Safely adventuring with little dogs

Grand Tetons Yellowstone 2017 Pipsqueak and Bosco in their Adventure Harnesses

I finished the test versions of the Adventure Harness just in time for our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Bosco and Pipsqueak got tons of good use out of them! It was easy to wipe off dirt and mud, although they needed a deeper clean when we got back home.

Adventure Harnesses with leash and bag dispenser for Pipsqueak and Bosco

The harness is made from a water-resistant nylon fabric and features a cargo pocket — where we stash extra poop bags for when we accidentally run out of them in the Bag Dispenser — and clear plastic ID pocket in case you get separated from your fur baby. The strap on the back is made from reflective material, and the harness closes with sturdy hook and loop (which is like Velcro® if you’re not familiar with that term).

If your little dog could use a more rugged version of the Comfort Vest Harnessrequest a custom order in my Etsy shop and we’ll get your order in!

Designing an Adventure Harness for camping and hiking with small dogs

Pipsqueak and Bosco go adventuring along the Mogollon Rim in Arizona

We recently bought our first camper and have been taking our dogs, Pipsqueak and Bosco, with us on camping trips. They’re still getting used to the camper, but they LOVE going on walks in the woods with us!

We used their everyday harnesses for these walks but the paths are so dusty that the harnesses (and dogs) got a lot of dirt and grim embedded in them. So while relaxing around the table during a game of Gin Rummy we brainstormed how I could make a harness more compatible with outdoorsy activities. After all, the original Comfort Vest Harness is meant for city walking!

prototype of the Adventure Harness with cargo pocket and clear vinyl ID pocket
An early prototype of a Comfort Vest Harness – Adventure Edition

The features of the Adventure Harness that I’m most excited about

  • durable, waterproof fabric that’s easy to wipe off so it feels cleaner and less grimy
  • a little cargo pocket to hold some emergency poop bags
  • a pocket to hold an ID card, where the dog’s name, our contact information, and our camping location details are written in case they get separated from us

When we were packing up to leave during the last trip, we actually someone drive up and ask if we had lost an old dog. Apparently they found one in the woods and were driving around trying to locate the owner. It was incredibly thoughtful of them to do this, and I hope they were able to connect the poor dog with his mom and dad!

This experience drove home the importance of having clear ID right with the dog because even if he or she is microchipped, getting the dog to a vet to read the chip is really inconvenient if you’re in a remote location. And even if the collar tag has the owner’s phone number, there isn’t always cell service when camping.

I’m excited to get a couple of prototypes made for our dogs to see how they hold up on our next adventure! And if all goes well, I’ll be offering them for custom orders for parents of little dogs who like to go adventuring as well.

6 cute summer harness ideas for your small dog

When the weather warms, you want to help your small dog stay cool, while being safely held in their harness. For summer, I choose fabrics that are lighter in weight and feature brighter and lighter colors. And instead of using a double layer of fabric for the main body of the harness like in the cooler weather versions, there’s just one layer of fabric making it breath easier.

I recently finished a batch of these custom summer harness — with matching bow ties! — for a lucky little Morkie named Maks, who models one below.

Maks in his Oxford Dogma summer harness and collar with matching silent ID tag

 

“I really like the blue check fabric with the red plaid. It’s cuter than cute! I love the way you trimmed the neck with it…it’s a cute touch. Again, can’t thank you enough!!! Will be ordering more soon.”
— Missy, dog mom to Maks

 

custom Comfort Vest Harness for a small dog in red and blue plaid with matching bow tie
custom Comfort Vest Harness for a small dog in orange and white gingham with matching bow tie
custom Comfort Vest Harness for a small dog in blue plaid with matching bow tie
custom Comfort Vest Harness for a small dog in blue and yellow plaid with matching bow tie
custom Comfort Vest Harness for a small dog in blue and white seersucker with matching bow tie
custom Comfort Vest Harness for a small dog in green and navy gingham with melon pink accent

If you’d like a custom made harness sized for your small dog (under 20 lbs), you can request a custom order in my Etsy shop. Matching bow ties are also available for $10 each. Happy summer!

A smart and stylish harness for your small dog

A comfy dog is a happy dog

Pipsqueak in her new custom harnesses by Oxford Dogma

For dog moms and dads, the safety and comfort of our little fur kids is super important. Making them happy makes us happy! When I asked a friend what she loves most about her little Alaskan Klee Kai, she said:

“She doesn’t care what we do as long as she’s with us.”

