By Courtney Emken
co-written by Jen Larson, KPA-CTP, and Amanda Ott.
Walking your dog provides an essential combo of play, exercise, and bonding that’s key for building a healthy canine relationship. Unfortunately, many owners dread the trip outside due to their dog’s excessive pulling and/or leash reactivity.
Each of these tools, although effective, will just cause their dog pain and worsen their behavioral issues. What most people don’t realize is that aversive training tools force obedience through pain, their dogs won’t learn not to pull- they simply learn to fear you. This demolishes any hope of creating a strong bond between you and your dog.
Other trainers might recommend getting a harness to reduce pulling. While this is much more humane than using an aversive collar, if you get the wrong style of harness you can actually increase your dog’s pulling behavior. That’s why we wrote this guide for reducing your dog’s pulling by using a front-clip harness (hint: it’s easier than you might think!), let’s dive in.
What Are No-Pull Harnesses And Why Do They Work?
No-pull harnesses differ from standard harnesses because they attach in front of a dog’s body instead of behind their shoulder blades. Back-clip harnesses actually reinforce pulling since they concentrate your dog’s strength into a single point. This makes them stronger and much harder to handle. It’s how they hook up sled dogs!
A front-clip, or no-pull harness attaches the leash to your dog’s chest, altering their center of gravity and changing their direction when pulling. Unlike the aversive collars listed above, a front clip harness gently turns your dog to the side without causing pain or distress.
Since these harnesses utilize a dog’s own momentum against them, even larger breeds become easy to walk. Provided that the dog doesn’t have major reactivity (or an intense desire to chase squirrels), a child could walk a big ol’ Doberman with a no-pull harness and they would have no problem maintaining control.
Just to demonstrate how life changing the front-clip can be, we like to share our trainer Jen’s story with her adopted Pit Bull mix. Jen adopted her dog from Austin Pets Alive, and while the Pitty was sweet and loving, she was practically un-walkable due to her strength and size. However, once Jen started using a front-clip harness she could finally take her on walks without being dragged all over town!
How To Effectively Use A Front-Clip Harness
The front clip harness is such a strong tool that it almost eliminates pulling problems on its own. However, we still recommend that you start leash-walking training as soon as possible. This entails exercises such as:
These activities build essential skills that ensure good leash walking behavior in the future. As you work with your dog, you’ll eventually reach a point where they just quit pulling. They’ll begin to walk alongside you because they know that otherwise, they’ll just be turned the other way.
Front-clip harnesses also work for dogs who are trained to pull, like our trainer Amanda’s search and rescue trailing dog. When Amanda needs her to pull, she uses a standard lead. However, when she just wants to go for a walk, she uses a front-clip harness and her dog doesn’t even try to pull.
What Kind Of No-Pull Harness Should I Get?
At DogBoy’s we prefer three particular brands of harness:
All of these harnesses will significantly reduce your dog’s pulling. However, the Freedom Harness includes a back and front clip for your leash, in case you want the ability to choose between the two methods, or use them both together for even more control.
If you’re having trouble choosing a front-clip harness or want help leash training your dog, please contact us today. Everyone at DogBoy’s has personally dealt with a pulling dog before. We know how frustrating and difficult it can be, and we know how to help you and your dog work past it.
All images from DogBoy’s!