Features July 2013 Issue

The No-Pull Harness Debate

Most dog people would agree that harnesses are better for dogs than traditional collars - but this kind of harness has some drawbacks.

[Updated November 15, 2017]

Recently, WDJ received a letter from Christine Zink, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACVSMR, who was concerned about the photo in WDJ (on the cover, no less!) of a jogger whose dog, running alongside, was wearing a front-clip-type harness.† A sports medicine guru and canine athlete enthusiast, Dr. Zink (and others) posit that no-pull harnesses are detrimental to a dog’s structure and gait – and are especially inappropriate for canine athletes.

no pull harness

Some no-pull harnesses should not be used for vigorous exercise.

In a limited gait analysis study, Dr. Zink observed that dogs wearing no-pull, front clip harnesses bore less weight on their front legs than they normally would – even when the harness wasn’t attached to a leash! In addition, the dogs bore less weight on the leg that was on the far side of where the person walked, even when there was no leash attached; when the dog had a leash attached, it was more significant. This suggests to her that the dog was reacting to the presence of the harness against the leg by pushing harder against it. In all cases, the gait of the front limbs was altered whenever the harness was on.

Dr. Zink explains that these harnesses sit on top of the biceps and supraspinatus tendons, two of the most commonly injured structures in dogs’ forelimbs, particularly in canine athletes. She asserts that, just by logic, one has to assume that the pressure this kind of harness exerts on the dog’s forelimbs in an activity where the dog is supposed to be extending her forelimbs (i.e., running, walking), is not a good idea.

“I do not believe that there is a harness on the market that is nonrestrictive and that also helps the dog not to pull,” says Dr. Zink.” There are however some very nice, well constructed, nonrestrictive harnesses on the market. However, those should not be considered as a method to teach a dog not to pull. In my opinion the real way to get a dog to stop pulling is to train it.”

Taking another position altogether are the thousands of dog trainers and behaviorists who contend that no-pull harnesses save lives, because by giving handlers a mechanical advantage over the dog, they help people who have been unable to train their dogs (for whatever reasons) to walk politely, to walk their dogs anyway. †

puppy in harness

Some trainers prefer puppies to wear a harness when learning to walk on leash, so they donít injure their necks if they suddenly frisk and hit the end of the leash hard.

Whole Dog Journal Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, comments, “I am a dog trainer/behavior professional with a very specialized concern about helping dogs be well-mannered companions to their humans. I agree that the way to get a dog to stop pulling is to train it. No-pull harnesses provide, in my experience, the least harmful way to give many owners the window of opportunity to reinforce –and thereby train – polite leash walking. An owner can’t train a dog to walk on leash if she is getting dragged off her feet. I will continue to use front-clip harnesses and recommend them to clients, at least until someone comes up with an even safer non-aversive alternative.”

Like so many of our equipment choices, there are cases for and against using a front-clip or other no-pull harness. Each of us must consider the benefits and risks, and make an educated decision based on what is best for us and our own dogs.

Comments (60)

I am dumping my front clip harness. I have made countless adjustments and the harness still hits her humerus. This bone needs free movement when she is walking, jogging, and running. I noticed she limps because of where the breast strap hits. Anything that gets in the way of my dog's range of motion seems like a bad idea to me. I will go back to a regular harness and patiently train her to walk with manners.

Posted by: brandicmt | January 7, 2019 12:17 PM    Report this comment

My trainer suggested the no pull harness and my 6 month old is starting to limp. I'm thinking of doing away with it. I trained my other dog to not pull just by training. Thoughts?

Posted by: vyoo89 | August 15, 2018 7:30 AM    Report this comment

I've trained my dog to not pull on lead without any use of corrections or head halters or no-pull harnesses. Takes a while but it can be done. But ironic that we are now going to get a harness hahah ... for neck reasons I just can't see how great it is to have something around one's neck whether one is pulling or not.

Posted by: unguyen57 | June 7, 2018 10:20 AM    Report this comment

The most sensible 'tool' to use to teach your dog leash manner is to train it to work and walk beside you/with you OFF-lead.
Then all you need a lead for is to comply with the leash laws! :-)

Posted by: Jenny H | August 12, 2017 8:07 PM    Report this comment

I have a rescued toy poodle who came to us as an adult with terrible pulling issues. We tried multiple different harnesses with attachments on the back and chest. Unfortunately he also came to us with a badly set (and unrepairable - we went to multiple different orthopedic surgeons) foreleg. Every harness we have tried causes him to limp within a block even when properly adjusted. Training has solved the majority of the pulling issues but when he is excited, he forgets. We walk him with a custom made padded collar which is roughly the size of his neck (think coursing release collar). It has been the best solution for him.

Posted by: Furrykids | March 6, 2017 4:01 PM    Report this comment

Re Tracheas. IF the lead is attached to the collar UNDER the dog's chin, there will be no pressure on the trachea.
Correctly the lead should be hanging down with a definite loop in the lead and the clip swinging freely. Never tight.

