Are Easy Walk Harnesses Bad for Dogs’ Shoulders?

Are Easy Walk Harnesses Bad for Dogs' Shoulders?

Are Easy Walk Harnesses Bad for Dogs’ Shoulders?

Ever seen a dog in an Easy Walk harness and wondered, “Is that comfy?” or “Does it pinch?” You’re not alone! Choosing the right harness is like picking the perfect pair of sneakers—it’s all about fit, function, and avoiding those pesky blisters (or in this case, shoulder strains). So, let’s sniff around this question and see if these popular harnesses might be giving our four-legged friends the cold shoulder (pun intended).

Easy Walk harnesses are designed to discourage pulling by redirecting the dog’s movement towards you. While they can be effective for training, they may place undue stress on a dog’s shoulders if not properly adjusted or if used excessively.

Why care about shoulder stress? Well, join me on a walk through the park of knowledge where we explore the ins and outs of these harnesses.

What is an Easy Walk Harness?

First off, let’s get a clear picture. Easy Walk harnesses are designed to discourage dogs from pulling by redirecting their forward motion towards the side, using a front leash attachment. While they are popular for training and managing dogs that pull, there have been concerns about their potential impact on a dog’s body, particularly the shoulders. An Easy Walk harness typically has straps that cross over a dog’s chest and back, with a leash attachment at the front. The idea is simple: control the torso, control the dog. It’s a popular choice among pet owners who are tired of being towed down the street by their enthusiastic pups.

However, simplicity doesn’t always mean perfection.

How Could It Affect a Dog’s Shoulders?

Easy Walk harnesses and other similar front-attachment harnesses can affect a dog’s shoulders in several ways, particularly if not used correctly or if they don’t fit properly. Here’s a detailed look at potential impacts on a dog’s shoulders:

1. Restricted Range of Motion

  • How It Happens: The design of some front-attachment harnesses, like the Easy Walk, involves straps that may cross over a dog’s shoulders. If these straps are too tight or poorly positioned, they can restrict the natural movement of the shoulders.
  • Potential Consequences: Restricting shoulder movement can alter a dog’s natural gait. Over time, this might lead to issues such as muscle strain, changes in walking patterns, or even skeletal misalignments, especially with prolonged use.

2. Chafing and Irritation

  • How It Happens: Harnesses that fit tightly around the shoulders or chest can rub against the dog’s skin as they move, especially during extended periods of wear or vigorous activity.
  • Potential Consequences: Continued friction can cause skin irritation, loss of fur, or even wounds, which are not only painful but can also lead to infections if not addressed.

3. Development of Compensatory Behaviors

  • How It Happens: When a dog’s natural movement is restricted by a harness, they may begin to compensate by adjusting their walking or running style.
  • Potential Consequences: Such compensatory behaviors can lead to overuse of other muscles or joints, which can result in additional injuries or discomfort elsewhere in the body.

4. Impact on Training and Behavior

  • How It Happens: If a harness is uncomfortable due to its impact on the shoulders, a dog may become resistant to wearing it or exhibit signs of stress and anxiety when it is put on.
  • Potential Consequences: This can adversely affect training sessions, making it more difficult to teach leash manners or other commands, as the dog might associate the harness with discomfort.

Are There Signs of Discomfort I Should Watch For?

Yes, monitoring your dog for signs of discomfort when using a harness is crucial to ensure their well-being and to adjust or change the harness if necessary. Here are key signs of discomfort to watch for:

1. Behavioral Changes

  • Reluctance to Move: If your dog is usually enthusiastic about walks but starts to hesitate or resist when it’s time to put on the harness, this could be a sign of discomfort.
  • Avoidance: Watch for signs of your dog avoiding the harness when you bring it out, which could indicate that it associates the harness with discomfort or pain.

2. Physical Signs

  • Chafing or Bald Patches: After removing the harness, check your dog’s skin for any redness, chafing, or bald patches, particularly under the straps.
  • Rubbing or Scratching: If your dog persistently tries to rub against furniture or scratches more than usual after wearing the harness, it might be irritating their skin.

