can i use a harness for training my dog to stop pulling on the leash
can i use a harness for training my dog to stop pulling on the leash

Are you tired of your dog constantly pulling on the leash during walks? We have a solution for you! In this article, we explore the effectiveness of using a harness as a training tool to address this common issue. Join us as we delve into the benefits of using a harness, how it helps in training, and whether it is the right choice for your furry friend. So, if you’re ready to enjoy peaceful and enjoyable walks with your pup, let’s find out if a harness is the answer you’ve been looking for!

What is a Dog Harness?

Definition of a dog harness

A dog harness is a piece of equipment designed to wrap around a dog’s torso and shoulders, providing support and control during walks and other activities. Unlike a collar, which attaches around the neck, a harness distributes the force evenly across the dog’s body.

Different types of dog harnesses

There are various types of dog harnesses available, each designed to suit different needs and preferences. Some common types include:

  • Back-clip harness: This type of harness has a attachment point on the dog’s back, allowing for a balanced distribution of pressure. It is suitable for dogs who do not excessively pull on the leash and provides a comfortable option for everyday walks.
  • Front-clip harness: A front-clip harness features an attachment point at the front of the dog’s chest. This design helps redirect the dog’s attention towards the handler and discourages pulling. It is often recommended for dogs who are strong pullers or have a tendency to lunge.
  • No-pull harness: These harnesses are specifically designed to address leash pulling. They often have a front-clip attachment point combined with additional features, such as a tightening mechanism or a chest strap that tightens when the dog pulls. They can be effective tools for curbing pulling behavior.
  • Step-in harness: As the name suggests, a step-in harness is designed for the dog to step into, making it easy to put on and take off. It has two loops that go under the dog’s belly and usually closes with a buckle or Velcro.
  • Adjustable harness: This type of harness allows for a customized fit, as it can be adjusted at multiple points to accommodate different body shapes and sizes.

Pros and cons of using a harness

Using a harness for leash training has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore some:


  • Comfort and safety for the dog: A harness distributes pressure and minimizes strain on the dog’s neck and throat, reducing the risk of injury.
  • Reduces strain on the neck and throat: For dogs who tend to pull, a harness can be a safer alternative to a collar, as it avoids putting excessive pressure on sensitive areas.
  • More control and stability: With a harness, handlers have better control over the dog’s movements, especially if the harness has both front and back attachment points.
  • Improved communication between dog and handler: A well-fitting harness allows for clearer communication between the handler and the dog, facilitating training and behavior correction.


  • Potential for chafing or rubbing: Poorly-fitted harnesses or those made from abrasive materials can potentially cause discomfort or even skin irritation.
  • May encourage pulling if not used properly: While a well-fitted harness can discourage pulling, certain styles or improper usage may inadvertently reinforce pulling behavior if not combined with effective training methods.
  • Some dogs may not tolerate wearing a harness: Dogs who have never worn a harness before may need time to adjust, and some dogs may resist or find the feeling of a harness restrictive.

Understanding Leash Pulling Behavior

Causes of leash pulling

Leash pulling is a common behavior in dogs and can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Excitement: Dogs may pull when they are excited or eager to explore their surroundings.
  • Lack of exercise: Insufficient physical exercise can result in pent-up energy, leading to excess pulling during walks.
  • Lack of training: Dogs that have not been properly leash trained may not understand the expected behavior and rules.
  • Distractions: Dogs can become easily distracted by other animals, people, or interesting scents, causing them to pull towards these stimuli.
  • Reinforcement: If pulling has been inadvertently reinforced in the past, the behavior can become ingrained and more difficult to address.

Consequences of leash pulling

Leash pulling can have various negative consequences for both the dog and the handler:

  • Physical strain: Pulling on the leash can place significant strain on the dog’s neck, throat, and spine, potentially leading to injuries or discomfort.
  • Lack of control: A dog that consistently pulls can be difficult to control, which can be particularly problematic in high-traffic areas or around other dogs or animals.
  • Unpleasant walks: Constant pulling can make walks stressful and less enjoyable for both the dog and the handler.
  • Reinforcement of pulling behavior: When a dog successfully pulls and reaches their desired destination, the behavior is inadvertently reinforced, making it more challenging to address.

Importance of addressing leash pulling

Addressing leash pulling behavior is essential for the well-being of both the dog and the handler. By teaching a dog to walk calmly on a leash, you can ensure their safety, improve control, and make walks more enjoyable for both of you. Additionally, leash training can enhance communication and trust between the dog and the handler, strengthening the bond and fostering a positive relationship.

