Almost every day we hear of tragic cases where newly adopted dogs have slipped their collars or harnesses resulting in them being lost, injured and sometimes killed on the roads.
Many frightened dogs can easily escape both a collar and a standard harness in seconds. People often report being shocked how quickly and violently a fearful dog can struggle their way out of a harness when terrified. It can take just a few seconds for a dog to pull back and thrash their way free.
Loud noises, being approached by off lead dogs or strange people, taking a dog into busy areas before they are ready and attempting to go though narrow doorways are just some of the common causes of dogs slipping their collars or harnesses. Some dogs will try to escape their harness or collar to chase wildlife, cats, bikes or other dogs.
What can we do to stop a dog escaping a collar or harness?
Choosing a harness with an extra belly strap (see photos) will stop a fearful dog from backing out and escaping their harness. It really does work! The oldest and most well known of the non slip / escape proof harnesses is the Ruffwear Webmaster, but there are several other brands new to the market. All the harnesses listed below have an extra strap near the lower ribcage that prevents the dog from backing out. They are called “double H” harnesses. If you’re thinking “My dog won’t wear a harness or doesn’t need one.” Please see our Frequently Asked Questions below.
Whatever equipment you use to keep your dog safe, please also be aware that a determined/fearful dog can chew through a lead or harness straps in seconds. Keep your eyes on your dog, take things gently and be patient while you are getting to know each other. *Note: It’s worth shopping around when purchasing a new harness as prices vary a lot between retailers.
1.) Ruffwear Webmaster
As well as having the all important extra belly strap, the Ruffwear Webmaster has a soft handle on top which can help to steady senior dogs and help them up stairs, into a car etc. With 5 points of adjustment they are great for dogs of all shapes and sizes and they are also useful for tri paw dogs. Tripod Rommie rescue Fox with his Webmaster:
2.) Haqihana Double H harness
This harness can be fitted without the dog needing to lift a paw. Extremely light feel, comfortable and durable whilst providing maximum security: it is adjustable in seven points, all parts are assembled with safety stitching and the plastic components are rounded and free from sharp corners. Italian rescue Tristan with his Haqihana harness:
This is an extremely solid harness providing a great fit. Lighter than the Webmaster, but sturdier than Haqihana. Ideal for dogs that have more “bulk”. Egyptian ex-street dog Naila with her Anny.X
6.) Indi Dog Houdini Ultra Harness
This harness can be fitted without the dog needing to lift a paw. Blue with his Houdini by Indi Dog:
8.) Trixie Stay Harness (low cost option)
Romanian Rescue Fizz sporting her Trixie Stay escape proof harness. Her guardian tells us it’s great and relatively inexpensive.
We can personally recommend the Ruffwear Webmaster which we have used for many years with our own rescued dogs and while transporting nervous dogs.We have no affiliation with any of the above companies and welcome your feedback on any of the above or suggestions for other non slip harnesses.
If my dog’s regular harness is properly fitted, how will she manage to escape?
Dogs trying to escape will commonly extend their legs forward, crouch and lower their head and back out of the majority of dog harnesses. People often report being shocked how quickly and violently a fearful dog can struggle their way out of a harness when terrified. It can take just a few seconds for a dog to pull back and thrash their way free. Many dogs can easily back out of most collars. All this can happen VERY quickly.
Why is this especially relevant for rescued ex street dogs?
Many dogs living on the streets have suffered abuse. Some will have had rope tied tightly around their necks or legs, others will have been caught by dog catchers with catch poles. This can result in injury, trauma and a long term sensitivity to anything that tightens around the dog’s neck.
If you think we are over reacting or making a fuss about nothing please search YouTube for “Dog catchers Romania” and you will see how dogs are brutally caught with catch poles, terrorised, lifted in the air by their necks, slammed into cages, vehicles and even forced into sacks. These dogs are literally fighting for their lives and sustain horrible injuries.
*If you do watch these videos please make sure the volume is on mute if you have dogs with you to avoid causing them distress.*
Please take your time when introducing any new equipment to your dog. Let her investigate the harness, be gentle and do not use force. If your dog is very nervous of being handled please get advice from a behaviourist* who will be able to assist you to work with your dog to help her feel comfortable wearing her new harness.
*Please note: In many countries (including the UK) the dog training industry is unregulated, so do check the qualifications and ethics of anyone you employ to work with your dog.
Look for a dog professional who uses kind, force free methods and uses positive reinforcement. Run a mile if they mention pack leaders, dominance or call themselves a dog whisperer!
If your dog is very fearful please don’t force her to go for walks if public places are overwhelming for her. Give her time and take things at her pace. Walks are something you can work towards very gradually. In the meantime search the group below for fun activities you can play with your dog at home and in your garden. Snuffle mats, interactive games and scent work can be great fun for your dog, stimulate her mentally and help to build her confidence. You don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive toys, there are lots of DIY low cost options. https://www.facebook.com/groups/canineenrichment/
We also highly recommend ‘Sprinkles’ https://www.dog-games.co.uk/sprinkles-tm/
There are some budget options in our list, for example the Trixie ‘Stay’ harness and the Indi Dog Houdini Harness aren’t too expensive. If you only have access to a standard collar or harness please double up where possible. Have your dog wear a harness attached to a lead AND a collar attached to another lead. Take extra care not to take your dog into areas where she might feel overwhelmed and be likely to panic and bolt.
Whatever harness you purchase please make sure it’s comfortable for your dog. Measure her carefully before you purchase to ensure a good fit and look for a good clearance so the straps aren’t rubbing under your dog’s front legs.
Similarly ensure the belly strap isn’t pressing on your dog’s soft abdomen (it should gently rest on the lower rib cage) and make sure it’s not too close to your male dog’s penis. Check to make sure fabric, stitching and catches are either carefully padded or constructed in a way that won’t rub or cause discomfort.
Lastly, watch out for unscrupulous retailers who market their harnesses as escape proof or non slip when they aren’t at all. Shocking but it does happen. Remember it’s the extra belly strap that makes these harnesses non slip.
Anything that tightens or pinches your dog or causes a shock or fear is likely to cause pain and distress, especially if your dog has suffered previous trauma and abuse.
Aim for equipment that is both safe and comfortable for your dog.
Please see the links below for more reasons why a comfortable harness is important for your dog’s health and wellbeing.
We agree there are lots of other great harnesses out there! This list is a resource for non slip harnesses only. Some newly adopted dogs start out on a non slip harness for safety reasons then switch to other harnesses at a later date when they’ve gained confidence.
There are lots of rescued dogs out there who happily and safely walk on regular harnesses, this list is for the fearful dogs who need a non slip harness to keep them safe.
Finally, if you are wondering why a harness is better for your dog’s health than a collar, please read the following article and check out this short YouTube video.
(Special thanks to Tempo and Karam for modelling for us).