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The canine neck contains very delicate structures including the thyroid gland, mandibular gland, trachea, oesophagus, lymph nodes, veins, arteries and nerves. Contrary to popular belief, their skin is actually quite significantly thinner than our own. We need to consider very carefully the equipment we use and how we use it because it will impact our dogs both physically and emotionally.

Image with kind permission from Dog Games Shop

A couple of quotes for you:

“Canine skin has several layers, including an outer epidermis that is constantly being replaced, and an inner dermis that contains nerves and blood vessels. Canine skin is thinner and much more sensitive than human skin”.

“The epidermis of a dog is 3-5 cells thick, however, in humans, it is at least 10-15 cells thick”.

While there might be circumstances which may prevent the use of a harness, for example, an injury site where the harness sits, soreness or irritation to the skin, lumps and bumps, body sensitivity etc, we need to do our best to protect the neck whenever possible.

If you are experiencing pulling and difficulties with training loose lead walking, instead of looking for a piece of equipment to fix it, we need to look at why the dog is struggling, and address this:

*Has loose lead walking been thoroughly taught at home first, with distractions systematically introduced?

*Is the dog comfortable in what he wears for walks?

*Has it been properly conditioned?

* Is he feeling overwhelmed?

* Is he being exposed to too much too soon?

* Is he less able to cope in certain environments?

You can find more information on walking equipment and what the science says here:

This is a fantastic free workshop from Canine Principles on loose lead walking:

Although a quick fix can seem very appealing, we do need to consider how and why something works, and what the consequences might be. Rather than looking to suppress behaviours, we need to examine what the root cause is in order to make positive change, and safeguard their physical and psychological well-being. Suppression can lead to increased fear and aggression, the creation of further negative associations as the dog makes connections between the discomfort and his environment, as well as a breakdown in trust and confidence.

As I drove to work recently, I saw a lovely young Weimaraner being walked along the pavement. As I approached them, the lady stopped to cross the road, and I could see that the dog had a slip lead fitted as a figure of eight across his muzzle. As I drew alongside them, I also saw that the slip lead extended along his body and was looped around his abdomen. The dog was pulled in tight to the lady's side on a short lead, which must have been incredibly uncomfortable for him. There is a very high risk of rubbing, pinching, bruising, and internal damage as the lead tightens on the face, neck and delicate abdominal area; it must be downright painful when there is even the slightest tension on the lead.

Generally speaking, I think the sensitivity of the canine skin is very much underestimated. There is a substantial difference, and is the main reason why this type of equipment seems to work like magic: it hurts. It's as simple as that. If using certain equipment suddenly stops your dog from doing something, it's because it is applying pressure and discomfort to the body.

For those who are not convinced of the need to protect the neck, I've linked a post which details the biomechanics of the slip lead, written by Celia Cohen, MCSP, MSc vet Phys, Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist ACPAT(A).

Please do have a read.


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