First of all you need to decide what sports you are going to take part in.
If you are going to be running with your dog (canicross) then the harness needs to be designed to allow your dog to pull you along with no restriction on breathing or natural movement, the aim of the harness is to capture the dogs' running power and allow the dog to pull you along through a bungee line (the line must always have this element of bungee to prevent jarring injuries).
The same is true of biking with your dog (bikejor), scootering (your dog pulls your scooter and you help by 'scooting') and mushing (pulling a three wheeled rig which you stand on). The harnesses used for these activities need to be fit for purpose and so it is not worthwhile selecting a walking harness for these purposes. Every harness we stock is designed to be multi-functional and in most cases can be used for walking in addition to the dog sports.
So if you have decided what sports you are taking part in and have decided if you need a pulling harness or not the next thing to look at is your line height. This is very important because it can affect how the harness was designed to be used.
For example the x-back harnesses are a wonderful harness with years and years of success for sled dogs all over the world. The x-back is designed to spread the strain of pulling from the dogs' shoulders down to the point of the line attachment by the base of the dogs' tail. The line then extends at an almost horizontal angle to a sled or rig. If the line angle is more acute then the x-back cannot work as it was designed to function and could end up causing problems if it 'lifts up' from the base of your dogs' tail
What other harnesses can you use? One of the newer European harness designs is that of the Euro Harness by Zero DC which comes in both a long and short option. The Zero DC Euro Harness is designed to be a multi-sport harness suitable for canicross, bikejor, scootering, mushing and even skijor (skiing with your dog). With the long version it directs the pull from the dogs' shoulders away from the neck and to an attachment point at the base of the tail but the difference in this harness to the x-back is that there is no material over the dogs' back. The harness material comes from the front underneath and along the rib cage then up to the base of the tail. It does not suffer the same problems as the x-back with using a shorter line and at a steeper angle because it is not designed for the line to pull straight along the back, but for the pull to come up from underneath the dog.
The Zero DC Euro Short Harness is designed much more like a shoulder harness with a shorter attachment point mid way down the dogs' back and seems to suit both small and large breeds alike because of the adjustability of the girth on this shorter harness and it's suitability for most sports.
Another good multi-sport option is the Non-stop Freemotion Harness, which again has an attachment point at the base of the dogs' tail and is designed to direct the pull away from the throat and allow freedom of movement. The Freemotion is used for all sports and is more adjustable than the other harnesses which allows it to work correctly for a larger number of breeds who might be broader or longer in shape than the sled dog breeds.
Finally, and brand new to the dog sport harness market is the Dragrattan Multi Sport Harness which is based on an x-back style harness on the neck, with all pull being directed along your dog's body and underneath, but with the back being left open to allow your dog to move more freely. The harness is also suitable for dogs who might be a less traditional sled dog or hound shape and has a belly strap for those who might be liable to wriggle out of longer harnesses
Many thanks to Emily at K9TrailTime for this information, to see more advice about harnesses please click here