How To Harness Train A Dog In 2023 – 8 Steps Formula That Always Works

Dog collars and harnesses are controlling devices. However, we trainers stress the need for using a harness when the dog has developed some sort of an allergy to the collar.

Harnesses can also help you manage a dog well without the worries of choking and thus, hurting it.

Just as with collars, though, you need to go through a series of steps to get the dog to like the harness, accept it, and walk without pulling on it.

Here’s how to harness-train a dog. Keep on reading and I bet you’ll love it:

How To Harness Train A Dog? 5 Steps:

How To Harness Train A Dog Infographic
Full Process Inforgraphic

The first and foremost step is to get him to accept the device, then I’ll teach you how to train a dog to wear a harness and then we will talk about making it his habit and stopping his pulling on the harness:

Step 1: Use positive reinforcement to introduce the harness.

Get some treats in one hand and the harness in your other before approaching the dog.

When you introduce it, you’ll see him take less interest in it or look at it with suspicion. That’s normal. Let him sniff the thing, bite a little, that’s okay, and accept it with open paws.

When he accepts it as he will show it by not getting startled or agitated when he sees it in your hands, that’s when you toss his favorite treat in his mouth.

Read this research on why positive reinforcement is the best tool to teach a dog something. And you could also know about the effectiveness of positive reinforcement training and its perks.

Step 2: Show him how he will wear it.

Now you might think that how to train a dog to wear a harness. Well, using the same technique as above, you will show the dog how he will wear it in the future.

This is where you begin telling him what the device is all about and where it is supposed to be. More than that, however, it’s how you show him that it’s harmless.

  • First, ascertain how the harness goes on the dog’s body. There are many types with distinct ways of getting worn. Some are worn by the side, others from the bottom, and so on.
  • Then, begin where the first part of the harness would go. If it’s sideways, gently approach the side of your dog and try putting it on and vice versa.
  • Monitor the dog’s behavior during this process. Look at the position of his ears. A low position means he’s under stress. Listen to his voice. Whining also means he doesn’t like what’s going on. 
  • When that happens, stop the process and let the dog relax. Try some other time. In case he’s showing complete immunity to wearing the harness, try engaging him with treats and toys. When he’s distracted, gently put on the harness followed by plenty of treats to show him your appreciation.

Step 3: Monitor his behavior when he wears the harness.

Checking his reaction at the start is one thing, knowing how he’s receiving this new thing on his body is the next step. 

  • Keep a firm eye on any signs such as pawing at the harness, whining, scratching, or zooming away. These are the signs that should tell you to remove the harness and try again later. 
  • After removing it, look for anything that could be the major cause of irritation such as stray fabric or nylon strands or a potential allergic reaction of the dog to the material.
  • In case you resolve these issues, repeat all the steps but this time, take things slow and increase the positive reinforcement by feeding more treats or feeding them after every step you go forward.

Step 4: Increase the time of wearing.

Dogs learn gradually when it comes to wearing new things such as a harness. Following this, you’ll have to increase the wearing time by 5 minutes daily to let the dog accept the harness as its own.

Use positive reinforcement along the way.

Step 5: Introduce the leash.

Since you’ll be using the leash, it’s best to introduce it just as you introduced the harness. 

  • After successfully getting him to like it, too, walk him a few paces to let him know what to expect with the harness and leash. Feed him treats when he obliges. 
  • Gradually increase the time you walk the dog with these two devices on board.

Follow these 5 steps and you should be successful to familiarize the dog with the harness. However, dogs will be dogs, and yours will pull on the leash when you’re walking it in your neighborhood – courtesy of distractions. Fret not, fellow dog owner, as I have that taken care of also.

Other Training And Harnesses Guides.

How To Stop Dog From Pulling When Walking? 3 Steps:

According to VCA Hospitals, dogs pull on leashes, harnesses, and leads because they want to “engage with their environment” just as we humans do.

Therefore, a stray smell of bacon from a party or a shadowy figure in the woods will entice the dog to move in its direction. A number of small animals also serve as distractions for the canine. I’m not even mentioning interactions with their own species.

In a nutshell, pulling on the leash may not seem harmful and yet it is. Some dogs develop the bad habit of pulling until they start choking. That could potentially harm their trachea or cause chafing.

Therefore, you’ll have to minimize pulling to let the dog interact with its environment without harming itself or anyone else.

Here’s how to stop your pet from tugging on its leash:

Step 6: Identify the cue.

Almost all dog trainers follow a simple regime where we look for the cue, then the dog’s reaction, and finally, the consequence or the result. This is also famously called The Habit Loop.

The first step, therefore, is to identify the cue or the origin of the dog’s interest in something. It could be another dog, another animal, flowers, or smells beyond your nose.

Step 7: Walk away from distractions and let the leash get loose or slack.

The process after the cue will be pulling on the leash in an effort to get to the origin or interest. Your first bet is to get away from the distraction beforehand. But some distractions are too hard to identify. So let the dog pull on the leash for a while, then face away from the direction he’s heading and stand there. Wait for the leash to get loose or slack. That’s when you feed him those yummy treats. 

Step 8: Reinforce the taste of treats.

The third step in the process is to teach the dog that yummy treats will follow if he keeps the leash slack. This may take some time but it’s worth doing as the results are always in your favor. 

By this 3-step method, you’ll induce a new habit in your dog:

  • He’ll be distracted by something.
  • You’ll face away and see that the dog will keep the leash loose for those yummy treats to follow.

Do No Pull Harnesses Hurt Dogs?

Harnesses just like collars could cause muscle tension when they are not used properly over time or when you’re using an inappropriate size.

Therefore, make sure that you’ve bought the right size to discourage any sort of muscle injury.

If you want to know how to measure the harness and also the complete procedure of putting a harness on your dog, then head towards these linked articles.

Here is a guide about some of the best harnesses available for large dogs in the market.

Final Words

Harness training a dog requires patience and perseverance, not to mention, definite training.

Follow the steps mentioned above for maximum success as I have applied and reapplied them to induce good leash walking manners in a dog. Good luck!


Why won’t my dog let me put his harness on?

The foremost reason for that could be the dog’s unfamiliarity with a harness. Or, it could be resistant to touch. That’s why you should properly introduce anything you wish for the dog to accept and touch/pet him regularly to not reject things you pet on him.

Does A Harness Make A Dog Pull?

Harnesses do not make a dog pull. In fact, they are controlling devices to stop that behavior. However, you’ll have to first teach the dog proper leash manners to get a result.

Will A Harness Stop A Dog From Pulling?

By following proper leash manners, a harness has the potential to stop a dog from pulling. Since it wraps around the neck and front legs of the dog, it gives you greater control over his movement. With time, your dog learns that you pull the strings and with proper positive reinforcement, he learns pulling on the harness is a lost cause.

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