Leash Training Your Dog Using a No-Pull Harness
All dogs have the instinctive need to pull away from the leash. It doesn’t matter how well behaved they are, how well they’ve been trained, or if they haven’t pulled on their leash in years.
Like their wolf ancestors, dogs are programmed to run free. An obedient dog is a mark of much effort and persistence, and many hours of training.
Keeping your dog in line is work, but it’s worthwhile. Any dog of any age can overcome their oppositional reflex, but it is best to start early. The best way to get started is by purchasing a no-pull harness.
These accessories discourage pulling behaviours without choking your dog insofar as a traditional collar and leash will. The next steps? Keep reading!
Fitting the harness
First things first, you’ll need to ensure the harness fits correctly. No-pull harnesses tend to come in an array of varying sizes. Take note of your dog’s measurements and pick the size that corresponds accordingly. We’re going for a firm yet fair fit that you could fit two fingers under. (Also use this principle when fitting a collar.).
Take the first step, treat in hand
Once your dog is wearing the harness and the leash is attached, you’re good to go. Before taking the first step, pair this with the command ‘let’s go’ or similar. For every step that your dog matches, ‘treat’ them accordingly. Treats are most definitely in order when your pooch consistently walks beside you on a loose leash.
Wait for the moment they start to stray
As you’re walking your dog, there will be a time where they will drift from their straight line. When this happens, say ‘easy’, but with a calm voice.
This is the first time your dog will hear this command, so they likely won’t respond and will continue to pull against the harness.
This is acceptable, and so long as you accompany this behaviour with the ‘easy’ command, your dog should pick up the meaning in time.
Image: Stylish Hound
Once you feel the pressure from the pulling behaviour, say ‘oops’—in that same calm tone of voice—make a U-turn, and walk in the opposite direction. Repeat these actions and your dog should learn to stop pulling when you stop abruptly. This is because the no-pull harness and their own momentum will redirect them to wherever you’re walking.
Rinse, repeat, and treat
Whenever your pal is matching your steps and staying by your side, give them a treat! If they start to pull beyond the harness’s alignment, simply say ‘easy’ again, and then ‘oops’ before turning around.
By pairing your behaviours with commands, your dog will learn the behaviour faster.
If ‘easy’ and ‘oops’ don’t roll off the tongue, you can substitute them with words that feel more natural. Also, don’t worry if you forget to say them all the time. Your dog is not the only one learning here!
Repeat this somewhat circular routine, and be sure to give many treats for favourable behaviours. After a while, you may notice your dog looking back at you or slowing in response to the ‘easy’ and ‘oops’ commands.
This means that they are learning and that the operant conditioning is setting in! Did we mention that praise is also highly effective? Tell them they’re a good dog. Words of affirmation are almost as effective as receiving gifts.
Energetic dogs—or dogs accustomed to pulling—will take longer to match your pace. Just be patient and don’t worry too much if they don’t make immediate progress.
You should always teach consistency, even when your dog is walking without a harness.
If you let them stray even one pawprint further than they should, they will learn that pulling is okay. Whenever you feel tension on the lead, just say ‘oops’ and turn around again.
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