Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Hands-free dog running: my dog-running harness

I've been into hands-free dog running since I met my two husky friends a few years ago. Their dad had a dog running harness, which he'd bought through the husky sledding club. From the first, I was sold on the concept of wearing a hip-belt type harness to which the dog lead is attached. It enables you to control the dog with your body weight, not your biceps, and leaves your hands and arms free to run as usual and to grab the lead as needed.

Since then, I've always used something - whether the waist belt for my backpack, my climbing harness or a belt to walk/run dogs - for Rusty or other people's dogs.

For months now, I have needed to make my own running harness as nothing that I have works quite right.

My primary running harness requirement is that it sits around your hips - not your waist - so that the pull from the dog is centred and that it doesn't pull against the middle of your spine, which messes with your posture and biomechanics, even if subtly.

Waist belts from backpacks and any other belts ride up. Even if you adjust the width so that they sit around your hips, it will ride up in seconds to sit around your waist, especially at the back.

To keep any waist belt down - on your waist - you need straps connected between or around your legs and connected front to back.

There are a number of configurations - of which I've tried two.

For the first version, I made a waistband with a clip-in-buckle and I connected straps from the front, to the back, between my legs - left and right. It worked brilliantly but I had custom made it for myself and so it fitted me perfectly. It was not adjustable to fit different sized people. The straps between my legs were fine and did not irritate or rub; but not everyone would be comfortable with this setup, especially guys. I ran with this one every day for a few weeks and it worked a treat.

I had ideas for a Version 2, something that would be adjustable to fit people of different sizes.

I worked up Version 2 about two weeks ago and it has been working brilliantly. Today I made a slight upgrade on Version 2 for my friend Karen (let's call it Version 2.1).

This is a photo of me wearing my Version 2.0.

The design is based on the structure of my climbing harness, but it doesn't need to be strong enough to hold my weight - just the pull from a dog excited to go running.

Key features include:

  • A loop at the front to connect the lead - I use a small, light carabiner to connect Rusty's lead. Alternatively, just thread the lead through the loop. 
  • Clip-in-buckle to one side so that the pull from the lead is not on the buckle
  • Elastic inserts on the thigh bands - to accommodate thighs bigger (or smaller) than mine.
  • At the back, not visible, I have an elastic strap connected in an inverted 'V' shape. It loops around the hipbelt (it can slide left and right to fit different sized people - it should sit in the centre of your back) and then comes out to each thigh band and loops around the band (it can also slide).
The importance of the elastic at the back connecting the waist belt to the thigh bands is that the waist belt is prevented from riding up. Very important.

I'm chuffed with my dog-running harness. The moment Rusty sees this green, she starts bouncing. It is quick and easy-to-make and works perfectly. 

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