Why Boston Terriers Should Wear a Harness [Plus Harness Recommendations]

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Easily recognizable by their two-toned color and small, square bodies, Boston Terriers are happy little dogs that love to go for walks and on other adventures with their people.

As a Brachycephalic breed, Boston Terriers have physical limitations which make their walking needs a little different from other breeds. They are not just like any other dog that you can throw a collar on and take for a walk. Boston Terriers should always wear a harness on walks instead of a collar.

Let’s take a closer look at why Bostons Terriers should wear a harness, specific benefits of harnesses, and tips on choosing the best harness for your Boston Terrier.

Why Boston Terriers Should Wear a Harness

Brachycephalic means “short head.” They were bred to have a normal-sized lower jaw but smaller upper jaw to give them a rounder head.

While this gives that cute, “smooshy” face look, this particular anatomy can cause our little friends some unique health issues. These traits together are known as Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome and are characterized by the following.

  1. An Elongated Soft Palate. Although these dogs’ heads were shortened over time, the soft palate (the large flap of skin at the back of the throat) was not. This causes it to periodically flop over the windpipe and obstruct the dog’s airway.
  2. Stenotic Nares. This is the fancy term for nostrils that are too small and narrow, which makes it harder for Bostons to take in air.
  3. Narrow Trachea. The trachea, or windpipe, in brachycephalic dogs is narrower than other breeds. This can cause them to be prone to collapsing trachea, a progressive disease requiring veterinary care.
  4. Everted Laryngeal Saccules. These are 2 thick clumps of soft tissue located on either side of the trachea. Normally, they stay tucked up out of the way, but if the dog is struggling to breathe, they can temporarily pop out into the throat, further obstructing the airway.

All that is to say you shouldn’t treat your Boston Terrier like you would most dogs when it comes to taking them for a walk.

First, you need to pay close attention to your dog for signs they overexerting themselves.

Also, using a good fitting harness will make walks easier and more enjoyable for both you and your Boston.

Boston Terrier wearing a harness on a walk

Benefits of Using a Harness

A harness is better suited to walking a Boston Terrier than a traditional collar for several reasons:

Easier to breathe: As mentioned above, Boston Terriers are a Brachycephalic breed that sometimes has difficulty breathing. Keeping restraints away from the neck allows for easier breathing and less likeliness for an eager little walker to choke herself.

Comfort: Not only does a harness leave your Boston’s airway unrestricted, but it also offers protection in other ways by relieving pressure on the neck and also easing pressure on the back. A good fitting harness is more comfortable for going for a walk than a collar.

Control: My little Oona Clare likes to change direction suddenly and very quickly and could severely injure herself with a regular collar. Harnesses offer better control because they surround more body area. It’s much easier to pull your dog out of a dangerous situation, such as an oncoming car or aggressive dog, with a harness than just pulling on the neck, causing confusion or physical harm.

Training: A harness is also more effective with training. A collar doesn’t curb forward motion as well as a harness. Tugging doesn’t give the same result to them when their chest is held back. With a little extra work and training, you might even be able to stop this behavior completely.

Safety: I think the most important reason to use a harness is for safety. I mentioned that it’s easier to control your Boston in certain situations, but sometimes the dog herself if the dangerous situation. If she learns that she can stop and back out of a collar to get free, she’ll do it again. A harness prevents this since more of her body is held in and she can’t just slip away.

If you’ve had any kind of dog for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard stories of a dog getting loose and lost, maybe to never be found again. What could be an unimaginable event can so easily be prevented by using the proper leash and harness containment.

Boston Terrier wearing a harness

Choosing the Right Harness for Your Boston Terrier

There are many different types of harnesses on the market, so how do you know which to choose? A good harness for a Boston Terrier should have the following features.

  1. Breathability – Opting for a mesh dog harness means better breathability and less of a chance of overheating. Brachycephalic breeds overheat quicker than other breeds because of that shortened airway.
  2. Durability – Make sure to select a dog harness that matches your dog’s strength. Bostons are small, but they pack a lot of power into their compact frames.
  3. Visibility – Maintaining good visibility is essential for those who like to walk at night. Look for a harness with reflectors so cars can see you if you plan on walking at night.
  4. Ease of Use – If your dog is finicky or impatient about being harnessed, look for an option that can be put on as quickly as possible. Some can be easily stepped into or go easily over the head with just one clasp.
  5. Front Clip – If your dog is prone to pulling, you might want a harness where the leash can clip to the front instead of the back. No-pull harnesses for dogs can help keep your pup from straining and can make your daily walks enjoyable for both dog and owner.
  6. Machine-Washable – You can keep your dog’s harness fresh and clean by picking one that is machine-washable. Not only is a mesh or fabric type easier to clean than something like heavy nylon or leather, but it’s also less likely to irritate a Boston’s sensitive skin under his armpits and across his shoulders.
  7. Secure Handle – A rear handle can help you control your Boston Terrier, especially in emergency situations. Usually, a rear handle is also used as a seat belt attachment when riding a car to keep your dog safe as a bonus feature.
  8. Rings and Clasps – The rings and clasps are two of the most important things to consider in a harness and leash. The ring should be placed in an area where it will not cause constriction on your Boston’s neck. It allows you to control your Boston while protecting them from choking. The clasps should also be secure enough to make sure that your Boston will not escape.

Recommended Harness for Boston Terriers

There are a couple of harnesses I particularly like to use with my Bostie. Both can be stepped into, and Oona Clare has learned to hold up each paw to help me get her into it.

PUPPIA International Puppia Harness Soft B Vest

Puppia has a great soft mesh harness with extra padding for comfort. The size chart has measuring directions to get the right fit.

Amazon.com Chewy.com
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03/07/2024 08:46 pm GMT
Frisco Padded Nylon No Pull Dog Harness

Frisco’s harness has two straps that can be adjusted for a better fit for your dog. It also has a ring on the back and one in front for dogs that pull.

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06/04/2024 12:04 am GMT


Having my own Boston, I think they are one of the best breeds for walking and small enough to be portable for traveling. However, it is extremely important to use the proper restraint system because of their brachycephalic features and this is why a harness is best.

Bostons can vary in size and there are many harnesses to choose from based on safety features and comfort so it should be easy to find one that suits both of you. The right harness will have you and your Bostie enjoying each other’s company for many miles to come.

Katherine Alexander

Katherine is an experienced terrier owner, having owned 3 Boston Terriers over the last 18 years. She currently lives at home in Tennessee with her best friend, a 3 year old Bosty named Oona.

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