How to Train Your Dog to Wear Dog Harness?

How to Train Your Dog to Wear Dog Harness?

Ever felt like outfitting your dog in a new harness is more like wrestling an alligator than dressing your best friend for a walk? Here to guide you through the comedic yet essential task of teaching your pooch to love their harness as much as they love treats.

Why don’t dogs like dog harnesses?

First things first: why do some dogs treat harnesses like they’re the worst fashion faux pas since socks and sandals? Understanding this can be a game-changer. Dogs might feel confined or scared because a harness is unfamiliar and more restraining than a collar. The trick is to make the harness a symbol of fun times, not fear!

Why Start Dog Harness Training?

First off, why bother with a harness? Unlike collars, harnesses distribute pressure more evenly around your dog’s body, reducing strain on their neck and back. Great for controlling pullers and essential for ensuring your dog’s safety and comfort.

Step 1: Create Positive Associations

Introduce the harness during a calm time when your dog is happy—perhaps after a meal or during playtime. Place it near them, allowing them to sniff and interact with it at their own pace. You want your dog to see the harness as just another everyday object, not something to be feared or anxious about.

Step 2: Use Treats for Positive Reinforcement

Every time your dog sniffs, touches, or shows any interest in the harness, give them a treat. This creates a strong association between the harness and something pleasant. It’s the foundation of positive reinforcement training—you’re rewarding the behavior you want, which is their acceptance of the harness.

Step 3: Touch and Reward

Once your dog is showing interest in the harness, start touching them with it gently. You’re not trying to put it on at this stage, just getting them used to the sensation. Touch the harness to their back, sides, and underneath them, rewarding with treats and praise each time.

Step 4: Incremental Introduction

Now, you’re ready to start putting the harness on your dog, but do it incrementally. Place it over their head or have them step into it (depending on the harness style) and then immediately reward them. Take it off after a few seconds before any discomfort or anxiety can set in.

If it’s a head harness, or you can take the approach of letting your dog take the initiative. Place the harness on the floor and sprinkle some tasty treats around it to associate it with good things right from the start. As soon as they are happy with it, lift it up and feed your dog some of their favourite treats through the head hole, allowing the dog to initiate the head hole, which will greatly reduce resistance.

Step 5: Adjusting the Fit

This step is critical. A poorly fitted harness can be uncomfortable and cause your dog to dislike it intensely. Make sure you can fit two fingers under all the straps. If it’s too tight, it can chafe and be uncomfortable; if it’s too loose, they may be able to wriggle out.

Step 6: Short, Positive Experiences

Keep the harness on for short periods initially. Maybe during a play session or while you’re giving them a few treats. You can gradually extend the time as your dog becomes more comfortable. If they show any sign of distress, remove the harness and try again later, always ending on a positive note with treats and praise.

Step 7: Distract and Engage

While your dog is wearing the harness, engage them in their favorite game or give them a puzzle toy. The idea is to keep their mind occupied so they associate the harness with fun times rather than something restrictive around their body.

Step 8: Indoor Familiarization

Let your dog wear the harness around the house. They can learn to walk, sit, and play with it on, which reinforces that the harness doesn’t impede their normal activities. Keep these sessions short and sweet, with lots of praise for calm behavior.

Step 9: Reward Calmness

If your dog remains calm and behaves well while wearing the harness, it’s important to recognize and reward that behavior. This tells your dog that they’re doing exactly what you want them to do when they’re wearing the harness.

Step 10. Transition to Walking

Once your dog seems comfortable wearing the harness indoors, it’s time to take the show on the road. Start with short walks outside, ideally in a familiar, low-distraction environment. Keep the mood upbeat, and continue with treats and praise to reinforce how good and fun wearing the harness can be.

Remember, every dog is different, and patience is essential. If your dog seems uncomfortable or anxious at any stage, take a step back, slow down the process, and ensure they’re completely comfortable before moving on to the next step. With time and patience, your dog should come to accept wearing a harness as just another part of their daily routine.

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FAQ about How to Train Your Dog to Wear Dog Harness?

  1. What is the first step in getting my dog used to a new harness?
    • Let your dog sniff the harness and explore it on their terms. Place it near their bedding or feeding area to associate it with familiar, safe spaces.
  2. How can I make the harness a positive thing for my dog?
    • Associate the harness with positive experiences like treats, play, or affection. Reward any interest or calm behavior with the harness.
  3. What’s the best way to put a harness on a dog that’s never worn one before?
    • Start by placing the harness on the ground and encourage your dog to step into it, using treats as motivation. Gradually work up to fastening the harness while offering continuous praise and rewards.
  4. How tight should the harness be on my dog?
    • The harness should be snug enough that you can fit two fingers between the harness and your dog’s body, ensuring it’s secure but not restrictive.
  5. How do I stop my dog from chewing on their harness?
    • Distract your dog with toys or treats when they begin to chew the harness, and remove the harness when you’re not around to supervise until they learn it’s not a chew toy.
  6. Can puppies wear harnesses?
    • Yes, puppies can wear harnesses, and it’s a good idea to start early to get them used to it. Just ensure the harness is appropriately sized for a growing puppy.
  7. What should I do if my dog seems scared of the harness?
    • Slow down the training process. Spend more time allowing your dog to get comfortable with the harness through gradual introduction and positive reinforcement.
  8. What’s the best way to transition from a collar to a harness?
    • Gradually increase the amount of time your dog spends in the harness each day, and start using it during pleasant activities like walks or playtime to build a positive association.

Article by

Kyra Luo

Product Design Manager

Kyra is the Product Design Manager at QQPETS, where her expertise in developing high-quality, customized pet products and keen insight into market trends has helped hundreds of clients achieve their goals, save money, and satisfy consumer needs.

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Kyra Luo

Product Design Manager

Kyra is the Product Design Manager at QQPETS, where her expertise in developing high-quality, customized pet products and keen insight into market trends has helped hundreds of clients achieve their goals, save money, and satisfy consumer needs.

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