If you have a whippet, greyhound, lurcher, saluki, italian greyhound or any other sighthound breed, you may be wondering, should I be using a harness with my sighthound?
In short, the answer is yes, with caveats. Collars certainly still have their place, but generally speaking we would always recommend a well designed sighthound harness over a collar.
Let's explore why!
Why are harnesses a great choice for sighthounds?
- They are safer than a collar - a harness distributes force across the chest rather than their fragile necks which reduces the risk of injury. Sighthounds are known for their speed and acceleration and it isn't safe to bring them to a halt with something attached to their neck.
- Prey drive - similar to the point above, sighthounds have a high prey drive. If they're lunging at things, you don't want to pull them back by the neck. This repetitive strain over time will not be good for your dog and could damage their neck and trachea. Just jerking the lead (which we wouldn't advise anyway) could cause significant injury to the neck.
- Escape proof - if you get a 3 point harness designed for sighthounds like ours, it is completely escape proof which gives you peace of mind on walks and helps keep your dog safe.
- More freedom - with the extra safety and security a harness provides, you can use longer lines and allow your dog a bit more freedom to explore. You cannot use a long line with a collar safely.
- Recall training - you can use the aforementioned long line to begin working on recall which can be a game changer for both you and your dog. That's a whole topic in and of itself, but it's worth noting that you must still take care as you want to avoid jolting your dog to a stop even when wearing a harness.
- Ultimate control with handles - some sighthound harnesses like ours come with handles which can be really handy (literally) when dealing with a stubborn greyhound or whippet.
- Car travel - when travelling in a car, you can secure your dog using their harness and a seat belt attachment.
You can find out more about what features to look for in a sighthound harness here.
How does a sighthound escape proof harness work?
I mentioned in the last section that you can get an escape proof harness for your sighthound. These are harnesses with a third strap which are ideal for a sighthound's unique body shape and are very useful as sighthounds are known to be the escape artists of the dog world.
With this design, the third strap goes around the belly, tucked behind the chest, and stops the harness from slipping forward as seen below.
So why do some people still prefer collars?
- Appearance - some people just prefer the look of a collar which is fair enough, they are less bulky and don't hide away your sighthound's elegant frame.
- Worried about escaping - as we mentioned before, sighthounds do have a knack for escaping traditional harnesses, but they also have a knack for escaping traditional collars too. This was solved by adopting martingale collars which are escape proof, and now people have begun adopting 3 strap harnesses in the same manner.
- Rubbing - our sighthounds tend to be quite sensitive, more so than other breeds, and this isn't always taken into account. That's why you'll see a lot of greyhounds wearing fleece harnesses which are super comfy, although they can be quite easy for a determined hound to escape from. That's why we've put such an emphasis on comfort with our harness with lots of padding and making sure there's no spots that can rub on your sighthounds body.
- Pulling - some people believe that a harness can encourage pulling, where as some argue the opposite, that harnesses can reduce pulling, but the answer isn't always clear unfortunately. If you notice your sighthound pulling more on a harness, here's what you can do about it.
- Less control - when using a collar you can directly control your dog's head, and where the head goes, the body follows. It makes sense. But it's a small price to pay for their comfort and safety, and it can be immediately fixed by using the well placed handles on a harness like ours.
How do I measure my sighthound for a harness?
You will need a soft tape measure for this.
You will need a chest measurement for any harness. This is the most important measurement to get right. Simply wrap the measuring tape around the widest point of your dog's chest and read the measurement.
Some brands will also ask you for a neck measurement, and if buying a 3 strap harness, possibly a belly measurement.
For us, we only make products for sighthounds so our harnesses have been made taking your measurements into account already, so you only need a chest measurement to make sure you get the right size.
If you've made it this far, hopefully you have all the information you need to make the right decision for your dog.
We would always recommend a harness rather than a collar because you can't put a price on safety, however, collars do still have a place.
Even when using a harness, you will need a collar to attach the ID tag to, this is a legal requirement in the UK.
Some people also like to use a double ended lead to attach to a harness and a collar and that works great for pullers as you get the best of both worlds - the head control that a collar provides, without putting excess strain on the neck.
Others use harnesses for walks and use a collar when they're just stepping out and that can also be a good middle ground too.
The point is, there isn't a black and white answer, it depends on what is right for you and your dog, but for most, I think a harness will be the best option, and in my opinion, the best harness for sighthounds is ours.