Harness the Love - Tips for On-Leash Walking September 2016

Training a dog to walk on a loose leash is one of the biggest challenges most dog owners face. The need for consistency is paramount, however when you are trying to be consistent with an activity that your dog needs at least 3 times a day to do their business and get exercise, it doesn’t always happen. Life is busy and gets in the way and that is why the invention of the “no-pull” harness has been a life saver (literally) for many dogs and owners. Walks can become more pleasurable and manageable in an instant without causing the dog pain or stress which means that owners will be more likely to take the dog out for regular walks which leads to less behavioural problems and less dogs surrendered to shelters. When I worked full-time as a dog walker I worshipped no-pull harnesses since it was impossible for me to train my client's dogs when I only saw them once a day. No-pull harnesses saved my arms, back and maybe even my life the many times my group walk of 4-5 large dogs would lunge at squirrels in unison (see photos above and below).

The Debate:

There is a lot of dispute over the best gear to walk your dog on and it often centres around an argument about how strong and tough a dog’s neck is. Some trainers and owners claim that dog’s necks are thicker skinned and/or have more muscle then we humans do and so collars will not cause any damage. In actuality dog's necks are anatomically quite similar to our own. Their thyroid gland, trachea and esophagus are all in relatively the same position sticking out at the front of their neck. If you don’t believe me please take a second to feel your own throat, then reach down and feel your dogs throat. Besides the presence of fur, they feel virtually the same. Now imagine this, If you had to be tethered to a slow walking and unpredictable chaperone EVERY time you went outside, would prefer it to be attached to a harness on your torso or a collar around your throat?

These same trainers and owners will also often dispute harnesses saying that they encourage pulling. I see the flip side, that collars discourage pulling because they are uncomfortable. Often times the sensation of a flat collar is actually not uncomfortable (punishing) enough compared to how rewarding (reinforcing) new smells, or getting to the dog park is and so a dog will still pull on a flat collar despite the discomfort they may feel. This is often when owners will resort to even more extreme (more punishing) collars such as choke or prong that cause even more discomfort (pain) which are more likely trump any of the rewards for pulling. Since (ideally) a harness does not feel uncomfortable when a dog puts pressure on it, the dog is certainly more likely to pull, but to say that harnesses “encourage pulling” is a misnomer.

It is important to note that if not properly sized and fitted ANY harness can restrict natural movement and/or cause discomfort (watch out for the armpits) so please keep that in mind and find the best fit for your dog.

No-pull harnesses are not just for big dogs, they work great on all sizes!

The Harnesses:

The Ruffwear Front Range Harness attached to the front clip only despite it being a "Two in One" option.

To learn more about harness options or the "Harness the Love" campaign please visit the official website