Anyone else’s dog go statue still when you put a harness on them?! Rupert has never liked wearing one but I actually would love him to be more comfortable in them as I like the idea that they take the pressure off the neck and disperse it more evenly across the body. He also has to wear one for the car and sometimes it would be super useful to not have to keep changing it back to a collar when we jump out of the car to go for a walk or having to carry him (!)
So I called upon dog trainer extraordinaire Ella from Kirby Dog Training to give me the low down on dogs and harnesses and some tips to encourage Rupert to walk in one.
**For this piece Rupert is wearing a harness from Rosie + Jo who have the most fabulous fabric harnesses in prints I love! They also have adjustable straps which i’ve found much better for Rupert pug shape, make sure you check them out.
Here’s how Ella answered my questions!
What are the benefits of wearing a harness?
An advantage of the harness over the collar is that they reduce the risk of neck injury, especially for delicate toy breeds. They also cause less restriction for breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs who are prone to respiratory problems or tracheal collapse.
What could be the reasons why some dogs don’t like wearing one?
They don’t like things going over their head.
They’re not used to having hands near their face or are uncomfortable being handled in general
The harness doesn’t fit right or is generally uncomfortable.
They’ve made a negative association connected to wearing the harness.
They don’t like leaving the house.
Any training suggestions for encouraging a positive association with the harness?
1) Leave the harness lying around for your dog to investigate (under supervision)
2) Start to play with the harness’s clip/velcro, so that your dog gets used to the sound. Start at a distance to your dog and as you work through the following steps, gradually do it when your dog is approaching and settling with you.
3) Sit down with the harness on your lap and play a treat game where the dog can find treats on your lap, on/under the harness and around your legs and feet i.e. not always near the harness.
4) Continuing with this game, start to pick the harness up and move it around, avoiding any direct movements towards your dog.
5) Start to hold the harness up and give your dog a treat if they approach.
6) Hold the harness up and offer a treat just in front of the harness so your dog feels the harness around its neck/ back as it comes in for the treat. Feed your dog several treats.
7) If your harness requires your dog to place their head through a head piece, start to hold a treat the other side and reinforce them for this behaviour. Once the harness is in place, allow it to sit on your dog’s back and feed your dog a treat. Each time also throwing a treat away so that you are confident they are happy to return.
8) Work through stage 7) but this time do the harness up. If your dog remains relaxed, praise them and give them a treat. If they wiggle, stop what you are doing and either ask for some help to keep them focused (e.g. someone feeding them treats) or give them a lick mat/Kong wedged between your legs. If you are concerned they are wiggling because they are worried, go back to stage 6)
9) Once the harness is on, allow them to walk around for gradually increasing periods of time and begin to introduce different environments e.g. inside the house and then outside in the garden.
10) Once they are relaxed and unconcerned by the harness, pop on a lead and leave it trailing (supervised!). You can then start to gently pick up the lead, but
ensure you are following them so there is no pressure.
I’m going to start this training with Rupert very soon so will keep you posted with how I get on, if you give any of it a go let me know how it goes.
Hope this helps,