Harnesses: From A Chiropractors View

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

There are many collar, lead and harness options for dogs on the market, each one having pro’s and con’s. When it comes to choosing one for your beloved pet, it can be a but intimidating with lots of conflicting information online. It is important to take into consideration the effect it will have on your dog physically.

I am an animal chiropractor with a little dog of my own and more often than not I see many dogs wearing harnesses when out walking. It seems in recent years they have become more a fashion item than used for purpose. Unfortunately, when treating dogs I see a lot of misaligned and unbalanced spines as a result of harness use on dogs mostly due to the misuse of these restraints.

If you think about sled dogs for example, they are trained to pull. They require a restraint that provides comfort to pull and evenly distributes weight, in a way that allows them to do it in a straight line. When harnesses are used on pets they rarely just pull in one direction. This ‘comfort to pull’ then often leads to an unbalanced stance and poor posture (I.e. chest out front, back extended, shoulders retracted and hind legs out behind). Poor posture encourages muscles and structures to build in a way that doesn’t support the dog's natural stance which can lead to biomechanical issues, misalignments and create a snowball effect of problems in the whole body.

Just like people, the health of your dog’s nervous system has a direct connection with their overall health. When they have misalignments within the skeletal structures, they interfere with the optimal function of the nervous system and can lead to weakened immune systems, musculoskeletal complications and neurologic side effects. I have treated many dogs that use harnesses because owners feel they are kinder. But in fact it commonly causes back issues, poor musculature, over developed neck and shoulder muscles (often unevenly), joint problems and poor foot balance.

Don’t get me wrong, harnesses absolutely have their place with dogs and should be used in a safety capacity for travelling in the car but for a happier, more balanced dog alternatives should be used when walking and exercising your dogs.