Benefits of Using a Harness for Training

Comfort and safety for the dog

One of the primary benefits of using a harness for training is the comfort and safety it provides for the dog. Unlike a collar, which can put pressure on the neck and throat when a dog pulls, a harness distributes the force evenly across the body. This helps to minimize strain and reduces the risk of injury.

Reduces strain on the neck and throat

Since a harness distributes pressure across a larger area of the dog’s body, it reduces strain on the neck and throat. This is especially beneficial for dogs that tend to pull on the leash, as excessive pulling can lead to neck injuries or discomfort. By using a harness, the force is spread out, making walks more comfortable and safer for the dog.

More control and stability

A harness provides handlers with greater control and stability during walks or training sessions. The attachment points on a harness, whether at the back or front, allow for better maneuverability and direction. This is particularly useful when dealing with strong pullers or dogs with a strong prey drive. Additionally, the stability provided by a harness can help handlers maintain balance and prevent unexpected movements.

Improved communication between dog and handler

Using a harness can enhance communication between the dog and the handler. A well-fitting harness allows for clearer cues and signals, making it easier for the dog to understand what is expected of them. This improved communication can facilitate training and behavior correction, leading to a more harmonious and cooperative relationship between the dog and their handler.

Choosing the Right Harness

Factors to consider when selecting a harness

When choosing a harness, certain factors should be considered to ensure the best fit and suitability for your dog:

  • Size and breed: Different harnesses are designed for different sizes and breeds. Consider your dog’s weight, chest measurement, and breed characteristics when selecting a harness.
  • Comfort: Look for harnesses made from soft, durable materials that won’t irritate your dog’s skin. Ensure the design and fit allow for natural movement and don’t restrict your dog’s range of motion.
  • Ease of use: Consider how easy it is to put on and take off the harness, as well as any adjustment mechanisms. A harness that is simple and quick to use will make daily walks more convenient.
  • Durability: A well-constructed harness made from high-quality materials will be more durable and able to withstand daily wear and tear.
  • Reflective elements: If you walk your dog during low-light conditions, look for a harness with reflective elements to enhance visibility and safety.
  • Style and design: While not the most critical factor, selecting a harness that matches your personal preference and style can add a touch of personality to your walks.

Front-clip vs. back-clip harnesses

Front-clip and back-clip harnesses differ in where the leash attachment point is located. Understanding the differences can help you determine which is the most suitable option for your dog:

  • Front-clip harness: A front-clip harness has the attachment point located at the front of the dog’s chest. This design helps redirect the dog’s attention towards the handler and discourages pulling. It is a popular choice for dogs prone to leash pulling or who require additional training.
  • Back-clip harness: A back-clip harness has the attachment point located on the dog’s back, between the shoulder blades. This design provides a balanced distribution of pressure and is suitable for dogs that don’t excessively pull or exhibit leash reactive behavior.

Harness size and fit

Ensuring the proper size and fit of a harness is crucial for both the dog’s comfort and safety. A poorly-fitted harness can rub, chafe, or even become loose, compromising control. When selecting a harness:

  1. Measure your dog’s chest: Using a measuring tape, measure the circumference of your dog’s chest just behind their front legs. This measurement will help determine the appropriate harness size.
  2. Check the manufacturer’s sizing guide: Each harness brand may have slightly different sizing, so refer to the manufacturer’s sizing guide and match your dog’s measurements to the appropriate size.
  3. Adjust the straps: Once you have the harness, adjust the straps to ensure a snug fit. The harness should be secure but not overly tight, allowing for comfortable movement and breathing.
  4. Regularly check the fit: As your dog grows or gains/loses weight, periodically check the fit of the harness and make any necessary adjustments. Additionally, regularly inspect the harness for signs of wear and tear.

Additional features to look for

When choosing a harness, you may also want to consider additional features that can enhance functionality and convenience. Some examples include:

  • Handle: Some harnesses come with a sturdy handle on the back, allowing handlers to easily grab and lift the dog if necessary. This can be particularly helpful for assisting older or disabled dogs.
  • Multiple attachment points: Certain harnesses have both front and back attachment points, providing versatility in training and control options.
  • Reflective elements: Harnesses with reflective strips or accents can improve visibility during low-light conditions.
  • Quick-release buckles: Look for harnesses that have quick-release buckles, making it easier to put on and take off the harness.

