Thursday, August 27, 2009

Training Tools - Harness

How often have we seen dogs wearing this sort of apparatus? A harness. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I went to the dog park this week and saw FOUR dogs wearing one of these! FOUR! And guess what?? They were all small dogs ... one puggle, one pug, one JRT/beagle mix and one beagle.

Most people I know get the harness because their dog pulls which causes it to cough. The people don't want their little poopsie-poo to hurt their itty-bitty-widdle trachea, so they buy a harness. HELLO!? If you train your dog you won't have that problem!

If you are concerned about your dog's trachea, consult your veterinarian. That's what he or she is there for. I cannot stress this enough. I don't care how much experience with the breed you have. YOU ARE NOT A VET. Far too many people do a little research on the internet and act like they know it all. Did you know that your vet went to school for ten years to learn this stuff? It's not something you will learn in 10 minutes.
If your vet does some tests and tells you there are problems, then you need to look for alternatives ... but otherwise, your dog is taking your for a ride. Like it or not, dogs will figure out how they can have their own way ... they will work it.

What am I thinking?! This is not a world where we train our dogs ... it is a world of disposable pets and instant gratification! Of course. Why would I expect people to be responsible?

I have also had people tell me they use it on their pug-type dogs because of the danger of the eyeballs popping out from a normal collar ... again I refer you to your veterinary practitioner. Unless your Vet has specfically recommended that you use a harness, you shouldn't.

Harnesses were developed to make it comfortable for a dog to pull. See the picture to the right? That is what they were designed for.

When you use a harness, you actually teach your dog to pull. Have you ever met a dog on a harness that doesn't pull? Think about it.


GoLightly said...

i know I KNOW!!

drives me bonkers.

Calsidyrose said...

I use a harness on my miniature pinscher, Taco, who BTW, is trained to heel quite nicely and does not pull. I use a harness because most collars slip off his head. This is a common thing with min-pins. It's not a health thing--just a physics issue.

I trained him to heel with a collar, but prefer the harness. I use one of those V-shaped harnesses that buckles on the back. I use at least a six-foot nylon leash and always maintain a two-handed hold.

I think harnesses are fine, especially for small dogs, if you are using a standard leash. I keep a couple medium-dog-size harnesses in my Off-Site adoption kit to use on the younger dogs--it makes it easier to hold a squirmy five-month-old animal who had no leash-training at all and who is fitted with only a plastic-paper ID collar.

Of course, there's no substitute for training, but in my experience, you see the same number of dogs in collars that pull as you do those fitted with harnesses.

What I hate are retractable leads--you have no control over your dog when walking and if you let go of the hand grip, you're doomed.

Viatecio said...

Calsidyrose...Amen to that last comment! It's like people who say they have "bombproof" horses: sure. They just don't react to things that a more skittish horse would run away from. The few times I've seen owners drop those Extendi-Leads, the dog almost always runs like a bat out of hell because this noisy, scary THING is skittering after them..and GAINING!

Great post, DDF. A trainer from Canada said it right: people who get a harness for dogs that pull are just giving up on training, and simply making it easier for the dog. If your dog is trained and walks well on a harness, the by all means, go for it. But if you've never TRIED to teach the dog to not pull, that means you only have yourself to blame when your arm is still pulled out of its socket.

OH, and then there are those stupid no-pull they're taking a tool that enables a dog to pull, and (contrary to the anti-correction, "humane" training argument) create PAIN in a sensitive area in order to teach something? I fail to see how this is supposed to teach a dog, and most people I talk to are only using it "because it's the only thing that controls him." *sigh* And don't get me started on those stupid front-clip harnesses...all I can say to those is 'What idiot is laughing all the way to the bank?!'

Training is a process to eliminate the tool, whether that's a pinch collar, choke collar, halter or harness or whatever. When I see dogs wearing harnesses or halters, I know they're doomed to wear them for life because without them, they'll just go back to whatever they were doing before. My dog will only be wearing her pinch collar as long as she tells me she needs it, which should theoretically be no more than 2-3 years (and even then, I'll be phasing it out). And then, with some touch-ups as needed, she'll be a well-behaved girl who *gasp* isn't a cowering, quivering dog who hates me because I told her "No."

DDF, I have to give you bring out the worst of my sarcasm and and rantologies. Sorry if I sound overly critical or cynical, but your posts about idiots like this are really quite cathartic sometimes.

Dog_geek said...

Well, technically, a harness does not teach a dog to pull. Letting the dog get where it wants to go with tension on the leash (whether the leash is attached to a harness or collar) teaches a dog to pull. I know plenty of people with highly trained dogs who simply prefer to use harnesses. Nearly all my friends who compete in flyball use harnesses for everyday walking - it doesn't mean their dogs are untrained, or that their dogs pull. I also know plenty of people who prefer harnesses for their sighthounds or similarly built dogs, rather than collars which can slip off over their heads, or martingale collars. I guess I just don't see the big deal.

Dog_geek said...

"Unless your Vet has specfically recommended that you use a harness, you shouldn't."

I'm also going to have to disagree with this statement. I know of no veterinary medical rationale for requiring or preferring collars over harnesses. In fact, while I prefer collars, I would bet that harnesses are actually easier on the dog's body than collars - especially if a dog ever pulls. I certainly can't think of any medical reason for someone not to use a harness, if that is what they prefer.

Trooper Thorn said...

But it makes it easy to pick them up like luggage. Unless they are wearing a sweater and booties.

Splash said...

You know Turid Rugaas recommends using a harness at all times in her wonderful book "My Dog Pulls - Now What Do I Do". I used to be anti-harness, but after doing the flyball thing and reading that book, I have changed my mind.

