How to Train a Puppy to Walk With a Harness

Medium
2-6 Weeks
General

Introduction

Teaching a puppy to walk in a harness with the leash can be a challenge. Everything for your puppy is new in his world. He is learning all kinds of things about his new environment and ways to do things. Adjusting to a new home is one thing. Learning to walk in a contraption that holds him in place brings a completely new level of companionship to you and your dog.

Putting your puppy on a harness will train him not to pull on the leash while on walks together. A harness could also keep your little guy safe on a leash. Strong pups could pull so hard their necks could be injured or they could pull their owners down. If you are unable to control your puppy, a harness is a great way to gain control and keep you both safe.

Defining Tasks

When you train your puppy how to walk on a leash using a harness, consider his size. Small dogs do well with a harness that clip to the leash on the back while large dogs might be more in your control with the harness clip on the chest. Be sure to research harnesses and your dog’s potential size before procuring your harness. Your strength might play a factor in which harness you’d like for your pup. Also, consider how the harness is worn and put on the dog. A small dog might be able to step into a harness, but it might be easier for a larger dog to wear one that goes over his neck and snaps around his belly rather than stepping in. Once he’s attached to the harness and leash, you’ll need to teach him to walk using the leash and harness.

Getting Started

Before you start, be sure to have your harness and leash on hand and ready for use. Your puppy will respond well to treats. This harness training will be similar to leash training, so be prepared to take short walks at first and move toward longer walks as he gets used to the harness. Focus on positive rewards and motivation with treats.

The Easy Walk Method

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Step
1
Wanna go for a walk
Get your puppy excited about going outside for a walk. You can take a ball or toy with your to beef up his excitement.
Step
2
Leash
Place him in his harness and connect the leash. Tie a knot in the leash about two-thirds of the way from your hand hold.
Step
3
Treat
After attaching the leash to the harness, let him walk away from you a bit. Before he goes too far, call his name and show him a treat. When he comes back to you, give him the treat.
Step
4
Walk
Take a few steps with the leash hold in one hand and the leash in your other hand. If your puppy walks too far ahead of you, the hand holding the leash should feel the knot. Once your second hand touches that knot, stop and say, ‘easy.’
Step
5
Attention
Your pup won’t know what the 'easy' command means just yet, so he may or may not stop. If he doesn’t stop, turn your back so you’re facing the other direction. The slack in the leash will give you enough room to do this without your pup noticing. Once he does notice, he’ll have to stop or will choose to stop.
Step
6
Walk again
Use the command 'easy' and start walking. When your puppy catches up to you, give him a treat. Repeat this process several times in an area without distractions. Practice often, increasing the distance you walk each time.
Recommend training method?

The Harness Heel Method

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Step
1
Harness
Put your puppy’s harness on and attach a leash to it. Give him a treat once he’s all ready for a walk.
Step
2
'Heel' command
Start early in training using a command to heel. Your puppy won’t know exactly what you mean but with repetition and time, it will sink in. Take a step and say ‘heel.’
Step
3
Treat
If your puppy walks with you, give him a treat.
Step
4
Keep walking
As long as your little guy stays with you, say the command ‘heel’ and keep walking. As you take steps, offer him a treat when you use the command. This will condition him to understand the command and the treat go hand in hand.
Step
5
Practice
Your expectation will be for your puppy to stay with your by your side each time you ask him to heel. Keep rewarding him for a job well done as long as he stays with you.
Step
6
Poor choices
When your little guy makes poor choices, stop walking and wait for him to come back to you. When he is back at your side, repeat the process, starting with the 'heel' command again and moving forward.
Recommend training method?

The No Pulling Method

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Step
1
Set up
Prepare your puppy by placing the harness on him and attaching the leash to the harness. If he needs a few moments to get used to the feel of the harness and leash, let him walk around the house with the leash in tow. This will give him time to feel the weight and get used to comfort level of the harness.
Step
2
Ready to walk
When you are ready to walk, give your little guy a treat and show him you have more at the ready for him to earn.
Step
3
Inside
Many puppies who first start out on a leash aren’t sure what they are supposed to do. Stay indoors for your first walk while your puppy gets used to walking with you holding the leash. Offer him a treat and hold the leash tight, keeping him close to you. Walk down a hall or across a room and give him a treat when you get to the end. Repeat going the other way.
Step
4
Enticing
If your puppy is like many others, he may lie down and not walk at all. If he does this, show him a high-value treat and loosen the leash increasing the distance between you two. Use the treat to entice him to come to you. This will get him up off the ground and walking with the leash.
Step
5
Practice
Your puppy will need some practice getting used to the leash and harness. Do this indoors until he is walking next to you, with the leash and harness attached, on several short walks before taking him outdoors to walk.
Step
6
Outside
Once your pup is used to the leash and harness, you’ll need to practice walking without pulling. Take your puppy outside while wearing the harness and leash. As you did inside, take several steps with your dog next to you. Give him treats as you walk along together.
Step
7
No pulling
If your puppy gets excited and pulls ahead of you, stand still. There will be a point when he can go no further because you have the other end of the leash. If he pulls, the harness will stop him from continuing to pull and knocking you over or injuring his neck.
Step
8
Wait
Wait patiently until your pup knows why he’s stopped and can go no further. When he gives you his attention, call him over. If he doesn’t come right away, show him a treat. You may need to squat down to get his full attention.
Step
9
Walking again
Once you have him at your side, start walking again, treating the puppy every few steps as he stays with you. Practice this often with short walks, building up to longer walks as he gets used to the harness and your expectation of not pulling you along.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

Published: 04/10/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Millie
American Eskimo and border collie
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Millie
American Eskimo and border collie
10 Months

She is very hipper when on a walk, pulls she wants to run but I don’t run, barks at most people and other dogs even she has tried to nip at a person

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
227 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell her fear. First we reduce her fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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