Posted by: Jenny H | January 23, 2017 8:32 PM    Report this comment

I would never use a front attach harness, having tried then when they first came in.
Firstly, they are NOT no-pull harnesses - the dogs can, and will, still pull - either by crabbing (about which I agree with Chris Zink), or my straddling the lead.
And secondly I have never seen a dog look comfortable in a front attach harness. The chest strap come across the upper arm/shoulder and restricts natural movement.
I have successfully used an H-style harness with a back attachment -- one advantage with these is that the lead is up out of the way of the dog's feet.
However the best solution for a confirmed puller is a double lead with one lead attached to a head halter and the other lead (or end of a double-ended lead) attached to a good broad buckle collar -- with the clip attached UNDER the chin. (I buy my dogs' collars one size too big and cut it down to fit, The broadness means minimal chance of injuring or even hurting the dog's neck.)
Walk the dog normally on the lead attached to the collar. AS SOON AS the dog pulls enough to mean the clip is not hanging down freely under the dogs chin, STOP -- and very gently tighten the lead to the head collar to turn the dog's face towards you. The dog will stop and release the tension on the 'collar lead' , so praise and continue your walk.
Eventually you will be able to dispense with the head halter altogether.

Posted by: Jenny H | January 23, 2017 7:05 PM    Report this comment

I agree that harnesses and collars can cause physical problems. However, most of those problems are caused when the dog is pulling. Ideally, training will solve that. Yet what else are you to do when your adopt a dog that is already an adult and a boisterous breed and is used to pulling on the lead as a way of walking? I can walk my very active English Cocker on a loose leash around the neighborhood and at the training club. If we go to the park and if she is anticipating a play/training session she has a much harder time focusing on not pulling in sheer anticipation of the fun.

Posted by: Mel Blacke | October 11, 2016 3:28 AM    Report this comment

I walk my Rat Terrier who has a collapsing trachea and is a strong puller with the Gentle Leader head collar, which was recommended years ago by a positive dog trainer. He chokes when walked with a regular collar. I have tried the Gentle Leader harness, which clips in front but it always got caught under his legs, and the Canny Collar which clips from behind the neck, but he is happiest with the head collar. He walks beautifully with it but immediately goes into pulling mode and starts to cough when a regular collar is used. it has saved my shoulders and his neck and we are both very happy with it. I know there is a risk of spinal injury with it however he is dog-reactive and I cannot control his lunging with a regular harness as well as with the head halter.

Posted by: kimfatty | October 9, 2016 11:25 PM    Report this comment

I have been walking my dog with a Premier Easy Walk harness for 9 years. I don't jog, I just walk. Right or wrong, it works for us. She isn't maimed because of it, she doesn't have hip or leg problems, she just walks and she's used to it. Like I said, it works for us. Maybe with my next dog I will do things differently.

Posted by: meldrape | October 9, 2016 9:52 PM    Report this comment

This article had me reevaluate the harness I use for m y dogs. I want the best for both of us. That being said, to the people who use the walk with love harness, look careful at its design and the training video wich came with it. The correct design has the front clip up were a collar would fit under the neck. Not down on the for arms or low on the chest! It is adjustable by changing the clip right behind the neck. Around the chest cavity is should be slightly loose. This should not prohibit movement at all if properly fit. Nor does it take the place of proper positive training. if you view the training videos you will recall this. Regular back clip harnesses encourage pulling, these give control back. Feel good about your choice in this harness. Don't let people who generalize ( all harnesses are made from hell) drive you to doubt yourself. I don't work for walk with love harnesses but is a healthy choice and with training I no longer have blisters on my hands and I walk with a dog at my side! You can have it all. Stop listening to negative talk. Sometimes you make good choices. People who say different have not bothered to get the information you have.

Posted by: suezbull | October 9, 2016 10:25 AM    Report this comment

Every dog is different, agree? My Springer was trained for field and ranged on a flexi. He learned to pull is to get more line.. Ruined for leash walking. I have tried everything except shock or prong, neither of which I would do. Every head harness (which I used a side clip like with a horse so he would move forward where he was looking, several body harnesses and finally the top and front clip harness. Pressure on the neck is not a good thing which is what happens if the dog pulls in a regular collar - and I cannot find a proper working/fitting body harness. The current one - which I just use the top clip, I cannot adjust off his shoulders - hate that. Some others pinched tender skin in the armpits. Some are harsh webbing. With winter coming this old boy will have a coat on for many walks and we will be back in the flexible web collar - you can't beat a trained dog. He's there most of the time but when he pulls - well there we go again. Good luck is all I can add. Don't let novices walk your puppies - you need to do it and get it right the first time.

Posted by: Buddy'sMom | October 6, 2016 4:32 PM    Report this comment

My dog was getting good at walking on leash til a new dog arrived in the neighbourhood, then she started pulling again. After about 5 weeks of trying to settle her, I finally gave up and got a head halter. Instructions on it specifically said to use it only for walking, not to run with it on. In the mornings we did a short jog without it, then our longer afternoon walk she wore it. Only took about 5 uses before she could again be walked reasonably without it. My reading of the article in light of this was the objection to running with a restrictive harness.

Posted by: db | October 4, 2016 5:50 AM    Report this comment

This is all good food for thought as they say. I originally started with the collar, then martingale. I have a Border Collie, he was not happy with collar management to put it mildly. I understand the techniques and such. I went on to try a few different harness' and ended up with the "walk your dog with love" front clip harness. this is a loose fit harness. within one session he was at ease by my side or loosely in front or behind, depending on the situation. over time he understood and now is even calm if I forgot the harness and need to leash to the collar.

