how do i get my dog used to wearing a harness
how do i get my dog used to wearing a harness

If you’ve ever struggled to convince your furry friend to put on a harness without turning it into a grueling tug-of-war, we’ve got the solution for you! In this article, we’ll guide you through some tried and tested techniques to help your dog embrace the idea of wearing a harness with enthusiasm. From gentle desensitization exercises to positive reinforcement strategies, we’ll show you how to transform the battle of the harness into a stress-free and enjoyable experience for both you and your loyal companion. Say goodbye to those wrestling matches and hello to stress-free walks in no time!

Understanding the Importance of a Harness

Why Use a Harness?

Using a harness for your dog is essential for several reasons. First and foremost, it provides better control and prevents injury during walks or outdoor activities. Unlike a collar, a harness distributes the pressure evenly across your dog’s body, reducing the risk of neck strain or damage to the trachea. Additionally, harnesses are especially useful for dogs that tend to pull on the leash, as they provide more control and discourage pulling behavior. Lastly, a harness can be a valuable tool for training, as it allows you to attach a leash and guide your dog’s movements more effectively.

Types of Harnesses

There are various types of harnesses available, each with its own unique design and purpose. The most common types include back-clip harnesses, front-clip harnesses, and no-pull harnesses. Back-clip harnesses have a D-ring on the back to attach the leash, while front-clip harnesses have a D-ring on the chest. No-pull harnesses, on the other hand, have additional features that help discourage pulling behavior. It’s important to choose a harness that suits your dog’s size, breed, and specific needs. Consulting with a professional or doing thorough research can help you determine the best option for your furry friend.

Choosing the Right Harness

When choosing a harness, it’s crucial to consider your dog’s comfort, size, and individual needs. Look for a harness that is adjustable and made from durable, yet comfortable materials. Measure your dog’s chest and neck circumference to ensure a proper fit. Additionally, take into account any specific concerns or requirements, such as the need for additional support or features for training purposes. Consulting with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer can provide valuable guidance in selecting the right harness for your dog.

Introducing the Harness to Your Dog

Allowing Familiarization

Before putting the harness on your dog, allow them to become familiar with it. Place the harness near their bed or in an area where they spend a lot of time. This will allow them to investigate it at their own pace and become comfortable with its presence. Avoid pushing or rushing the process, as it’s important for your dog to approach the harness willingly.

Positive Associations

To make the harness a positive experience for your dog, associate it with something they enjoy. Use treats, toys, or verbal praise to create positive associations with the harness. For example, give your dog a treat every time they interact with the harness, such as sniffing it or allowing you to touch it to their body. This will help them associate the harness with positive rewards and build a positive connection.

Gradual Introduction

Introduce the harness gradually to your dog. Start by gently touching the harness to their body without actually putting it on. Reward them for remaining calm and relaxed during this process. Once they are comfortable with the touch, slowly progress to buckling the harness without tightening it. Gradually increase the duration your dog wears the harness, always following up with praise and rewards for calm and cooperative behavior. This gradual approach allows your dog to adjust at their own pace and build confidence.

Making the Harness a Positive Experience

Creating a Calm Environment

When it’s time to put the harness on your dog, create a calm and relaxed environment. Minimize distractions and choose a quiet area where your dog feels safe. Speak in a soothing tone of voice and maintain a gentle demeanor to help your dog feel at ease. By creating a positive and calm atmosphere, you will make the harnessing process more enjoyable for your furry friend.

Using Treats and Rewards

Using treats and rewards is an effective way to make wearing a harness a positive experience for your dog. Before you put the harness on, offer a high-value treat to reinforce good behavior. Once the harness is on, shower your dog with praise and more treats. This rewards-based approach helps your dog associate wearing the harness with positive outcomes and reinforces the idea that good things happen when the harness is on.

Avoiding Negative Reinforcement

It is important to avoid any form of negative reinforcement when introducing the harness to your dog. Never force the harness on your dog or use punishment if they resist or show signs of fear or anxiety. This can create a negative association with the harness and make the process more challenging. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and patience to ensure a positive experience for your dog.

