Do Harnesses Encourage Pulling? (The Truth..)


do dog harnesses encourage pulling

Over the years, there has been a common misconception that harnesses promote dog pulling. Worse still, some people even believe that you can’t teach your dog to walk on a loose leash while using a harness. But does a harness really encourage pulling?

A harness doesn’t necessarily encourage a dog to pull, they simply make it so it’s not a painful, oxygen depriving experience if and when they do pull. While some harnesses might not do anything to prevent your dog from pulling they do not encourage pulling.

In this post you’ll discover everything you need to know about the relationship between dog harnesses and pulling. Let’s dive in!

Is Pulling More Comfortable For a Dog Wearing a Harness?

Some people often opt to use a dog harness instead of a collar. Your furry friend might perfectly behave on a leash—they won’t pull, jump, zigzag, or try to wriggle away from a collar.

But when they do pull, is it more comfortable if they were wearing a harness?

When compared to a collar, yes it’s more comfortable for a dog to pull on a harness. But, that doesn’t mean a harness does a worse job at training a dog not to pull or encourages a dog to pull in any way.

Many dogs are prone to get injured by tugging and pulling when using a leash and collar. However, when you use a harness, you disperse the pressure over a large surface on your dog’s body, which plays a huge part in reducing the strain on their necks and back.

Because of this, when they do pull, it doesn’t cause them much pain, if any, making it a more comfortable experience for them. The chances of them getting harmed when pulling using a harness are much less likely.

Why is My Dog Still Pulling After Getting Them a Harness?

You need to note that most dogs will continue to pull if they are used to pulling, no matter the type of equipment you’re using. Dogs who have been pullers their whole life will most likely forge ahead of you if you stand beside them on a loose leash.

A harness is not a quick-fix solution to pulling. It makes pulling less harmful for your dog, and if your harness has a front-clip it can help reduce pulling. But training is still required to improve your doggos walking behavior.

In addition to this, your dog might still pull if you didn’t fit the harness correctly. For a harness to work properly, it has to fit your dog perfectly. If not, it might be uncomfortable for them, thus prompting your furry friend to pull and fumble.

For example, ensure that all the front buckles/belts are not too high for your dog. This is because they might choke, pinch, or hurt your dog, making them feel uncomfortable and restrict the movement in their shoulders. For the buckles behind their front legs, ensure that they are far enough from their legs to avoid causing any rubbing, skin irritation or disrupting movement when they’re walking or running.

A harness doesn’t increase or decrease pulling because it’s not the reason for the pulling in the first place. Their walking equipment is used primarily for safety purposes. Any change in their gear (moving from a collar to a harness) will take a bit of time for a dog to get completely comfortable and accustomed to.

How to Discourage a Dog From Pulling On Their Harness

The best type of harness to help discourage a dog from pulling is a front-clipped harness. Being able to attach your leash to the front of their harness makes consistent pulling more difficult for your dog.

Each time they pull forward with this type of harness, their chest and head are redirected which makes continuous pulling unappealing.

While having the right type of harness will help with a dogs pulling, the only true way to get your dog to stop pulling while they’re on a walk with their harness is through training.

Below are some things to take notice of as well as ways to train them to behave better while walking in their harness.

First of all…

If your pup is pulling, take a quick look at your surroundings and see what’s happening around you. Maybe a squirrel is zigzagging around, and your dog is being overcome by curiosity/excitement. Perhaps they see another dog and would like to play with them.

Since such situations are likely to come up during all your walks you’d be better off training them in a different environment. One that has minimal, if any, possible distractions.

A well known, and quite effective method to train a dog not to pull is the start, stop, turn around technique.

It’s a method that uses a blend of repetitive actions and positive reinforcement to get your dog used to being on a harness without pulling. Over time, your dog can fully master the art of walking with a loose leash.

To do so, take your pup to a large open space away from as many distractions as possible. This ensures that your dog can give you all their attention, making learning much easier.

Start walking your dog slowly and continue for as long as they don’t pull. When they do pull, you then stop walking and wait for them to either sit or come back to you.

Praise them and give them a treat when they stop pulling, then continue with your walking in the opposite direction. If they rush ahead and pull again, stop, wait for them to either sit or come back to you, turn, and go back in the opposite direction.

This will take some time. You’ll be walking back and forth repeatedly, without really going anywhere. BUT, your pup will learn not to pull like they have been and match your pace when walking over time.

It’s important to note that training is not a one-time thing; it needs repetition and reinforcement.

You might start to see the pulling again after some time. If this happens, give them refresher lessons until the behavior fades away completely.

Do Certain Harnesses Encourage Vs. Discourage Pulling?

Yes, where the leash attachment is on your dog’s harness is a big determining factor on whether your pup will be inclined to pull or discouraged.

There are two main types of harnesses; front clip and back clip harnesses. Many are dual clip, giving you the ability to choose between which walking style you’d like to par-take in on any given day.

Back clip harnesses are better known for a simple, easy-going walking experience. This is because a dog can walk ahead with little to no discomfort when a leash is attached to the back of their harness. It’s also better for a dog that is well trained on their leash. A back clip keeps the leash away from their legs and doesn’t cause any unnecessary tangling with your dog’s legs.

Front clip harnesses are designed to help discourage pulling. While it doesn’t hurt your dog attaching to a front clip, it changes your dog’s direction if they pull. Instead of being able to pull forward with no resistance, they’ll be pulled to the left or right (depending what side the leash is on their body) which will stop them stampeding full speed ahead.

The Truth Behind a Dog Pulling While Wearing a Harness

Dogs pull on their harness for various reasons. Unfortunately some people put forward theories on why a dog is pulling that simply aren’t true.

The truth is that a dog pulls on their harness for two main reasons, one of them being that they haven’t been trained not to pull.

Training your pup not to pull is simple, but not easy. You can definitely do it using the method we discussed in the section above about discouraging a dog from pulling. The major thing you have to keep in mind is that it will take time, effort, and patience. Your dog will eventually learn.

Another reason why your dog might be pulling is that you have unknowingly conditioned them to pull.

Dogs build habits over time, and you might be unknowingly training your dog that pulling when on a harness is allowed. For example, if your dog pulls you and you move towards the direction they are pulling, they will tend to pull more. When you follow along with their pulling, in their mind you’re saying, “Yes, keep doing what you’re doing!”.

A harness is recommended not because it’s supposed to stop your dog from pulling but for your dog’s safety. The pressure put on a dog’s neck when using a collar could cause health problems to your dog. However, a perfectly fitting harness will protect your furry friend from injuries on their spine, thyroid, vocal box, etc.

Final Thoughts

A harness does not encourage pulling, it simply makes pulling a non-painful experience.

If you notice your pup is pulling while wearing a harness, they’ll need some training in order to stop the pulling. Gradually, with proper training and patience, your dog will stop pulling and learn to match your speed while wearing a harness.

Other posts you might find interesting:

Top 10 Best Leather Dog Harnesses

Top 15 Dog Harnesses: What Makes Them the Best of the Bunch

Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessories. Learn more about Alec's story here

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