Ruffwear Webmaster Harness Review
I have researched, purchased, tried, used, abused, discarded, experimented with, and cherished SO MANY different kinds of harnesses for dogs, it could be my hobby. I’m fascinated by ergonomics, kinesthetics, movement, safety, visibility, and modalities. My dogs being able to not only enjoy hiking but to thrive on it is important to me.
I’ve had a few different favorites over the years, but my current go-to harness for hiking with my dogs is the Ruffwear Webmaster harness. In this review, which is not sponsored, I’ll share what I’ve discovered as the good, the bad, and the could be better of this harness. All thought and opinions are my own. As always, please consult your veterinarian to be sure your dog is fit enough to hike with you before undertaking any adventures.
Let’s start with an overview of what this thing looks like. Because, let’s be honest, it looks kinda weird. The first thing people notice is the straps. There are a lot of them. While this may make hitching up your dog a bit more complicated, it also means more force distribution.
What is force distribution? I’m glad you asked!
Let’s say, hypothetically, your dog sees a squirrel and leaps to the end of his leash. When he impacts the end of the leash, the force of his body – from both his weight and his acceleration – will slam into the (hopefully) immovable leash. When that happens, whatever that leash is attached to will take the brunt of the load. If that is a simple collar, then, you guessed it, all the force of his squirrel-driven body will be transmitted to his soft sensitive vulnerable neck. Ouch.
If, on the other hand, he is wearing a harness, the force will be transmitted through the straps of that harness and distributed across his body accordingly. This is why fit is SO IMPORTANT in dog harnesses.
Even if your dog doesn’t bolt after things, the constant steady pressure of his leash while hiking can cause wear and strain on his muscles and bones. It’s a very important point to consider when shopping for a harness and why I’ve tried so many. Each harness has a different configuration, each dog has a different body, and each human sizes, fits, and adjusts each harness differently. All of these factors affect your dog’s body.
Think of it like hiking boots for humans. You got through loads of research to find which type of boot you think will work well. You try on numerous brands and sizes of boots. And, when you finally purchase a pair and set out to go hiking, you lace them up and tighten them uniquely each time. All of those factors affect how your feet fare at the end of a hike.
If you take hiking with your dog seriously, you should take his gear seriously. He will thank you for it, and his body will too.
OK, so onto this particular harness.
I always recommend using some type of body harness / Roman harness when hiking. I strongly discourage people from using a step-in harness or a sport harness. Step-in harnesses are atrocious ergonomically and also very easy for dogs to escape from. Sport harnesses usually have a strap that goes across the chest of your dog, and this can cause chafing, rubbing, and shoulder constraint when hiking.
A body harness / Roman harness consists of two “loops” and two connecting pieces. A loop around the barrel (going around the dog’s body just behind his front leg), a loop around the neck, and a connecting piece on top of the dog’s back and one under his belly. Much easier to describe this visually with a picture.
You’ll notice that the Ruffwear Webmaster has an additional strap, behind the dog’s ribcage.
photo credit ruffwear.com
Here’s why I like it:
That extra strap makes it impossible for nearly any dog to pull out of this harness when properly fitted.
The extra strap provides additional force distribution.
The biggest contributor to force distribution in this harness’ design is the expansive piece of material on the dog’s back. The more material, the more distribution. On top of that, it’s at the leash connection point. That big piece of material is doing the most to distribute any force right at the point of connection, so that even less reaches the straps.
The handle on top is seriously invaluable on rough or technical terrain. Being able to “spot” and assist my dogs on boulder strewn paths or steep up/downhill sections is a necessity. It also makes loading, unloading, and any other type of routine or emergency life so much easier.
Lifting your dog, if necessary, is less stressful on their body because of that extra strap supporting their mid-region. You wouldn’t be able to do that with a regular body harness, which is located exclusively on the front half of the dog.
This harness is soft and padded.
The nylon straps are durable and adjustable.
Mostly, though, it’s the configuration and design of this harness that I like.
The not as good:
Even though it costs somewhere between $60 - $80 depending on retailer, the materials in this harness are, in my opinion, a bit cheap. They could definitely be improved or upgraded. That said, it has lasted extremely well for the past several years that I’ve been using it. No tears, rips, or other damage so far.
Sometimes the adjuster sliders on the straps don’t hold their place. I haven’t experienced this on this particular harness (yet), but I’ve had several clients using another Ruffwear harness model that commonly experienced this problem. Not a good problem to have when the harness loosens as your dog pulls.
It could use keepers for the ends of the straps. I haven’t taken the time to rig something, but having some sort of keeper to tuck in or secure the ends of the straps would be helpful. Particularly as my dogs frequently jump into mud or water, and then I have those wet dirty straps flapping about.
The connection points could be improved. The lightweight primary clip-point for the leash isn’t ideally where I’d want it to be located for optimal ergonomics, but it does quite well for walking your dog by your side. You don’t get the full advantage of that third strap when clipping the leash here. However, if you use the attachment point at the very rear of the harness, you do get that advantage. Great for hiking with your dog out in front of you. Downside of that rear attachment point, it’s not a metal clip point. It’s a small nylon loop. Still works, but again, could be improved.
You can see the attachment points in this photo
All in all, this is an excellent harness for hiking with your dog. It’s what I use religiously, and what I recommend for my dog training clients who hike with their dogs.