This week, my alma mater and part-time employer, The Academy for Dog Trainers is running a campaign we’re calling “Harness The Love”. Here, at YPBY, we’ve been major proponents for no-pull harnesses since our inception. We love this equipment. We really love seeing pit bulls wearing it. Bias, much? Guilty as charged.
It does, indeed, seem like a bit of a dirty trick to decide that everything a dog does is a behavior problem. Dogs aren’t born knowing how to walk attached to a human on a 6′ leash! If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that we are about rewards-based training methods. You probably also know that we are about helping people better understand their dogs and we really, really hope that understanding translates to more humane treatment. No-pull harnesses are as close to the perfect solution as we’ve got right now. While each member of YPBY strives to help people understand the benefits of training for their dogs, we also understand that there are some battles to choose, and for that for some people no-pull harnesses automatically address the leash pulling problem. As much as we might want people to learn how to help their dog gain nice leash walking skills, we are all for something that for a lot of people and dogs almost instantly makes walks easier and more pleasant. And that for many, instantly makes the problem disappear.
Here’s an example of the pulling problem just disappearing with a no-pull harness: Scout the Yellow Lab.
I trained Scout as a puppy. He went through 2 levels of manners training. He has super-committed, lovely owners. A year later, dad had a shoulder injury from being pulled down the street by Scout and was awaiting surgery. Mom broke an ankle at work. I was called in to help- so that he could get out for walks. I had no idea that they had not continued working with Scout on leash walking, because it never came up in our conversations. They love their dog and overall are very happy with his behavior. The fact that he pulled on leash paled in comparison to the fact that he sat patiently at the bus stop and greeted not only his little girls, but every other kid who came off the bus without jumping or overwhelming them in any way. After our very first walk, I returned to the house after nearly being pulled off my feet by a now 100 lb. dog. I said to these lovely, in-pain people, that I could not risk injury myself and asked if they objected to my using a harness on our walks. They said not at all, I ordered a Freedom Harness for Scout and our next walk was quite different to say the least. He got turned around one time and it was as if he said to himself “Well, this doesn’t work anymore. Guess I’ll slow it down.” That’s not an exaggeration. Once she healed, mom was able to walk Scout (which she had not done in a very long time, I learned) and dad returned from surgery able to do so without risk of hurting himself more. Boom.
I am lucky enough to be able to send a lot of the dogs I work with at the shelter home in Freedom Harnesses. The Freedom Harness is by far my favorite, though I admit there’s a long list on the Academy page that I’m itchin’ to try! The Freedom is my favorite because I really appreciate the extra strap between the front legs and the velvet strap that runs under them. The middle strap adds some safety and the velvet one, comfort. Plus, they come in gorgeous colors. And I am not gonna lie, anything that adds to the beauty of a pit bull, I am all for.
Petunia and Calvin are two of our longer term residents and helping them gain leash walking skills is a real benefit to them. Plus, they’ll go home in humane equipment, which reduces the likelihood that these great dogs will end up choked, yanked or shocked simply to go for a walk.
No-pull harnesses have some critics, and not harnesses are created equal. But, in addition to helping the vast majority of dogs and their people enjoy their walks more, they also prevent a large number of dogs from being walked on choke or prong collars or get them off of them. I LOVE this comment on the YPBY Facebook page:
“I sadly was a prong-collar user b/c I didn’t think anything else would work… Then I stumbled on your page and learned some patience and some training tips and now it’s only happy harness wearing pups in my life! Thank you!!”
I love it because it means that the information we are sharing is working. I love it because this person found a better solution. I love it because it means that our efforts are paying off. We are thrilled for this person and the dogs she loves.
As for Hazel, we worked quite a bit on loose leash walking. She’s quite good at it and I still walk her on a harness. I like the extra feeling of safety a Freedom Harness gives me. I admit to a bit of paranoia about her (or any other dog, really) slipping out of a collar. I am also not the type of person who needs to show off my dog’s leash walking skills- I just want her to have a good time when we are out and about.
Until a more perfect solution arrives on the scene, we’ll be shouting about the benefits of no-pull harnesses from the rooftops. And if you’ve got a more perfect solution, we’d love to hear more about it. Until then, we stand firmly on the side of no-pull harnesses as effective, humane solutions to choke chains, prong collars and shock collars.
The dogs of the Women’s Humane Society agree.
Read more about the Harness The Love campaign here.