3. Changes in Gait

  • Altered Walking Style: Pay attention to any changes in how your dog walks when wearing the harness. Limping, stiffness, or an altered gait can indicate that the harness is restricting their movement or causing pain.
  • Slowing Down: If your dog seems to slow down or has less energy while wearing the harness, this could be due to discomfort from the harness fit.

4. Vocalization

  • Whining or Growling: Listen for any unusual noises such as whining, yelping, or growling when you put the harness on your dog or while they are wearing it. These can be vocal indications of discomfort or distress.

5. General Restlessness

  • Fidgeting or Escaping: If your dog tries to wriggle out of the harness or seems uncomfortable staying still while wearing it, it may not fit properly or could be causing discomfort.

6. Signs of Stress

  • Panting or Drooling: Excessive panting or drooling while wearing the harness, especially in a non-stressful environment, could be signs of stress or discomfort.
  • Tail Tucking: A tucked tail while wearing the harness is another possible sign of discomfort or fear.

Recommendations for Addressing Discomfort

  • Adjust the Fit: Make sure the harness is properly adjusted. It should be snug enough that your dog can’t escape from it, but loose enough to fit two fingers under any strap.
  • Check Harness Condition: Regularly inspect the harness for any signs of wear and tear that could cause discomfort, such as rough edges or broken buckles.
  • Consult a Professional: If discomfort persists despite adjustments, consult a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer. They can provide advice and help determine if a different style or size of harness might be better suited to your dog’s needs.

By staying vigilant and responsive to these signs, you can ensure that your dog remains comfortable and happy while wearing a harness, thereby enhancing the overall experience of walking or training sessions.

What Are the Pros of Using an Easy Walk Harness?

It’s not all gloomy! When used correctly, Easy Walk harnesses can help teach good leash manners without using force. They’re especially useful for training excitable puppies or strong dogs who haven’t mastered the art of the leisurely stroll yet.

1. Discourages Pulling

The Easy Walk Harness has a front-leash attachment that gently steers the dog to the side and redirects their attention towards the owner when they try to pull forward. This makes pulling uncomfortable and inefficient for the dog, thereby discouraging this unwanted behavior over time.

2. No Pressure on the Neck

Unlike traditional collars, the Easy Walk Harness does not put pressure on the dog’s throat, which can be harmful, especially for breeds prone to tracheal or respiratory issues. This reduces the risk of choking and strain on the neck, making it a safer option for leash walking.

3. Improved Control

By attaching the leash at the chest rather than the back, the harness provides better control over the direction the dog is moving, which is particularly useful for training and managing strong or large dogs. Enhances safety and manageability during walks, especially in crowded or potentially hazardous environments.

4. Simple to Use

The Easy Walk Harness is straightforward to fit and adjust, thanks to its basic straps and quick-snap buckles. Makes it easier for dog owners to put on and remove the harness, reducing stress for both the dog and the owner.

5. Promotes Better Behavior

The harness’s design naturally encourages dogs to stay by the owner’s side, which can facilitate better leash manners and more enjoyable walks. Useful as a training tool for puppies or dogs that need to learn proper walking etiquette.

6. Comfortable Fit

The harness features four adjustment points, allowing for a near-custom fit that can accommodate a wide variety of dog shapes and sizes. A snug, comfortable fit is key to preventing escape and ensuring the harness functions effectively without causing discomfort.

7. Suitable for All Sizes

Available in multiple sizes and adjustable to fit a broad range of breeds and sizes, from small dogs to large breeds. Makes it a versatile choice that can suit almost any dog, enhancing its utility for multiple-dog households.

Are There Better Alternatives?

While the Easy Walk Harness is a popular choice for managing pulling behaviors in dogs, there are several other types of harnesses and training tools that might be considered better alternatives, depending on the specific needs and circumstances of the dog and owner. Here are some notable alternatives:

Front-Attachment Harnesses (e.g., Freedom No-Pull Harness, PetSafe 3-in-1): Offer dual-leash attachments and additional padding for control and comfort.

