There isn’t a list of rules set in stone when it comes to walking your dog successfully. Every dog is different. They have different personalities and preferences, and the way they like to take their afternoon walk is no exception to that rule. 

From martingale collars to harnesses, there are various ways that the multi-billion dollar pet industry has come up with to make it easier for us to walk our pets. 

However, it’s vital to remember that the walk’s purpose is solely to benefit our dog. All other perks, such as getting in those extra steps and spending time in nature, are not the primary objectives of taking a walk with our furry friends. 

We walk our dogs to exercise them both mentally and physically. Walks are crucial to the social development of dogs and puppies, and they should be comfortable throughout the duration of their walks. 

Not all dogs prefer the same method of control when going for a walk. Some dogs like head collars, others like traditional collars, and many love harnesses. 

Harnesses are a prevalent method of dog walking. They offer control without putting pressure on the neck, and when fitted properly, they’re incredibly comfortable. 

Of course, not all dogs like their harness, but that doesn’t mean they won’t learn to as time passes. If you’ve purchased a harness that your dog hasn’t taken a liking to, there are a few things that could contribute to that dislike. 

Why does my dog hate his harness?

Like people, dogs correlate events with particular objects. For example, their leash means they’re headed out for an adventure with their favorite person. It’s only standard that you’d expect your pup to jump for joy when you pull out their harness, but if they hate it, going for a walk suddenly becomes a bit more complicated. 

A dog that hates its harness might cower when you attempt to put it on, or they might just run and hide. Either way, you’re going to have a challenge ahead of you every single time you head out for a walk. 

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to your dog and the disdain he has for his harness:

Your dog hates things going over his head

It takes time for dogs to get used to a foreign object going over their face and around their body. Many dogs panic at this concept and the feeling of a harness can be completely unnatural. 

Think about it this way; people are entirely used to putting things over their heads based on the fact that we have to. From sweatshirts to tank tops, most things we wear go over our heads. This is not the case for dogs. 

Many dogs don’t like the feeling of restraint that comes with wearing a harness, and the head and neck are highly sensitive, vulnerable areas. If your dog is okay with its harness once it’s on, but puts up a fight when trying to slip it over its head, then you’ve likely found the root cause of the harness fear. 

The harness you’re using fits your dog poorly

One of the most common reasons dogs don’t like wearing a harness is incorrect fit. If a harness is too tight or too loose, it will be difficult for it to move naturally with the dog. 

Before you commit to purchasing a harness, ensure that you read the product description and sizing information, as well as customer reviews. This way, you can get a good idea of whether or not the harness fits true to size. Also, be clear about the manufacturer’s return policy, so you aren’t stuck with a harness that fits poorly.

Your dog has created a negative association with the harness

While this one might sound silly, rest assured that it isn’t. Dogs don’t have the same cognitive ability that humans do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t remember things in their own way. 

For example, perhaps you pinched their skin while trying to adjust the harness when you put it on for the first term. While this obviously wasn’t purposeful, your pup will likely always remember this when you try to slip this harness over its head and shy away from you as a result. 

How do you get a dog to like a harness?

The good news is, no matter how much your dog hates the harness, it is possible to change its outlook. It takes time and patience to convince a skeptical dog that a harness won’t kill them, but any dedicated dog owner can do it.

You can train any dog to wear a harness successfully. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been fighting you on the matter or how hopeless the situation seems. It’s still possible!

Reintroduce the harness

If your puppy or dog is getting used to wearing a harness, or just plain hates wearing one, you might want to try introducing (or reintroducing) it in a different fashion. For starters, you could try leaving it out on the floor and letting your pup have a good sniff. Dogs get to know things with their noses, so letting them have a good smell will make the harness seem less scary. 

Finding love for the harness

Whenever your dog has a positive interaction with the harness, even if it’s just a hearty sniff, give it a treat! The more your dog associates the harness with a tasty cookie, the more willing it’ll be to go near it. 

Keep your patience

Stay patient with your pup. If the harness is making your dog nervous, they’ll have to spend enough time with it to understand that it’s not going to hurt them in any way. Give the dog as long as it takes to desensitize to the harness, and you’ll see that it will get easier to put it on with time. 

Wear the harness around the house

Start by letting your dog wear the harness around your home! Not only is your dog comfortable there, but it will give him the time needed to get used to having it on. When your pup is in comfortable surroundings, it will make something that makes him nervous (the harness) seem less intimidating. 

Plan plenty of fun outings

If you want your dog to associate with the harness positively, go somewhere fun while wearing the harness! The beach, hiking, or a favorite dog park are perfect places to get your dog to forget about the harness and dig into play, pun intended. 

Is a harness better than a collar?

Since you’re spending so much time getting your dog used to wearing a harness, you might be wondering if a harness is better than a collar. Truthfully, there are perks to using both, and it often depends on the dog when it comes to which will work better for your situation. 

A great training tool

Harnesses offer better control, which is fantastic for control in crowds and busy streets. They don’t cause potential harm to your dog’s neck if they pull or lunge on a leash. Harnesses are an excellent tool for training dogs how to walk appropriately when hooked to a leash. 

Dogs of any age and size typically do very well with a harness, as long as they’re properly trained in how to wear one. If your dog is large, you’ll have more authority when using a harness, and if your dog is tiny, you’ll be dispersing the pressure put on its body during a walk. 

Harnesses discourage pulling in that they prevent the dog from moving forward when they pull. When your dog wears a collar, it can still move ahead while pulling. Eventually, this pulling turns into them taking you for a walk instead of the other way around. 

A harness provides redirection, so if your goal is training and safe leash walking, then yes, a harness is better than a collar. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.