When it comes to mantrailing using the Kocher Method, as used by Mantrailing UK Instructors, the harness is not just a cue to start getting ready to trail. It is also an important part of communication with your dog, and how they can work a trail effectively.
Obviously harnesses need to fit correctly, making sure their is no pinching and rubbing against the skin. The hot spot areas for these are the armpits and chest. There need to be no impact on the movement the scapula (shoulder blade) while the dog works, as well as no impediment on the back of the shoulders/spine area from an overly large padded area.
When selecting a harness for your trailing dog it can seem like a daunting task. There are many sizes, shapes and claims out there on the internet about harnesses. Especially those used for sports with dogs. Plus the associated costs of buying a harness and then it not fitting correctly. Each dog is a different size, and shape so there is no one size fits all.
Thinking specifically about mantrailing, the harness needs to be designed to not impede the nose going to the ground. So it cannot sit high on the chest or go over the chest in a horizontal line. Ill-fitting, or to high up siting harnesses will actually start to choke your dog while working, you know its ill fitted as you’ll hear them wheezing or coughing as they trail, as the chest plate is pushing on the diaphragm. Badly fitting harnesses can leading to refusal to wear a harness and reluctance to work. Many a good working dog is ruined by poor equipment choices, based on our own perceived choices of what is right, rather than what the dogs need.
Having said all that, there are plenty of designs out there suitable for your dog its just making sure it fits your dog properly. Don’t select a harness based on what colour it is or what type your friend has. But what fits your dogs body and working pace.
Our three top tips or choosing a harness for mantrailing are:
- Make sure the harnesses when fitted does not impede the airways, so it well fitted around the neck and when the dog pulls down it does not cause them to choke. Generally a Y shaped front on a harness is perfect at avoiding this as long as it fits your dog correctly, some have thinner breast plates and others wider ones. We ideally don’t use the horizontal line harness that goes across the shoulder blades as this impedes the dogs movements.
- Do you need a long or short harness? Generally larger dogs who are stronger pullers do better on a longer harness where the weight of their force of pull is distributed evenly across their back. But this isn’t the case for all as a longer harness can lead to lines being tangled around tall wiggly tails. Shorter harnesses are generally more suited to smaller more compact breeds, but also dogs with longer coats as they get less matted.
- Always remember to pull the harness into pull position when trying the harness on. There is no point fitting it fine for when the dog is stationary. Make sure it is pulled so you can see the design at work. They will often look like they don’t fit if the dog is just stood there, when in the pull position is engaged the harnesses fit well.
Top three harness choices for mantrailing:
- Julius K9 Mantrailing Harness – This harness has been specifically designed for mantrailing. It is low impact on the chest, and distributes pressure evenly along the spine and body. It is easy to fit with five adjustment points and four clips. Its ideal for the head shy dog as well, as it can be clipped on rather that pushed over their head. You can buy it directly from Mantrailing UK .(It is currently very difficult to get hold of due to it not being manufactured)
- Zero DC Short Harness – This is originally designed for the pulling sport of Cani X but it is well adapted to be used with mantrailing as well. It is ideal all round harness as it goes down to tiny sizes. Its very light weight, and the dogs hardly notice they are wearing it, which can be ideal for more sensitive dogs. You can buy this from Sporty Paws (Use the code LSTRAILINGK9 for 10% off your order!)
- Non-Stop Ultra – This is also stocked by Sporty Paws, and it is one of the few designs of harness which is adjustable on the shoulder, which means it fits more types of dogs. Often the neck isn’t adjustable and a harness can fit well around the body and not the neck. It also has a large breast plate which can suit some dogs compared to the Zero DC which is more slimline.
- Truelove Dog Harness – This is actually a rip off a very well designed European branded mantrailing harness. It is better for the larger, and stronger pullers. It only has three points of minimal adjustment but the design is really good and it has a side clip for putting on to help with head shy dogs. You can get it off Amazon (Make sure it is the longer version with the ring on the back)
Regardless of the harness you choose make sure your dog is having fun mantrailing. Make sure it fits the body of the dog you have, and this can mean trying multiple harnesses to try before finding the best one. Most Mantrailing UK Instructors have multiple harness brands to try while you trail with them.