Introduction to Leash Training

Importance of leash training

Leash training is an essential skill for both dogs and their handlers. It allows for safe and controlled walks, promotes positive behavior, and fosters a strong bond between the dog and their handler. Leash training teaches dogs to walk calmly on a leash, respond to cues, and follow commands, making outings more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Basic leash training techniques

When starting leash training, it’s important to begin with the basics:

  1. Introduce the leash: Allow your dog to sniff, investigate, and become comfortable with the leash before attaching it to their harness.
  2. Use positive reinforcement: Reward your dog with treats, praise, or toys for calm behavior and walking beside you.
  3. Start in a controlled environment: Begin training in a quiet and familiar location, gradually progressing to busier areas.
  4. Practice loose leash walking: Encourage your dog to walk beside you on a loose leash, rewarding them for staying close and not pulling.
  5. Use short, frequent training sessions: Keep training sessions short and fun, focusing on positive reinforcement and rewarding desired behavior.

Positive reinforcement vs. correction-based methods

Positive reinforcement is a highly effective and humane method of leash training. It involves using rewards, such as treats, praise, or play, to reinforce desired behaviors. By rewarding your dog for walking calmly on a loose leash or responding to commands, you encourage them to repeat the behavior.

Correction-based methods, such as leash corrections or aversive tools, can be counterproductive and may lead to increased fear, anxiety, or aggression in dogs. It’s best to focus on positive reinforcement techniques and to seek guidance from a professional dog trainer if you encounter challenges during training.

Using a Harness for Leash Training

Introducing the harness to the dog

When introducing a harness to your dog, it’s essential to make the experience positive and low-stress. Follow these steps:

  1. Let the dog sniff and investigate the harness before putting it on.
  2. Gradually bring the harness closer to the dog, rewarding them for calm behavior and positive associations.
  3. Pair the harness with rewards: Give your dog treats or praise while they are near or wearing the harness to create positive associations.
  4. Practice putting on and taking off the harness multiple times, ensuring the experience is enjoyable for your dog.

Gradual desensitization to the harness

If your dog is particularly sensitive or hesitant about wearing a harness, it may be necessary to desensitize them gradually. Break the process down into small steps, allowing your dog to become comfortable at each stage before proceeding:

  1. Start by simply placing the harness near your dog without attaching it.
  2. Gradually increase the amount of time the harness is left near your dog, rewarding their calm behavior during this exposure.
  3. Once your dog is comfortable with the presence of the harness, begin buckling or securing the harness loosely while rewarding positive behavior.
  4. Gradually increase the duration of time your dog wears the harness, always rewarding calmness and positive associations.

Building positive associations with the harness

To build positive associations with the harness, consider the following tips:

  1. Use treats or a favorite toy during the introduction and wearing of the harness.
  2. Associate the harness with positive experiences, such as going for a walk or engaging in a fun activity.
  3. Maintain a calm and positive demeanor while putting on and adjusting the harness.
  4. Gradually increase the duration of time your dog wears the harness while rewarding their calm behavior.

Combining harness with leash training techniques

Once your dog is comfortable wearing the harness, you can begin incorporating leash training techniques:

  1. Attach the leash to the harness and practice loose leash walking.
  2. Reward your dog for walking calmly beside you and redirect their attention if they start to pull.
  3. Utilize positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats or praise, to encourage good leash manners.
  4. Consistency is key: Practice regularly and reinforce desired behavior consistently to make it a habit.

Tips for Effective Leash Training with a Harness

Consistency and patience

Consistency is crucial when leash training with a harness. Set aside regular training sessions and be patient with your dog’s progress. Like any new skill, leash training takes time and practice. By maintaining consistency and patience, you can help your dog develop reliable leash manners.

Using rewards and treats

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in leash training. Use rewards, such as treats, praise, or play, to motivate and reinforce desired behaviors. Reward your dog for walking calmly on a loose leash and for responding to cues. This positive association with good behavior will encourage your dog to continue practicing good leash manners.

Avoiding negative reinforcement

Negative reinforcement, such as pulling on the leash or using aversive techniques, should be avoided during leash training. Punitive methods can undermine the trust and bond between you and your dog, potentially leading to increased fear or aggression. Focus on positive reinforcement techniques and reward-based training to create a positive learning environment.

