Sled dogs

Ah the sled dog; you know the type with their head down and their back legs working overtime dragging their guardian down the street. In my quest for an actual non pull harness or other type of equipment I've been through alot of collars, leashes and harnesses. As a trainer I am always searching for good dog equipment, innovative, humane or just plain cool. My house if filled with leashes, collars and harnesses but there are very few on the useful hook.

My harness of choice at the moment is the Easy Walker Harness made by Premier. They look like a typical harness but the leash attaches to the front of the harness on the dogs chest. It is this connection that makes the difference. I have tried other harnesses with a chest attachment that when pulled on just shifted the whole harness around the dog. Some are made out of a cord type material which cuts into the real dedicated pullers.

I like harnesses because they take the pressure off of the dogs neck. I do not like to pull on a dogs neck with a collar so I don't like when they pull on a collar either. But why do dogs pull? Dogs that are excited want to run, they don't care what you want to do at the moment; all they know is that they want to go. They learn that pulling works; it gets them in motion and some never learn that they don;t have to pull. That's your job; to teach your dog not to pull.

It is always easiest to start when they are young that way you just teach instead having to get rid of a bad behavior and replace it with a good behavior. When you take your dog out for a walk; remember that you are in control. Don't have your dog dragging you around to every tree or piece of grass they want to sniff. You walk where you want to walk and they sniff when you say it is sniff time. Teach your dog some verbal cues for a walk," this way, turn, let's go" and "this side" are a few of the terms I use to help give my dogs a heads up. I don't like to just yank on them when I am going to change direction or move on.

Keep a pocket or pouch full of treats on you if you are working on pulling. Praise your dog for attention and non pulling and work in treats when they are on the move. If they pull; you stop walking immediately until they give you slack on the leash. Once you get the slightest bit of slack you move out again. Timing is everything, they must be able to associate pulling to stopping the walk and giving slack to moving again. Keep an active conversation going with your dog when they walk nicely; stopping all conversation when they start to forge ahead and pressure takes over the leash.

The turn cue is great for some of the most dedicated pulling dogs; this gives your dog a heads up that you plan to turn into them to change directions. Taught properly it breaks into their pulling mindset and has them set back a bit so you don't step on them. I use it with Luke when he is in his highest level of excitement. Being reactive; walking loosely on a leash is one of the toughest things that I ask him to do.

The equipment I use the most are harnesses and a 5/8" x 8' cotton webbing leash. If I take my Jack russell out on her own I will use the extension leash but only have it extending when no one is around and it is also attached to her back attachment of her harness. This gives her the sensaiton of running free without being off leash.

A few heads up for the guardians about equipment. Never use an extension leash with a choke or prong/pinch. The extension leash when active and not in lock mode is constantly pulling which means that it is pulling on your dogs collar. Constant pressure on a choke or pinch/prong is very bad for your dog.

Although I do like the head harnesses I see them being misused on a daily basis. Never yank or tug on your dog with a head harness on and never use an extension leash with them. The head harness gives you maximum control over your dogs head, by yanking on it you risk injuring your dogs neck. Keep the leash taut ensuring there are no jarring yanks on your dogs neck.

And work with your dog on not pulling; it can be a ton of work but if you don't do it how does your dog know that dragging you down the street isn't the way it's done?

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