Do harnesses make dogs pull?

Do harnesses stop dogs from pulling?

Do I need a special collar to teach my dog how to walk nicely on a leash?

No, no, and no!

You do not need a collar at all to teach your dog the skills they need to walk at, or near, your side. You will of course want a collar or harness (a back clip harness is the safest option for most dogs) and a leash in public as a matter of public safety, public comfort, safety for you and your dog, and to be in compliance with leash laws.

Focus on:

Setting the stage so that you are likely to get the behavior you want to happen naturally. For example, teach your dog the skills you want at home first, then in slightly more distracting environments, and then eventually in the “real world”. If you and your dog have the skills to safely use a long line, this can also set the stage to make pulling less likely to occur in the first place.

When first starting to teach the skill of polite walking, it can be challenging for the human to hold the treats, hold the leash, walk, and know when and how to give treats. Because the skill (walk at my side) has zero to do with the equipment, I like for people and their dogs to build the skill at home, with no leash, collar or harness at first.

Similarly, practice other skills that will be useful on a walk at home, and slowly work up to using them on a walk.

In this video some of the skills shown include: “let’s go”/walk at human’s side, leash skills, recall/“here”, release cue/“okay, you want to come over here?” (that release to sniff was used to reinforce the behavior of walking at the human’s side), deliver food (food was also used to reinforce the behavior of coming back and walking at the human’s side).

While a harness is not necessary to teach polite walking skills, a harness and a long line (once the human has the necessary skills) are my favorite pieces of equipment to use. A harness like the Balance Harness Mija has on allows for natural body movement and it keeps the pressure off of Mija’s neck and trachea. A long line allows Mija to have more freedom to “be a dog” on her walk, and make more choices about where to go, and what to sniff. A basic set of skills for both Mija and handler ensure Mija can come back to her human’s side and stay close when needed.

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