I don’t know about you, but when I get dressed in the morning I think about how my clothes look AND function. I know we all have that sweater that lives in the closet; we love the way it looks, but never wear it because we don’t like how it feels. Too itchy, too small, too big, you name it… but if it doesn’t function, we don’t wear it — even if it’s cute. So let’s take a minute to talk about the function and feel of what our dogs wear when they hit the streets or trails.

Collars are for tags and, lets face it, fashion. But these days it’s not where you attach your leash. So pick a cute collar (Jonny sports a Paco Collar), and add some cute tags (I found Jonny some on Etsy) with names and numbers. Change their collar for the season or with your mood. Update tags when they wear out and you can’t read the information, or when you move. Or change it all to match your own look.  Have fun with it!

Chances are, these days your leash will get attached to a harness of some kind — but first, let’s talk about that leash. Here is where you have to parse fashion and function. I must have a million leashes, but like the jeans piling up in my closet, I only really use one or two on the daily.  My go-to leash, and the one I recommend, is a solid six-foot leather leash. If you can’t do the leather thing, then pick a solid six-foot nylon leash. You can get a printed nylon leash or a bedazzled leather leash, but the key attributes that make it the favorite are: solid, six-foot and, for me, leather.

Solid:  Meaning not a Flexi or retractable leash. These are not allowed in my classes and I won’t use them on dogs I walk. They are dangerous (Ten Reasons not to use a Flexi). Let us also talk about the function of the retractable leash systems. I am assuming you want a dog that doesn’t pull on leash. Well, a flexi is not for you then – period, full stop. It is a teach-to-pull device. When you are teaching a dog to walk on a loose lead, they have to first be able to actually achieve looseness in the lead. The flexi is designed to have constant tension – that is literally how it works. Your dog pulls (the very thing you are trying to teach them not to do) to get more leash length. Hello! They also give the handler a false sense of control and safety. Bottom line, they are unsafe and teach your dog to pull. They have no place in my world or the world of any Clever Owner and their Clever Canine.

Six foot:  This is the most common length of leash. It is enough room for your dog to make their own choices, and not too long or too short. There is a reason most leashes are made in this length. Just go with it. If you are using a shorter leash to somehow manage your dog, I say buy a six-foot leash and get to some actual training. The major caveat here is the 15-foot drag line, or long line as they are called. These are great for managing pups and giving a dog more freedom without the issues that come with the flexi.  I recommend everyone have at least one light 15-foot nylon leash. It is a must if you have a puppy! Go ahead and get a fun color while you’re at it.

Leather;  This, of course, is personal choice. Why do I pick leather (and believe me, I have had over a decade to come to this place)? They last and last and last. They do not slip through the hand as easily, and at the same time are comfortable to hold for hours on end. A fun printed nylon can be a great choice if you are vegan, etc.

Now we travel down the leash to the harness. The options here are overwhelming. The first split in the options is a traditional step in back clip style or the front attachment so called anti-pull harnesses. We are going to go with the front clip version. You can find lots of reviews and lists on line. Here is one from the Academy of Dog Trainers (my dog training alma mater) and their “Harness the Love” campaign.

Basically, it comes down to this: None of these harnesses will teach your dog to walk nicely on leash – that’s your job. But they will make the process easier on you and your dog. They work to minimize the problem behavior (pulling), while giving you, the handler, as much control as possible. They attach in the front for a reason. Imagine, if you will, that sled dog team. Where do their harnesses attach?  That’s right — on their backs.  Because that is where canine pulling leverage is best. It stands to reason that if you want to take that leverage away, you would not attach the leash there.  So, help your shoulders out and get a front-attaching harness.  They can come with some neat color options. The one I use and recommend is the Wonder Walker, but there are some other great ones on the market, like the Freedom Harness and the SENSE-ible Harness. Pick one and go with it — the important thing here is the the fit. If you need help with the fit, give me a shout.

Please, whatever you do, do not commit the largest canine fashion and function crime by attaching your anti-pull harness to a teach-to-pull flexi. It is one of the most illogical and contradictory things I see.  Makes me laugh out loud when I see it. Even worse is the crime of attaching a flexi to a choke collar or prong collar. That one makes me cry. Seriously, you are attaching a teach-to-pull device to a punish-for-pulling device. How is that fair? That defies all logic, and the one who pays the price is the dog.

So, I will see all you Clever Dogs on the trails with your fashion forward collar and tags, your sensible six-foot solid leash, and your properly-fitted front attachment harness. A classic yet fun look for any modern canine.

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