I think the concern about messing with the dogs gate and balance is valid and I have seen how my dog performs with and without the harness on. i hadn't really thought about it till reading this article.

I think the value of the font clip is for training the dog to walk at ease with me. However, just like (I would hope) we don't wear the same clothes, shoes and underwear everyday in every situation, I feel that diversity in how my dog tracks with me is important.

I mainly leash my dog when we are in public places where there are lots of distractions and if there are other dogs around. He loves to meat everybody and every dog, but not everybody and every dog is friendly to the meeting.

I am currently researching to find a new harness that clips in the back.

We are still in training, forever more.

Posted by: jas | October 3, 2016 3:55 PM    Report this comment

The "Walk in Sync" harness was designed to take a dog's physiology into account. There is an article about it on essentiallydogs.com/favorite-stuff/the-best-harness-ever. It is symmetrically designed and it works very well to prevent pulling.

Posted by: essentiallydogs | October 3, 2016 1:18 PM    Report this comment

Someone brought up the SPORN harness. I believe the Sporn harness is now called the Yup, or the YuppyPuppy. We use the YuppyPuppy for our labrador, and like it.

Posted by: magicbird | October 3, 2016 12:12 PM    Report this comment

I have never had a problem with an EZWalk for training loose-leash walking. When you have a client whose dog pulls them to the ground, you need something that works NOW, not after training. And of course I combine the use of the EZWalk with training. I sometimes also start with a head halter if the pulling is truly endangering the owner (think of an 84 year-old person walking a 70-lb BC mix), with the goal of moving to an EZWalk.
But out of this entire discussion, is there any harness that does it all and without any chance of harm if used properly? I thought the recommendation for the Sure-Fit was good one until I read the reviews about the skin rubbing, poor workmanship, and that a dog could back out of one. Several recommended the Freedom harness, but that looks to have the exact same potential problems as the EZWalk, the designs are so similar.
SO again I ask this group, is there ANY training harness that is effective and 100% safe???

Posted by: MuttsParadise | October 3, 2016 11:52 AM    Report this comment

As a certified positive trainer, I use both a flat collar and a no-pull harness to train loose leash walking. I consider the harness to be a tool that makes it possible for a client to walk their dog while they're learning to loose leash walk their dogs on a collar. Many clients are frustrated and tired of having their dogs pull them everywhere and some have given up on walking their dogs at all because of literally being pulled over.

I train on the collar in a low distraction, controlled environment, then tell my clients to do so at home. When they're ready to start moving their training outside, I have them put on both the dog's collar and harness. They spend the first 5 - 10 minutes outside practicing loose leash walking on the collar, then switch the leash to the no-pull harness so they can go on a walk without being pulled all over the place until the dog learns how to loose leash walk on the collar. This way, their dog gets walked, the clients enjoy walking their dog and both are learning how to loose leash walk without the harness.

I believe the major part of my job as a trainer, is to find the best way for both the client and the dog to learn and succeed and there's no "one size fits all". If my client is frustrated with a tool and a skill that's not working for them, they don't practice or use it, so neither the dog nor the owner wins. Using the no-pull harness and the collar helps both parties enjoy a win-win situation. For me, that's what training is all about.

Posted by: LiseL | October 3, 2016 2:24 AM    Report this comment

A.S.H wrote "Reading all these comments is very entertaining. This whole discussion highlights the problems with all positive dog training. Trainers all know, if you don't control the head, you don't control the dog."

What utter rubbish. IF you need a lead to control your dog then the dog is not trained. I prefer to always train off-leash -- in the early stages in a controlled environment (fence/indoors) and am not happy with my training/dog until I can work with the dogs off lead anywhere. Ideally the only reason that you ever should need a leash it because of the law. And then the only training you NEED to do with an dog re the leash is to teach Loose Leash Walking.

Now I know that some dogs simply cannot be trained to a degree of reliability. But be aware with such dogs that the leash is nothing more than a management tool -- not a training tool.

Posted by: Jenny H | October 2, 2016 10:40 PM    Report this comment

A harness that works exceptionally well that I can no longer find anywhere was called a "sporn halter". The only place it exerts pressure when a dog pulls is behind the front legs - no pressure on throat or chest. With my labs, it only needed to be used for a short time and they no longer pulled. One should never let a dog pull when wearing only a collar due to damage to the trachea and sensitive areas of the throat.

Posted by: Abaco | October 2, 2016 6:31 PM    Report this comment

No, I gave up on front-clip harnesses a long time ago. They are always off-center and all askew on the dog, no matter how I try to fit them. Plus ... no control over the dog's head when unexpected reactions occur.

Posted by: Natalie H. | October 2, 2016 6:04 PM    Report this comment

I have never recommended the front clip harness to my clients, and have watched other walkers and runners dragging and wrangling their dogs with this harness. Often they are not fitted properly, which only adds to the discomfort for the dog.
My harness of choice is the Freedom Harness. Great tool for helping dogs walk nicely with the two points of contact. Love it.

