Introduction: Hoomin Harness

My big dog Galileo has been jumping at cars again and my shoulder can't take it any more. Since I have more core strength than arm strength, I thought I'd leverage that with this project-a waist-belt stabilized leash.

The first attempt was a flop (I didn't put a swivel on it so it got all twisted up, the thread I used snapped at our first encounter with a loud car and the parachute clamp center slit gave way when we saw our mastiff friend up the street.)

The version I'll guide you through is much stronger. So far it's held up to a week of 'Leo's attempts to get the upper paw on the mastiff, deer, Harleys and even that cadre of evil squirrels in the park that threaten our freedom and the American way of life.

As always, there are a few disclaimers:

  • If you have a particularly big dog or a weak core, this isn't a good project for you.
  • This leash won't give you superhuman strength or magic traction abilities. If your dog can pull you over or make you slide on certain surfaces with a conventional leash, the same will happen with this just from a different angle.
  • Never run across a busy street with this leash. That bears repeating: NEVER RUN ACROSS A BUSY STREET WITH THIS LEASH. Doing so could be dangerous or deadly to you and your dog. Always wait for a break in traffic or cross at a controlled intersection.
  • Finally, as with all DIY projects, QA is on the maker. Don't skip steps, don't cheat sizes, don't try to get away with using too few stitches or use so many stitches that you perforate the straps, and if you're in doubt that something is good enough, TRY AGAIN. If there are a cheap version and an expensive version of a part you need on the wall at the store, the cheap one will probably get Rover run over. Regularly inspect all the parts and connections and if something is fraying or showing signs of functional wear, replace the part or the whole thing.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

To make this you will need (pictured top to bottom, right side):

  • A 2" parachute clip
  • A swivel hook
  • A carabiner ("quick link")
  • Several feet of 2" wide web strapping (the kind used on commercial dog leashes and mountaineering harnesses)

Optional slide handle (right side)

  • 2 feet of 1" wide web strapping (for optional guide handle)
  • 1 locking slide clamp (also for optional guide handle)

Not Pictured

  • Outdoor thread, (This is important-my first attempt was with "All purpose" thread and that snapped at car one.)

Tools are very simple:

  • Needle (heavy, with eye wide enough to accommodate the outdoor thread.)
  • Shears
  • Thimble (optional.)

You could, if you wanted, try to use a sewing machine, but unless you have one that is much heavier duty than mine (like say on an industrial scale, the kind used to sew tents and bunker coats and such) I predict tears.

Step 2: The Hoomin End

Decide on the length of the leash by adding 7" to the girth of the person who will be walking the dog at the level that they feel they'll be able to best anchor the dog (roughly their waste size) and adding to that the maximum distance you want the dog to get from you (generally about 30"-48".) You want enough room between the two of you that you won't be kicking her hind paws with each step, but not so much that if she decided to jump that she'd be able to build any significant inertia.

Cut your 2" web strap at that length, and measure in three inches from one end of the 2" strap. Disconnect the two halves of the parachute latch and insert the strap through the front of the slit of the forked half of the latch, then fold the 3 inch section in half and then fold it down onto the inside of the strap as in pictures 1 and 2.

Sew the three layers of the strap together with a boxed-X pattern (Img. 3.) When you're done, this end should look like picture 4. Don't get fancy-a back stitch is all you need for any stitch in this project.

Next, slide the free end of the strap down through the quick link, then through the slit on the female end of the parachute clamp, then back on itself through the quick link again. Make sure that the female end of the parachute clamp is oriented to take the forked end correctly so as to form a belt (Pic. 5.) (Also sorry about the glare. My parachute clamp came with a reflector, and it's safer to leave it on than take it off.)

Step 3: The Optional Slide Handle

If you choose to add this feature, now is the time to do it. Adding it later isn't a good option. To make the optional slide handle to the leash, insert the strap length through the opening of the locking slide clamp.

Make sure that the open "jaw" of the slide clamp is facing the belt made in step 2 (Pic. 1.)*

Run the 2' length of 1" strap through the static slits of the slide clamp (Pic. 2) then overlap 1" of one end of the strap and fold it back on itself so the the two ends are flat against each other (Pic. 3) and again using the boxed-X pattern, sew the folded 3-layer square flat (Pics 3&4.) I like having the sewn tab flush against the slide clamp as in picture 5 for comfort, and it probably adds a little stability that way.

*Using the style of slide clamp pictured, if the open jaw faces the dog-end of the leash, any tension at all on the handle will open it and render it useless.

Step 4: The Pooch End

Measure in 4" from the free end of the strap. This is where the swivel hook will go, but if you just put it on at full spread you'd have a frayed end and a freed dog pretty quickly. Pinch the sides together at this point (Pic. 1) and put a single stitch through the edges so the strap forms a tube section, kind of like a rolled tongue. Then flatten the tube so that the stitch is centered to the width of the strap (Pic. 2) and sew the folded piece flat across the first stitch at the 4" mark.

Slide base of the swivel hook down the length of the strap to the stitch (Pic. 4) then fold the outside end at the point half way between where the sides of the flattened tube become the full two inches across and the end (Pic. 5.) Fold this end over the base of the swivel hook and true it up against the strap to the inside of the swivel hook (Pic. 6) then sew the three layers of the strap together with the same boxed-X pattern as before. When you're done, this end should look like picture 7.

Step 5: Use

At this point your Hoomin harness is ready. Belt yourself in and strap the swivel clamp to the dog's harness. If you're using a plain neck collar (or a barbaric choke collar) rather than a chest-and-foreleg harness, remember that it's very easy to pull the collar off of the dog (doing substantial damage to the skin in the case of the choke) using core strength rather than arm strength and that this can be dangerous in high traffic situations or if your dog is prone to escape attempts. (Hint: if your dog is very large or powerful, you may want to augment his end of the harness with another quick link. Leo has charged through more than one of the supplied D-rings on his harnesses.)

If you added the handle, remember to keep it as near the swivel end of the leash as possible and pull directly upwards on it for any breaking effect (sort of like in the opening photo to this 'ible.) Pulling against it with any significant inertia from an angle of less than about 80º is going to result in it sliding away from the dog and toward you. It can be used pretty effectively as a steering mechanism at the lower angles though.

Walk with a confident stride and stop with a medium-wide, springy stance (feet under or outside of your shoulders, knees bent and weight in your leg muscles, not joints.) To stop a jump attempt, you may wish to brace with one foot forward and one behind. Don't lock your legs-keep them loose.

Also, and this is very important, when using this leash (and really any time) PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Having your hands free makes it tempting to be oblivious to your environment. I made my leash to save my shoulder from a painful surgery and Galileo from his own worst instincts-not so that I could get the two of us run over while I was sending a text message.

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