Julius-K9 started as a small, Hungarian family business in 1997, and since then, they have sold more than 7 million products - many to police units and for service dogs. They are also one of the few companies that do extensive testing on their products and conduct researches to understand better what works best for the dogs.
Mantrailing is when a search dog is looking for a specific person's scent. These dogs work on a long leash and maintain leash pressure while following the person's trail to locate the person.
You can think about a mantrailing harness as a specific mix of a pulling harness and a short harness. To be functional, it has to distribute the pressure on the chest and not put weight on the trachea even when the dog is sniffing the ground. This harness also has flexible elements to eliminate some tugging on the leash, but it still allows the handler and the dog to communicate through leash pressure.
The regular Y-harnesses with a leash attachment on or right behind the shoulders tend to rotate and pressure the lower neck when the dog pulls. To avoid this, pulling (canicross or mushing) harnesses have the leash attachment back at the base of the tail.
This harness has the leash attachment point between these two solutions to allow good pressure distribution while still maintaining control over the dog. Having the leash attached to the middle of the dog also helps avoid the dog getting tangled in the leash.
Note: We received the original version of the Mantrailing harness that we reviewed in this article. Julius-K9 updated the design and sent us the newer version to test and review as well. Below you can read the general information of the design and everything you need to know about the older version, while there is another section below on how the new version is different.
It's easy to see that the Mantrailing harness has a unique design. Having two separate “plates” on the back is an innovative approach that allows you to apply additional adjustments to create the ideal fit.
The position of the first plate closer to the neck is there to ensure that the neck straps go above the shoulder, not to restrict it. The second plate is there so that you can adjust the angle of the chest straps. You can use the slider between the two backplates to move the second one farther away, changing the angle of the chest straps.
With mantrailing, good pressure distribution on the chest is crucial since you want to protect the neck while the dog is sniffing the ground. The angle of the chest straps helps to direct the pressure to the chest instead of making the harness slide up on the neck.
The large chest pad is also an essential part of this harness since, as we discussed, the constant pulling force needs to be distributed on the chest.
This harness has four buckles and five adjustment points, which significantly help to get an optimal fit. The buckles on the neck-straps are great for big-headed dogs, so the straps don't need to be re-adjusted every time the harness needs to be pulled over their head.
The heavy-duty back buckle is connected to an elastic strap that you see bulk up in the photo below. When there is pressure on the leash, it gives a little elasticity to the tugging, similarly to the Longwalk harness. There is a gif made by Julius-K9 showing how the elastic section works.
The stainless steel ring closer to the neck can be used for short leash walking. You can cover it with the hook and loop cover when not in use to avoid getting caught on something in dense vegetation.
The harness's inside material seems to be very similar to their Longwalk harness. It is not padded, but it doesn't soak in any water or mud in return, and it's easy to rinse clean.
The sizing of the chest plate on the old design wasn't ideal for Mia: it was too wide between the front legs, rubbing against the inside of the legs. While the design is narrowing between the legs, when Mia steps, her legs are still chafing on the chest pad. The width and angle of the chest panel also make the harness cover Mia's shoulder joints which wouldn't be ideal while doing mantrailing. It was also weird that although I felt that the harness is altogether a little big for Mia, the chest plate's length still wasn't enough to clear her armpits completely.
The biggest difference between the two versions is that the new one has a narrower and longer chest plate. This way it leaves plenty of room behind the shoulders and not rubbing the armpits.
In the photo below, you can see the new one on top and the older one below. The size of the backplate is different because we had a medium from the old and a small from the new one. Another thing worth noting is how the velcro panel is much smaller on the small size.
Another change is that the ring on the backplate closer to the neck got replaced with a light attachment point. The light that fits here will also be available through Julius-K9 in the future.
As you can see below, this harness fits Mia much better altogether. All the flaws we mentioned when reviewing the older version are fixed here. The narrow chest plate fits above her shoulders perfectly, doesn't rub the inside of the front legs, and leaves plenty of room behind the front legs.
The new harness's chest plate material is also different: it feels lighter and softer than on the original version. I only wish there would be room for a larger velcro patch on the Small harness.
Let's start by saying that if you are looking for a versatile, multi-purpose harness, an escape-proof harness, or one that you can use for off-leash hiking, this will not be your top choice. This harness was designed with a particular goal in mind and has awesome tweaks to be perfect for that. This also means that it will be a little weird and impractical to use for other activities.
Although this harness was not meant to be used for anything other than mantrailing, we tested out a little bit for off-leash searching in the woods. I liked the visibility and that it doesn't soak in any mud or water.
It stayed in place reasonably well off-leash (especially the newer version), but as you see in the photo below, the two backplates tend to pull together when there is no leash pressure. The same will happen if your leashed dog needs to be dragged forward because this design was meant to be used for trained dogs who maintain constant forward pulling on the leash.
As mentioned above, this harness was designed for mantrailing dogs, not for other adventures/sports, but we will quickly go through our usual functionality review.
• No-pull: It does not have a no-pull front ring, and it was meant to be used for the opposite.
• Running/biking (as an irregular hobby, buy specific equipment if you want to get into it seriously): Technically, you could give it a try, but it will slide up if your dog is not constantly pulling and it is not padded enough for serious pulling sports.
• Hiking: Dogs can easily back out from this if they want to, and they would slide out if you try to lift them by this harness. You could use it for hiking on a leash, but it was not designed for that.
• City walk: Not ideal.
• Easy to put on/adjust: All straps are adjustable! It takes a while to properly adjust them for the first time but once it's done, it's easy to put on. You can opt for only using the chest buckles and pull it over the head or also using one of the buckles on the neck strap to avoid pulling it over an anxious dog's head or if the dog has a big head.
• Visibility: It is a very visible harness! Besides the neon coloring, it also has reflective edges all around.
This is a brilliant harness for a specific activity - mantrailing. You could use it for other activities for some dogs, but it will not be ideal. The design of the harness will seem to be off without the leash pressure on it.
All the cons we mentioned in this review are related to the old version not fitting Mia's narrow chest well, and they were all fixed with the updated design. About the pros: We love the visibility, the all-around adjustability, the place for velcro texts, and mainly that the material is durable and doesn't soak anything in! This harness was designed by people who actually worked with mantrailing dogs and was field-tested by search teams.
You can buy all Julius-K9 products on their website and can probably also find retailers and stores in your country. When publishing this review, some countries already have the new version of this harness while others still sell the original design.
Many of you asked Mia's measurements to better understand the different products’ fit. Your best chance of finding a good fitting gear is always to measure (and remeasure) your dog. Even we grab the measuring tape before getting a new product - even though we tested a lot of them, and have a good feeling of her size by now.
I share her measurements below, but don't go ahead and order the same size just because your dog is similar to Mia ;)
• Shoulder height: 19.5 inches (50 cm)
• Weight: 37-44 pounds (17-20 kg)
• Widest chest circumference (where the most harness would have the chest strap): 25-26 inches (63-65 cm)
• Neck circumference for collars: 15-16 inches (38-40 cm)
• Back lengths: 22 inches (56 cm)