Why do Harnesses Encourage Pulling?

Why do Harnesses Encourage Pulling?

Why do Harnesses Encourage Pulling?

Harnesses are a popular choice among pet owners for their ability to provide control without straining the dog’s neck. However, some argue that harnesses might actually encourage pulling. Let’s delve into the mechanics of why this might happen and what can be done about it.

When considering whether harnesses encourage dogs to pull, it’s important to understand how harnesses interact with a dog’s natural behavior. Harnesses can indeed encourage pulling, particularly due to their design which distributes the pulling force over a larger area of the dog’s body, unlike collars that concentrate force around the neck. This distribution allows dogs to pull harder and longer without immediate discomfort, potentially reinforcing the pulling behavior if not managed properly.

How Harness Design Influences Dog Behavior

The core issue with many harnesses, especially those that clip on the back, is that they leverage a dog’s opposition reflex—a natural inclination to move against pressure. This reflex is triggered more effectively by back-clip harnesses, which can make pulling feel more rewarding to a dog. Front-clip harnesses attempt to counteract this by redirecting the dog’s momentum sideways whenever they pull, but effectiveness can vary based on the dog’s size, strength, and persistence.

Proper Harness Use and Training Techniques

Effective use of a harness for training against pulling requires consistent and appropriate training techniques combined with the right type of harness:

  1. Choosing the Right Harness: Opt for a front-clip harness for better control. These harnesses help redirect your dog’s attention towards you when they start to pull, making it easier to manage and train against the behavior.
  1. Training with Positive Reinforcement: Regular training sessions using positive reinforcement can teach your dog to walk calmly by your side. Reward them for not pulling and staying close rather than pulling ahead.
  2. Immediate Correction: When your dog begins to pull, stop walking immediately. Resume walking only when the leash is slack. This teaches your dog that pulling will not get them where they want to go faster.

Additional Tools and Techniques

Combining a harness with other training tools can enhance training effectiveness and ensure a pleasant walking experience:

  • Use of Training Collars: In some cases, integrating training collars with a harness can provide additional control, especially for larger or more stubborn dogs.
  • Behavioral Training Classes: Professional training classes can provide personalized guidance tailored to your dog’s specific issues with pulling.

How to train your dog not to pull?

Training your dog not to pull on the leash is an essential part of enjoyable and safe walks. It requires consistency, patience, and the right approach. Here are effective strategies to train your dog to walk nicely without pulling:

1. Choose the Right Equipment

  • Harness: Consider a front-clip harness, which can discourage pulling by redirecting your dog towards you when they try to pull forward.
  • Leash: Use a standard 4-6 foot leash that provides enough control without being too long.

2. Use Positive Reinforcement

  • Rewards: Reward your dog with treats, praise, or pets whenever they walk beside you with a loose leash. Make sure to reward immediately to reinforce the positive behavior.
  • Consistency: Always reward good behavior and avoid pulling back on the leash, which can initiate a pulling ‘game’.

3. Implement Training Techniques

  • The Red Light, Green Light Technique: Stop walking the moment your dog starts to pull. Only resume walking when the leash is slack. This teaches your dog that pulling stops the walk.
  • The 180-Degree Turn: When your dog begins to pull, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. This unpredictability requires your dog to pay attention to you rather than pulling towards something interesting.

4. Increase Exercise and Mental Stimulation

  • Dogs often pull because they have excess energy. Ensure your dog gets adequate physical and mental exercise every day. Activities like running, playing fetch, or agility training can help expend energy and reduce pulling behavior.

5. Practice Attention Exercises

  • Teach your dog to check in with you frequently on walks. Use a command like “look” or “watch me” to train your dog to make eye contact. Reward them whenever they give you their attention during the walk.

6. Set Realistic Goals

  • Start training in a low-distraction area such as your backyard or a quiet street. Gradually move to more challenging environments as your dog’s leash manners improve.

7. Consistent Practice

  • Regular, short training sessions are more effective than occasional longer sessions. Consistency is key in reinforcing what you expect from your dog.

8. Seek Professional Help if Needed

  • If pulling continues to be an issue despite your efforts, consider enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer. They can provide personalized guidance and additional strategies to curb pulling behaviors.

9. Patience and Persistence

  • Remember that training a dog not to pull takes time and patience. Different dogs may require different amounts of time and different techniques to learn effectively.

By using these techniques, you gradually teach your dog that walking calmly on a leash is rewarding and that pulling gets them nowhere. This training not only makes walks more pleasant but also ensures safety for both the dog and the handler.


Harnesses do not inherently cause pulling but can facilitate it if not used correctly. With the right harness, training strategy, and consistency, it is possible to teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash without pulling.

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FAQ about pulling

Do Harnesses Encourage Dogs to Pull?

In some cases, certain types of harnesses can indeed encourage dogs to pull. This is particularly true for back-clip harnesses, where the leash attaches at the dog’s back. These harnesses can make pulling feel more comfortable and less constraining for the dog compared to a collar, which might discourage pulling by causing discomfort when the dog yanks on the leash. The design of back-clip harnesses allows a dog to use their full body weight to pull forward, which can inadvertently train the dog that pulling is effective, especially if they feel they are achieving their goal by moving forward faster or reaching desired objects.

Why Does a Harness Make a Dog Pull?

A harness may make a dog pull for a couple of reasons:

  • Natural Leverage: A back-clip harness can provide dogs with natural leverage to pull harder and more effectively. It uses their body strength optimally without causing discomfort or gagging that might occur with a collar.
  • Reduced Consequences: Unlike collars, which might tighten around the neck when a dog pulls, harnesses distribute pressure more evenly around the chest and back, which is less uncomfortable for the dog, reducing the immediate negative feedback of pulling.

Why Do Dog Trainers Not Like Harnesses?

Some dog trainers are wary of harnesses for training purposes because:

  • Less Control: Harnesses, particularly those that only attach at the back, can give the dog too much control and not enough feedback to the handler. This can make it difficult to teach leash manners effectively.
  • Training Inefficiency: For specific training techniques, especially those involving corrections or needing precise control of the dog’s head and body language, a harness may not provide the necessary level of influence over the dog.
  • Encourages Pulling: As mentioned, certain harnesses can encourage pulling, which can counteract training efforts to teach a dog to walk calmly on a leash.

Are Harnesses Bad for Pulling?

Harnesses are not inherently bad for dogs that pull; however, the type of harness used is crucial. For dogs with pulling issues:

  • Front-Clip Harnesses: These are often recommended because they help discourage pulling. The front-clip design redirects the dog towards the owner when they attempt to pull, making pulling less rewarding and easier to manage.
  • Dual-Clip Harnesses: Offering the best of both worlds, these harnesses have attachments at the front and back, allowing for more versatile training approaches and better control during walks.

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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