Review: How we’re introducing a training harness to help with lead pulling. This post includes an affiliate link.
We like to say that our dog doesn’t do things by halves, and that includes going on a walk. On a lead, he doesn’t walk. He pulls like a bloody freight train. At times flattening himself to the ground with splayed legs trying to get enough traction to get at what he wants.
We’ve been working really hard on getting him to learn that pulling won’t get him what he wants and a walk where he gives himself a bit of slack means he can tootle along without having to adopt a breathing technique akin to that of an asthmatic pig. We’re following the general training guidelines of changing direction at the point of pull, positive reinforcement when he walks as wanted, redirecting him when over-excited and so on. I have to say there’s been a marked improvement over the past month in particular and we’re even able to get a few metres of loose lead walking out of him each walk. Miraculous!
However, following an incident involving an abandoned Tesco’s sandwich, a bush, and Henny’s ability to launch himself sideways with the speed and accuracy of a diving seagull, my shoulder decided it had had enough. So to save myself living in the discomfort of semi-permanent whiplash while it healed I figured we needed to find a temporary solution.
I opted to try out the ‘Company of Animals Non-Pull Harness‘ (Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate). It has mixed reviews online, though overall they’re positive. Checking with Pets at Home online (they stock it as well as Amazon) I was assured it does not harm the dog in any way (when used properly). Skeptical as to it’s efficacy, but with it being at a reasonable price point I decided to give it a go.
Putting it on:
Hendricks has always worn a harness with us (I think he’d strangle himself or slip his collar otherwise) and so putting this on him was going to feel no different than usual to begin with. It took a bit of thinking to realise how to get him into it, but once on he looked comfortable and had plenty of room for movement. It doesn’t have clips but slips over the dog’s head, then you have to put each paw through the arm loop (a good chance to practice “paw”!) and it secures by tightening across the back with a toggle. To check if he disliked it at first, I tried putting it on him and pulling the toggle tighter to mimic the sensation of pulling on the lead and see if he reacted negatively. He didn’t respond at all. Instead, he just looked at me condescendingly and pointed his nose at the door. Point taken.
Immediately with the harness on there was a marked difference in how he was walking. It was less akin to a racehorse straight out of the gate and more of a purposeful march (towards the nearest pile of duck poo, but hey…it’s an improvement!) Not as miraculous as some reviewers had reported, but he was definitely not pulling as heavily as previously. When he did pull the harness obviously tightened as he’d stop and look back at me (with annoyance, no doubt) but he quickly seemed to realise that if he didn’t put pressure on the harness by pulling or darting forwards, it wouldn’t tighten across his chest. I made sure to keep rewarding whenever he was walking nicely and I gave him lots of extra time and space to stop and sniff everything he wanted to explore. I wanted him to see for the first time that being on a lead doesn’t stop him from having time to be a dog!
Since introducing the Non Pull harness we’ve made bigger steps in Henny’s lead training than we had previously. It gave us the chance to show him that he can go for a walk on lead and still get time to explore and wee on all the things if he wants but that he doesn’t need to drag us there at full pelt to do so. As well as that, he gets the added bonus of being able to trot along and breathe normally. Which I think he enjoys!
Overall, I’d say it’s definitely worth a try if your dog pulls and the usual training recommendations are taking a significant amount of time for your dog to pick up. Do take note that the harness is best treated as a training aid rather than a replacement harness. Particularly as it’s not durable enough to be used all the time. I’d also note that for a #boatdog it’s not a brilliant harness when wet, as the padding on the straps to prevent chafing and discomfort soak up water like a sponge! It is washable and extremely lightweight though, so easy enough to clean and store.
Henny hasn’t stopped pulling just because of using the harness (and I don’t think any item should be relied on as an alternative to training), but I feel (and my shoulder agrees) that in using it on training walks his pulling overall is much more manageable. As we continue with the training he’s definitely getting there at his own pace. Just no longer that of a freight train at full pelt!