harness? Here are some things to keep in mind as you think about which harness your dog should wear when hiking:
First and foremost whatever harness you get should fit your dog well.
A good harness will come in different sizes to fit many different breeds and shapes of dogs. The manufacturer should provide instructions on how to measure your dog to determine his size.
A harness should also have multiple adjustment points to be able to fit dogs of any shape, from the deep-chested and narrow-waisted Greyhound to the stocky Chow Chow.
Good freedom of movement is especially important for a dog when she is hiking.
On the trail, there will likely be rocks, logs, or other obstacles and she will need more range of motion in order to happily navigate the terrain than she would walking in town. A good hiking harness allows for uninhibited movement.
A good harness should have plenty of room for adjustments even after you select the correct size for your pup.
Adjust the harness so the straps lay in the right place, and it is snug but not tight. You shouldn’t be able to pull on it and shift it around on your dog’s body.
Many harnesses have a few options for where you can attach the leash, usually on the back near the shoulders, and often in front on the chest as well.
If your dog pulls on the leash, a front attachment can discourage him from doing so. However, lots of owners like the shoulder attachment on hikes so that their dog can lead the way up the trail without tangling with the leash.
Harnesses usually provide a splash of color, which can help you keep an eye on your dog when he is off leash and can help you locate him if he runs off. Many harnesses also have reflective strips, which are handy for night visibility, especially if you walk your dog along busy streets.
Whatever harness you choose, make sure that it fits snugly so that it doesn’t rub and irritate your dog. It is common for ill-fitting harnesses to rub under a dog’s forelegs, especially after a long hike.
Another thing to keep in mind if you have a long-haired dog is to ensure that you keep their fur free from getting tangled in the straps and buckles of the harness.
Description: This everyday harness fits around your dog’s neck and buckles behind his shoulders, with a strap under the chest and across the back of his shoulders. The chest strap and back piece are padded, with adjustable, durable nylon straps connecting them. There are leash attachments in the front and on the back.
Features: The Front Range harness includes front and back leash attachments, adjustable collar and rib-cage straps, and reflective trim. It also includes a pocket where you can attach your dog’s identification tags. It comes in a variety of colors and allows for a full range of motion.
Pros: Users like that this harness has more than one leash attachment point, and agree that it is made from high quality, sturdy materials. It appears to be comfortable and fits well on many breeds of dog, and the multiple adjustable straps help with this.
Cons: Some users reported that their dog was able to slip out of the harness, or that the harness slipped to the side if their dog pulled and the leash was attached to the front of the harness.
Description: The Web Master is a durable harness designed with working dogs and adventure companions in mind. It has chest and rib-cage straps, and an extra strap under the dog’s stomach, which, paired with the handle attached to the back of the harness, helps you assist your dog on the trail.
Features: The Web Master has five points of adjustment, foam padded straps, and a handle for assisting your pup over obstacles on challenging trails. It also includes reflective trim for visibility, and two leash attachments, both on the dog’s back. This harness is great for Houdini Hounds – it’s almost impossible to wriggle out of!
Pros: Users like that the third strap under the dog’s stomach prevents escape artist dogs from wriggling out of their harness, and, with well-adjusted straps, the harness fit well and seemed comfortable. The handle was found useful in carrying small dogs over obstacles, or on longer hikes. Users also found the Web Master to be durable and made of quality material.
Cons: Some owners complained that the harness does not have a leash attachment point on the dog’s chest, and some found that it was too bulky, heavy, and stiff for very small dogs. The handle on the back of the harness can be a bit pointless on very large dogs.
Description: This hiking harness doubles as a pack for your dog! It is made of breathable mesh, with a chest strap, a rib-cage strap, and an underbelly strap, and includes a handle located on the dog’s back.
Features: The Outward Hound Daypack includes four expandable pockets located on either side of the dog, a handle for helping your dog over obstacles, and three straps to prevent escapes. The leash attachment is located on the dog’s back.
Pros: Users like how well this pack fits their dog, and dogs have full mobility and range of motion. It isn’t as bulky as most other pack harnesses.
Cons: Some owners found that the straps of this pack rubbed their dog on longer walks, and some found that the sewing was poorly done and the seams didn’t hold up.
Description: This lightweight harness has a padded chest strap that is connected around the collar and under the rib cage. There are two leash attachment rings, one on the dog’s chest to prevent pulling, and one on the dog’s back.
Features: A padded chest strap, a handle on the dog’s back, and two leash attachment points make this harness a great lightweight hiking option. The straps also have reflective striping for higher visibility at night.
Pros: Owners have found that the no-pull chest clip was effective for training their dogs to stop pulling at the leash. They also found the harness to be well fitting and comfortable.
Cons: Some owners complained that their dog was able to escape from this harness and that the straps frayed quickly or rubbed their dog’s skin.
Description: This dog backpack has two detachable pockets for carrying extra gear, and has straps that go around the chest, rib-cage, and underbelly. The leash attachment is located on the dog’s shoulders.
Features: This 2PET backpack includes two detachable 5.5 x 9-inch pockets and a handle on the dog’s back to help you assist your dog on the trail. Three adjustable straps provide a unique, and secure fit.
Pros: Owners like that the third strap prevents dogs from wiggling out of their harness, and have found the pockets can carry significant amounts of weight, and will not slide to the side even if the weight isn’t distributed exactly evenly. It is easy to put on your dog, and adjustable, and owners of small dogs to a 133 lb bullmastiff have found that it fit their dog well.
Cons: Some users found that the pack wasn’t very durable, and zippers wore out quickly. Also, the velcro attaching the bags to the harness did not hold up under heavy weight.
By far the most common complaint about harnesses is that the dog doesn’t like wearing it. In most cases, effective training and positive reinforcement can solve this problem.
When you first get a harness, don’t immediately try to put it on your dog and go for a walk. Allow him to sniff it, and snap the buckles closed in front of him so he gets used to the sound. Throughout this process, reward your dog with treats. If he is comfortable, try slipping the collar portion around his head and reward him for letting you do this.
Next, pull the rib and underbelly straps around him and make sure they are adjusted to the correct size. If your dog is comfortable with this, buckle these straps and then release him and reward him.
As your dog gets more comfortable with you putting the harness on, let him wear the harness around for a while. If he feels fine with all these steps, you are ready to go for a walk!
For the first few walks keep it short so that you can see if the harness rubs him anywhere. After that, go take a hike! If your dog is uncomfortable with any of these steps, slow down and repeat the previous steps until he is happy with the harness. Your dog should enjoy walks and hikes as much as he normally would, and his movement shouldn’t be inhibited by the harness.
In many areas, there are laws that dogs must be kept on a leash. However, in areas where dogs are allowed to run free, many dog owners enjoy letting their dogs run around off-leash while they are out on the trail. While this can be fun, it should only be done very carefully. Not every dog is well behaved or well trained enough to run free.
Even if your dog is well-behaved, don’t break leash laws. Other people might be walking elderly or nervous dogs, and they’re counting on other dogs being on-leash and avoidable! Plus, leash laws help keep kids and wildlife safer.
On a narrow trail, there can be little room to pass other hikers and dogs, and it is important to keep your dog in control at these times. Even if your dog is well behaved, other dogs may not be, and leashing your dog will likely encourage good behavior from any dogs you meet on the trail.
When hiking with your dog always remember to bring along plenty of water for your pup, as well as bags to pick up after her!
Have fun hiking with your hound! Tell us about your favorite dog-friendly trails and your experience with any of the mentioned dog harnesses for hiking in the comments below!