Seeking professional help if needed

If you encounter challenges during leash training or if your dog’s pulling behavior persists despite using a harness, consider seeking professional help from a certified dog trainer or behaviorist. They can provide personalized guidance, address any underlying issues, and suggest alternative strategies to manage and correct your dog’s behavior.

Common Challenges and Troubleshooting

Resistance or reluctance to wear the harness

If your dog shows resistance or reluctance to wear the harness, try the following troubleshooting tips:

  1. Make sure the harness fits correctly and is not causing any discomfort.
  2. Gradually desensitize your dog to the harness, using positive reinforcement techniques to create positive associations.
  3. Seek the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist if your dog continues to resist wearing the harness.

Pulling despite using a harness

If your dog continues to pull despite wearing a harness, consider the following strategies:

  1. Practice leash training techniques consistently, rewarding calm behavior and redirecting attention from pulling.
  2. Consider using a front-clip harness or a no-pull harness designed specifically to discourage pulling behavior.
  3. Seek guidance from a professional dog trainer who can provide personalized strategies and assistance.

Escaping or slipping out of the harness

To prevent your dog from escaping or slipping out of the harness:

  1. Double-check the fit of the harness and ensure it is snug but not overly tight.
  2. Consider using a harness with additional straps, clips, or buckles to provide extra security.
  3. Use a harness that has both front and back attachment points for added stability and control.
  4. Seek advice from a professional trainer or behaviorist who can recommend alternative harness designs or methods for your dog’s particular needs.

Addressing behavioral issues alongside leash training

Leash training may need to be accompanied by addressing any underlying behavioral issues that contribute to leash pulling or other challenges. Consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who can assess your dog’s behavior holistically and provide guidance on how to address any additional concerns.

Additional Training Aids and Techniques

Training leads and long lines

Training leads and long lines can be valuable tools for teaching leash manners in various environments. These longer leashes allow for more freedom and gradual increases in distance while maintaining control over your dog’s movements. They are particularly useful for practicing recall or training in open spaces.

Head halters and no-pull devices

Head halters, such as the Gentle Leader or Halti, are designed to fit over your dog’s muzzle and provide control by redirecting their head movements. These devices can be useful for managing excessive pulling or reactive behavior. Additionally, there are various no-pull devices available, such as front-clip harnesses or anti-pull attachments, which can help discourage pulling during walks.

Positive reinforcement training methods

Positive reinforcement training methods, such as clicker training or marker training, can be highly effective in teaching desired behaviors and leash manners. These methods rely on rewarding your dog for the correct response or behavior, strengthening the association between the behavior and the reward. Positive reinforcement fosters a positive learning environment and encourages your dog to actively participate in the training process.

Working with a professional dog trainer

Working with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can greatly enhance your leash training efforts. They can provide personalized guidance, tailor training methods to your dog’s needs, and offer valuable insights into addressing specific challenges or behavioral issues. A professional trainer can also help you fine-tune your training techniques and provide ongoing support throughout the training process.


In summary, using a harness for leash training offers many benefits for both dogs and their handlers. Harnesses provide comfort, safety, and control, reducing strain on the neck and throat. They are particularly useful when addressing leash pulling behavior. When choosing a harness, consider factors such as size, fit, and additional features. Introduce the harness gradually, using positive reinforcement techniques to build positive associations. Combined with consistent leash training techniques and patience, a harness can help you achieve a well-behaved, leash-trained dog. If challenges arise, seek professional help to address any underlying behavioral issues and receive guidance tailored to your specific situation. Happy walks and happy training!

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Brian Moore
I'm Brian Moore, a veterinarian with over 10 years of experience. I graduated from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. After graduation, I worked as a general practitioner in a small animal clinic for several years. In 2017, I opened my own veterinary practice, Moore Animal Hospital. I'm passionate about providing compassionate and high-quality care to all animals. I'm skilled in a wide range of veterinary procedures, including surgery, dentistry, and internal medicine. I'm also a certified animal behaviorist, and I take a special interest in helping animals with behavioral problems. In addition to my clinical work, I'm also active in the veterinary community. I'm a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the California Veterinary Medical Association. I'm also a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences. I'm dedicated to providing the best possible care for my patients and their families. I'm a compassionate and knowledgeable veterinarian who is always willing to go the extra mile. I'm originally from San Francisco, California. I'm married and have two children. I enjoy hiking, camping, and spending time with my family. I'm also a member of the local animal shelter and volunteer my time to help care for homeless animals. I'm excited to continue my career as a veterinarian and help even more animals in need.