Can You Train a Dog With a Harness?

Dog owners buy harnesses for their dog for all sorts of reasons, and one of the main ones often cited is that they believe it will help them train their dog. This often comes from those who have tried to train a dog that wears a collar and failed to do so properly.

The question as to whether you can train a dog with a harness brings us one of those ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ answers. The ‘Yes’ occurs because a harness can be a great help to dog owners in training their dog which we will expand upon in a moment.

The ‘No’ arises because the mere act of putting the harness on a dog isn’t going to instantly make him or her sit and stay. It takes more than changing what it is wearing to train a dog, so let’s also examine that.

Training Dogs With Or Without a Harness

The simple truth is whether your dog is wearing a harness, a collar, or a little tartan doggy coat, it will not make a blind bit of difference if you are not training them properly.

Training a dog isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does take time, it does take patience, and it does require the dog’s owner to follow some well-proven dog training principles.

This isn’t necessarily an article on dog training but basics like praising your dog immediately they do well, NOT telling them they are bad 5 minutes after they have done something wrong, and teaching them one thing at a time are some of the basics.

Unfortunately, too many dog owners pay scant attention to these or any other well tested dog training methods. Instead, they simply blame the fact it isn’t walking beside them properly or pulling on its leash down to the dog’s ‘bad behavior,’ or they think it is the fact the dog wears a collar.

They then buy a harness, thinking that the dog is going to change its behavior just because it is now wearing one. They then wonder why the dog’s behavior has not improved and due to not being introduced to the harness in the wrong way, why its behavior has become even more erratic.

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How Harnesses Can Help?

A harness will not train a dog; however, it can aid the owner in the training of their dog. This is so with many dog training aids such as clickers and silent whistles whereby they do not actually teach the dog anything. Instead, they help the dog’s owner to reinforce certain behavior and give signals to the dog as to whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

Another point we must make is that any attempt to train a dog that isn’t relaxed and comfortable wearing a harness is going to fail. So, if you haven’t yet done so, the first ‘training’ is getting your dog used to, and looking forward to, wearing their harness.

A harness does not necessarily give a dog any signals aurally, like the clicker we mentioned,  but in wearing one the dog is now under greater control than it might be with a collar. This will differ somewhat depending on what type of harness the dog is wearing.

With harness that are worn around the body, often called ‘step-in’ harnesses, you have greater control, and any force caused by the dog pulling is more evenly distributed.

This means there should be no pressure points causing them pain, and as such, they are more likely to listen to you and concentrate on what you are trying to teach them.

Dogs Which Pull

Harnesses are also known to discourage a dog from pulling, which is one of the most common issues dog owners face when trying to train their dogs. Dogs instinctively want to move forward, and for some, whether their owner wants to go at the same pace as them, is irrelevant.

The key isn’t to simply pull back on the harness, but when your dog pulls redirect them by turning 180° and walking in the opposite direction. In a harness, the dog has little choice and will turn with you.

This is also a lot easier to implement than if your dog was wearing a collar because when you turn them in a harness their whole body has to move with you. As a result, they are less inclined to resist you or to keep pulling in the direction they were heading in.

Puppies and Leashes

With young puppies venturing out for the first time harnesses can be a great help. This is especially so with regards to them getting tangled up in their leash.

Until they learn how to walk beside you, they will be full of energy and if they are wearing a collar there is more chance of them getting tangled with the leash which has led to some being injured on occasion.