Julius-K9 started as a small, Hungarian family business in 1997, and since then, they 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.
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 back plates 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 on 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. When not in use, you can cover it with the hook and loop cover 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.
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.
We tested out a little bit for off-leash searching in the woods out of curiosity because I liked the visibility and that it doesn't soak in any mud or water. It stayed in place reasonably well, but as you see on the second photo below, the two back plates tend to pull together when there is no leash pressure, also making the chest straps slide into the armpits. 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.
The sizing of the chest plate wasn't ideal for Mia, but we have to mention that the design was slightly updated since we received it. The chest plate is a little narrower and more streamlined on the new design, which should solve the problems discussed below.
For Mia, the chest plate 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 lengths of the front section still wasn't enough to clear her armpits completely.
Having the four buckles technically makes it possible to mix and match panels from different sizes if your dog has a unique build that could help overcome these issues.
As we mentioned above, this harness was designed for mantrailing dogs, not for pets out on adventures but we will quickly go through our usual functionality review here as well.
• 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 back out from it and slide out if you try to lift them by this harness. You could use it for hiking, but it is not an ideal option because it will slide around on the dog.
• City walk: Not ideal. You could use the first ring closer to the neck for better control, but then the harness will just slide around and behave like a loose collar.
• 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.
• 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 harness not fitting Mia's narrow chest well. I saw some graphics of the new design, and I believe that the changes should solve most of these problems. I would also like to try the smaller size for Mia. The medium was the smallest size available when we received this harness, and I feel the Small could fit her better. If we end up trying the new design or smaller size, I will update this review and compare the different versions!
About the pros: We love the visibility, the all-around adjustability, the place for velcro texts, and mainly that the material is durable and it doesn't soak anything in! This harness was designed by people who actually work with mantrailing dogs and was field-tested by search teams. As far as I know, this is the only harness designed explicitly for mantrailing dogs.
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)