The Pros and Cons of Whippet Harnesses
Whippet harnesses are a popular alternative to using a collar. They offer more coverage and therefore more support than collars do, which can reduce the risk of injury.
Harnesses can also give an owner better control of their Whippet and potentially discourage bad leash habits like constant pulling.
So what are the main benefits of harnesses for Whippets specifically? How do they work? And are they better than Whippet collars?
I’m going to be exploring these questions and hopefully answering them! My aim is to provide a balanced view of Whippet harnesses and compare them to collars.
Table of Contents
- What are Whippet Harnesses?
- How do Whippet Harnesses Work?
- Advantages of Harnesses Compared to Whippet Collars
- Disadvantages of Harnesses Compared to Whippet Collars
- Should You Use a Collar or Harness for Your Whippet?
What are Whippet Harnesses?
Whippet harnesses are an alternative type of equipment to a collar. They are typically characterised by straps that pass behind a Whippet’s front legs and around their neck or shoulders.
Harnesses are popular for owners of sighthounds (such as Whippets) because of the inherent chase drive these dogs have. Because sighthounds respond very quickly to small things that move quickly, some owners feel a harness is the best way to prevent them giving chase.
Harnesses are made from a variety of materials like leather, nylon, or polyester. They also come in many different styles which have distinct advantages and disadvantages.
How do Whippet Harnesses Work?
Although different types of harnesses have specialised purposes, and therefore ‘work’ differently, all harnesses have one primary goal. In general, harnesses work by distributing pressure and support evenly across the torso and upper body of the dog.
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Collars can place tension on the sensitive neck area of Whippets. This is especially the case if they decide to chase something without giving you any warning.
Advantages of Harnesses Compared to Collars
Whippet harnesses are best known for support and distribution of pressure. Since a harness features additional straps compared to a collar, it greatly reduces strain on the neck.
This is highly important since repeated pulling on any dog’s neck can:
- Damage the trachea, thyroid glands and neck muscles.
- Limit blood flow.
- Create dangerous pressure in they eyes.
Whippets are fast-moving athletes who could be prone to such injuries.
Pressure exerted on a dog’s neck by a flat collar when the dog pulls is enough to risk damage to the dog’s neck.Zazie Todd, PhD
Harnesses are also a great training tool that can discourage poor leash manners. When a Whippet is wearing a collar, it can still move its body and thus, think their pulling is successful.
In a harness, however, the support and pressure around the shoulders and chest redirects them. Because they aren’t able move around as freely as with a collar, with continued use they lose interest in pulling.
One of the most versatile advantages of harnesses is the variety of specialised functions they have.
Many harnesses are meant for training and can encourage a dog to learn better leash manners. Others can be used for working dogs; there are special harnesses for sled-pulling dogs and police dogs.
Nowadays there are even harnesses that light up or reflect light to improve the safety and visibility of your furry friend in the dark!
One final advantage of using a harness over a collar is that they usually stay on the dog. Although nothing is completely fool-proof, harnesses are much more difficult to get out of than a collar.
So if your Whippet is an escape artist, you may find that a harness will help overcome their escapologist skills!
Considering a collar for your Whippet? Find out why Whippets need special collars.
Disadvantages of Harnesses Compared to Collars
For one, although harnesses generally provide more control, a training collar or head harness may be better options for poorly behaved Whippets.
This is because unlike a collar, a harness reduces uncomfortable pressure on the Whippet’s neck, which can eliminate the message they get to stop pulling, jumping or performing other bad behaviours.
Another disadvantage is that some harnesses should only be used as a training tool and not an everyday use item. Maybe they aren’t comfortable or designed for such frequent use. Or perhaps their design hinders movement by putting pressure across the shoulder blades.
This is not an issue for training and limited use, but they should not be used constantly as they can be quite uncomfortable and can even permanently alter a Whippet’s gait.
A less frequently considered drawback is that harnesses cover more of your dog’s body. This can be an issue for dogs who are fearful or resistant to wearing equipment. For Whippets like this, being significantly smaller, a Whippet collar is easier to tolerate.
Martingale Whippet collars… what are they & how do they work?
Harnesses can also be problematic for Whippets who are prone to skin conditions or irritation. Since Whippets have a short, single-fur coat, an ill fitting Whippet harness can easily rub and irritate the skin.
Lastly, harnesses are a little more complicated to fit and properly size. This is particularly true if you have a uniquely shaped dog, as can be the case with Whippet cross breeds.
Whippet collars on the other hand, are usually quite easy to fit by simply measuring around your dog’s neck, and leaving the appropriate 2-3 finger-widths of space.
Should You Use a Collar or Harness for Your Whippet?
Since both collars and harnesses can both be suitable for your Whippet, this decision mostly comes down to personal choice and need.
Because a lot of standard dog equipment is only to be used for training, many people might feel that a combination of collars and harnesses is best. The most important part is finding out what works best for you and your Whippet.
Whippet harnesses come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as offering specialised functions. The most important thing if you are considering a Whippet harness is to make sure it’s properly fitted.
Find out more about the Whippet dog breed.
What are your thoughts and experiences of Whippet harnesses? Please share in the comments below.