Ugh. Harnesses. Who knows how to work those contraptions, anyway?
I do! I do! Just ask! Or don’t; I’ll tell you anyway.
First, why a front-clip harness? There a couple of excellent reasons. Say your dog has no idea you’re attached to the other end of the leash and all she does is pull and pull and pull until you have to schedule a physical therapy appointment for your out-of-whack shoulders and an ENT appointment to treat your sore throat from yelling, “Brandi! Stop it! Brandi! No! Brandi! No pull!”
When we adopted Danny, he was a one-year-old, fast, strong herding dog with zero training as far as we knew. We paid for him, his food bowl, his kennel, and a front-clip harness all on that first day. I am so glad we did.
Fine, I’ll try it. Now, how do I use this thing? It’s not so hard, but it does take you and your dog both some getting used to.
Line up the harness before you attempt to put it on the dog. The D-ring goes in front, on his chest. The black (or differently-colored) strap with the buckle goes under his chest, behind his front legs.
- Stand or, better, crouch next to your dog and slip the colored straps over his head, D-ring in the front. If you come at him with this thing from the front, he’ll shy away. Frustrating.
- Clip the buckle on the black strap under his belly.
- Take a minute to adjust the straps so they fit snugly but not tight. You should be able to get two fingers between the harness and the dog — just like a properly fitting bra, ladies.
- The first time or six, give him lots of treats and pets and encouragement. He’ll get used to it, and you’ll get to be a front-clip-harness pro.
- Clip that lead on the D-ring and head out!
Now that I’m outside, what do I do with it?
Make sure the leash is between you and the dog. If the dog is on your right, the leash should be on his left, not snaking across his back.
- If the dog pulls, stop. In. Your. Tracks.
- Say “uh-uh” or “nope” or something. Don’t get mad, but let him know pulling is not the correct choice.
- The front-clip harness will make him turn around and face you. Ta-da! You exist again!
- When the leash goes slack and the dog’s not pulling, offer praise and maybe a treat for the hard cases, then start walking again.
- EVERY TIME HE PULLS, STOP. Repeat the “nope,” the wait, and the walk.
- Dogs get the hang of this faster than you think, but it takes a lot of consistent reinforcement for it to stick. Your first few walks this way will take for-effing-ever. Budget the time.
Danny was on the freakier end of the walking spectrum, but even he graduated to collar-only, loose-leash walking. It did take a year, but it happened. Some dogs always use a front-clip harness, and if that makes your life easier and your shoulders less sore, it certainly doesn’t do the dog any harm.