Getting Your Dog Comfortable with Wearing the Harness

Adjusting the Fit

Proper fit is crucial for your dog’s comfort and safety while wearing a harness. Ensure that the harness is snug enough to prevent slipping, but not too tight to restrict movement or cause discomfort. Take the time to adjust the straps and buckles to fit your dog’s body shape properly. Regularly check the fit, especially if your dog is growing or gaining/losing weight. A properly fitted harness will make a significant difference in your dog’s comfort level.

Taking Baby Steps

If your dog shows resistance or discomfort when wearing the harness, take things slowly and break the process down into small steps. Start by allowing your dog to wear the harness for short periods of time indoors. Gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more comfortable. Take breaks if needed and offer rewards and encouragement along the way. By taking baby steps, you can gradually acclimate your dog to wearing the harness without overwhelming them.

Building Incrementally

As your dog becomes more comfortable with wearing the harness indoors, gradually introduce them to different environments. Start with familiar and quiet settings, such as your backyard or a peaceful park, before venturing into more challenging or stimulating environments. This gradual exposure will help your dog feel more at ease and build confidence while wearing the harness. Remember to reward positive behavior and provide plenty of encouragement throughout the process.

Dealing with Resistance and Fear

Addressing Fear and Anxiety

Some dogs may experience fear or anxiety when introduced to a harness. It’s essential to address these emotions in a gentle and supportive manner. Allow your dog to approach the harness on their terms and provide ample reassurance through praise and treats. If your dog becomes fearful or anxious during the process, pause and give them a break. Seek guidance from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist if your dog’s fear or anxiety persists.

Seeking Professional Help

If your dog consistently resists wearing the harness or exhibits extreme fear or anxiety, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. A qualified dog trainer or behaviorist can assess your dog’s specific needs and tailor a training plan to address their individual challenges. They can provide guidance, support, and techniques to help your dog overcome their resistance or fear and become more comfortable wearing the harness.

Using Counterconditioning Techniques

Counterconditioning is a technique used to change your dog’s emotional response to a specific stimulus, such as the harness. By pairing the sight or presence of the harness with something positive, you can help your dog develop a more positive association. For example, when your dog sees the harness, offer them a treat or engage in a fun activity. Over time, this can help your dog associate the harness with positive experiences, reducing resistance and fear.

Exposing Your Dog to Different Environments

Starting With Familiar Environments

Once your dog is comfortable wearing the harness, it’s time to gradually expose them to different environments. Begin by taking short walks in familiar environments, such as your neighborhood or a nearby park. This allows your dog to practice walking with the harness while feeling secure in a familiar setting. Pay attention to their behavior and provide positive reinforcement for calm and cooperative behavior.

Gradually Increasing the Challenges

As your dog becomes more confident, gradually increase the challenges by taking them to new and slightly more stimulating environments. This could include busier parks, sidewalks with more foot traffic, or areas with other dogs. It’s crucial to assess your dog’s comfort level and adjust the pace accordingly. Always reward and praise your dog for good behavior, and be prepared to provide additional support and guidance if needed.

Positive Experiences in Different Settings

Make each outing a positive experience for your dog. Bring treats, toys, or other high-value rewards to reward and motivate your furry friend. Engage in interactive play, engage with them, and make the walk enjoyable. By creating positive associations with the harness and different environments, you can help your dog develop confidence and enjoy their outings, making walks a pleasurable experience for both of you.

Training Your Dog to Walk with a Harness

Using Positive Reinforcement

When training your dog to walk with a harness, focus on positive reinforcement techniques. Reward and praise your dog for walking calmly by your side or following your cues. Use treats, toys, or verbal praise to reward good behavior consistently. Be patient with your dog and understand that learning to walk on a leash with a harness takes time and practice. By using positive reinforcement, you can make the training process enjoyable for your dog and strengthen your bond.

Developing Loose Leash Walking Skills

Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash is an important skill to cultivate. This allows for a more comfortable and enjoyable walking experience for both you and your dog. Encourage your dog to walk by your side, using treats or rewards to reinforce good behavior. If your dog begins to pull, stop walking and wait until they return to your side. Then, continue walking and reward them for staying by your side. Consistency and positive reinforcement will help your dog understand the desired behavior.

