The harness is by far the most important piece of equipment that you will need for canicross. Even if you are just going for a jog with your dog, leash in hand, a harness should always be used. You should never run with your dog with a leash attached to his collar. Doing so can cause long lasting damage and severe pain for your dog.
The harness, you choose, should be snug, yet comfortable on your dog and allow for full range of motion without rubbing. It should also have thick padded straps, instead of the nylon straps most leashes are made from. There are many resources online that sell harnesses specifically made for canicross. These are the best option and don’t cost much more than a harness from your local pet store. However, you can find decent quality, beginner level harnesses at most retail pet stores, if you know what to look for.
Keeping the basic qualities in mind:
Here are some key areas, where the fit of the harness matters most.
This is the most vital area on your harness to ensure the fit is correct, especially for canicross. Most of the pressure from the dog pulling will be applied to the front of the harness, in the neck and shoulder area. You should be able to easily slip the harness over his head (if it is put on this way) and be able to fit a few fingers under it when pulled tight. Be absolutely sure no pressure is being applied too high up on his throat, as it will restrict breathing and blood flow and can cause injury.
Another area that must be snug but not too tight is around your dog’s rib cage. It must be tight enough that it doesn’t move around too much, but loose enough that it won’t restrict the movement of the rib cage when breathing heavily. Most harnesses are adjustable here so finding the correct fit shouldn’t be difficult.
Another important location is at the deepest point of his chest, between the front legs. Make sure the straps here don’t rub the front legs and allow for full range of motion. The straps coming up behind his front legs need to be far enough back to clear the legs, in motion, but not so far back that they extend past his rib cage and apply pressure to the stomach area.
Finally, there are a few considerations in the length of the harness. If you are just jogging, leash in hand, with your dog, this isn’t really an issue. However, for canicross, it is. A few factors come in to play here and you just want to make sure everything is working well together. Some harnesses work better at different pull angles. The angle will very depending on the length of the harness, the length of your line, and your height. To avoid lengthy, detailed, harness specific geometry, we will say to just ensure that the harness sits correctly on your dog while he is attached to you.
If you have questions about anything I’ve mentioned, or about a specific harness, feel free to send me an email.
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