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Back Up Gear & Flight Risk Walking Safety

Updated: Apr 2

Back up gear provides an extra level of safety while walking your dog. Some dogs benefit from walking in a harness, training collar, or head halter, but it is not safe to only have a leash attached to these devices. Some harnesses stretch out or are impossible to size “perfectly” for a dog, and dogs can slip out of them. Head halters are a thin piece of fabric with a small clip, and prong collars are made of bendable metal - both devices that may eventually break with normal wear and tear. Additionally, leash clips can fail due to the clip catching on a piece of equipment and sliding open, or the clip can break due to sand/dirt getting caught inside or due to random malfunction. 

Back up gear can protect the WALKING GEAR (harness, collar, halter), the LEASH CLIP, or BOTH. 


If your dog is a flight risk/houdini, we recommend that you be attached to them by a slip collar or martingale sized so that the tight end of the range is snug & thus impossible to get out of. 

Some dogs can be fit to a harness or flat collar and it can be secure/impossible to get out of, but that depends on the proportions of their head/neck or ribs/chest. To test a collar’s snugness, you need to position the dog’s chin straight up and try to pull the collar off. To test a harness’s snugness, you need to extend their elbows and lift the dog’s arms above their head, then try to pull the harness off. (FYI, both of theses tests are very invasive!)

All credits for images that don't belong to me are at the bottom of this article.

The Tests

Regular flat collar test - too loose!

Dog backing out of collar.

Raise a dog's arms up to mimic how dogs "back up out of" harnesses.

Martingale Fit

Limited Slip Collar Fit

"Limited" refers to the fact that there is a tab stopping it from going to a certain tightness.

Unlimited Slip Collar

Regular slip collars do not have stoppers and will never be too loose when engaged.


There are many options!

Double ended leash backs up the training collar and leash clip.

Back up clip/tab/loop back up the primary gear (head halter in this example) AND the leash clip.

Slip lead backs up the head halter but not the leash clip.

This set up backs up the leash clip only.

Long tab backs up back clip harness AND main leash clip.

Carabiner backs up the collar but not the leash clip.

Leash clipped to martingale and harness backs up the harness only.

Back up clip backs up training collar AND leash clip.


These pictures show how you would still be attached to your dog if your primary gear failed.


If sized properly, when not engaged the back up collar should be loose and doing nothing (unless the primary gear came undone/was slipped out of). If the back up gear is too tight, it will prevent the training gear from moving properly. 

Some front clip harnesses' mechanics are changed by this set up & will put pressure into the collar.

This prong collar will get "stuck" when the leash is clipped to both the small martingale and prong.

**This happens a lot with the range of motion for head halters, too.**

The back up clip allows the prong to tighten and slide to the side as normal.


As a professional, I have had many, many dogs back out of their gear or try to while with me - because they were fearful, startled, or trying to get something. I have also had many leash clips fail. Because of these methods (and other factors.....) I have never had to go chasing after a dog who was in my care.

I hope this guide helps! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.


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