Just as humans should choose the proper gear for running, like supporting shoes, it’s important for dogs to have the proper gear when they are a runner’s companion.
With the wide variety of dog harnesses on the marking, choosing a dog harness for running can seem like a daunting task.
In this article, we will break down what to look for when choosing a dog harness for running so you can pick the best one for your dog.
The most important aspect in choosing a harness for your dog when you will be running is the proper fit. If the harness is not fitted properly, your dog’s shoulder movement will be impeded.
In a study performed by M Pilar Lafuente, Laura Provis, and Emily Anne Schmalz, they tested harnesses that are often thought to be non-restrictive, as well as harnesses that are restrictive, in regards to shoulder movement.
Their results showed that dogs’ shoulders had a reduced range of motion in both cases, when compared to simply moving with only a collar.
As Dr. Chris Zink points out in her review, the non-restrictive harnesses were not ideally fitted. In order for a harness to not restrict shoulder movement, it should lay over the dog’s sternum, and not over their scapula – their shoulder blades.
While the study was a small study of 9 dogs, it’s the first controlled study that gives a look at how harnesses affect a dog’s gait.
What we can gain from the study at this point is that a proper fit is crucial.
Luckily, there are a variety of harnesses on the market to allow you to adjust to your dog’s best fit. You’ll want to take measurements of your dog and find a harness that fits best – there are simply too many sizes and shapes of dogs to pick only a few recommended harnesses.
Pulling On The Leash While Running
Another way to ensure your dog has a complete and free range of motion while running is to train them not to pull on the leash.
As dogs pull on the leash, their harness may move, putting even more pressure on their shoulders. This is one of the reasons your harness should fit higher around your dog’s sternum, and not across their shoulders.
While a properly-fitted no-pull harness is often thought of to be safer for a dog that pulls than a flat collar, because the collar puts too much pressure on their neck, the formerly mentioned study on harnesses shows that the best way to keep your dog safe while running is simply to teach them not to pull at all.
You’ll want to start teaching your dog not to pull on the leash when in your backyard, and then out on walks, and eventually, when running.
Not only will it help you set your dog up for success when you do go running, but the training you do in preparation will help further your bond with your dog, too!
You can find credentialed trainers to help you by visiting the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, and The Academy for Dog Trainers.
Other Important Aspects of Running Harnesses
Besides the proper fit, there are several other considerations that you need to keep in mind when choosing a running harness for your dog.
Will you be running in the dark? You may want to consider a reflective harness.
However, if the harness that fits your dog best isn’t reflective, don’t fret. You can always look at adding reflective patches, or having your dog wear a reflective collar or leash, too.
If you’ll be doing a lot of trail running through mud and rain, you should also consider if the harness is waterproof, and how easily it washes.
Thicker harness straps may also help to spread any pressure on your dog’s neck or shoulders better than a harness with thinner straps, too.
Finally, it’s also important to make sure the harness is padded appropriately and doesn’t chafe your dog’s armpits.
Finding the proper fit will go a long way in finding a harness that doesn’t chafe, but for the most sensitive of dogs, any type of harness on their skin can be an irritant.
Padding is also something you can consider adding yourself, but it changes the fit of a harness and often isn’t as durable. Thus, if your dog needs a softer, padded harness, you should look for one that meets your requirements up front.
Other Gear For Running
Besides a well-fitted harness, there are a variety of other products that can help you and your dog run together.
Many runners find it useful to use a leash that attaches around their waist as a belt. As you move your arms while running, your dog’s leash length changes, and it can be frustrating to try and hold.
Clipping the leash to your waist helps free up your hands, and it also is often useful if your dog does pull on the leash.
Rather than tipping you from the top and pulling you forward by your arm, you’ll have a better center of gravity to remain upright and comfortable.
Depending on the terrain, your dog may also need shoes, too.
Boots can help protect your dog’s paw pads from pavement that is too hot, or from ice and sidewalk salt in the winter.
A Note on Growth Plates
We’d be remiss to talk about running with dogs without mentioning the importance of waiting until their growth plates have closed.
In young puppies, the growth plate is a soft area of cartilage that allows their leg bones to grow.
However, because the growth plate is soft, it can be easily damaged by repetitive or harsh movements, such as running or jumping, especially on a sidewalk or solid surface.
In most dogs, their growth plates will close around 12-18 months – often longer the bigger they are in size.
In order to keep your dog healthy and running with you for years to come, you’ll need to avoid running any sort of distance with them as a young puppy.