Many owners complain that they have difficulty in controlling their dogs on walks because of constant pulling. In many cases we find that these dogs are fitted with standard harnesses that are mainly used for tracking and pulling. The harness fits around the dog’s chest and the leash is attached on top. This does not give the handler any extra control over the dog on a walk. In fact, the easiest way of teaching a dog to pull is to put him in a harness.
Since dogs are three (3) times stronger than people, it means that if your dog weight 30kg you have to weigh at least 90kg to be able to hold that dog and not to be pulled away by him. Naturally if the dog weighs 40kg you need to be 123kg or more unless you have learnt dog training techniques.
Harnesses were originally designed for dogs, such as huskies, to pull sledges. The harness enables a dog to use his entire body weight to add to the pulling momentum. It also provides unrestricted freedom for the dog to get its nose to the ground and makes it a useful tool in tracking.
When an untrained dog is fitted with a harness it invariably prompts a pulling reaction from the dog. As the owner pulls backwards in order to slow the dog down, he creates tension between himself and the dog. He is totally unaware that this action actually encourages the dog to pull harder. What he is doing is to teach the dog to pull. In many ways a dog is a “draft animal.” If you pull him he will pull against you and if you push against him, he will push back (Opposition reflex). How often do we not see a handler pushing down on the back of his dog to get him to sit and then for the dog to push back and stand again the moment downward pressure stops.
Harnesses used for walking are mostly made from webbing. The most common are the step in harnesses and the H-back harnesses. It is a personal choice since they are easy to fit. A harness should not be too loose fitting and can cause chafing from the friction. The dog can then reverse or chew himself out of the harness.
Who could benefit from a harness?
Harnesses do offer more security and safety than regular collars. Dogs that can benefit from wearing a harness are those dogs with slightly short noses which can restrict breathing such as in Pugs. It is an ideal alternative to a collar for dogs that are prone to collapsed tracheas (narrowing of the windpipe), such as Yorkshire terriers and poodles and for dogs with throat problems and kennel cough. The very energetic Poms will benefit from wearing a harness. It is also a useful possibility for dogs with slender, elongated necks such as Grey hounds that are too demanding to be kept on a leash during long walks.
A number of specially designed harnesses are presently available in pet stores. They vary from Fancy dress -, Car safety -, armed response -, tracking and anti-pull harnesses etc.
No-pull Training Harness:
The No pull harness is a management tool to curb leash pullers.
The Mikki “Walk Rite” training harness, when fitted fully, is a kind method of control which counteracts any tendency to pull or lunge and teaches the dog controlled and relaxed walking. The stop lines that are attached to the collar pass down behind the dog’s legs and up the front of the chest and can be removed. In this way the dog can be gradually weaned off the stop lines and walk correctly with collar and lead only.
The Sensible Harness and the Sensation Harness are amongst the favourite ones. Do take your pet to the shop to make sure of a good fit when purchasing one and make very sure that you understand fully how to use that particular harness before taking it home.
For leash pullers the anti-pull harness can be very useful aid, especially for women and the elderly who want to walk large breed dogs and do not have the physical strength to control their dogs from being pulled off their feet. However, once they find out how effective this harness can be, they think it is a wonderful training tool. The poor dog then, for the rest of its life, has to always wear a harness whenever it is taken outside. The pulling problem remains because although the harness prevents the pulling, it will not teach the dog to heel or walk nicely without it. If you want your dog to walk on a loose leash or even off-leash, you need to join an obedience class.
It must always be remembered that all of the above are training tools that are removed after training. Your aim must be VOICE control over your dog and NOT to rely on leash control!
See Voice Control article.