A Dog Harness – Really?

Bastian Thoughts

A dog harness | Really?

dog harness pullingAgain it is us, not the dogs, who cause confusion and have interesting ideas. We like gadgets, we like a quick fix, we like something to deal with the problems. In this case I am talking about probably one of the most common issue for dog owners – pulling on the walk. The problem is that we let the pulling behavior develop in the first place. Then we continue to reinforce it and then we want a gadget to make it go away or at least make it more bearable. For some owners anything would do as long as they can stop feeling embarrassed by their dog “choking” itself at the end of the lead.

The miracle for me is how did people come up with a harness as an answer? Ok, it stops the embarrassing and sometimes disconcerting sound of a coarsely breathing dog. That is about all it does. Now, let me ask you a question. What would you put on yourself if you want to pull lots of weight with your body? Exactly, a harness. What would you put on if you want to carry lots of weight? Exactly, a backpack – a contraption not unlike a harness. And finally, what would you put on your dog if you want it to comfortably pull weight? Yes, a harness! Right again. This is very mysterious – so how on earth are these things meant to stop a dog form pulling?

A dog harness | Not an answer, really!

Ok, there are quite a few fancy harnesses available now which try to prevent the pulling by directing the pressure to the legs and away from the chest and shoulders. That’s great, so people can spend more money on them – but they sometimes still don’t work. Yes, a fancy harness can work in stopping the pulling. But the dogs which are physically prevented from pulling can easily get more wound up – they can become more hyper/excited/agitated/nervous. This is because the intent behind the pulling and the energy behind that intent is still there and waiting to be released. Pulling is a symptom, not a cause. A dog which is pulling is making decisions on the walk – I need to be “there” first, I need check this out, whats happening here, who is this, it is not safe etc. What needs to be changed is the dogs mind, the idea of the walk and the dogs role. Your dogs perception of you has to change or you will continue to reinforce the behaviors, even if a harness should physically prevent your dog from pulling.

In order for your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead it needs to exercise a huge amount of self-control. Without that self control your dog will try lead and do its own thing – which is manifested by tension in the lead. You are the one to teach to your dog to walk nicely, to stay with you, to pay attention to you. Your dog should follow your lead and guidance, particularly on the walk. The walk is a great way of mentally stimulating and challenging your dog. At the end of the day we shouldn’t need the lead, it should be slack anyway. A simple collar and lead will do just fine if you change your dogs mind about what the walk is and who is calling the shots.

All this being said, I am sure there are owners out there who have success with using a harness. It is just not very likely and we avoid taking responsibility as we rely on a gadget to do some magic. And it would be so empowering and enjoyable if we learn to be that magic.

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Energy and dog training
Dog control or rather self-control in dogs and owners