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Dog owners wanted for research into how harness designs affect movement

Researchers are appealing for help from dog owners to help understand how harness designs affect dog movement.

person walking a dog with a harness down a street
Researchers will explore the types of equipment people use to walk their dogs

The team, from Harper Adams University and Nottingham Trent University (NTU), are undertaking work which aims to enhance understanding of the types of equipment people use to walk their dogs and the impact of harness design on movement in adult dogs when walking.

The first part of this work is open to all dog owners (over the age of 18 years) anywhere in the world.

The research team - Dr Ellen Williams and graduate researcher Violet Hunton from Harper Adams University, and Dr Anne Carter and Dr Jacqueline Boyd from NTU - are asking dog owners to complete a short survey.

Questions are related to the activities owners do with their dog and the kind of dog equipment they use to walk their dogs. This work will lead to increased understanding of the preferences of dog owners for different types of dog walking equipment, and from where information and advice is sought when choosing equipment.

Dr Ellen Williams, lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Harper Adams University, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to understand customer buying preferences and how they are shaped by market knowledge. Anyone who owns a dog is warmly invited to take part.”

For the second part of the study, the project team is seeking owners of pure-bred Labrador Retrievers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, French Bulldogs and Cocker Spaniels between the ages of two and eight.

This part of the study will help them examine how different walking harnesses affect movement.

Participating dogs will be walked over a pressure sensing mat in three different harness designs. Data collection will be undertaken over one day between May and July. Those taking part will be able to attend sessions at Harper Adams University, Nottingham Trent University or at Canactive in Tewkesbury. Anyone wishing to participate can do so by completing a registration form.

Dr Jacqueline Boyd, senior lecturer in Animal Science in NTU’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said: “Harnesses are an increasingly popular way to keep our four-legged friends safe and under control. This project will help us to understand whether there are any implications of different harness designs on canine biomechanics in some of the most popular breeds in the UK.”

Dr Anne Carter, senior lecturer in Animal Science at NTU, added: “This is really important in helping owners to make informed decisions about harnesses that are most suitable for their dog, and will help ensure canine welfare is not compromised by harness design.”

The team have previously undertaken research of canine movement to help understand how dogs physically respond when taking part in activities such as agility and working trials. If you would like further information about previous research or the harness design trial please contact Ellen Williams.