Posted by: Good Dog Walkin' | October 2, 2016 4:28 PM    Report this comment

I guess I am not clear what "non-aversive" means to some people. I consider doing damage, possible permanent damage, to your dog as completely undesirable and unacceptable There have been dogs at UC Davis that have been caused permanent damage to their shoulder joints by these harnesses used on rapidly growing large breed puppies like Goldens and Labs etc. The only concern to people is that it does not cause them pain in one instant? Guaranteed it causes some sort of discomfort or it would not work to keep them from pulling. If it constricts muscles enough to keep them from pulling it IS painful. if they change their gait from front to back and one front leg to the other just wearing it, it IS causing some sort of pain. I am really floored to read this actually- non-aversive is so important that some sort of longterm or longer lasting issue is acceptable?

Posted by: ywrose | October 2, 2016 3:29 PM    Report this comment

Reading all these comments is very entertaining. This whole discussion highlights the problems with all positive dog training. Trainers all know, if you don't control the head, you don't control the dog. Simple as that. The prejudice against prong collars highlights the misinformation and hysteria most pet owners fall for. Properly conditioned and used, the dog corrects themselves, and understanding what you're trying to achieve follows quickly. But don't use one because you've never had a good instructor teach you about proper fit (directly behind ears),and proper timing, which most people will not work at. But by all means, use a management device like a restrictive harness, which sport people WILL NOT use, haltis(seen the research on neck injuries?), choke collars (see europoean research and necropsy results), and ask should I really use something that only allows me to manage a problem, or actually train my dog. Most people will not spend the time, and opt for management. Which is the fine lazy alternative, until a situation arises when you can't stop your dog, apply your lazy training device, leash up, and allow dangerous/life threatening/alarming action to continue. How silly, uninformed and frankly, WDJ is doing a disservice to all dogs everywhere. Prejudice against proper equipment, proper training, and proper time invested in your dog which is all necessary is the biggest downfall almost every issue of WDJ. Dogs are not furniture. Put some effort in, and everything is possible. In conclusion, WDJ also never addresses that some breeds are definitely not candidates for harnesses. Bully breeds LOVE to pull, and some breeds are genetically bred to pull. Put a harness on one, you are fighting instinct and lack of training. But let's not mention these facts, because it may not fit in well with the aforementioned pro-postive training brainwashing. Better a lawsuit from untrained dogs, dog aggression on a walk, or a hurt dog. GOOD JOB,WDJ.

Posted by: A.S.H. | October 2, 2016 3:04 PM    Report this comment

I've been using a harness made by Dog Karma that my breeder sent along with my puppy. It holds to the leash on my pup's back, not in front, but it's its design seems to fit my dog in essentially the same was that the no-pull front hook leashes do. How can i tell if this design is ok for my dog, and/or can someone suggest a harness brand(s) that are known to be ok? Thanks!

Posted by: Dzim | October 2, 2016 2:18 PM    Report this comment

Sometimes the type of harness we are using is to help us control the dog that
is pulling or going off the chain when they react to a squirrel or another dog, etc.
Rather than choking their neck or having them get 'away' from us. I use one
that has a handle on the top of it and believe me I have to use it sometimes. My pup is incredibly strong. :0

Posted by: dalmatianlover | October 2, 2016 1:51 PM    Report this comment

I believe in training young, however for those who have to deal with older dogs which are not well trained l like a k9. And of course get training and be strict. It makes life easy all round. I have a tiny chihuahua and a massive Rottweiler who walk side by side perfectly, both in k9s.

Posted by: TCT | October 2, 2016 1:17 PM    Report this comment

I am a pet care provider and part of my business is dog walking. I have walked dogs that weigh as little as 8 pounds up to dogs that way as much as 170 pounds and sometimes the dog in question that's pulling is the lighter of the two. I am 5 feet 1" tall and weigh 135 pounds

I am not a certified trainer, but what I am is a person who trains parents to be in charge of their dogs. How to make and sustain contact and gain the respect of your dog is key to the success you will have with any sort of training.

Doesn't matter how many training classes you take your dogs to if at the end of the day when you get your dog home you can't get it to even look at you.

More often than not it's the parents that need the training, not the dog and when I explain this to pet parents they get it.

I have showed pet parents techniques that I use that work for me with great success and pet parents when they use the same techniques begin to realize and see the difference and it is a wonderful thing to watch

With respect to front lead harnesses-that is the only kind that I use and I recommend it to everyone whenever I can.

There is definitely a science to how this leash works and how it is adjusted to your dogs body, but when done correctly it works great and I have never had a single issue where the dogs have developed the kind of injuries or problems discussed in this article. Again, these harnesses must be adjusted properly by someone who knows how to work with these sorts of harnesses and I always tell pet parents if you cannot do it yourself then ask your dog walker or someone who is experienced with your particular front lead harness t to adjust for you.

This is by no means an infomercial for anything-but the hornist it I swear by is called the "Sensation Harness" which can be found on a website called softtouch concepts.com

There's really no difference between parents and children-the only difference is laundry! 😊

Posted by: Judy Bushman | October 2, 2016 12:47 PM    Report this comment

The dog behaviorist who helped me with my very fearful big (now failed) foster boy advised me to use the versatile Freedom No Pull Harness. Best of both worlds with a double ended lead. I adjust how/where the lead is clipped on as the situation warrants.

Posted by: furuby5 | October 2, 2016 12:33 PM    Report this comment

Why don't people train their dogs to walk on a loose lead? Training collars are not necessary, nor are harnesses.
I have a 65# Samoyed that doesn't pull on his lead. I weigh 130# - he can easily out-pull me IF he had not been trained not to pull.

