Why Don’t Dog Trainers Like Harnesses?

Why Don’t Dog Trainers Like Harnesses?

Have you ever wondered why some dog trainers give harnesses the cold shoulder, preferring the classic collar and leash combo? Let’s find out what really gets under the fur of some trainers!

While harnesses are fantastic for preventing neck injuries and providing better control for some pups, they’re not always the top pick for trainers aiming to teach polite leash manners.

Let’s dig into why harnesses might not be the go-to for every dog trainer out there. And trust me, it’s not just about being old-fashioned!

1.Reduced Feedback and Control

One of the main reasons trainers might shy away from harnesses is the lack of direct feedback they provide to the dog. A well-fitted collar allows trainers to give quick, gentle corrections or guidance, helping the dog understand boundaries and expectations during walks. Harnesses, especially those that clip in the back, can actually encourage pulling. It’s like giving a husky the signal to pull a sled—definitely not what you want when you’re trying to teach Fido not to drag you down the street!

Harnesses distribute pressure more comfortably across a dog’s body, which is great for their physical health but can be a hiccup in reinforcing good leash behavior. When a dog pulls on a harness, the pressure is spread out, which reduces the immediate consequence or sensation that discourages pulling. This can make it harder for dogs to learn that pulling isn’t acceptable behavior.

2.Potential for Encouraging Bad Habits

Another point of contention is that harnesses, particularly those with back clips, can inadvertently reinforce pulling behavior. Since the design allows dogs to use their full body weight to pull, it can be counterproductive for dogs that haven’t learned proper leash manners. This can lead to a situation where dogs only behave when the harness is on because it’s the gear that’s controlling them, not their understanding of the commands or behaviors being taught.

Training with a harness requires a gentle yet firm hand and plenty of patience, especially for dogs that are strong pullers or easily distracted. It can also create a dependency where the dog behaves well only while in the harness, which isn’t ideal for fostering consistent, long-term obedience.

3.Fit and Comfort Challenges

Fitting a harness correctly can be a real puzzle, especially for wiggly, excited dogs. It’s like trying to dress a squirmy octopus! A poorly fitted harness can slide around, chafe, or even allow a crafty canine to escape, which can disrupt training sessions and lead to inconsistency. This unpredictability can be a trainer’s nightmare when consistency is key to effective training.

The right fit is crucial, and with so many shapes and sizes of dogs (and harnesses), it can be tricky to get it just right. Moreover, a harness that’s too loose or too tight can cause discomfort or even injuries, detracting from the learning process and potentially making the dog averse to wearing the harness.

4.The Complexity of Teaching Commands

Harnesses can complicate the teaching of certain commands, especially those related to movement and direction. For example, teaching a dog to heel or stop can be more challenging with a harness because the cues from a collar around the neck are more direct and immediate. With a harness, the feedback is less precise, which can slow down the learning process for both the dog and the trainer.

Building consistent behaviors means the dog should respond to cues and corrections regardless of the gear they’re wearing. A collar often helps maintain this consistency, as the dog learns to respond to the handler’s movements and commands without the buffer of a harness.

5.Not One-Size-Fits-All

Finally, while harnesses offer safety and comfort for many dogs, they’re not the ideal training tool for every dog or situation. Each dog is an individual, and what works for one might not work for another. It’s a trainer’s job to assess the situation and decide whether a harness or a collar (or a combination of both) is the best approach to achieve the desired training outcomes.

For some dogs, a harness paired with the right training approach can lead to successful, happy walks. However, for others, a collar might be necessary to instill discipline and proper leash manners.

6.Encouragement of Excitability

Harnesses can contribute to heightened excitability in dogs. The sense of freedom and reduced discomfort compared to collars can make some dogs overly enthusiastic, leading to jumping, lunging, or erratic behavior during walks. This can make structured training more difficult, as the dog may be less focused and more reactive to external stimuli.

Training needs to instill calm and focused behavior, and harnesses can sometimes work against this goal by making dogs feel too unrestrained.

