Harnesses … are they really all that?
If you’ve ever taken one of my puppy classes you’ll know I’m a huge fan, more than a huge fan actually, of harnesses. This is both from a health and behavioral point of view.
Think they’re a new thing? Nope… This is my Dad over 80 years ago.
Back clip harnesses are great if you want your dog to pull or be out in front. With a back clip harness you are setting your dog up to pull, and pull with gusto. Ever see a sled dog team, or even a skijoring team out on Mill Creek? A back clip harness allows a dog to lean into the webbing on their chest and use their muscle mass to pull the ‘weight’ behind them. If the weight is you and you are on skis, more power to you. However if you are looking to teach loose leash walking this might not be the right combination.
The exception is a ‘sweet petite’ dog, rear clip netting harnesses seem to work fine, and they offer comfort and support.
Side and chest clip harnesses are great choices if you have a dog that pulls but you are working on polite walking. Chest clip or side clip harnesses are a bit more effective because of the positioning of the clip on the leash. If the leash is clipped into the chest area or side, when the dog (or our super puller puppies) lean into the webbing, they are generally turned slightly to the side and can’t put that much ‘umph’ into it. Walking becomes a pleasure rather than a chore.
Does a chest clip harness teach a dog to ‘not pull’? Not at all, that is the handlers job, however with a harness you will have more of your dogs brain and a better opportunity to do some good teaching while out and about. The EZ-X and the FREEDOM are my two choices.
When a dog feels tightness or tension on the neck a reflex called ‘oppositional reflex’ kicks in, meaning they will reflexively try to get away from the tightness on their neck. If you are holding onto the leash this prohibits dogs from getting away from the tightness. When a handler pulls their dog back in frustration the dog will usually pull a bit harder next time.
Harnesses allow for a ‘tension free neck area’ so you are never working against this reflex. Walks are traditionally calmer, better teaching can happen, and your dogs neck is kept free of injury.
Our Video Review of a few harnesses
Have Fun… Do More,
originally posted 2/22/2011