It's a matter of the *person* being taught how to teach the dog to not pull...and it takes constant, consistent training (of the human). I pass *many* people with dogs on our walks, and some have prong collars on their dogs, some have *non-pull harnesses*, and these dogs ALL PULL and the owners can barely control them. The dogs nearly all lunge at us, growl, bark etc.

You can NOT use *tools* to replace *training*...

My dog is trained. Because I took the time to train him. He wasn't miraculously born to behave - I taught him because I enjoy a trained dog.

Posted by: Spearhead | October 2, 2016 11:26 AM    Report this comment

I'm happy to see someone taking issue with these ill-considered devices. I've disliked them since my wife bought one to use on her Wheaton Terrier, an adopted dog who lived on the street for the first couple years of his life and acquired some rather intractable behavioral issues, including pulling during walks. The harness "worked" for my wife - that is, Fagan didn't pull as much - but I thought that it changed his gait in a most unphysiological way. Even when he wasn't pulling, he seemed to move abnormally. My own experience in this regard involves another of our adopted dogs, a so-called NAID, "Native American Indian Dog". Like all of these dogs, Weeko is big, strong, and very self-willed. She pulled constantly during walks, especially when she saw other dogs. My solution was simple and direct. Whenever Weeko began to pull, even a little, I immediately stopped walking and refused to move, until she allowed the leash to relax. Within a couple of weeks she had stopped pulling entirely, even when other dogs were nearby. This is not an easy technique, requiring some strength and a great deal of patience (I didn't like standing still repeatedly, sometimes for long periods of time, any more than Weeko did), but it worked. My thought is that anything less than immobility will be ineffective. As long as a dog makes any progress at all toward his or her goal, it acts as a reward for pulling. From another viewpoint, resuming the walk, when your dog stops pulling, becomes an effective positive reinforcement. If you're really not strong enough to halt your dog, try taking a turn with the leash around the nearest street lamp or road sign (or whatever). If you can't manage this, then maybe you're not the right person to train (or walk) your dog!

Posted by: ajhil | October 2, 2016 11:16 AM    Report this comment

I am a retired dog trainer and my thinking is that although Dr. Zink's concerns deserve attention, the best compromise is, as others have suggested, choosing the least restriction front attachment harness and using it as infrequently as possible. We all know that some dogs are much easier to train not to pull than others and some owners have more skill than others. As a positive trainer, I have special skills coupled with a great deal of motivation and commitment to train my own dogs not to pull on leash, and yet I have found this particular behavior very challenging to train to the point of reliability and consistency. My present dog, a young high energy Border collie, who is trained to do passable attention heeling for short periods, as well as loose leash walking for leisurely jaunts around the neighborhood, will still do at least some pulling under certain more exciting circumstances. Therefore, when I take her on our animal assisted therapy visits, when in addition to holding her leash, I have to carry some items in and out of facilities, I use her front attachment harness.

Posted by: Holly's Den | October 2, 2016 10:27 AM    Report this comment

I don't understand why Pat Miller did not address the issue of walking during training with this harnass, as opposed to exercising the dog with the harnass. Of course, I didn't understand why she advocated for killing the Vick dogs, either. I would like an explanation of that as well.

Posted by: SadieSue | October 2, 2016 10:17 AM    Report this comment

I rescue and work with Alaskan Malamutes which are bred to be pullers. I love to skijor in the winter and bikejor or bike with a Springer attachment. So I use a properly fitted EasyWalk harness for my furkids when walking and a Distance Harness (pull harness which clips on the back) for skijoring or biking. I have trained the pull out of Malamutes in the past and they lost their drive to pull when skijoring. My solution which works well for me is training on leash with the EW harness (click and treat for loose leash) and using the pull harness for pull activities. I have used a Halti on some very leash/dog reactive strong pullers, but also train with click and treat methods for loose leash walking. The Halti is mostly to control the dog if it does go into reactive mode. Many can be counter conditioned, but other fosters are really tough nuts to crack. Our rescue group has been using the EasyWalks for years, but only for walking as the fun pulling activities use the pull harnesses. We've not seen or heard of any physical issues with the EW harnesses and we won't adopt to people who want to use aversive, outdated prong, choke or shock collars. For born pullers that you want to pull in certain circumstances, the EW no-pull harnesses are the best that we've found.

Posted by: tashakimi | October 2, 2016 10:15 AM    Report this comment

There are many harnesses that ride higher on the chest or are designed better and are less restrictive to shoulder, gait, forward impetus. Avoid the ones that position the front strap low and be sure the dog gets plenty of off leash action, free running , so that structure can develop properly and not become unbalanced and do not over use any harness specially including front hitch ones. Check out sled dog harness stores-

Posted by: watani | October 2, 2016 9:06 AM    Report this comment

My experience is that most dogs will learn to ignore the pain if they are stimulated enough! Use your prong collar and soon enough the dog will pull right thru. As a dog trainer I have been working lately with several clients who had "trained" with a local trainer using the prong collars. All came to me after thousands of $$ spent and dogs getting worse. In 3-4 sessions using R+ and The Freedom Harness (my tool of choice: 2 clips front and back- not low riding) the dogs had calmed down and were walking politely to the amazement of their owners. I do not promote the head collars. Too many neck and shoulder injuries. We all know that dogs learn by association and so pairing pain with another dog/person/car etc... opens another can of worms: reaction/aggression to the stimulus.

