Friday, July 11, 2014

Product Review: Premier EasyWalk Harness

The Premier EasyWalk is a front-clip harness designed to discouraged pulling. It comes in eight sizes and seven colors to fit dogs with chests 12"-46" around. Premier also offers a reflective version of the harness that comes in five sizes and two colors.
Photo by Erin Koski

Right now I think this is my favorite band-aid for dogs that pull on leash. Like most no-pull solutions, the Easy Walk is meant to be used as part of a training program with the intention of eventually walking the dog on a flat or martingale collar. Like most no-pull solutions, the average user expects to put it on the dog and instantly solve the problem with zero training. I like the Easy Walk harness because it does that pretty well. It makes pulling annoying or difficult by removing all leverage rather than causing pain or discomfort.

That said, there is some concern that the Easy Walk harness reduces shoulder range of motion even when there is no leash attached. According to veterinarian Dr. Christine Zink, the front strap of the harness sits right above an injury-prone area of the front legs. Dogs wearing the Easy Walk put less weight on their front legs, and for this reason it is recommended to avoid using this harness on dogs that compete in high-impact dog sports like agility and flyball. It is also recommended that handlers avoid running with their dogs in this harness. Now I cringe every time I see a dog running on the off-leash beach in one of these.
Photo by Erin Koski

When properly fitted, the Easy Walk harness should be relatively difficult for dogs to back out of. Still, it's a very good idea to use a martingale collar as a backup, especially the first few times the harness is used. Clipping the leash to both the collar and the harness ring works really well.

The first time I saw an Easy Walk harness was ten years ago, on a husky. The dog was pulling so hard that one of her front legs was completely off the ground, but she continued to haul along on three legs and pull like a proper sled dog. I know now that her Easy Walk harness was not properly adjusted. It was likely too loose, the front strap should never have been low enough to pull her leg completely off the ground like that. Still, this product does has some fitting quirks.

The instructions say that the harness should make a T-shape when viewed from the side. The red harness in these pictures is a size Medium, adjusted with every strap at its maximum length. The front strap is so short that it pulls the top and bottom straps into a Y-shape. Premier makes in-between sizes that are not usually sold in stores, but one of our local spots carries them and was nice enough to let us play with it. Here is Brisbane wearing a size Medium/Large, the next size up. It is adjusted with every strap as short as  possible. The front strap is much too long and sags well below the breastbone where it belongs, at the same time it still pulls the incredibly snug top and bottom straps out of line. The guys at the store referred to it as the "mythical T-shape". Until we tried it out, I was convinced the Medium/Large size would be a perfect fit, but the Medium is actually a lot closer to ideal. Still, it's a good thing I don't actually need this product or I would be out of luck.

I'm not in love with the way the martingale loop on the front of the Easy Walk harness works. I have also used the SENSE-ation harness on dogs that pull, and it doesn't have issues with sagging like the Easy Walk does. I also have yet to use a SENSE-ation harness that had obviously slipped and loosened with use, while I have tightened many an Easy Walk.

Pros: Pretty much idiot-proof, minimal potential to cause harm when used by the average human on their average dog. Works pretty good as a band-aid for pulling as well as a training aid. Lots of sizes, and fun colors to match different doggy ensembles. Also doubles as a Norway harness when someone inevitably puts it on backwards, not sure if this has the same effects on shoulder movement. Ridiculously easy to put on.

Cons: The effects on shoulder movement are currently being studied, but this harness does alter a dog's gait even when a leash is not attached. The directions for fitting this product were apparently written by people who had never actually attempted to fit the Easy Walk on a real live dog. Apparently there is no size that will fit Brisbane in the prescribed manner. A lot of people get really confused about how to put this on despite its simplicity. Come on, there's only three straps, people! They're even color-coded! (Apparently I have superb spatial reasoning that is limited almost exclusively to understanding how dog tackle works.)

Bottom Line: Less aversive than a prong or choke collar, less obnoxious and potentially dangerous than a head halter, more effective than a flat collar. This makes a good training tool, and it makes a good crutch for those that can't be arsed to train. It's a decent way for a small person to control a large dog. I didn't think very much of them when they first came out, but they've grown on me over the last decade.

1 comment:

  1. You may be interested in PetSafe’s newer version of the Easy Walk Harness. I is called the Easy Walk Deluxe. It has neoprene padding and sliders that don’t loosen over time. I have not bought it because I don’t really need it, but it has really good reviews.