We recently discovered a service vest that’s unlike any others I’ve seen. And it’s particularly well suited for families who train their own service dog. This is EzyDog’s Convert Harness. You can find them at EzyDog.com.
The really cool thing about EzyDog’s Convert Harness is that you can get it with custom removable side badges. See that side badge on the harness that says “EZYDOG”? It’s attached with Velcro.
Don’t get confused between what’s a harness and what’s a vest. More often than not the two terms are interchangeable in the service dog world although harnesses are usually made of higher quality materials, they give you better control over your dog, and offer additional functionality as well. Naturally, a good harness is usually more expensive than a vest.
For the sake of entertainment let’s frame the rest of this blog post as if it’s an interview between you and me. You’re the interviewer and I’m the interviewee. You ready? Begin the interview. Oh, and please, no questions asked directly to Lucy, my son’s autism service dog.
You: So what’s the big deal about removable side badges?
Me: Sometimes you want to remove the higher expectations and extra attention that come along with taking a service dog everywhere you go. Removing the side badge that says “Service Dog” removes those things.
You: But having your autism service dog labeled as such is exactly the thing preventing store employees from questioning you about bringing your dog into their store…
Me: Correct. And because of that I wouldn’t remove the side badges in stores, restaurants, etc. I would only remove them when we’re out walking the streets or strolling through the park.
You: What’s the point?
Me: When you have a service dog people love to stop you and talk about it. Not that we’re anti-social, but we don’t want to stop and talk to 20 people in the park. And my son, who has autism, just wants to keep walking. Removing the side badges will stop people from approaching us.
You: Why can’t you just remove the whole harness?
Me: That’s exactly what we used to do. But it’s a lot easier to simply remove the “Service Dog” side badges than to remove the entire harness. And sometimes we don’t have a collar on Lucy, so the lead (leash) attaches to the harness. If we remove the whole harness/vest then how do we keep the dog on a leash?
You: I’ll ask the questions here. Ummmmm, what advantages other than the removable side badges does EzyDog’s Convert Harness offer over vests and other harnesses?
Me: Many things. This piece of equipment is a high quality harness, unlike many service dog vests that are akin to wrapping your canine in a doggie t-shirt. I’m seriously impressed with this harness. Here, I’ll list a few of the more impressive features.
- The Convert Harness comes with a small handle on top for quick, direct control of your dog. That handle is magnetic and so it lays down when not in use. The previous harness we had on Lucy had a handle that always stayed up and flopped around. I thought about cutting off the darn thing! I love the magnetic handle!
- Reflective material and reflective piping all over. We take night walks. My son loves walking and when we’re out in the neighborhood the reflective qualities of the Convert Harness will make us more visible and keep us all safe from cars.
- LED light mount on one side of the harness so your dog can tote his or her own flashlight! Walking his dog and holding a flashlight are a little much for my son. Remember, he has autism. So putting the light on Lucy is perfect! That said, it’s a bit more of a novelty than a really useful feature. Lucy’s fur and her head get in the way of the light.
You: Who says my autism service dog has to wear a harness or vest?
Me: Nobody. Nothing in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) specifies that your service dog must wear a vest. Nothing. It’s strictly a courtesy. But it’s a courtesy that will save you time in having to explain your kid’s dog is a service animal to every business you walk into. For that reason we choose to outfit Lucy in a service vest/harness.
You: You said this harness is particularly well suited for families who train their own service dog. How so?
Me: Service dogs trained by places like North Star Foundation and Autism Services Dogs of America are much better trained than dogs that families train themselves. I’m convinced of that. As such, sometimes Lucy, my son’s autism service dog, can let her hair down and act more like a pet. We trained her ourselves and especially at home she acts like any other dog. As I said above, removing the “Service Dog” side badges removes expectations. Removing the added expectations also removes pressure and makes us, the parents, more comfortable. If your service dog is trained by a foundation you probably won’t notice much of a difference. But experience has taught me that when the dog is self-trained you’ll dig having the ability to remove the side badges.
Also, dogs trained by foundations tend to be totally docile and are extremely attentive to their handler. Self-trained dogs can be a little less attentive. For example, Lucy loves squirrels. When she sees one of those delicious little furry appetizers running up a tree it gets her attention. No, she doesn’t bolt after it, but it gets her attention and turns her head a little. The Convert Harness gives you extra control over your dog in those situations. That is a comfort also.
You: OK, ummmmm, well… did you find any flaws or things that EzyDog could improve with this harness?
Me: As I’ve indicated, I think this is an excellent harness and it’s difficult to find any faults with it, but if EzyDog is looking for ways to improve it they could use chrome D-rings instead of the black ones currently in use. Paint chips off the black rings but chrome rings have no paint so they don’t chip. The moment we took our brand new harness out of the package the black D-ring had chipped paint. This was before we had ever used it. It’s only going to get more chipped with continued use.
Also, the manufacturer notes that this harness is made to not rotate. In other words it shouldn’t spin or twist to one side, but it should stay fitted nice and proper. In an ideal world with an ideally trained dog and a perfect handler I’m sure it lives up to that billing. But leashes get pulled on and Lucy’s harness twists a bit. I think EzyDog could possibly solve this issue by installing an additional D-ring off-center and turning both D-rings 90 degrees (with one of them positioned somewhat on the right side of the harness).
The softer, less abrasive side of the Velcro is what’s permanently sewn onto the Convert Harness. That’s the side of Velcro that wears out. If you pull the side badges on and off with much frequency, before long it will stop sticking. EzyDog should sew on the the opposite portion of Velcro. Then, when the badges stop sticking you’ll only have to replace the badges, rather than the harness itself.
To EzyDog’s credit not one harness/vest we’ve used has stayed right and proper. They all get pulled and so they all twist slightly to the right. No harnesses have an alternate D-ring installed off-center. They all have a single D-ring installed directly on top. Maybe it’s time for EzyDog to break the mold?
For my family the decision is an easy one. We’ll go with the Convert Harness from EzyDog.com.
For the sake of being upfront and transparent you should know that Autism Epicenter was given a Convert Harness from EzyDog for evaluation purposes. It is now the only harness/vest we use on Lucy. Hey, I can’t tell you about a product I’ve never seen, touched, or used! But, as you read, I point out the positive things and I also discuss the things that could be improved.