Thursday, July 16, 2015

Product Review: Alpine Outfitters Urban Trails Custom Harness

The Urban Trails harness from Alpine Outfitters is designed for all sorts of dog-powered sports. It features wide straps padded with Polartec polar fleece, and allows the dog to pull comfortably. This is a custom-fitted harness, made to order. It is available in 11 different colors.
Photo by Erin Koski

When Brisbane was a baby, I had many ambitions involving dog sports. One of these was dog-powered sports. Often known as 'joring', these activities basically involve hitching a dog to anything and everything and having them pull for fun.

Sledding is the most obvious dog-powered sport out there, but it requires snow so is not an option for us out here on the beach. Scootering is one dry land alternative, involving pneumatic tire scooters like we all had in the 80's.
Photo by Erin Koski

Bikejoring is dogs hitched to bicycles and running out front, as opposed to running to the side via a bike attachment. I'm not sure if there are specific words for having a dog pull you on skates or a skateboard. Skijoring is the sport of having a dog pull you on skis. Canicross is the sport of running while having a dog hitched to your belt.

I had all these plans for teaching my fabulous, talented dog to pull me on various wheeled objects. We were totally going to start scootering. This harness was the first step. The second step was to teach Briz to pull while wearing it. This is where the entire process broke down, because Brisbane does. Not. Pull. Not at all. He is a master of loose leash walking, and nothing can convince him that leash pressure is ok.

After many months of failing to teach Briz that pulling in a harness was great, mostly involving marking and rewarding him for putting even the slightest amount of pressure on the leash and tossing treats and toys ahead of him as additional motivation, I finally abandoned my original plan. I still love the Urban Trails harness, though. As I ordered it when he was a puppy, Briz eventually outgrew the harness.

Several years after purchasing our original Urban Trails harness, I contacted Alpine Outfitters and asked about having it adjusted or extended. They promptly made me a brand new harness in exchange for sending back the old one. How cool is that! The custom harnesses have several inches of adjustment in the chest strap to accommodate changes in weight or coat. There is also an Urban Trails harness with an adjustable neck, and non-custom harnesses available in four sizes.

Pros: Great for hitching your dog to anything except a sled or cart, need a different type of harness for those. Custom-made for a perfect fit even on your weird-shaped dog. Soft, snuggly fleece does not rub on delicate skin. Includes dog's name or phone number embroidered on back. Can order it with additional leash rings on the sides or front. Super customer service.

Cons: Can take several weeks to arrive since they have to make it first. Needs to be pulled over dog's head and have their leg put through a strap, not great for head-shy dogs.

Bottom Line: Pulling is great exercise for dogs, but they need the right gear in order to do it safely and comfortably. The Urban Trails harness works for almost any dog-powered activity. It's also a nice soft, cushy harness for everyday wear, particularly for dogs with sensitive skin. And shaved dogs. This is the only thing Brisbane has worn since his haircut.

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