Head Collars (e.g., Gentle Leader, Halti): Provide excellent control by directing the dog’s head, effective for strong pullers.

Dual-Clip Harnesses (e.g., Ruffwear Front Range, Kurgo Tru-Fit): Feature both front and back leash attachments for versatile use during training and casual walks.

Tightening Harnesses: Gently tighten around the chest when the dog pulls, serving as a mild deterrent to pulling behaviors.

Vest Harnesses (e.g., Puppia Soft Dog Harness, Voyager Step-In Air): Made from soft, padded materials for comfort and even pressure distribution, ideal for smaller breeds.

Custom-Fit Harnesses: Tailored to fit the exact measurements of your dog, ensuring optimal comfort and preventing fit-related issues.

These alternatives offer various features that can enhance control, comfort, and safety for your dog, making them suitable options depending on the specific requirements of both the dog and the handler.

How Do I Ensure the Best Fit?

Fitting an Easy Walk harness properly is crucial. Make sure the chest strap sits low enough not to press on your dog’s throat, but high enough that it doesn’t interfere with their front legs. It should be snug, but not tight. Consulting with a professional trainer or vet about proper fit can save you a lot of guesswork.


Easy Walk harnesses, like any training tool, have their place. They’re great for some dogs but might not be the best fit for others. Paying attention to your dog’s comfort and the fit of the harness can prevent any shoulder issues from developing.

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FAQ about easy walk dog harness

Do Vets Recommend Slip Leads?

Most veterinarians are cautious about recommending slip leads as the primary means of control for dogs, especially for regular use. The main concerns include:

  • Risk of Neck Injury: Slip leads can cause neck strain, tracheal damage, or other injuries if the dog pulls or if the lead is used improperly.
  • Potential for Choking: Because slip leads tighten when pulled, they can inadvertently choke a dog, especially during sudden lunges.

Do Dog Trainers Recommend Slip Leads?

Dog trainers’ recommendations can vary:

  • Proponents: Some trainers use slip leads for specific training purposes, particularly for correcting behaviors or for controlled environments like dog shows where precise, temporary control is necessary.
  • Opponents: Many trainers prefer alternative methods that do not involve potential choking hazards, especially for teaching leash manners, recommending tools that offer control without the risks associated with slip leads.

What are the disadvantages of a slip lead?

  • Risk of Physical Harm: Continuous pressure on the neck, potential choking, and tracheal damage are significant risks, especially with strong pullers or reactive dogs.
  • Negative Training Impact: Dogs might learn to associate walks with discomfort or pain, which can lead to anxious or adverse behaviors.
  • Lack of Control: Although designed to provide control, slip leads do not offer the same level of handling as a harness, particularly for very active or large dogs.

Is a Slip Lead or Harness Better?

Comparing the two, a harness is generally a better choice for most dog owners due to several benefits:

  • Safety: Harnesses distribute pressure away from the neck, reducing the risk of injury.
  • Control: Harnesses provide better overall control of the dog’s body, making it easier to manage pulling without relying on pain or discomfort.
  • Comfort: Harnesses are more comfortable for the dog, particularly during long walks or vigorous activity.
  • Suitability for Training: Harnesses, especially those with front attachments, are effective for training dogs not to pull, providing a humane method that encourages good behavior.

Article by

Kyra Luo

Product Design Manager

Kyra is the Product Design Manager at QQPETS, where her expertise in developing high-quality, customized pet products and keen insight into market trends has helped hundreds of clients achieve their goals, save money, and satisfy consumer needs.

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Kyra Luo

Product Design Manager

Kyra is the Product Design Manager at QQPETS, where her expertise in developing high-quality, customized pet products and keen insight into market trends has helped hundreds of clients achieve their goals, save money, and satisfy consumer needs.

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