Is a Step-In Harness Good for Pulling?

Is a Step-In Harness Good for Pulling?

The age-old dilemma for every pet owner – how to keep your dog from pulling while searching for the perfect dog walking gear! So, let’s get straight to the point: Are step-in harnesses the solution to your dog’s pulling problem on a walk?

In short, while step-in harnesses have many benefits, they are not usually designed for dogs that pull hard. Let’s take a look at why, and what methods might be more effective.

What’s a Step-In Harness?

A step-in dog harness is a type of harness that is designed for easy wearing, particularly suitable for dogs that are sensitive to having items pulled over their heads. The harness typically lays flat on the ground, allowing the dog to simply “step in” with their front legs into two armholes, after which the harness is pulled up and fastened around the back and chest. Here’s a detailed look at its features and benefits:


  • Ease of Use: Step-in harnesses are generally easier to put on, especially for dogs that are sensitive about having items put over their heads. Owners can simply lay the harness flat, have the dog step in, and then buckle it up around the back.
  • Comfort: They are often less constricting around the neck since they primarily secure around the body. This can be more comfortable for dogs with sensitive necks or breathing issues.
  • Suitability for Small Dogs: They are particularly popular for smaller breeds, as these harnesses can be more comfortable and easier to fit on petite frames.


  • Less Control: For some designs, especially if not properly adjusted, step-in harnesses can offer less control over active or large dogs compared to overhead harnesses.
  • Security Concerns: If not correctly fastened, dogs might be able to escape from a step-in harness more easily than from an overhead harness.

Ideal Users:

  • Small to Medium Dogs: Especially popular among owners of small to medium-sized breeds due to the non-intrusive design.
  • Puppies: Great for puppies who are still getting accustomed to wearing a harness.
  • Elderly or Sensitive Dogs: Beneficial for older dogs or those with past neck or back injuries, where avoiding pressure on these areas is crucial.

How to Use:

To use a step-in harness, simply lay it flat on the ground, guide your dog’s legs into the openings, and then buckle the harness on their back. Adjust the straps to fit snugly, and attach a leash to the metal ring on the back of the harness.

While step-in harnesses work well for many dogs, they are not the best way to manage pulling behavior. First, because these harnesses often do not provide enough control for a dog who pulls because the design does not discourage the behavior. Also, the connection point for most step-in harnesses to attach to the leash is in the back, which can actually encourage some dogs to pull.

Why do dogs pull on the leash?

Dogs pull on their leashes for a variety of reasons, often rooted in natural canine behaviors, excitement, and sometimes due to a lack of training. Understanding why dogs pull can help address this behavior effectively. Here are some common reasons why dogs might pull on a leash:

  1. Excitement and Exploration: Dogs are naturally curious and enthusiastic creatures. When they are out on a walk, they are excited by the new environments, smells, sounds, and sights. This excitement drives them to pull towards whatever catches their interest, as they are eager to explore as much as possible.
  2. Lack of Training: Proper leash manners are not instinctive for dogs; they need to be taught how to walk nicely on a leash. Without consistent training, dogs might not learn that pulling is undesirable behavior. Dogs that pull often haven’t been shown or conditioned to walk calmly beside their owner.
  3. Instinctual Behaviors: Some dogs, especially those breeds originally bred for hunting or herding, have strong instincts that can drive them to pull. For example, scent hounds may pull towards interesting smells, following their noses, while herding dogs might naturally want to move around and gather people or other animals.
  4. Reinforcement of Pulling: If pulling gets them where they want to go, dogs are likely to repeat the behavior. Inadvertently, owners may reinforce pulling by allowing the dog to move forward when they pull, teaching them that pulling is effective for getting to explore or reach a destination faster.
  5. Fear or Anxiety: In some cases, dogs may pull as a reaction to fear or anxiety. This could be due to a scary or stressful environment, like heavy traffic or the presence of other dogs that might make them uncomfortable. Pulling in these instances might be an attempt to escape perceived threats.
  6. Overabundance of Energy: Dogs with high energy levels, especially young dogs and those who do not receive enough physical exercise, may pull as a way to release some of that pent-up energy.

How to reduce pulling behavior in dogs?

Reducing pulling behavior in dogs involves a combination of proper training techniques, consistent reinforcement, the right equipment, and ensuring your dog’s physical and mental needs are met. Here’s a comprehensive approach to help decrease or eliminate leash pulling:

1. Use the Right Harness or Collar:

  • No-Pull Harness: Consider using a no-pull harness that has a front-leash attachment point. These harnesses help manage pulling by redirecting your dog’s motion towards you when they pull, making it physically difficult for them to continue pulling forward.
  • Head Collars: For strong pullers, a head collar can be effective. It controls the head, and where the head goes, the body follows. It’s similar to the equipment used on horses and provides significant control.