Posted by: 4OntheFloor | October 2, 2016 9:02 AM    Report this comment

Most gentle, efficient and effective means of teaching good leash manners (and indeed better leash communications with your dog) is a properly fitted and deployed prong collar. It is a shame so many are put off for emotional and visual reasons or because of politically-correct propaganda.

Posted by: rrpjr | September 3, 2016 3:49 PM    Report this comment

I have read the article above and most of the comments posted. I had a Hungarian Vizsla who passed away last July, 2015. We were heartbroken. He was agonizingly dying from suffocation because he suffered from Tracheal Paralysis. Yes, his trachea was collapsing and this was directly related to the use of a regular collar and pulling when walking him for most of his 15 years. In the last year of my dogs life she could not breath properly, coughed horribly all the time, gasped for air, even had a seizure due to a lack of oxygen to her brain. This is a horrible thing to watch a dog to through and so preventable. No one ever told us when we first got our dog that years of pulling when walking them would cause horrible tracheal damage that could cause the throat to just collapse as she got older. Wish I had known then what I know now. SO, I am now going to try a front attaching harness for our new Vizsla puppy that is now 4 months old. He is in dog obedience classes but still pulls to the point of being out of breath when we try to walk him. I already fear we are causing early damage to his trachea so I am not going to go through this with another dog again. I don't know what else to do so I am going to get him fitted for a front attaching harness. Once he learns how to heal I probably won't use it. I wish someone would advocate on the behalf of dogs to let people know how horribly bad it is to dogs trachea when they pull when being walked. Veterinarians should be letting people know this! Ours never did! Heartbroken but starting again in a smarter way!

Posted by: DianeBNels | August 28, 2016 4:47 PM    Report this comment

we had great experiences with the DEXDOG easy walk harness www.dexdog.com

Posted by: jschwartz | June 28, 2016 8:55 PM    Report this comment

Walking with dog peacefully leash walking is really very helpful and this post also provides help to a great extent in this matter.

Posted by: Anna May | April 19, 2016 1:48 PM    Report this comment

Currently I have a dog who will pull on his collar until he's choking himself, nothing we have tried so far as gotten him to stop and I refuse to use a choke or prong collar.

I agree that the only way to cure your dog of walking issues is to train them since there's no quick fix but a front-clip leash seems to at least provide the opportunity to train them how to walk properly. I don't think I'd ever advocate it for long-term use but I'd at least like to have to opportunity to train without my dog strangling himself in the process. As a result I'm going to give this type of harness a try.

Posted by: Aesir24 | August 4, 2015 8:27 AM    Report this comment

We're working on loose leash walking. I've been using the Easy Walk harness in situations when I know my dog will pull. I use the flat collar when I can click & treat for position and calm behavior. So she normally wears both and I switch between the two depending on how it is going and how exciting the circumstances of the walk are. I have a small dog that used lunge, jerk, forge, plow and our progress, while it has not been overnight, has been gratifying. FWIW, she hated the head halter, even though I tried to gradually accustom her to it as directed. She's not too crazy about the Easy Walk harness either even though it is fitted to the best of my ability. The article makes sense and I'm going to switch to another front attach harness that won't ride as low or be as restrictive. Thanks!

Posted by: Carolyn M | June 30, 2014 2:33 PM    Report this comment

I have NEVER liked these since I first saw them. Every dog I've ever seen wearing one, fitted or not, walks funny, as if his shoulders are being restrained. And I've discouraged any client interested in them with young dogs with growling joints and bones.

But in addition, whatever you do, don't call or market these things as 'positive'.

They work on the basis of leverage. That is, the chest strap is placed just below the dog's horizontal center of gravity. Basically, you're tripping your dog into submission. If he pulls, you basically pull his lower body out from under him. When he gets tired of losing his balance, he stops pulling.

Now, I don't have a problem using aversives in theory, if they are used correctly and balanced with lots of positive reinforcement, etc. But don't promote a tool as 'positive' when it's not. Why it's important to research WHY a tool works, not just buy into its hype and marketing.

Posted by: RFouts | June 29, 2014 10:15 PM    Report this comment

The no pull harness is a training tool for training that helps owners to teach their dogs not to pull on the leash (Which can be injurious to the human and dog and aversive to the human). It is not meant to be worn off leash or while your dog engages in an agility run, frisbee challenge or tricks class. I also use no pull harnesses to help calm leash aggressive dogs and they work wonders. If we weigh out the risks of impeded movement against all the possibly life and injury saving benefits of these harnesses, (vs using a collar and leash)it doesn't make any sense not to use them. Better walking equals more time spent with the dog in a pleasurable activity and leads to an overall better behaved dog. JMHO

Posted by: Lynne Fedorick, CPDT-KA CTDI | June 29, 2014 12:43 PM    Report this comment

