By: Chris Pearcey
There are many tools on the market that can help you teach your dog not to pull on walks. In a previous post, I discussed head harnesses. Another option is a body harness, but it is important to know that all body harnesses are not built equally.
Choosing a Body Harness
If you are hoping to reduce pulling on walks, choose a body harness that allows you to hook the leash to the front of your dog’s chest.
Walking your dog on a harness with the leash attached on the dog’s back between the shoulder blades can encourage pulling. If your dog likes to pull, this type of harness will make it much more comfortable to do so. While I would rather a dog pull in a harness than on a collar around his/her neck, I would really rather a dog learn not to pull at all, and an appropriate body harness can help with that training.
The harness that I recommend is the Easy Walk, but there are several others out there that seem to perform well. I like the Easy Walk because it is almost infinitely adjustable—and I dislike the Easy Walk for the same reason. Fitting the harness for the first time can be a bit of a challenge.
There are excellent videos online to help you properly fit the harness. You might also consider asking a qualified dog trainer or other pet professional to help you.
If the harness is too loose, the dog has the freedom to ignore the communication coming down the leash from you. If the harness is too tight, it can chaff.
It is best to purchase a separate harness for each dog in the family and have it fitted to each individual dog. Always remember that some adjustment may be needed if the harness gets wet and stretches, and as it becomes broken in.
As with the head harness, you’ll need to use a regular leash, not a flexi (retractable) leash.
When your dog pulls ahead of you, the body harness will pull them around to face you. Your dog will learn that when the leash tightens at his/her chest, it is time to slow down and pay attention. Dog learn that pulling doesn’t do any more than turn them around back to where they started.
If you use a flexi, or retractable, leash with a head harness, you will be training your dog to work against the instructions he/she is receiving from the harness. There is constant pressure from the leash, so eventually, the dog will learn to ignore the pressure because it is meaningless.
As with other training tools, have treats ready as your dog learns what is expected. If your dog is in the correct position, walking nicely and not pulling, praise your dog and give treats. When your dog starts to associate praise and treats with walking, he/she will start checking in with you more often, and the connection begins to build. With training, your dog learns to check in with you constantly and make adjustments.
A body harness will allow you to work with your dog on proper leash etiquette without potentially damaging their neck. It will allow you to give clearer signals to your dog and ultimately enjoy your walks.
Image courtesy of Amazon.
Chris Pearcey is a Certified Behavior and Training Specialist working in Central Texas. She has worked with dogs and their owners to improve their relationships since 2006. Feel free to contact her at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org.