Pros: Comfortable, safe design; pulling difficult for dog; leverage for human; easy to use and adjust.
Cons: Possible wear issue on metal back plate and adjacent nylon rope after years of use.
This review is for the Sporn "Mesh Non-Pull Harness" found on their website and in most chain pet supply stores. I clarify this because the item description and photo on Epinions is not the best, but the purchasing links take you to the correct harness.
I have an adult basset hound weighing 55 pounds, and when I adopted him he pulled like a maniac. Bassets have a tremendous amount of strength in their legs, and their low center of gravity allows them even greater leverage for pulling when on lead. It took us trying six different harnesses over almost a year before I found the Sporn non-pull harness, and I do not see the need for another harness ever again.
The harness fabric is nylon or a poly blend with sturdy stitching. It has plastic adjusters for the neck loop, and other fittings that take abuse are made of nickel-plated steel--like the plate that joins all the straps and the ring for the lead attachment. All in all, the build quality is strong and attractive as far as dog harnesses go.
The Problem with Most Harnesses that the Sporn Corrects:
-The Problem with other Harnesses: Some dogs have unusual anatomical builds that do not fit into the cookie-cutter patterns of most dog equipment. The basset hound is one such dog. I had a horrible time finding a harness that rested comfortably on his breastbone and did not either ride up over the bone and choke him or ride down and throw off the rest of the harness’ geometry. Also, the basset being a longer dog, I had trouble finding a harness whose rear fastening straps rode on the ribs instead of encroaching on his front legs or too far back on his soft belly. Many of the problems stem from the fact that a basset hound has the chest and neck of larger dogs but a smaller stomach girth and chest length.
-The Sporn Harness Correction: The amount of adjustability on the Sporn harnesses' neck loop allows the soft mesh part in the front to cradle the breastbone and surrounding area very nicely to provide good, comfortable support when the dog pulls. The front chest area is a crucial point for this harness because when the dog pulls much of the weight is redistributed there. An ill-fitting harness will dig into the skin and cause pain for the dog, which happened on a couple top-mounted harnesses before we started using the Sporn. Also, the amount of adjustability on the rear chest/leg straps which are managed by way of one simple push-button clamp (shown in the photos where the lead attaches) allows for great control over a comfortable fit around the dog's ribcage just behind the front legs and wrapping around the withers—the armpit area. If the dog is short in length, take in more slack; if the dog is long in length, let out more slack—it is that simple with the literal push of a button.
Ease of Fitting:
When you first open the package, you will probably wonder how in the world this harness fits on the dog because there are no plastic snaps like on most harnesses to open up the chest or neck straps. But here is the beauty of this harness in that there is no more hunting down loose straps and snaps and having to make sure the strap is not twisted, etc. After I adjusted the neck loop for my dog, I have not had to readjust it because of it loosening or tightening, mainly because the harness does not put much tension on the neck loop. For the daily process of putting the harness on the dog: 1. You simply push in the button on the chest/leg-strap clamp and raise that clamp all the way to the top of the strap where the lead fastens to the metal ring; 2. Pull down the chest/leg strap slack through the metal fitting that rides on top of the dog's back to where the push-button clamp rests on the metal plate; 3. Part the two chest/leg straps--one on each side--and facing the dog slip the neck loop over his head; 4. Lift one paw and slip over the respective chest/leg strap and repeat on the other leg; 5. Finally, push in the clamp button and while holding the clamp down on the metal plate now resting on the dog’s back, pull up on the metal ring (thus pulling the straps through the plate) to remove excess slack in the chest/leg straps. Clip on the lead and you're ready to go. It took me ten times longer to describe this process than it takes to put on the harness, as this harness is by far the easiest to fit out of any I have used. The other great thing about this system is that you can adjust the amount of tension on the dog's chest and legs by moving the clamp up or down, so you can easily do this while walking with no fussing with adjusters, straps, snaps, etc. Some dogs like more tension while others like less, so this is a handy adjusting system to find that sweet spot without having to stop while walking.
The Harness in Use:
My basset hound did not respond to other non-pull harnesses well at all. We tried chest-mounted harnesses, muzzle harnesses, all kinds of harnesses, and he would either be too uncomfortable to want to walk or act as if the harness was not even there. The muzzle harness worked the best before we started using the Sporn non-pull, but I only wanted to use the muzzle harness for a month to help correct his pulling because I have read and been told by veterinarians that muzzle harnesses are very dangerous for a dog's neck/spine. The first walk with the Sporn harness was successful. With the chest/leg straps adjusted to where they just contact the skin with no tension on the lead, the straps quickly tighten around the armpits like a lasso if the dog attempts to walk out too far. This creates pressure on both the breastbone and around the armpits which in turn creates an uncomfortable but not painful situation for the dog. My dog quickly learned that walking with a loose lead keeps this tension from occurring while pulling creates it. The other thing which I cannot really explain is that the system gives excellent leverage to the human. While other harnesses require more human strength to handle a strong, pulling dog, this harness does not require as much strength. I think it is well suited for those humans who either do not want to use that much strength or who do not have that much strength to use during walks.
Modification of Technique:
After doing some experimenting, I found that pulling the dog off center to the side when giving him/her a correction tug works very well with this harness more so than pulling straight back.
Problems with the Harness:
The only problem with the harness I see after almost eight months of daily use (we go on long walks in the morning and evening) regards wear on the metal plate and the nylon straps that runs through the plate. The plate is nickel-plated steel with chamfered/rounded edges. The nickel around the strap hole and on top of the plate has worn off leaving the copper coat from the plating process. This has not created any danger in the form of sharp edges, but the metal walls on the plate have worn thinner because of this and might one day wear to the point of breaking. This break will probably take years to happen, if it does, but thicker walls around the strap hole would be a better design. Also, the nylon rope shows signs of wear on a four-inch-long section where it runs through the metal plate and where the push-button clamp rests. The rope has not frayed or been cut, but I foresee the rope fraying in this area after more use. The harness is guaranteed for life, so I hope this is all covered under the warranty, although it might not be if it falls under "normal wear" somewhere in the fine print. If they came out with a model that had thicker plate walls and leather chest/leg straps, they would correct these wear issues down the road. But I foresee the harness lasting a couple more years before needing to purchase another one which is longer than I think the other harnesses we tried will last.