By Sharon Gomes Thomas
My dog is a tugger, a puller, a lunger. Embarrassing for me to admit, that as writer about pets, I can’t even walk my own dog! Darby has always had a strong hunting instinct, coming from a line of champion field Irish Setters. So every walk since she was a puppy has been an adventure.
Darby has undergone puppy and adult training classes, and passed both courses (surprisingly!) But take her out of the enclosed facility and into the real world and her need to sniff out birds or squirrels kicks in. I’ve used a check-chain collar on her, as well as a harness. Both have been failures. And I cannot bring myself to use a prong collar on her.
So when an animal behaviorist at Premier Pet Products (http://www.premier.com) suggested that I try their Easy Walk Harness, I was skeptical to give it a try. After all, I had tried a harness before, the type where the loop is up on the dog’s back, and that didn’t work. Traditional harnesses can actually encourage dogs to pull harder because of the “opposition reflex.” That’s the reflex that makes sled dogs do what they do.
I was amazed that seconds after slipping the Easy Walk Harness on my dog, she actually walked beside me without pulling. When I say seconds, I mean seconds! The Easy Walk Harness has a unique front-chest leash attachment that stops pulling by tightening slightly across my dog’s chest and shoulder blades. The gentle pressure steers her to the side and redirects her attention back towards me. Unlike check and prong collars, the harness never causes coughing, gagging, or choking because the chest strap rests low across the breastbone, not on the delicate tracheal area.
It’s recommended that you don’t use a flexi-leash with this, as it negates the control you get from the harness. With a retractable leash, the dog is “rewarded” with additional leash length when she pulls ahead. The point is to teach the dog to not pull ahead. In addition, a retractable leash will always apply a slight constant pressure, teaching your dog it is okay to continue pulling.
It did take me about half an hour to fit the harness correctly on my dog. And many attempts to correctly slip it on her. There are detailed instructions in the package. But the results were well worth the patience to learn. Once I had made the correct adjustments, it was a quick snap of one buckle to put on the Easy Walk Harness. It helps that the harness comes in a two-color combination, as one of the straps fits under the dog’s belly.
I had tried so many different collars and harnesses before. I had followed advice from TV trainers such as tapping her back each time she pulled. One trainer even suggested U-turning in the opposite direction each time my dog pulled. That just resulted in my walking in a series of U-turns in one spot!
The Easy Walk Harness is available in several sizes from teacup to giant, and in six different colors. Available at all pet stores around the country. For more info go to http://www.premier.com