Service dogs are everyday heroes trained to help individuals with disabilities by performing specific tasks or jobs to ensure the individual is as safe as possible. Service dogs play an instrumental role in the safety, protection, and well-being of the individuals they assist. Oftentimes, the general public may not be aware of the importance of service dogs and the role they play. In addition, people on the street may not have an appreciation, or understanding, that the service dog is working when he or she is with their person.
This is where service dog vests and harnesses can be of assistance. A vest or harness can enable your service dog to be easily denoted as a working dog and as something different than the average dog out for a walk with its owner. Service vests and harnesses can also make it easier for the handler to work with their dog and for their dog to work for them if the situation should arise.
Service Dog Vests
Service dog vests fit over a dog’s back, chest, and shoulders and usually are secured so they are comfortable for your service dog but not easily removed or slipped out of by your companion. Vests usually have a place on which you attach a leash instead of a more sturdy handle.
Service vests may also allow for room for patches that can denote your dog as an official service dog, as well as communicate his or her task or duty, such as emotional support dog or balance assistance. A wide variety of patches, sayings, and information may be found and included on your dog’s vest. Some dogs may find vests more comfortable and allow both the dog and the handler the ability to move around the dog freely without a hard handle encumbering movement.
Service Dog Harnesses
Service Dog Harnesses also fit over a dog’s shoulders and back. However, they usually are not as full coverage and may or may not have room for patches. In addition, harnesses often have a more sturdy handle for the handler to use. Harnesses can provide not only identification for your service dog but also provide security and stability for the handler as they move through their day.
Service Dog Vests vs. Service Dog Harnesses
There are pros and cons of service dog vests, as well as service dog harnesses. Each has attributes that are positive and attributes that are not so positive. Take a look at our list of pros & cons to garner an idea of what may work well for you.
Pros and Cons of Service Dog Vests
Service dog vests allow your service dog to wear something that is more ergonomic for them, more robust, and oftentimes more comfortable. Finding a vest that fits your dog’s size and mobility requirements is imperative in choosing, and utilizing, a service dog vest. Vests come with D rings in various locations on the harness to allow you a choice as to wear best to attach your leash.
Vests may also be used with handles if you so desire. Moreover, vests come in various shapes, sizes, and colors and oftentimes have room for patches and other customizing features. Vests can easily be individualized to fit you and your dog’s purpose and style.
On the flip side of service dog vests, their customizable ability is often what makes them not work for you or your dog. Having bright colors or patches with sayings, expressions, and even communications regarding your dog’s job, can mean people stop to read, look, and ask questions you may not feel comfortable with answering. Sometimes, having a unique vest can cause more attention, trouble, and distraction than is good for you or your dog.
Pros and Cons of Service Dog Harnesses
Service dog harnesses are typically a bit more structured for your dog and your needs. There are different types of harnesses that allow for extra support for both you and your dog. For example, pulling harnesses are strong enough that your dog can pull a wheelchair or other equipment if necessary. In addition, harnesses also tend to allow for sturdier handles which can help balance an individual and provide extra support.
That being said, service dog harnesses do not allow for the same amount of mobility and flexibility that vests may allow. Correct fitting of harnesses is even more imperative than with vests as they do not have the same amount of flexibility as a vest. Service dog harnesses also share a common negative aspect with vests. They tend to garner attention that may be unwelcome and uncomfortable for you and distracting for your dog.
Remember: It Comes Down to What Works Well for You and Your Service Dog
At the end of the day, the decision to use a service dog vest or harness is a personal one. Once you have made that decision, then comes the decision as to which type, vest, or harness, would best suit your dog and your needs. A thorough evaluation of your health, as well as the tasks and job your dog will perform, will guide your decision to determine which works best for your specific needs and those of your service dog as well.
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