Some of our long term readers probably know that unless the situation requires it, we do not recommend using a harness to walk your dog. A regular harness will not stop a dog from pulling on the leash. In fact, it might actually encourage this behavior (more on that below).
However, there are “no pull harnesses” that can discourage your dog from pulling. Although they do work, that doesn’t mean they should be a long term solution. Your main goal should be to attach the leash to the collar and have your dog walking by your side or slightly behind you, not out in front of you.
Remember, tools such as a no pull harness should only be used to help fix a behavioral issue. They should never be a long term solution. You want your dog to properly behave without the use of tools.
At the end of this article we will show you how to train your dog to walk by your side with a “loose leash” each time you go on a walk.
But first, a quick word about harnesses…
Regular Harnesses Encourage The Dog to Pull
We are often asked why we don’t recommend a regular harness when walking a dog. The answer is simple…it encourages bad behavior. Not only will a regular harness not prevent pulling, it will actually encourage your dog to pull harder.
Sure, they’re great at preventing your dog from escaping, but the downside is there will likely be more pulling.
They encourage pulling for two reasons
- They can pull without being choked
- The chest piece will give the dog something to pull against which will make the pull more powerful.
Think of a sled dog. The types of harnesses they wear give them the ability to pull as powerfully as possible. The regular harness has a very similar design which encourages pulling.
No Pull Harness Vs. Regular Harness
That doesn’t mean all harnesses encourage pulling though. There are no pull harnesses that will discourage your dog from pulling on the leash.
The biggest difference is the attachment point. A regular harness attaches on the back in the center. A no pull harness attaches on the front and the ring will usually move to the side when the dog tries pulling.
The regular harness allows your dog to pull more powerfully, whereas no pull harness forces the dog back to your side when they try pulling. In other words, no pull harnesses change the point of leverage. When a dog tries to pull, it will turn the dog to the side you’re on, bringing their attention back to you instead of what they were wanting to chase.
So no, technically it won’t prevent your dog from pulling. But it makes pulling a lot harder on your dog and will discourage the behavior.
Will a Gentle Leader (Over The Head Harness) Prevent Pulling
Another popular “no pull” harness is a Gentle Leader. A strap goes around the dog’s snout and the leash attaches at the bottom. It works the same way a no pull harness works. Each time your dog pulls, it moves the head and body back toward you. The goal is to get their attention off the distraction and back to you.
The Gentle Leader is a great training tool. In other words, it’s a great bandaid to a problem and provides a temporary fix, but it’s not a long term solution.
Gentle Leader Vs. No Pull Harness
The Gentle Leader and a no pull harness are two great tools that you should use until your dog learns to walk with a loose leash…but which one is better?
Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer to which is better. It comes down to your personal preference. The good news is both are fairly inexpensive (around $20) and both do work.
The gentle leader does have the better edge if your dog has a barking issue on walks. Although the strap around the snout doesn’t prevent your dog from barking and growling, it does discourage the behavior.
The important thing to remember is that neither are a permanent fix.
What is the permanent fix? Loose leash training! More on that shortly.
For Walking ONLY
Front clip (no pull) harnesses and gentle leaders are for walking only! If you want to go jogging with your dog, that’s when it’s ok to use a normal harness. Keep in mind, even when jogging you don’t want your dog to get in the habit of pulling because they might think it’s ok to pull on the walk as well.
To get your dog to stop pulling on a walk or a jog, follow the two phase method below.
Teaching Your Dog to Walk With a Loose Leash
Imagine what it would be like to have your dog walk by your side without pulling on the leash…for the entire walk!
Imagine how nice it would be if you knew they weren’t going to pull you around while sniffing the ground, or try to pick a fight with/play with every single dog they see.
The good news is with proper “loose leash” training, that’s exactly how your walks can be.
The goal of loose leash training is to teach your dog to walk with a loose leash…meaning they’ll walk by your side with no tension on the leash.
- A no pull harness (although not required. A collar will work just fine)
There are two phases to teaching your dog to walk by your side.
Phase 1) Discourage Bad Behavior
Phase 2) Reward Good Behavior
Quick Tip: It’s best to do the training after your dog is physically exhausted. The more exhausted they are, the less likely they’ll be to pull on the leash. This is important because the more a dog does an action, the more they’ll think it’s ok. Tire them out before you start the training so they’ll be less likely to take the action of pulling.
Phase 1: Discourage Bad Behavior
When taking your dog on a walk, each time they pull in front of you, simply stop and wait for them to come back to your side. If they don’t come back to your side, tell them to sit and then walk to their side. Once the leash is loose, you can begin walking again.
When first starting, you’ll probably only make it a few steps before they pull ahead. But eventually, they’ll learn that they only get to advance forward when they are by your side.
This method will discourage them from pulling because dogs love to explore. When they realize they can’t explore when they pull, they’ll be less likely to pull.
For some dogs, this alone is enough to keep them from pulling on walks. Other dogs need phase two, which is rewarding good behavior.
Once they spend time walking by your side, it’s time for phase 2, which is to encourage positive behavior.
Phase 2: Reward Good Behavior
Now that you’ve discouraged bad behavior, it’s time to reward good behavior. You do this by playing a really fun game.
It’s easier to play this game if you have a partner, but it’s not required.
Start by putting a leash on your dog then going outside.
Have your partner show the dog a treat and then walk about 50 feet away.
Begin walking your dog toward the treat, once the dog pulls, say “stop” and then go back to where you started.
Continue repeating until the leash stays loose all the way to the reward.
The reason this works so well is because the dog will associate the pull with no treat. The dog will know that when he doesn’t pull, he gets closer to the treat. When he does pull, he gets further from the treat.
By discouraging bad behavior and then rewarding good behavior, your dog will be walking by your side with a loose leash in no time.
Of course, no dog is perfect. Even dogs who are leash trained still pull every once in a while (especially if they have a high prey drive). When this happens, simply stop and say “no”. Wait for your dog to come back to your side and then continue the walk.
Trust me when I say walks are MUCH more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about your dog pulling.
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