The last two puppies I had started on harnesses, then when ready for focus training moved to head harnesses, quickly (I mean within 5 weeks) moved to a pinch collar, then martingales. Both can be walked now on regular harness.

I am actually pretty proud of how easy they are to walk.

My 9 month old BC pup showed up a therapy dog (Golden) with a CD last Saturday on a walk around a crowded street fair. He was right next to me the whole time, and never pulled. The Golden's owner remarked at one point how little Ki-Ki was showing up the supposedly well-trained adult!

The difference here is training. I think your rant was not so much anti-harness as it was anti-untrained-little-dog-monster. I'm right with you there.

Ziggy Stardust said...

I always enjoy your blog and I don't mean to be rude, but I don't see what the big deal is. Is the harness really hurting the dog? I use a collar for my shih tzu, but she has slipped out of it. The people I know who use harnesses are good loving pet owners and they have good reasons. I have asked my vet and she is certainly not anti harness. She told me whatever Sasha is comfortable with is best for her. Take a chill pill on this one. You are making it sound like people who use harnesses are torturing their dogs.

Anonymous said...

You have a very very very informative write up keep it up!Advertise on blogs and make money

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Ah - it seems I am outvoted on this one ... however ...

Although many good points were given, I won't change my opinion about harnesses. I do not believe the proper use for a harness is on leash.

I stand by my statement.

If the dog has been trained to heel, then why is it slipping out of its collar?

Through the training process (which could take YEARS depending on the dog and owner team), proper desensitization to all sorts of stimuli is required so the dog does NOT feel the need to chase after things or to run away in fear (etc).

I know many of the dogs in our therapy dogs program here. Almost all of them are sighthounds (I don't know why - only two are not!). They all wear flat collars loose enough to slip over their heads - and they don't pull. It is one of the requirements of the program here ...

Dog_Geek - perhaps your local flyball team is more inclined to train their dogs than the ones I have been exposed to in the Ontario tournaments. I have met many flyball dogs - and yes, they do often use harnesses. However, I have not met one that did not pull.

Unfortunately, Trooper Thorn said it best ...

"But it makes it easy to pick them up like luggage. Unless they are wearing a sweater and booties."

Splash - Why don't you start them out and begin training immediately? You're right, this turned into a rant rather than an informative post pretty quickly. I am very "anti-untrained-little-dog-monster"

Chicamom85 ... this is the big deal:

I have met 5 month old puppies that were off leash trained! (Though personally, I wouldn't let a 5 month old puppy off leash, but that's another story!)

The adult dogs I get from the Humane Society are trained within a week to walk properly on a leash (as soon as I can get them on a leash!) ... Doesn't matter what breed; doesn't matter their history.

I've worked with the pampered family pet, the neglected outdoor dog that someone routinely forgot to feed/water, the abused and beaten dog that it takes me months to build up enough trust that I can touch him/her ... they can all be trained.

The question is whether or not the owner is willing to do the work.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...


When I said:
(Though personally, I wouldn't let a 5 month old puppy off leash, but that's another story!)

Please read this as "I wouldn't walk a 5 month old puppy off leash where it could be dangerous" ... it is perfectly ok to take the 5 month old to a fenced area and work off leash with him/her.

And please note that this statement:
"the abused and beaten dog that it takes me months to build up enough trust that I can touch him/her "

Goes hand in hand with this statement:
"(as soon as I can get them on a leash!)"

CastoCreations said...

We used harnesses on our Husky...HUSKY! Of all things. We figured it out pretty quickly...they LOVE to pull. Harnesses just are not the thing to keep a dog from pulling.

GoLightly said...

"Training is a process to eliminate the tool, whether that's a pinch collar, choke collar, halter or harness or whatever."


"I think your rant was not so much anti-harness as it was anti-untrained-little-dog-monster."

even more exactly.

tsm said...

I share the thought that a harness is only good for an off socket shoulder, the shoulder of an owner who either does not know how to teach his dog or doesn't bother...

Ok, some may feel that a harness doesn't come off, and I too agree that a harness keeps the lead up high on the dogs shoulders on walks.

But I feel that my dogs play better and run better with a small collar. and I find the collar a better control and means of communication with the dog, via a light nudge.

But, somebody tell me why a country (eg Portugal) would have strict laws about dog attire and insist on a harness as the "only" mean of "controlling" an animal in a public place?

My dog at the moment, when not near busy roads, walks off-lead, as I control her, the entire time, with my voice! My voice, and I have also taught her to stop at curbs, wait to cross the roads with me, and generally have some respect for motor vehicles and for the word "NO!".

In Africa, so long as the owner could control his animal, it would be the owners choice of equipment or obedience control that was relevant.

And they say Africa is the third-world...

Freshwater Fish said...

Harnesses I thought they where for cats, to prevent strangulation!

T said...

I do agree with all what Dog Geek says.
Also just to touch base on the Flyball comment, I have Aussies that compete in Flyball tournaments and have been competing with several dogs for many years. Out of the hundreds of dogs we see and compete with every week, on harnesses, I have never witnessed any of them pulling.

thus-sung said...

I've got a car-seat-belt harness that I use with my six month old Lab. She walks perfectly to heel on a regular flat collar and leash -- she's at my side, always checking in, she's a dream.

When she's got the harness on (which isn't often, mainly just if we're going from the car to somewhere, so short distances only), she knows it's okay to pull. I figure at some point she could possibly pull a wagon, and this way she can know the difference between Now It's Walktime to Now We're Pretending To Be a Sleddog.