It's very common for dogs to pull on their leashes when you walk them. Dog leash pulling is one of the most common behavioral issues first-time owners run into that eventually prompt owners to start training their dogs for their own safety, and for the safety of dogs. Certain tools can be of help in this matter while also not pose any injury risk for your canines.
Dog owners who've been dragged by an aggressive puller, or a dog chasing a cat or a squirrel, understand that dog's leash pulling is not just a nuisance – it's dangerous. It's a safety hazard both for the dog and the walker. This has been observed in studies, but if you're an owner of an aggressive puller, then you don't need science to see how constant leash pulling can become a problem.
Today more than ever, no-pull dog harnesses are becoming the most common choice of every dog owner. While they're more expensive than a regular collar or a regular harness, they provide far greater benefits for you and your pooch. So how exactly do no-pull harnesses for dogs help, and what do you need to know about leash pulling?
What We Know About Leash Pulling
There's been quite a few papers written on dog leash pulling behavior and related habits. The general consensus is that this can potentially cause danger to dogs and people walking them, as demonstrated in one study (Shabelansky et al. 2016). To be more specific, other studies also suggest that dog leash pulling may result in too high blood pressure flowing into the dogs' eyes, and potentially broken trachea or larynx (Pauli et al. 2006).
Dog trainers and medical professionals also warn owners that puppies that are not properly leash trained will turn into adult dogs that pull incessantly on their dog leashes thereby continuing this misbehavior.
This can be a major issue particularly with strong medium or large breeds that can drag the owner behind them, like Staffordshire Bull Terriers. These dogs can weigh upwards of 60 pounds and have serious power, which means problems when the dog decides to take off.
Although many owners see leash pulling as “something dogs do,” it is in fact a behavioral problem that must be corrected as soon as possible. Some owners opt for negative punishment, which was shown as ineffective (Cooper et al. 2014), or positive punishment, which for years have been known to have little to no effect on changing behavioral problems in dogs as well (Holz, 1968; Church, 1963), or shouting at the dog and other similar ineffective methods¹.
Research demonstrates² that tools such as no pull dog harnesses which serve as disruptive stimuli work better with dogs who like to pull a lot (Shivik et al. 2000; PDF). Compared to negative or positive punishment methods, using a no pull dog harness simply serves as an “undesirable event” for the dog, which eventually leads the animal to change its course of action towards a more desirable behavior³.
ULTIMATE LIST: The 50 Best Dog Harnesses for Walking Your Dogs
How No-Pull Dog Harnesses and Collars Help with Dog Leash Pulling
Skip the Regular Dog Collar
Dogs that pull incessantly cannot wear regular dog collars. These collars simply do not work for training or even walking (if they pull incessantly), and may result in injuries for both the dog and the owner, as I noted above.
Research shows that even in regular setting, dog collars put far more pressure on the dog's neck, trachea and larynx than a harness does (Paul et al. 2006). This is particularly dangerous for dogs who have serious leash pulling problems.
Moreover, not only do regular dog collars may cause pain and injuries, but they're also very easy for your pooch to slip out of, as well as allowing the dog to easily drag the owner all over the place. And although dogs do in fact feel pain, they do not always comprehend the fact that they are hurting themselves or place the owner in danger.
Avoid Prong/Choke Collars
As someone who's been teaching people about dog training, I've seen dog owners try different methods. Aside from negative punishment, some choose to use choke collars or prong collars for dogs that pull on the leash. Others opt for shock collars and other methods that may cause a certain level of pain. These are far from ideal solutions, and rarely result in what the owners try to achieve (Blackwell et al. 2012).
Dog trainers and other animal experts agree that using either of these dog collar types may hurt the dog, both physically and mentally. So pair that with the evidence of them being ineffective, and that's a good enough reason to dismiss many types of dog prong collars and choke collars altogether.
Training and No Pull Harnesses
With the above in mind, it appears that no pull dog products such as special harnesses or collars are indeed the best solution we have today. No pull dog harnesses, for example, are becoming the most often bought product in the dog supplies category regardless if the dog is a puller or not.
That said, even though a no pull dog harness is the safest and easiest way to stop a dog from pulling on a leash – and definitely better than prong, choke or shock collars – remember that leash pulling training cannot be avoided.
All no-pull harnesses only serve as a temporary solution and simple aid while you're training the dog to stop pulling.
