Introducing Harnesses

by Sascha Cox // September 2017

Introducing Harnesses – Ten steps to happiness!

At Dog School NI we are big advocates of walking our dogs on harnesses, we advise that all dogs are walked on harnesses when they aren’t practicing their loose lead walking. Although the harness does not discourage dogs from pulling, it does reduce the risk of injury and makes your walk more enjoyable for both you and your dog.  As good as harnesses are, they can often be a little scary to our dogs when they are just put on without being positively introduced (imagine someone forcing a jumper over your head with no explanation).  Spending time to positively introduce your dogs harness can save you a lot of time and stress in the long run – if it is just forced onto them for their first time, they may be afraid of it and often revert to running away and avoiding you when they see it coming out.

Below is a step by step method of introducing a new harness kindly that should prevent any fear or anxiety in your dog, thus making it easy to put on the first time and every time.  

Please note: If you see any signs of fear or anxiety, such as (but not limited to) licking their lips, moving away, yawning, or showing the whites of their eyes , or are not 100% sure your dog is comfortable, please revert to the previous step, or stop training and get in touch for advice. You can reach us on 02825 661008 or 07388 377383 and we are always happy to hear from you!

Step 1:

Leave the harness on the ground with some treats sprinkled around it – allow your dog to sniff and investigate it.

Step 2:

After a few days of leaving it on the ground with treats you can lift it and feed your dog treats through the opening.

Step 3: 

You can now move your hand back further so your dog has to bring their head closer to the harness.

Step 4:

If your dog still isn’t showing any signs of fear then you can keep your hand on one side of the opening and encourage them to put their noses the whole way through the opening to get their treat.

Step 5:

You can now let go of the harness and let it hang round their neck.

Step 6:

You can now try closing one of the clasps whilst the harness isn’t on them - this will prepare them for the sound before it starts happening behind their head.

Step 7:

This time you can attempt to  fasten one of the clasps over their back.

Step 8:

You can now fasten both clasps – remember this noise can be a little frightening so keep the treats coming to your dog!

Step 9:

If your dog isn’t showing any signs of distress then you can play a short game (for example fetch or some fun trick training) with your dog to get them used to moving around in their harness.

Step 10:

Take your dog for a walk on their harness whilst keeping those tasty treats coming – hopefully your dog will not have any issues with their harness at this point, however if they do then please revert back to whatever step your dog is most comfortable and try again.

Remember, patience is key when introducing new equipment as we are making an investment in our dogs future happiness – if something is worth doing it is worth doing well!

Signs of fear or anxiety can be as simple as licking their lips, moving away, yawning, or showing the whites of their eyes  and can escalate other more obvious behaviours such as growling. If you see any of these signs, or are not 100% sure your dog is comfortable, please revert to the previous step, or stop training and get in touch for advice.

You can reach us on 02825 661008 or 07715 654650 and we are always happy to hear from you!