To harness or not to harness?
Firstly, let’s start with what is a harness for?
According to marketing its to stop your dog pulling and to give you more control.
Is there ever a time to use a harness?
So when COULD you use a harness?
Some dogs are prone to tracheal collapse and some breeds are more prone than others. Primarily affecting toy breeds of both sexes with Yorkie’s being the most commonly affected. It can occur at any age but usually occurs around the age of 7.
Tracheal Collapse is NOT caused by collars but is either congenital or acquired. However, if you do have a dog who has a diagnosis of Tracheal Collapse than a harness may be beneficial if your dog is a puller to reduce strain on the throat. Or speak to a dog trainer to discover techniques on how to train your dog to not pull.
Another time I would use a harness - in the car, with a dog seatbelt. I would rather have a secure harness pull across their chest if I needed to brake hard than it be attached to a collar and it pulls back on the dog's neck when the dog is thrown forwards. Especially true for the small dogs who can be thrown around more easily.
Do harnesses stop pulling?
From a Dog trainers point of view, no not really, if anything it feels as though it encourages the dog to pull more, in actual fact the dog is pulling the same amount but you have less control so it feels worse. The larger the dog the more trouble you’ll have.
What does pulling do to my dog?
Harnesses are not good for dogs who are reactive on lead. As previously stated you have less control, so when the dog lunges and you pull back you're making the situation worse. You are engaging the dogs' opposition reflex, the more you pull the more he will. The more his brain goes from a level 1 to a level 10 becoming more stressed, angry and heightening chances of an attack.
Dogs pull to tell you where THEY want to go, sometimes its just done in excitement but if it's during the whole walk the dog may feel they have to take the lead because you are not capable of leading.
A dog that walks by your side respects you and trusts your judgement.
But my dog pulls, what can I do?
Firstly, you should correctly teach your dog to walk to heel from a young age, this instils in them the correct manner of walking, once they have got this down to a tee you can train other things such as recall.
However, you might find yourself in a situation where you may be, rescue a dog, or are given a dog in a certain circumstance that has never been taught to walk correctly, should you put a harness on? No, don’t always seek the advice of a professional trainer. Many professional trainers find that while their client means well and obviously loves and cares for their dogs, by the time they get there, the client has bought so many gadgets and gizmo’s to stop pulling that they cannot believe what a trainer achieves within an hour.
What is the correct walking position?
Loose lead walking by your side. More specifically, the dogs front legs should be in line with your legs.
For a pram it is the same, they should be in line with your legs and for a wheelchair they should walk nicely alongside, their legs in line with the centre of the wheel.
So what’s best?
A Collar and a fixed lead! No extendable leads! Why? Because using a lead on a collar makes it easier to redirect the dog, if you guide your dog to the left, as the dogs head moves the dog's body will follow. With a harness you are fighting the dog's whole body weight making it difficult to guide the dog anywhere, instead, you end up dragging or being dragged.