How to harness train your puppy in 4 simple steps

Last updated on March 21st, 2015 at 10:32 am

A common misconception about the use of harnesses on puppies, regardless of their age, is that it

How to harness train a puppy

Puppy Harness Training

must be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Some puppies do well with harness training and better with collars, so do not be afraid to start off slowly. In addition, it is important to acknowledge that the breed of a dog and its nutrition may impact how longer a young dog actually stays a puppy.

It looks more complicated than it is.The truth is that large and giants breeds can take up to two years to reach their full growth and development, while dogs with an expected  adult of 20 pounds or less will usually become a full-grown dog by their first birthday.

That information will be important to consider when you are training a young dog to use a harness. If you start harness training a dog the size of a Mastiff or Great Dane after their first birthday, you still have plenty of time to get them trained in the use of a harness, but a miniature rat terrier at the same age may require you to change your techniques.  Some puppies who have not been introduced to a harness within the first four months of life may be scared of it, so be sure to remember extra treats or other examples of positive reinforcement with them.

Simply put, puppies are often easier to train and a dog who has reached their full size may take longer to learn new skills. In addition, there are three different types of maturity that a dog will eventually experience. Behavioral, sexual and physical maturity can all play a role in how well your puppy takes to the harness. Many animal care experts recommend the spay or neutering of puppies when they are young.

Doing so is obviously effective for curbing the unwanted pet population and helps dogs live longer. By removing the hormonal influx that breeding animals experience, it is also known to prevent aggressive behavior that can delay harness, leash, and other training.

Behavioral and physical maturity often coincide with their growth cycles.When they quit growing, you are likely to see that they are calmer, quieter etc. There is an old saying that is still true-everybody loves a puppy till they have raised a puppy, then they may  love mature dogs a bit more.

Basics of the Harness Versus a Training Harness

If you were fortunate enough to get your puppy when they were very young, you will probably find that training them for anything, including the harness, is easier than you thought. If they were a little older, you can still be successful, but it may take longer.

It is first necessary to teach the puppy that no matter how big he or she eventually becomes or how quickly they grow, you are in charge. You should not be vicious about it, but simply stopping and starting sessions and enforcing guidelines about behavior training, etc. will help a lot when your dog is 150 or 200 pounds within the next year or two.

Their size and strength may require the use of a training halter. Remember that although the dog pulling away from you while using the harness and leash is uncomfortable for you, it can be painful or even cause injury to them. Therefore, a training harness with multiple connective points can allow you to redirect your puppy’s attention safely and easily.

When they are adequately responsive to the training harness, you can include a standard harness in its place. A good rule of thumb is that if have to pull your puppy away or he tries to pull you away very often, the harness you are using is probably not the best choice.

Some dog owners prefer that their dogs of any age wear a harness in place of a standard collar, and therefore they wear it most or all of the time. If that is something you are interested in, talk to your veterinarian and see if doing so would be an appropriate choice for your puppy at their age and size. In general, most experts believe that harnesses should not be worn unless they are being used, due to the possibility of accident or injury.

Regardless, make sure that it is a comfortable and flexible material that fits snugly, without extra gaps and that it is not too tight. As part of that, it is also helpful to choose a harness that is lined with a soft material to prevent rubbing injuries or sore spots.

Now that you know the basics of harness training your puppy and have chosen the right harness, you can begin the training process.

Step#1- Allow Your Puppy to Become Comfortable with the Harness.

Allow your puppy to thoroughly and safely investigate the new harness. That can involve them wearing it around the house, with or without a leash. Dogs learn a lot about new items by sniffing them and repeated desensitization.

Once your puppy becomes familiar with it and is not scared, snap them into it, even it is just for a quick trip to the back yard or another room of the house. If your puppy panics, displays fear or tries to get away, remove the harness immediately. The last thing you want is to encourage fear of the harness. Otherwise, you might walk in one day and find it in threads…because your puppy was finally able to destroy its enemy.

Step #2-Take Your Puppy on a Familiar Walk

By walking with your dog in an area they are already comfortable in, you are less likely to cause an emotional upset for them. It is a good idea to consistently keep them on one part of your body, so lead with your left or right arm. This just sets the expectation of future behavior.

Step #3-Use What Motivates Them For Positive Reinforcement

Few dogs will turn down a treat, but they are not all food motivated. Typically, puppies and dogs of any age are particularly motivated by positive reinforcement, food or toys. Just as you have favorite food and activities, you may notice that your puppy is particularly susceptible to specific foods or specific types of toys . When you know that, use their motivators to make the walk a positive experience for them-at appropriate points during and after the event. Obviously, you don’t want to offer a puzzle toy part way through the walk, but eventually you will find what works for you both.

Building a happy association with a new experience makes that experience more favorable in the future.

Step #4-Store the Harness Somewhere Visible and Be Happy About Future Walks

When you get home, be sure to place the harness and leash at an accessible place and refer to in the same, happy voice each time you are preparing to use it.  When you see walking with your dog as an important and fun event, your puppy will usually do so as well. Eventually, your dog may come to you with the harness or indicate in other ways that he wants to use it. Not every puppy will, but know that if your dog does so, it’s like a big congratulations on harness training, from the being who will benefit most from it.

In conclusion, teaching a puppy to walk using a harness and leash is often one of the most basic skills. Harnesses are generally thought to be a safer way of controlling your dog and therefore, it is best to allow it to be enjoyable experience for both you and your beloved pooch.

Elyce Nicholls
Elyce Nicholls

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