Having the right equipment is really important for both walking and training your dog. So should you use a harness?
Harnesses come in a few varieties and styles and like so many things in life, whether you should use it really depends on your goal. If we’re just talking about walking the dog, there are a couple of things to consider. Firstly, does your dog pull on the leash when walked? If so, a standard harness that the lead attaches to at the back will only make it easier for your dog to pull, giving the dog even more strength. That’s why sled dogs are hitched up with harnesses – so that they can pull comfortably!
Unfortunately, if your dog is a strong puller and you use a collar and the dog is constantly pulling on the collar, this can cause damage to their neck over time so we don’t want that either. So if you use a training collar (like I do) it’s important that you actually train the dog to walk nicely so that the leash is kept loose and the pressure is kept off the neck. If you can’t or don’t want to put time into training the dog not to pull and are going to let the dog pull, stick with the harness so that at least the pressure is off the neck. In this case, you may want to look into an anti-pull harness where the leash attaches to the front of the harness.
Of course, there are many other training tools and pieces of equipment sold to address pulling and I can’t address every one in this article but I will say this: ANY piece of walking equipment can cause discomfort if used incorrectly and if you allow your dog to pull without training, the dog will continue to pull no matter what you use.
So should you use a harness? Sometimes! I personally like using a harness for certain exercises where I want the dog to pull (or if I don’t mind whether they pull) such as when they run next to the bicycle or when we do a restrained recall exercise. But for a pleasant walk I use a training collar. You can teach your dog that on the training collar, they are not allowed to pull, but when the harness is on they can pull in certain situations. Dogs can learn that certain equipment means certain rules. Think of assistance dogs and sniffer dogs that know they are in work mode when their work vest or harness is on. Pretty cool!
If you want your dog to stop pulling, a standard harness won’t help this in most cases and can actually make it even more difficult to stop your dog from pulling. But at the end of the day, teaching your dog not to pull with a combination of the right gear and the right training is usually the best way to go. If you need more help to teach your dog to walk nicely, give me a call!