This article actually makes sense to me, from a physiological perspective. Think about it: when your dog pulls, they themselves are pulled back, up and towards the owner. As a result, they would have to lean back on their rear legs (dogs should bear most of their weight on their front legs) and it would tend to lean them off their front-outside leg. Eventually, this could become habitual. Certainly, people who run their dogs on these things could see that this may really cramp a dog's running style.
That being said - It can be a trial to train some dogs to not pull, especially for owners without the time/patience for it. I believe that these harnesses and/or head collars can outright change some dog/owner relationships. For people dedicated to training loose leash walking, they can be a great interim tool to keep dogs getting out and about until training is complete.
I certainly do not feel that the article was advocating using a collar; in fact, it was mentioned that there are plenty of harnesses out there that allow full range of motion. The problem is that these often encourage dogs to pull, or at least do not detract from it, since they put weight on the shoulders, where most dogs have a lot of power.
For me, I own multiple tools. My "sports partner" is a 35lb long legged, highly athletic, high stimulation, shepherd mix. She can be a fury of pulling power when she has the opportunity to break a flock of birds or hunt a squirrel (yes, I admit a lack of training here). Still, when I hike or run with her I use a harness that is actually designed for pulling/sled/canicross. I chose this due to padding and freedom of movement. Usually, she is pretty loose leash trained, but certain stimulating circumstances break her normal good manners.
Since the front clip harnesses actually did me little good with her, In high stimulation situations (dog fairs, hiking with other dogs) I walk her on a head collar until she blows off some of her (endless) steam. I would imagine that, from a physiological perspective, overuse of head collars could result in some issues. Of course, collars themselves are known to cause neck problems.
Basically, the perfect solution, I think, would be a dog on a loose leash harness. However, as the owner of a young, easily over-stimulated dog, I know that this can take time to achieve - so I pick my tools based on the situation.

Posted by: Juliette V | June 29, 2014 12:34 PM    Report this comment

A leash has to be attached to something. Why does that something have to be a collar? IMO a properly-fitted harness does not impede the dog's natural movement and is a much more humane option. I just can't understand what the stigma is with a harness.

Posted by: ltrunell | May 23, 2014 10:22 PM    Report this comment

Dr. Zink practices where my dog goes for orthopedic issues. I wrote to her regarding her study.

She tested the low riding front attach harnesses, like the Easy Walk. These ride low on the dog's chest and come into contact with their forelegs.

I asked about other types that don't come into contact with the dog's forelimbs at all, and she concurred that they'd be safer choices. So "Y" type harnesses, Roman or "H" harnesses with an o-ring in the front, even if they're not marketed as front attach. Some examples that spring to mind would be Surefit, Lupine Roman, etc. Just clip the lead to the front o-ring.

So there's really no need to use pinch collars or choke collars, or thin flat collars (VERY wide flat collars will evenly distribute force). These two collar choices can cause trauma to the dog's skin as well as UNDER the dog's skin, to the musculature and skeleton.

Halters (head collars) shouldn't be used on a dog who will injure themselves on one. In order to be used properly, IMO, they have to A. be carefully conditioned so that the dog knows to go with it instead of against it and B. not be used on a dog, who despite the conditioning, still strains against it as this WILL be caused pain.

IMO, they should function only as negative punishment. They should take the reinforcement out of leash pressure because the dog can't pull forwards. Where the head leads, the body will follow. This is why you can lead huge horses by bit-less halters. But if the dog is straining against the halter, this is unsafe, as well as pain invoking, and not being used as intended. And the dog is better off with training, and as a management device, one of the suggested front attach harnesses.

Posted by: LCB3 | March 23, 2014 4:17 AM    Report this comment

If we believed everything that every vet told us we would be in a heap of trouble! If real, controlled studies on a larger number of dogs in 2 groups (1 controlled, 1 using the front clip) were done and the study revealed damages to one and not the other, I would believe it because it has been proven. Until then, I love my front-leading harness and so does my small dog. I like that I can prevent pulling so he can be rewarded more often for walking correctly instead of using corrections. That's just my style of training (yes, I am a certified professional trainer who does this for a living.) Personally, I believe the use of both the front clip harness and the head halter were meant to be used with NO corrections (no snapping of the leash, no jerking the dog around, no hurting them, basically.) My small dog can easily heel off leash because I used the front clip harness on him starting at 9 weeks old and trained him to do so. I still use the harness when walking downtown or in public for safety. Oh yeah, he has no injuries to his legs....

That said, I will not knock someone using another type of tool if it is done the way it was meant to be done. Not every human clicks with one type of training the same way dogs don't. It's not as black and white as everyone wants it to be...

Posted by: topaz | March 16, 2014 11:57 PM    Report this comment

There are alternatives. I like the Xtra Dog fleece harness. It fits like a regular back clip harness but has a ring in the front. It is meant to be used with a double ended leash and then when the dog is trained you can use the clip on the back.

Posted by: Cheryl V | February 5, 2014 8:20 PM    Report this comment

I love these trainers who are like, "mehh just train your dog." Like anything that has worked for them should automatically work for all people in all situations. I mean, just do some regression analysis. Just postulate the existence of the Boson-Higgs. I mean if someone else can do it you can too. You just have to put in the time.

Posted by: mporte25 | January 16, 2014 11:28 AM    Report this comment

Bravo! Thank you for this. I have not liked these harnesses from the beginning. As not only a professional dog trainer but also as someone with years of dance training and coursework in anatomy, kinesiology, body conditioning, etc. I have had an uneasy feeling about these harnesses. I am not opposed to the use of certain equipment in dog training, but much prefer to use the old fashioned method of training, positive reinforcement, that is. With individuals who cannot gain control of their dogs and have difficulty training their dogs I do occasionally use a head halter, but even these cause me to hold my breath. They must not only be fitted properly and used properly, but the dog must be introduced to them properly. I now use them only in carefully selected cases.

