This post is dedicated to Erica, who is having trouble with a dog that keeps pulling at the leash. My dog, Webby, was also quite the leash puller when I first brought her home from the shelter, and very headstrong to boot. Having spent her life in shelter cages (with a walk once a week at most) I could completely understand her urgent desire to just go, go, GO! Still, I didn’t appreciate the feeling of having my arm constantly pulled.
Luckily, I came across the Freedom No-Pull Harness by Wiggle, Wags & Whiskers. This harness featured a long leash that connected to the harness in the back and the front. My 9kg dog uses the XS harness, which is the smallest size they have. When I rescued my 4.5kg foster dog , Hoochoo, I was shocked to find her an even worse puller! She’d been living on the streets for such a long time that she was totally used to walking anywhere she pleased. But alas, there was no Freedom Harness option for her…
I started walking her with a regular harness. I really hated the idea of walking her with only a collar since she had such a small neck, but as I expected, the walks were a huge pain in the butt. Harnesses are often touted as the best way to walk a dog because they are safer (i.e. dogs are less likely to escape from a harness than a collar) and more comfortable (they do not pull at the dog’s neck/throat). However, from a training perspective, they are very ineffective for correcting pulling. Why do you ask? Take a look at the following picture:
Aw, look at the beautiful sled dogs in harnesses pulling a sled. That’s right–the whole purpose of a harness is to enable pulling. It gives your dog all the leverage because they can use their whole body weight and power to pull. If you’re blessed with a dog that is happy to stay by your side on walks, count your lucky stars and continue to use your harness in peace. For the rest of us, a simple harness is not going to cut it.
The key problem with a harness for loose-leash training is that there is only one point of contact in the back. Again, this encourages your dog to pull. The No-Pull harness is great because the second point of contact is in the front of the harness. If your dog pulls, the front connection helps redirect your dog back towards you. I kept this in mind as I tried to design a similar solution for my small foster dog.
Basically, I use her harness in conjunction with her collar and an extra-long lead. As you can see in the pictures below, there are two points of contact with her, and I have a lot more control. Before, she would pull so hard that she’d basically be walking with her two front legs in the air…but now, if she pulls that hard, the collar-connection redirects her back towards me.
For the extra long lead, I simply modified a regular leash and used some spare parts.
First, I made a handle from an old nylon collar and a spare metal ring. Then I pulled apart the handle end of a regular leash and slipped my new handle on. Then I attached a spare trigger hook to the end of the leash to finish it off.
Webby chewed up a lot of leashes when I first brought her home so I had a lot of spare parts lying around–but you can easily just use a cheap leash from the dollar store for spare parts.
Now when I walk Hoochoo, I put on her harness, and attached the extra hook to her collar. I now have two points of control, plus the doubled-over leash is fairly short since I’m working on having her walk close to me. But I can also unclip one end to easily extend the leash if I want to let her roam a little bit in a grassy spot.
This setup has helped me tremendously, but of course, it’s still just a tool, and absolutely cannot take the place of training. Here are some links that I’ve found really helpful for loose-leash training:
If your dog is a puller, you might want to give this set up a try~~~ and good luck!