July 16, 2015
Back in May, we discussed whether to use a dedicated Nose Work harness. Now we’ll talk choosing a Nose Work harness, including features, and some of the available choices.
Any harness you want to use for Nose Work must have a back clip. There are two big reasons to use a back clip while searching: (1) The front-clipped leash gets tangled in the dog’s legs so easily when the dog searches out ahead of the handler, and (2) If the dog reaches the end of the leash, the front-clip will pull her to the right or to the left, depending on where the leash is at the moment, likely pulling her away from odor and perhaps into an unproductive area.
To control the dog at the start line, and for a clean release, some people like harnesses that have a handle. More experienced handlers generally find they don’t need one, but if a handle makes it easier for you at the start-line, go for it! Several choices below have handles.
Some of us have dogs that are big and strong and may pull us around between searches, when they’re supposed to be minding their manners. Front clip harnesses are a great tool for this purpose. Several choices below have both a front clip and a back clip.
A quick note about martingales when used in back clip harnesses: The martingale can be a very useful tool in teaching loose leash walking, because it discourages dogs from pulling. However, in Nose Work, we want to give the dog as much freedom of movement as we can, within the limitations of each search area. Our Labradors were bred to power through any obstacle in pursuit of a duck, and they don’t seem to notice when the martingale loop tightens during an odor search. But martingales will cause most dogs, who are more body-sensitive than Labs, to have reduced drive, focus, and enthusiasm in finding odor source.
The Hurrta Harness: Active and Dazzle These harnesses have a nice handle and a back clip. Neither harness has a front clip. The Active and the Dazzle are sturdy and will last a long time. These are very nice harnesses if your dog has a medium to wide chest, and users swear by these harnesses. The front panel is a little wide and rather stiff, and if your dog has a narrow chest, or is a small dog, the edges of the front panel may dig into your dog’s armpits.
Ruffwear Front Range Harness This popular Nose Work harness has both front and back clips. The front clip isn’t metal, but it’s very sturdy. The harness looks very comfortable, and it’s so lightweight, we can almost imagine the dog forgetting that he’s even wearing a harness. It has no back handle for holding the dog at the start line. It comes in six beautiful colors. This is our favorite Nose Work harness, even though it has no handle.
Ruffwear Hi & Light Harness is similar to the Front Range, but smaller and lighter. It also has no front clip, so if you need help controlling your dog between searches, this harness is likely not for you. On the other hand, this might be the least obtrusive harness of any listed here.
Rabbitgoo No-Pull Dog Harness. Alert reader Fiona Creighton sent me the information about this harness. I have not seen it in person, but the information on the website is promising. The harness has a back clip, a front clip, AND a handle. It also looks comfortable; heavier than the Front Range, but more padded. I do not have a suitable picture of the Rabbitgoo harness, but I do have the link where you can get one! Thank you Fiona!
CTC Dog Gear Shoulder Harness comes in a wide variety of colors, including Tie Dye and Zebra stripes. It has only a back clip, and no handle. Still, it looks like an excellent harness for Nose Work.
Belka Comfort Harness I have not had a chance to try this in person, but it looks great, although the wide front piece might be problematic for dogs with narrow chests. It has two back clip locations: one nearer the neck for greater control, and one nearer the mid-back for use during searches. This harness has no back handle for holding the dog at the start line.
Weather! If you want your dog to wear a cooling, warming, or rain vest, but weren’t sure how to use those with a harness, Ruffwear has a solution for you! They recently introduced two new products that include a harness as part of the design! The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Harness has two choices for back clips, no front clips, and a sturdy handle; it only cools when wet. The Ruffwear Overcoat Fuse Jacket is a jacket-harness combo with a back clip and a front clip; it not only warms but is also water resistant. NACSW competition rules allow the dog to wear anything that promotes their comfort, which would include the use of either of these harnesses.
There are several popular Nose Work harnesses that we no longer recommend. Why? Because they impede the dogs’ shoulder movement. This blog explains what to avoid, and why.
There are so many choices today. We’ve listed a few, but we know there are many more to choose from. Please share with us if you have a favorite Nose Work harness we haven’t listed above. We’re always eager to learn.
Copyright 2015 by Linda V Fletcher, updated 2022
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