Posted by: Clickerpro | August 11, 2013 7:01 PM    Report this comment

Reading this article made me want to scream. .. if the harness is on too tight, MAYBE there's a problem, but fitted correctly, it allowed my old male Borzoi to go out in public without neck problems, he also could RACE with it on, and it allowed me to pull him off the bunny without causing him to have neck problems. A limited study is no better than no study, and a lot of assumptions were put into this article IMHO. . .we have been using harnesses to teach puppies to walk politely on a leash, without them flailing and wrenching their necks the old fashion way, and since my mentor started using harnesses on her puppies, she has had very little in neck problems as the dogs get older. My last litter of pups leash broke almost perfectly switching from the harness to collars, no flailing, no screaming. . .and in fact, this is the harness I walk some of my big males to the line with, to insure they don't hurt ME as well as hurt themseles by launching up in the air and coming down on their sides, resulting in pneumothorax in at least one dog. .it is a TOOL, and used right, is a good one. . .this 'limited' study needs to be tossed aside and real research put into it, but in my experience, I LOVE my EZ walk harnesses, and strongly recommend my puppy buyers use it. . .I have used it to pull 80 lb keen borzoi off of bunnies, without wrenching my back or their neck. . .

Posted by: mielikkibz | August 8, 2013 8:42 PM    Report this comment

Seriously....pro-prong collar people..go away this is irrelevant to you. Train dogs without prong collars....if you were even a half decent dog trainer its very simple. Lazy trainers like to inflict pain upon their dogs for incorrect behaviors. Try maybe teaching the dog what the desired behavior is before you go and snap prongs into the dogs' neck because they didn't perform the correct behavior. Remove the leash and you no longer have control of the correction, dogs figure that out pretty damn quickly.

Posted by: Unknown | August 5, 2013 7:50 PM    Report this comment

Walking on a loose leash is a skill that can usually be taught in under an hour - to the owner. Dogs learn it in minutes. The key is for the owner to keep the leash moving rather than becoming something to lean on. I have successfully taught dozens of people to walk their dogs on a loose leash, some of them owners of long-time, inveterate pullers.

Posted by: CuLiath | August 5, 2013 4:15 PM    Report this comment

I have a 9 month old male Doberman who is a real challenge to walk. We had a "trainer" come and help us with the prong collar and Brik was fine with it for about an hour after which, he could pull me off my feet. We used a choke chain (also recommended by the trainer), a modified prong, a so called no pull harness that hooked up from behind, a Gentle Leader... the ONLY thing that works for him is the front hooked no pull harness. I have to be able to walk him and although my ultimate goal is to have him walk with a regular collar, at this point, I need to do what I have to do to get him out there. He can still pull me if he wants to but I do have more control than with ALL the others I've tried, including that trainer!

Posted by: Brite | August 4, 2013 10:11 PM    Report this comment

Front attach harnesses are the least aversive, least invasive equipment to aid in loose leash training. While they may be uncomfortable, they're not designed to cause pain or cut off air supply. Even this, as this article has shown, has it's downsides. One should not RELY on such a harness but use it to AID in training, before moving on to a back attach harness. If a head halter is conditioned PROPERLY it should be safe enough, not painful and shouldn't cut off air supply, and should be even superfluous, again best used while training and then discarded.

Prong collars, as well as choke collars operate based on causing pain and cutting off oxygen to the brain. This is avoidance training. Even more, people are told to hike these up under the dog's ears at the most fragile part of a dog's neck, where the hyoid apparatus, trachea, thyroid and other such prone structures are found. These collars have the highest probability for causing damage.

Shock collars operate based on fear and pain as well, as well as a high probably, like the choke and prong collars, of causing punishment fallout.

Humane and effective training isn't based on setting the dog up to fail so that you have opportunities to punish it.

Posted by: LCB3 | August 4, 2013 6:12 PM    Report this comment

What would be the issue with owning two harnesses? One for training (no pull) and one for playing. They are light enough and easy enough to switch on and off. I have two and did this exact thing with my young dog. The no pull is after all a training harness not a life time crutch. We used the no pull to get to the beach and the non restrictive to run on the beach. We simply switched back to go back to the car.

Posted by: shells | August 4, 2013 5:13 PM    Report this comment

i like how Whole Dog Journal Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, says she will continue using these until a 'safer non-aversive alternative' is found. what part of ruining your dogs physical health is non-aversive? give me a prong collar which hurts nothing any day. no, they are not cruel. what is cruel is using crap like head halters and non-pull things that physically mess a dog up.. that is cruel. a prong takes a couple pops and it is over...don't pull and nothing happens.. pay attention, learn not to pull and the prong is gone. it is a no brainer.

Posted by: wkmtca | August 4, 2013 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Just one more reason Premier (now PetSafe) should not have discontinued their best-kept secret: The TopNotch Harness... :(

Posted by: Unknown | August 3, 2013 3:24 PM    Report this comment

I am curious to hear your contributors opinions about head collars. They work well in preventing pulling and I cannot see how they might negatively affect a dogs well being.

Posted by: Onora Irish Setters - Russ | July 17, 2013 5:23 PM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In