The primary reason a dog will chew through a harness is because the harness is uncomfortable. Be sure the harness is the correct size and that it’s properly secured on your dog. Some dogs may also chew through a harness because they view it as a chew toy.
There are many dog harnesses available for sale, with each serving a different purpose. However, you may find that your dog is constantly chewing on or through its harness, which completely ruins the point of a harness in the first place!
If you are at your wit’s end with your second, third, or sixth destroyed harness, it’s time to figure out why your dog is doing this and what you can do to help.
What You'll Learn
Why Does My Dog Chew Their Harness?
If your dog keeps chewing through the harness, the first thing you should do is check the fit. If it is snug and fitted properly, your dog is less likely to get their mouth around it for munching.
While your dog is wearing their harness, take notes of areas it may irritate, like their armpits, bellies, or neck. Check the harness for uncomfortable tags and buckles. If you have a short-haired dog, the harness may be chafing them. If you have a long-haired dog, the hair may be getting caught.
If your dog appears irritated, find a harness with material that will make them more comfortable. Chewing the harness might be their way of telling you to take this uncomfortable thing off.
Just Another Chew Toy
Some dogs love the chew on anything and everything in sight. Make the harness unappealing to them with a spray that makes items taste bitter. You can also make a homemade spray using apple cider or white vinegar, citrus essential oil, or cayenne pepper. Recipes are available online to create something that will have your dog turning up their snout.
If your dog wears a harness in a certain situation, like the car, provide them with a favorite toy or a high value treat – like a pig ear, bully stick, or marrow bone. If your dog likes to work for treats, fill a Kong or other puzzle feeder with their favorite snack. Make sure to put a towel over your seat first!
If you know your dog will chew the harness if given the opportunity, keep it away from them. Take the harness off at home and only have them wear it when they need it. Always be available to provide a replacement activity when they begin chewing on their harness. .
Get The Right Harness
If your dog keeps chewing through the harness, you may want to consider getting a different type of harness. Below are some popular choices that may work for your pup
Lupine Step-In Harnesses come in various colors and sizes, and a lifetime guarantee from the company, which includes chewing!
This harness is simple yet strong, and your dog can step into it rather than have it put over their head (which some dogs hate).
This harness is the right choice for dogs with good leash manners who are not strong pullers. The best part is that it’s affordable, so it is a good spot to start.
Ruffwear is a fan-favorite brand for gear that is versatile and durable. While no harness is indestructible, Ruffwear comes close with its sturdy material.
Consider the Ruffwear Front Range, which is made of comfortable fabric and has four points of adjustment to ensure the perfect fit. This harness is extremely popular and customer approved. It’s a bit more expensive than a standard harness, but well worth the money.
If your dog likes to escape their harness, consider the Ruffwear Webmaster. The Webmaster is more secure and has an extra band that makes it nearly impossible to sneak out of.
The Webmaster also has a top handle to grab a runaway or help your dog over rough terrain. Both harnesses are reflective for night safety and don’t have accessible straps for chewing.
Ezy Dog Convert
Another popular harness for heavy chewers is the Ezy Dog Convert Harness. This harness is easy to slip on and off your dog, so it may not be an excellent choice if your dog is a Harry Houdini on four paws.
There are no easily accessible straps for your dog to chew. This harness is durable and adjustable, with a handle like the Webmaster. Both the Webmaster and the Ezy Dog Convert are pricier choices, so you may want try other less expensive items first.
Nothing is Working. Now What?
Sometimes, easy fixes like adjusting the fit, providing a distraction, or finding a different harness are not sufficient. The next step is to teach your dog how to interact with the harness.
Your dog may be uncomfortable with their harness, or view it as another toy. To remedy this, you’ll need to work on desensitizing them to the harness. This process will make the harness something your dog enjoys and has a positive association with.
If it’s a battle to get your dog into their harness every time – they are constantly backing out or wiggling all over – your dog is telling you they are not okay with what you are doing. Try the following steps to help your dog look forward to having their harness on.
Back to Basics – Desensitizing
Get your harness and some treats. Every time your dog engages appropriately with the harness (sniffing it calmly, not trying to chew it), praise and reward them with a treat. Once your dog can be around the harness in a relaxed way, get them to put their head through it by following the instructions below.
Lure your dog through the harness with a treat and reward them when they have their head all the way in. Allow your dog to leave the harness on for a few minutes. Keep repeating this process.
If your dog is still uncomfortable or too wiggly, try again later! Once your dog is comfortable putting their head through, keep them there for longer periods. Hold on to the treat longer to encourage them to stay in the harness without backing out. Continue to reward them for calmly staying in.
Use this process for every step of putting the harness on. If your dog needs to step through the harness, praise and reward them every time they put a paw through without backing out. If you need to clip or buckle the harness, scatter treats on the floor to distract your dog while you do so.
Take this process as slow as your dog needs so you turn their harness into something positive. Your dog will learn that harness=yummy treats.
If your dog is not food motivated, use praise, affection, or playtime as a reward. If your dog continues to chew the harness while you work on this, stay in the early steps and praise them for interacting with it appropriately. This process takes time, but your dog will realize what they do and do not get rewarded for.
Leave it or Drop it
If your dog already knows cues for “leave it” or “drop it,” use these to your advantage! When you catch your dog chewing their harness, cue them to leave it or drop it. Use a treat or toy to create a positive association with obeying. Whenever they direct their attention away from the harness, praise them for “dropping it” or “leaving it.”
The Importance of Exercise
Sometimes, dogs will chew their harness out of overexcitement or boredom, which you need to prevent before it happens. Find a way to get your dog the physical exercise they prefer. This may be a long walk or jog, a visit to the dog park, or a long game of fetch.
Your dog also needs mental stimulation to keep calm. Look up ideas for enrichment, like puzzle feeders or snuffle mats. Spend time doing obedience training with your dog. A 10-15 minute session of obedience training can help your dog calm down, as it takes a lot of energy for them to focus so hard. A tired dog is a calm dog!
Calm and Collected
Your dog may chew his harness out of excitement for the adventure they are about to go on. Think about what you do before taking your dog outside or putting their harness on – if you get extremely animated and excited, your dog will too.
If you have a keyword or phrase that you know gets your dog excited, avoid that phrase. While their reaction is adorable, it is counterproductive to a settled dog. Stay calm and your dog will too. If they are getting over-excited as soon as you touch the harness, stop and wait until they are relaxed.
All dogs are different, and there is not a one size fits all solution for this issue. Your dog’s harness chewing may be solved with a simple fix, like adjusting the harness, finding one that fits better, or making it an undesirable chew. You may need more positive reinforcement and training to get your dog to break this habit, or a combination of the above. This takes time, but in the end, you will have a safe, happy, harness-wearing pup!
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