If your dog pulls hard on a collar, either because they are a puller when they walk or they try to bolt after something they perceive as prey, it can damage their neck. Small dogs are more likely to get trachea, or windpipe, damage from such pulling. Dachshunds are prone to back injury and pulling on the neck can pinch a nerve or tweak the spine.
However, I feel the need to caution people about using harnesses on active dogs. The caution primarily applies to smaller dogs, dogs with thin skin, dogs with little hair, and/or overweight dogs. Keep in mind it can happen to any dog though.
I received a message from a reader today telling me about an issue she had with a harness that we use regularly (and she bought because of that). She said that her and her pup had a busy beach weekend with lots of walks and running. When she got home and took the harness of, she was horrified that he was completely chafed in both arm pits and was bleeding.
Nobody likes to find their furry friend injured. I know exactly what she was feeling because, honestly, this exact thing has happened to Chester and Gretel before.
We have tried several types of harnesses. We have found our favorites based on comfort, security, and durability but none are 100% ideal is all situations. My caution is that, no matter what harness you use, you should periodically check to make sure your dog is not being rubbed or chafed. It was a hard lesson I had to learn.
The most common place for chafing to occur is in the armpits. The second most common place is on the rib cage or abdomen.
Many factors can cause chafing. The most frequent culprit for Chester and Gretel is dirt or sand getting between the harness and their skin. When the harness fits snug, dirt and debris that gets trapped under there can act like sand paper and rub away at the skin as your dog walks and plays.
I also find it depends on how close your dog’s legs, or elbows, are to the body. For example, I have Dachshunds and there is not much space between the leg and body in the arm pit area because of their dwarfisim. Dogs that are overweight often have more “cushion” on their legs and body and this can cause the space in the arm pit to be narrow than most dogs. The smaller space alone can put pressure on the harness in that area and cause movement because the leg is constantly moving against it.
We live in the North-WET so it’s usual for us to hike or walk in the rain or on wet ground. If the harness gets damp from playing in the surf, crossing streams, or just going on a wet walk, the problem can be made worse.
On weekends when we camp, Chester and Gretel pretty much wear their harnesses 24 hours for a couple of days. Because of my “lesson” on chafing, I periodically check inside the harness to make sure no debris has gotten trapped there and check Chester and Gretel’s armpits to make sure there is no chafing (It’s not unusual for me to find that a harness is breaking off the fur in that area but I don’t worry as long as there is no redness).
So ,again, my cautionary note is this: Not every harness fits the same dog the same way and can cause issues depending on the dog’s shape, activity level, and the conditions you are using it in. Always check your dog periodically to make sure the harness is not chafing them or cutting into the skin.
Has your active dog ever experienced chafing from a harness or collar?