If you decide to start training your dog to not pull on the leash (see the video on how to do it here), you'll have to get either one of the two tools: dog head collar or dog front clip harness, which is essentially a so-called “no pull dog harness.”
These safe dog training tools have been shown to work well for training dogs to stop pulling on the leash without harming them. Many dog experts and trainers continue to use them. However, keep in mind that it's very important to get the right stuff that you can trust will not hurt your pooch. So let's talk briefly about these head collars and front clip harnesses so you know what you're after.
No-Pull Dog Head Collars
Although they do go around the dog’s snout – sort of like an open muzzle – dogs are still able to open their mouths, pick things up, drink, and eat when the head collar is on.
In the photo to the right, you can see what a dog head collar looks like. You can find more of them on Amazon and browse through their description for details. They're also not very expensive, so most owners can buy them as a temporary solution and stop using when the time is right.
These collars for dogs may not look “good” on your pooch, but if you're having problems with your pet pulling on the leash, this cannot be avoided. Plus, it's only temporary, so when you get a stare from another dog owner in the park, pretend you're about to unleash your fierce beast on them that is your Yorkie. Not really.
Dog head collars allow the dog walker to attach the dog leash to the strap around the canine's muzzle and lead them in the direction they want the dog to go instead of pulling on the dog’s neck like a basic collar would. This removes all the unnecessary strain, even though it may not look as attractive as a harness.
When your dog pulls on the leash, the strap around the muzzle will put pressure on a point that triggers your pooch to relax immediately. Because pressure is only applied when the dog pulls, your pet will begin to realize that he is the one in control of the pressure.
A word of caution. Although dog head collars are excellent for dogs that pull, they also take some time for the dog to get used to, and therefore do require a little bit of leash training using the proper dog leash that fits them. You must prepare and train for this before you and your pooch are able to a dog head collar on a daily basis.
Front Clip/No-Pull Dog Harnesses
More and more dog owners are switching to using dog harnesses over regular collars and simple dog leashes, even when there are no issues with pulling. This makes sense for multiple reasons.
Not only does using a really good dog harnesses with a front clip prevent any injuries from your dog pulling, it's also generally safer in many other potential scenarios. It even looks better and more humane on a dog, or so I have been complemented.
What you see to the right is that type of a dog harness, made by Ruffwear – a company with great reputation. I personally love their products, and their dog harness is by far the best quality you can get. However, it is one of the more expensive ones on the market.
Many dog companies are now focused on manufacturing different types of front clip/no-pull dog harnesses and other similar devices that help owners to deal with leash pulling, which is a very common issue. If the Ruffwear is too expensive, there are plenty of other choices for no pull harnesses here that cost about half the price.
As most of you know, there are several types of dog harnesses out there, and not all of them work in the same way or help the same cause. Not all of them also work for the same types of dogs. A lot depends on your pet's breed, size, age and temperament.
When discussing dog harnesses, many imagine those step-in harnesses for dogs which allow the walker to clip the leash between the dog’s shoulder blades. While these may be good for walking dogs in general, if you have an issue with your dog pulling on the leash, then these harnesses are not for you. In fact, these dog harnesses encourage pulling.
So my advice is to stick with one of the two options we discussed above.
Take Home Message
Front clip no pull dog harness will allow you to clip the dog leash directly to it in the middle of the dog’s chest, thereby providing perfect balance when there's stimuli.
Also, this way there are two straps applying pressure to the dog’s chest at the time of pulling, and it's also easier for the owner to train the dog to stop pulling permanently using a no pull dog harness.
To put the final nail into the coffin, front clip dog harnesses are more easily accepted by the dog, by the pet loving community and there's a lot less training required to start using them effectively. Finally, they just look so damn good!
So if you're thinking whether to go with a dog head collar or a front clip harness, then go with the latter.
Most importantly, please do not use any other tools that may hurt your dog or you as well as prevent you from effectively training your pet to stop pulling once and for all. These trial and error methods have already been done by other dog owners – they don't work (please see studies above).
If you want some advice on training dogs using front-clip dog harnesses, I recommend you reading some of these articles (I also linked to these above in the article):
- The No-Pull Debate
- 9 Resources for Leash Training Dogs
- The Importance of the Proper Dog Collars
- 5 Ways to Train a Hyperactive Dog to Calm Down
- Loose Leash Walking (PDF)
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