I think that pretty much sums it up! When they’re with us, they’re happy. So I wanted to create a way for them to be with us in a safe, comfortable way.

I designed this back-clip harness for all the dog parents like me who struggled to find a way to hook a leash to their small dog (about 20 pounds or less) that doesn’t hurt, cause discomfort, or slip off.

Little dogs have big needs

When hooking a leash to the collar on a little dog, their necks and windpipes can be damaged. Or they can wiggle out. The harness vest is a healthy and safe alternative to the collar for times when you need to control your dog — such as on a walk. A collar is still useful for attaching ID tags, and expressing your dog’s individual style.

With a loop on the back near the shoulders, a leash clips safely on the little dog’s back, keeping the strain off the neck.

Miska in custom comfort vest harness with leash
Miska the Pomeranian wears her custom comfort vest harness with leash attached at back.

Designing a harness that’s safe and easy

For small dogs, harnesses are great, healthy alternative to hooking a leash to a collar. But people tend to have a love/hate relationship with them. I asked a friend to tell me about her favorite pet products:

“Her harness because it allows me to control her without yanking her neck (even though there are a few things that bug me about it)”

When I asked my community what they wish they could change about their dog’s harness, the same drawbacks came up over and over:

  • Questions about how to put it on or how to use it — “Hard to get on and confusing! I wish they could be put on from the top down, instead of the dog having to step in it.
  • Feels like it’s either crushing them or too loose — “I’m never sure if it fits right. Is it supposed to wrap around their chest? Behind the legs? Below the rib cage? Also, making sure it fits tight enough so they don’t wiggle out, without being constricting or uncomfortable.” + “…it feels like I’m crushing her ribs trying to close the clasp but anything less than that is too big
  • They slip out of it — “Bailey also can slip out of her harness easily, which is scary. If she puts enough force in the right direction or backs up quickly, I’m left with an empty harness in my hands.” + “I really like the harness I use now but occasionally if my Basenji backs up real fast, I am left holding an empty harness and leash.
  • It rubs under the front legs — “I always worry about how badly it rubs against her armpits in the front.

I struggled with all of these things with our dog, too.

prototyping the new dog harness design

After experimenting with some different concepts, I arrived at a vest style harness that’s simple to use:

  • You put it on from the top down, so your dog doesn’t have to step into it
  • Each harness is made especially to your dog’s measurements, and you can also make minor sizing adjustments with velcro straps
  • It wraps snugly but doesn’t constrict or crush — you control how tight it gets
  • The vest shape, with wide velcro straps and long (but not too long) length, means your dog won’t slip out

Is this the right harness for you?

Some harness styles are meant to change a dog’s pulling behavior (these tend to be the designs that pull and rub under the front legs). This particular harness is not a training device for strong pullers. I experimented with a design that had a front loop to help discourage pulling, but it just twisted the harness around too much. I learned that this is why those low-slung harnesses that rub under the front legs are shaped the way they are!

the Comfort Vest Harness doesn't train small dogs to stop pulling on the leash but it holds tight if they do
Bosco, our 16-lb Dachshund, is a strong puller. The harness is secure, but it doesn’t train him to stop his pulling.

In addition, many harnesses are made of rugged nylon webbing, suitable for all-weather wear and outdoorsy dogs that tend to get dirty. The Comfort Vest Harness that I designed is intended more for city dogs, who spend most of their time in parks and on sidewalks. Although it is machine washable for easy care.

Kiara the Pomeranian wearing a Custom Comfort Vest Harness
Kiara the Pomeranian, wearing a Custom Comfort Vest Harness

Made-to-measure

During the process of test-fitting the Comfort Vest Harness to a variety of small dogs, it became clear that the best way to ensure a good if that people and pups are happy with is through custom orders. Each harness is tailored to the measurements, color preferences, and fabric weight needs of the loving pet parent.

Charlie wearing a small harness
Charlie the Chihuahua wears a “fitting harness”, a special version of the harness made from plain fabric specifically for testing fit during the designing phase.

The Comfort Vest Harness will be available soon in my shop. If you’d like to get updates about it, sign up below:

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