The right kit can really help improve your loose lead walking experience.
Common advice is to put your new puppy or dog straight into a harness nowadays.
But getting a well fitting harness is a bit like finding a really comfortable bra! You need to try a few different styles to get the right fit.
Plus, a fair few dogs don’t love their harness wearing experience.
I think a combination of humans not being quite sure of how to do it, plus the restrictive feeling on their bodies, puts quite a few dogs off the process.
So why keep using a harness?
Normally because if the dog has a lead attached to their collar they’re pulling so hard they’re in danger of choking themselves. The harness prevents them damaging their larynx (throat).
My approach is two-fold.
First, let’s create a more positive harness wearing experience for our dog.
And second, let’s work on our loose lead walking training so collar and lead is an acceptable alternative to harness and lead.
Here’s my step-by-step for happier harness fitting:
- Human practice! Get a soft toy dog which you can use to practice putting the harness on and taking it off quickly and cleanly.
- Practice taking the lead clip on and off with only one hand and without looking – this means you’re less likely to be over the top of your dog when doing so which can be off-putting to them
- What seems to be the most difficult part of harness wearing for your dog? If they don’t like having it pulled over their head, think about a harness that clips around their neck
- If the sound of the click seems to make them uncomfortable, practice putting your fingers over the clip as you put it together – this significantly reduces the sound
- Consider starting again with a new harness with no previous negative experience
- Can you avoid walking your dog on the lead whilst you condition more positive feelings about their new harness?
Step by step to conditioning a positive response to a new harness:
- Have the new harness in the room when doing a training session with delicious treats
- Gradually have the harness closer to your dog during their training sessions
- During a training session, pick up the harness and put it down then reward your dog
- Build up to holding the harness whilst rewarding your dog
- Hold the harness up so the head loop is available for the dog to put their nose into it – reward them for any movement in the right direction
- Build up to having the dog put their head all the way through the loop whilst you’er holding it – lots of rewarding
- When the dog is volunteering to put their head through, gently rest the harness on them for a second before holding it again – more rewards
- Build up to the harness resting on them for longer periods of time
- Add in doing up the harness for a short amount of time – remove and reward dog
- Build up the amount of time the harness is done up for – lots of rewards, and see if the dog can do simple training exercises whilst wearing the harness
- Add the lead being clipped to the harness for a brief moment, before being unclipped and rewarding the dog
- Build up the time the dog has the lead attached, and start building in loose lead walking training exercises
- Generalise your training in different rooms in your home, your garden, close to your home etc.
Important note: If your dog appears uncomfortable at any step STOP! They are not being difficult I promise. They’re just telling you their truth at that moment.
When you honour their truth by slowing things down and going at their pace, you will make bigger strides forward in the direction you want to go. But patience is the name of the game here.
Want more top tips for loose lead walking?
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During our call we’ll come up with a plan of action – let’s turn those struggles into strengths shall we? 💪