7.Delay in Response Time

The design of most harnesses can lead to a delay in the dog’s response to corrections or commands. Because the harness spreads pressure across a larger area of the body, subtle signals through the leash may not be as quickly or clearly perceived by the dog as they would with a collar, where the signal is more localized and immediate.

Quick, clear communication is crucial in training, and anything that dilutes this can slow down the learning process.

8.Difficulty in Customizing Training Approaches

Not all harnesses are created equal, and the vast variety can be overwhelming. Some are designed for no-pull training, others for comfort, and others still for specific activities like running or hiking. This variety can make it challenging for trainers to find and consistently use a type of harness that complements their training approach, especially when working with multiple dogs of different sizes and temperaments.

A universal approach can be hard to achieve with harnesses due to their varied designs and purposes.

9. Increased Risk of Incorrect Use

The complexity and variety of harness designs also increase the risk of incorrect usage by dog owners. An improperly fitted harness can lead to discomfort, chafing, or even injury. Trainers often spend extra time ensuring owners understand how to properly fit and use harnesses, which can detract from actual training time.

Educating dog owners about correct harness usage is essential but can be time-consuming.

10.Potential for Undermining Generalization of Training

Training with harnesses can sometimes lead to dogs only behaving well when the harness is on, as it becomes a cue for desired behavior. This can undermine the generalization of training, where the goal is for the dog to behave consistently under various conditions and with different equipment.

The ultimate training goal is for dogs to respond reliably, regardless of the gear they’re wearing.


In the dog training world, harnesses are like a Swiss Army knife—useful in many situations but not always the right tool for every job. They offer safety and comfort but might not provide the necessary control or feedback for basic leash training. Weighing the pros and cons and choosing the right tool is essential for your furry friend’s needs.

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FAQ about Dog Harness

1. Do dog trainers recommend a harness?

Many dog trainers recommend harnesses, especially for specific situations or dogs:

  • Health and Safety: Trainers often suggest harnesses for dogs with neck or spine issues, respiratory problems, or breeds susceptible to tracheal collapse.
  • Puppies and Small Dogs: Harnesses are frequently recommended for young dogs and small breeds to avoid neck strain.
  • General Walking: For daily walks, especially for dogs that are not aggressive pullers, harnesses can provide comfort and safety.

However, the recommendation can vary based on the dog’s behavior, the trainer’s approach, and the training goals.

2. Are dog harnesses bad for training?

Dog harnesses are not inherently bad for training, but their effectiveness can depend on the type of training and the specific harness used:

  • Pulling Behavior: For dogs that pull, a front-clip no-pull harness can be beneficial in teaching better leash manners.
  • Basic Obedience: For precise control and immediate corrections, some trainers prefer collars, especially in competitive obedience training.
  • General Training: A well-fitted harness can be effective for general training and is often safer and more comfortable for the dog.

3. Is it better to train a dog with a harness or collar?

  • The better choice depends on the dog and the training objectives:
    • Harness: Recommended for safety, particularly for dogs prone to neck injuries or for general behavior training where pulling is an issue.
    • Collar: May be preferable for advanced training that requires precise corrections or for well-behaved dogs that don’t pull.

4. Is it better to walk your dog on a leash or harness?

  • For safety and comfort during walks, especially for dogs that pull or have health concerns, a harness is generally the better choice as it distributes pressure more evenly and reduces the risk of neck injuries.
  • A leash attached to a collar can be suitable for dogs that are well-trained and walk calmly without pulling or for quick outings where precise control is not a concern.

5. Why don’t people like dog harnesses for dogs?

Some people have reservations about using harnesses due to:

  • Reduced Control: Particularly with back-clip harnesses, some feel they do not provide enough control over the dog, making training and managing behavior more challenging.
  • Encouraging Pulling: Incorrectly used or certain types of harnesses can actually encourage pulling by not providing the corrective feedback that a collar might.
  • Fit and Comfort Issues: Poorly fitted harnesses can lead to discomfort, chafing, or even injuries if not adjusted correctly.

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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