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Dog harnesses – are they really a good idea or the sign of an untrained dog?

David Tomlinson has his say

dog harnesses

Do harnesses make dogs pull?

Are dog harnesses the answer if a gundog pulls on the lead? I’m sure dog harnesses are popular because people feel that they are much kinder to a dog than the traditional collar and lead. These devices are recommended for many reasons, including the curious fact that ‘a good harness can alleviate back pain’, while ‘they’re also far less likely to pull on your dog’s throat, causing injury. If you have a dog that loves to pull hard while walking, you’ll want to consider a harness.’

Why dog harnesses?

Really? I would have thought that’s the last reason why you should put a harness on a dog.

Dogs seem to enjoy pulling

Dogs that pull are actually encouraged to do so by wearing a harness, and it makes them pull all the harder. Many dogs seem to enjoy the sensation of pulling, which no doubt explains why huskies are prepared to pull sledges. If they didn’t want to pull, then they could always go on strike.

In the world of working gundogs, rope slip leads have always been the norm. It’s easy to understand why. They are simple to slip on and off, hence the name, yet they are light, strong and durable, giving the handler all the control that is needed. They have the added advantage that you can put them into a pocket or hang them around your neck, while they are cheap but long lasting. I’ve got slip leads that are more than 10 years old. All they need is the occasional session in the washing machine to come up looking like new. (Read more on the best slip leads for working dogs .)

One year at The Game Fair I bought an expensive, matching pair of leather slip leads made from bridle leather. I’ve always liked quality leather products and these were really smart. However, they didn’t work nearly as well as the rope leads, so I rarely used them and ended up giving them away.

Teach walking to heel

If owners made more effort to teach their dogs to walk to heel properly in the first place, there would be no reason for harnesses. However, training a dog to walk to heel takes time and patience, which is why so few pet owners bother to do so. (Read teaching a dog manners here.)