Tools for Change: Harnesses

Dog with harness

Unit Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the purpose of using a harness with two points of leash connection to walk a dog.
  • Understand the proper fit and mechanics of various harnesses.

Since developing the Tellington TTouch Method for dogs, in the early 90’s, the choice and variety of harnesses has grown in leaps and bounds. When we started there were very few choices and most had the leash attachment so far back that it was easy to trigger a dog to pull and difficult to stay forward. Hence the belief that harnesses cause dogs to pull.

Actually it is the ‘opposition reflex’ that triggers dogs to pull – remember Newton’s Law of Physics – for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Many people say that their dog ‘likes’ to pull and while I think that dogs are anxious to get places – describing this as “liking to pull” –  is probably a human interpretation. So when dogs pull forward most humans go into a counter balance and pull back, to avoid being pulled over, or they have been taught to give a dog a sharp ‘correction’ on the neck to stop the forward movement.

With TTouch, our intent to bring a dog into balance, because we see the link between physical, mental and emotional balance.  To accomplish that we started using the Balance Leash and Balance Leash Plus. We also emphasize the importance of keeping pressure off the dog’s neck, especially dogs that are reactive to people or other animals. Pressure on their neck in- creases their reactivity.

Just imagine if someone has something around your neck and is pulling or worse yet is pulling and tightening a noose around your neck like a choke collar or even more so a prong collar.  Rather than make you feel very safe or in control an increase in anxiety or tension is more likely to occur.

We have also found that today the most important criteria for any harness we use are; that it fits correctly, is comfortable for the dog and that there are suitable points for lead attachment.  Harnesses that have rings too far back will often trigger pulling by creating a backward pressure to the leash.

It is also important to consider your dog’s individual needs when choosing a harness.  Some short haired breeds may prefer a very soft material.  Dogs who are head shy or sensitive about having their paws touched will prefer harnesses that can completely open to be put on (as opposed to having to put it over their heads, or lift their feet into the harness.

Today we are fortunate enough to have a market full of different harnesses so that dogs of all shapes and sizes can find one with an ideal fit and comfort.

There are more and more harnesses available that have been designed to accommodate the two points of contact and have an improved fit for the comfort of the dog.

Every harness has pluses and minuses – look for a harness that gives room for the dog’s shoulders to move freely and has a front and back ring, ensuring that the ring on the dog’s back is not too far back.

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