I often get asked, will a harness stop a dog from pulling? In all these years, I have worked as a dog trainer, I have yet to see a single harness that can stop a dog from pulling….but a harness does help to reduce it.
You can’t just buy a harness and expect it to do all the works no matter how miraculous the harness might be. To stop dog pulling, you also need to know about behavior training. By far behavior training is the best method to teach your dog to stop pulling and the dog harness is one of the best tools to aid in behavior training.
Why Do Dogs Pull on The Lead?
Before we continue, let’s discuss first the main reason why dog pulls. You know, I used to think years ago, the main reason why my dog pulls because he challenged my authority — the myth that is heralded by so many dog trainers, media, and TV show. So, back then I was thinking, the way to stop my dog pulling was to subdue him somehow.
Well today, I’m ashamed to acknowledge my erroneous thought. Your dog can pull for many reasons but most can be put into a single answer “excitement” or even “nervousness”. So when your dog pulls that doesn’t mean they want to challenge you, it just means they want to go forward or faster, and indeed, they are built to walk or run faster than humans.
Recognizing the difference between these two trains of thoughts are important since they affect the outcome of the training result later on.
How to Stop a Dog Pulling?
We have talked before that the best way to stop dog pulling is through behavior training with a dog harness. Now, some of you might be asking why do we have to use a harness?
From our experience, a harness is the best tool to help stop your dog from pulling. One of the reasons is because it takes the pressure off the neck.
All humans have experienced a phenomenon known as thigmotaxis which is when you make an equal and opposite response against certain pressure. For example, when your friend leans against you, you will automatically lean into them with equal pressure so you won’t tumble.
Your dog experiences the same phenomenon when they use a dog collar. The tightening of the leash actually pulls your dog off balance and they, therefore, have a natural tendency to pull back to balance themselves. Pressure on the neck also restricts breathing, increasing anxiety, and potentially blowing damage to the neck, the throat, and spine. That is one reason why so many dogs getting choked and coughing as they pull as hard they can against the collar.
A good harness takes all the pressure off the neck and distributes the pressure evenly to the chest and/or back.
The Type of Harness That You Need
There are many types of dog harnesses in the market, but from my experience, no-pull harness works best for managing your dog’s pulling behavior. We have reviewed some of the best harnesses in our previous articles that you might want to refer to:
As for the dog collars, many dog owners prefer to use a head collar such as a Gentle Leader to train polite walking. Some brands even include training DVD so you can watch it from the comfort of your home and do the training.
- Vet and trainer recommended: Created by a veterinary behaviorist over 30 years ago, the gentle leader headCollar puts pet parents in control of the leash
However, I must warn you, many dogs find head collars strongly unpleasant. It’s hard to accustom your dog to wear it even with the help of a training DVD.
If you need one, I would suggest to seek help from a professional trainer and ask him to accustom your dog to wear it. Rather than the head collar, a plain buckle collar is a better option.
- Neck 12"-16", Width 5/8", Size Small; The collar does not stretch itself, please make sure leave ONLY 2 fingers between collar and dog neck. A properly fitting collar and harness won't leave any room for your dog to chew.
Dog Behavior Training to Stop Dog Pulling
Before you learn to train your dog to stop pulling, there are two things that you need to remember first. You need to be very patient and generous. And the second thing is you will find it easier to train a tired dog. So, it’s always a good idea to get your dog some aerobic exercise before each training session.
Be a Tree Technique
There are two training techniques that are commonly used by dog trainers to train a dog to stop pulling. The first is the popular “Be a Tree” technique. Basically, whenever the leash gets tight, you just freeze and come to a dead halt until your dog comes back toward you to loosen the leash then the walk resumes.
However, in my perspective, this is not the best training technique because it’s only a management technique but not a behavior training technique. It does prevent your dog from receiving a reinforcement for the wrong behavior, but it does not reinforce the appropriate walking behavior.
A much better training technique is penalty yards. With this training technique –– you need to set a goal for your dog; it could be a biscuit or their favorite dog toy or favorite person. With your dog on a leash, you move forward toward the goal. Whenever they pull forward and tighten the leash, say “Stop!’ and move back to the starting point.
Repeat the process all over again until they successfully keep the leash loose on the way to the goal. This is why you need to be very patient if you want to be successful in this training technique.
After your dog successfully learns the in and out of penalty yards technique, your next job is to continually reinforce this positive behavior whenever you walk with your dog. If your dog takes a step in parallel with you, say “Yes!” and give them the treat to mark their good behavior.
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