Practicing Obedience Commands

Incorporate obedience commands into your training routine while walking with a harness. Teach your dog to respond to cues such as “sit,” “stay,” or “heel.” These commands not only enhance the level of control you have over your dog but also provide mental stimulation and engagement during walks. Consistently reinforce these commands with rewards and praise to solidify their understanding and compliance.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Chewing or Scratching the Harness

If your dog tends to chew or scratch the harness, it’s important to address this behavior. Ensure the harness is properly fitted and not rubbing or causing discomfort. Offer appropriate chew toys or engage in interactive play to redirect their chewing behavior. If the issue persists, consider investing in a chew-proof harness or seek guidance from a professional trainer or behaviorist.

Escaping from the Harness

If your dog has a habit of escaping from the harness, first check that it is properly fitted and adjusted. Make sure all straps are securely fastened and that your dog can’t slip out of the harness. Use additional security measures, such as attaching a leash to both the back-clip and front-clip D-rings, or using a double-ended leash, to prevent escape attempts. Consult with a professional if your dog continues to escape from the harness despite your efforts.

Pulling and Lunging Behavior

If your dog continues to pull or lunge while wearing a harness, it may be necessary to seek additional training or guidance. Consider enrolling in a formal leash training program or working with a professional dog trainer. They can provide you with specific techniques and strategies to address your dog’s pulling behavior effectively. Remember to always use positive reinforcement methods and avoid punitive measures that may worsen the problem.

Consistency and Patience are Key

Establishing a Daily Routine

Consistency is essential when it comes to getting your dog used to wearing a harness. Establish a daily routine that includes putting on the harness and going for walks at regular times. Dogs thrive on routine, and having a predictable schedule helps them feel secure and comfortable. Stick to the routine and be consistent with your expectations and training techniques, which will ultimately lead to a better experience for both you and your dog.

Staying Positive and Patient

Patience is crucial throughout the process of getting your dog used to wearing a harness. Some dogs may adapt quickly, while others may require more time and support. Stay positive and patient during the training process, avoiding frustration or impatience. Your dog will pick up on your emotions, so maintaining a calm and positive attitude will help create a relaxed environment. Celebrate small victories and focus on progress rather than perfection.

Reinforcing Good Behavior

Consistently reinforce good behavior by providing rewards, praise, and positive reinforcement. When your dog walks calmly on a leash or remains relaxed while wearing the harness, offer verbal praise and treats to reinforce their behavior. By reinforcing good behavior, you’re helping your dog understand what is expected of them and encouraging them to continue exhibiting positive behavior. Consistency in rewarding good behavior will help solidify the learning process and make wearing a harness an enjoyable experience for your dog.


Getting your dog used to wearing a harness is a process that requires patience, positive reinforcement, and gradual introductions. By allowing your dog to familiarize themselves with the harness, making it a positive experience, and gradually increasing their comfort level, you can help them develop a positive association with the harness. Remember to address any resistance or fear using gentle techniques and seek professional help if needed. Through consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement, you can ensure that wearing a harness becomes a pleasant and beneficial experience for both you and your furry friend. So, take the time to introduce your dog to their harness properly, and enjoy many enjoyable walks together.

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Dylan Mills
Hello there, I'm Dylan Mills, a seasoned veterinarian, committed dog enthusiast, and your go-to entity for all things dog-related. As an expert in the field and an award-winning advising member of several canine organizations, I bring unparalleled dog knowledge. Having dedicated my life to understanding these incredible creatures better, I've been honored with prestigious awards, recognitions, and a commendable reputation in the industry. As a published author, my books have turned into trusted manuals for dog owners across the globe. Raised in a family of dog lovers, my love for these beautiful animals runs much deeper than just my professional credentials. I've keenly observed, nurtured, and trained different breeds, gaining firsthand experience that feeds my expertise. I co-founded MyDogTrainingCollar with a singular mission - to make the rewarding dog training journey accessible, straightforward, and meaningful for you. As you browse the site, you will find a curation of up-to-date, evidence-based tips and advice on training collars, all designed with your furry friend's best interest in mind. Remember, every dog deserves to be understood, loved, and properly trained, and every dog owner should be equipped with the right know-how. That's exactly what I promise here at MyDogTrainingCollar - reliable solutions and expert guidance one click away. Brace yourself for a fascinating journey into the canine world. Let's decode your dog together.