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Tuesday Training Byte: The problems with a harness

I do not know why or how harnesses became so popular for dogs. They now come in virtually every color and style one can imagine. Harnesses are great for four things: teaching your dog to pull (think Husky sled dogs), to secure your dog to the back seat in your car, and using your dog to track like in finding lost people. The military also use a tactical harness to lift a dog into a helicopter. Other than for riding in a car, the vast majority of people will not need a harness for the intended applications listed here. I will address some problems and misconceptions.

  1. Pulling when going for a walk: A harness encourages a dog to pull. In fact, with a harness, your dog is in charge and calling the shots of the direction and speed. This can be dangerous because you have very little control. Even a medium sized dog can pull you over. Although there are now anti-pull harnesses, these interfere with a dog's normal gait and structure which can cause long-term problems. Proper engagement training will teach you dog to focus on you and you are now in charge of where you are walking and at what speed.

  2. Dogs communicate and establish leadership with other dogs in the neck area: Mother dogs communicate to her pups by a bite or pressure to their neck area. Dogs naturally understand this line of communication from a human when using a collar. The collar puts me back in charge. In using a collar, my dog will follow me at the speed and direction that I choose.

  3. Some feel that a collar will choke their dog or cause trachea damage: To be sure, there needs to be training involved so your dog will become a willing and eager partner. Using positive reinforcement and engagement, I capitalize on my dog's natural desire to please and join me on our adventure. In addition to this, I teach clients to walk their dog without the brakes being on (using a loose leash).

  4. If you ever watch a dog show, none of the dogs are on a harness: whether it is rally, obedience, agility, or conformation, the dogs wear a collar as harnesses are not permitted. These dogs have learned that the owner is in charge, and they eagerly do what they are asked without dragging their owner around. If you want to be able to take your dog on a relaxing hike with no pulling, enroll in a class that uses positive reinforcement. Most methods are resistance free!

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