2. Implement Training Techniques:

  • The Red Light, Green Light Technique: Whenever your dog starts to pull, immediately stop walking. Stand still and don’t move forward until the leash is slack. Once the leash slackens, you can resume walking. This teaches your dog that pulling stops the walk.
  • The 180-Degree Turn: When your dog pulls, abruptly change direction and walk the other way. This method teaches them that pulling will not take them to their desired destination and that they need to pay attention to you during walks.

3. Positive Reinforcement:

  • Reward your dog when they walk nicely without pulling. Use treats, praise, or toys to reward good behavior right beside you. Make sure the rewards happen at the height of your knee (where you want them to stay) to encourage them to remain at your side.
  • Reinforce the command “heel” by rewarding your dog when they walk closely beside you on a loose leash.

4. Consistent Practice:

  • Regular training is crucial. Practice the walking techniques in a low-distraction environment before gradually moving to more challenging environments.
  • Short, frequent training sessions are more effective than long, sporadic ones.

5. Ensure Sufficient Exercise:

  • Ensure your dog gets adequate physical exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day. A well-exercised dog is less likely to have excessive energy that contributes to pulling.
  • Engage your dog in activities that drain energy, such as running, playing fetch, or agility training, which can also serve as mental stimulation.

6. Address Behavioral Issues:

  • If your dog’s pulling is motivated by anxiety or fear (reactivity to cars, other dogs, etc.), consider consulting a professional dog trainer or a behaviorist. Behavioral training and desensitization might be necessary to address the underlying issues.

7. Regularly Check Equipment Fit:

  • Make sure that the harness or collar fits properly. Poorly fitting equipment can be uncomfortable for your dog and may exacerbate pulling behavior.

8. Engage in Attention Exercises:

  • Practice attention exercises like having your dog look at you on command. This can help improve focus during walks and reduce pulling triggered by distractions.

By combining these strategies, you can effectively reduce and potentially eliminate pulling, making walks more enjoyable and safer for both you and your dog. Remember, consistency and patience are key in any form of dog training.

How to train your dog to pull less?

Training your dog to pull less on the leash involves a combination of consistent training, proper equipment, and understanding the underlying reasons for the pulling behavior. Here’s a structured approach to help you effectively train your dog to walk calmly by your side:

1. Choose Appropriate Equipment:

  • Harness: A no-pull harness with a front clip can be highly effective. These harnesses discourage pulling by redirecting your dog’s motion towards you when they try to pull forward.
  • Head Collar: For strong pullers, a head collar can provide additional control. It works by steering the dog’s head and naturally the body follows, making it easier to redirect their movement.

2. Implement Training Techniques:

  • Stop-and-Go Technique: When your dog begins to pull, stop walking immediately. Stand still and do not move forward until the leash is slack. Once your dog stops pulling and the tension on the leash relaxes, resume walking. This teaches your dog that pulling gets them nowhere and that walking calmly is what moves them forward.
  • Direction Change: When your dog starts pulling, change your direction completely. This unpredictability requires your dog to pay attention to where you’re going rather than pulling towards something interesting.

3. Use Positive Reinforcement:

  • Reward your dog for good behavior. Whenever they walk beside you on a loose leash, immediately reward them with treats, praise, or petting. Make sure to reward them at your side to reinforce the position you want them to maintain.
  • Consistently practice the “heel” command. When your dog walks nicely beside you, use the command “heel” and reward them for obedience.

4. Increase Exercise and Mental Stimulation:

  • Ensure your dog receives adequate physical exercise and mental stimulation. A dog with excess energy is more likely to pull on walks. Consider activities such as running, fetching, and agility exercises that not only tire them out physically but also mentally.

5. Address Behavioral Issues:

  • If your dog’s pulling is due to anxiety, fear, or over-excitement, it may be beneficial to consult a professional trainer. Behavioral training such as desensitization or counter-conditioning can help manage reactions to stimuli that trigger pulling.

6. Practice Regularly in Different Environments:

  • Regular training in various settings gradually introduces more distractions. Start in a quiet area to establish the behavior, and slowly move to places with more distractions once your dog shows consistent improvement.

7. Maintain Patience and Consistency:

  • Be patient and consistent. Training a dog not to pull can take time, and consistency is key. Use the same commands and rewards to help your dog learn what is expected during walks.

8. Engage in Attention Exercises:

  • Work on attention exercises during walks. Train your dog to check in with you frequently by making eye contact. Reward them every time they look at you voluntarily. This builds focus and reduces the impulse to pull towards distractions.

By employing these methods, you can train your dog to walk beside you more calmly and enjoyably. Remember, the goal is to make the walk a pleasant experience for both of you, reinforcing good behaviors and gradually reducing tendencies to pull.


The step-in harness offers great benefits for ease and comfort but might not cut it for the enthusiastic puller. Matching the right gear to your dog’s habits and your walking routine can make all the difference in enjoying stress-free outdoor adventures.

FAQ about step in dog harness


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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