Dog Harnesses: a terrible idea!

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Are you tired of your dog pulling on the leash?  Are you sick of being dragged down the sidewalk?  Are you embarrassed by being walked by your dog and being asked, “Who’s walking who?” by the more annoying of your neighbors?  Does your dog lung and bark at passersby?  Has your dog ever nipped or jumped up and snapped at anyone or at any other dogs?

 

Friends, dog harnesses are NOT the best way forward out of those behaviors!  NOT even close!

Let’s make this perfectly clear.  Most every dog walking tool on the market today in 2019 sucks.  (Not every tool but the majority)  Dog harnesses are a plague on humanity.  Why you ask.  There are several sound reasons but I’ll just give you a couple.

Reasons Why Dog Harnesses Are A Plague On Humanity:

  1.  Dogs are way too comfortable pulling on them.  Many dogs will pull even on “no-pull” harnesses!  This causes many caring owners to struggle to maintain a decent walk or any form of leadership while outside.  In fact, many folks are getting injured from being pulled over and smashing onto the ground by their beloved dogs who, incidentally, have a much lower center of gravity, four strong legs, external claws permanently extended for running, and who come equipped with a predatory “eye of the tiger” often directed purposefully at prey animals or even at other dogs or people.  Harnesses were invented for pulling!  No one in their right mind would attempt to lead an ornery or dangerous horse or ox around in a harness, would they?  Then why do we try it with ornery, dangerous, or rude dogs?  (“Because we’re a larger species” is a horrible answer to that question)  Dog harnesses make it almost impossible to train a dog to learn to heel properly due to where the leash connects to the dog’s body (it is too far on the back or too low on the chest – both connections are downright awful) and if/when the handler attempts to work with a dog on a harness in the heel position the handler is at a huge disadvantage.
  2. People and dogs frequently get bit by aggressive dogs lunging at them while simultaneously being very comfortably pulling and straining in their harness!  I know several people that assumed that the teenage salesperson making minimum wage at the giant pet conglomerate knew what they were talking about when they told them to, “Get a dog harness.  You won’t hurt your dog’s fragile neck and you’ve got control of their body.”  Friends, why fight the dog body when what you really need is control of the eyes and mouth?  You need the dog’s head.  Its basic physics and basic anatomy.  How ridiculous have we all become when it comes to our dogs and their care and handling?  Someone has a powerful breed dog that is lunging at people and dogs and so they buy a stinking harness in order to fight with the dog’s body???!!!  Give me a break.  Meanwhile, while you’re struggling to control your out  of control dog the dog’s eyes and weapons (teeth) are pointing in whatever the heck direction the dog wants them to point and at whomever they decide to threaten!  Let’s all get beyond this harness foolishness, can we?  When a dog or pup is out of control we need to control the head and eyes  – NOT the body!  THE BODY FOLLOWS THE HEAD.  The eyes are contained in the dog’s head.  If you don’t have control of your dog’s head you don’t have much of anything!
  3. Many dogs can slip backwards out of their harness.  This happens all the time.  As if the first two reasons weren’t reason enough, did you want your dog loose on the street too?
  4. Harnesses can cause irritation around the pits.  Many dogs get chafed around their armpit areas.  Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that.

In my opinion (and it is professional) the only time a harness on a dog is ever acceptable… is if the dog is involved in the Iditarod, pulling competitions, skijoring, cart pulling, legit service work, or if the pup is under four or five months old!  Now if the dog has a real, true, actual, verifiable neck injury or medical issue (and, believe me, this is rare), or if the dog is already very friendly, social, obedient, and already adept at heeling and loose leash walking (note I said HEELING and loose leash walking, NOT just loose leash walking) then a harness is fine.  Honestly though, every dog I know could improve on their heeling and leash work, including my own dogs, and they’re excellent.

Because dog harnesses cause so much trouble they are a plague to our dogs too!  They keep the dog mentally and physically locked in a place where they just keep pulling.  They struggle against you and gain an inch of ground and the struggle is rewarded in the mind of the dog through the forward motion!  It can make for a horrible relationship!  A relationship that often amounts to the dog thinking it does whatever the heck it wants as soon as the idiotic harness is in place around its body.  A relationship where the dog totally and unequivocally ignores the owner/handler in order to pull (and pull comfortably) towards whatever person, shrub, fire hydrant, or animal catches its fancy.

Should you use a choke chain then?  NO.  Should you use a prong collar because your dog is so powerful?  NO.  Prong collars (aside from being overkill in many situations) can and do burst apart leaving your dog loose at the most inconvenient of times!  They can also exacerbate an already worked up and aggressive dog.  Also…like with almost every training or walking tool or collar out there…they are too low on the dog’s neck.

Friends, ANY tool that isn’t near the top of your dog’s head or face isn’t that efficient of a tool!  You may say you saw some decent results from a harness, prong, or martingale, or even from your “no pull” harness, to which I would happily respond, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Our handmade, custom calming collars will EASILY out perform the mainstream dog training and walking tools on the market!  They sit high up where they should (safeguarding the trachea and maintaining the dog in a confident posture), are lightweight, are crazy strong, are smooth flowing for little directional adjustments or large ones, are unobtrusive, and best of all…dogs take to them quickly!  (Dogs do NOT choke on them.  Dogs only do that choking sound, by the way, when the tool that the owner’s choose is low on their neck!  People remain amazed whenever they try one of our collars they end up invariably purchasing one or more for their household.)  I implore you – Pick the right tool for the job.  With our custom, calming training collar in almost no time at all pulling and lunging is a thing of the past!

Check them out at http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  search under our Custom Products page!  Don’t underestimate the power of a simple and effective approach.  Our handmade, custom calming collars are strong enough for the strongest and largest of dog breeds (200lbs) and everything in between.  We use them daily in our work with incredible results – no harsh handling necessary.

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Skip all the crazy equipment…order one of our custom, hand-made, training collars! Love your dog: Lead your dog!

 

Next post we will focus on… Cato the Corso (pitbull mix) rescue dog and our tale of how he came to join our training team at Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center.   Stay Tuned!

-G

 

My Black Cane Corso/Pitbull: A Rescue dog story

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Black as a moonless night and rippling with muscles, the dog approached me.  I was sitting down on the couch in the living room of a client’s home as a guest.  I was there to give her an evaluation on this black beast’s demeanor and behavior.  It was her new rescue dog from Texas.  The dog gave me a serious look and a few huffs as he trotted towards me.  His ears were cropped short and tightly towards his head which only served to emphasize his eyes and the strength of his neck, head, and jaws.  His muscled shoulders were rounded and spoke, I knew, of an explosive power.  He was oily black all over extending from the tip of his nose to the thick docked tail and on down to each claw.  The lighting inside the home at the precise time of day I was there wasn’t affording me the greatest visibility.  It was hard to read his face.  Was he calm or concerned?  Would I be friend or foe?  I did what I thought best in the moment and what I often advise when folks ask me how to meet a dog  –  I ignored him and continued chatting with the owner.

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Here he is the first day we took charge of him at the Ruston Way waterfront in Tacoma. We went on a long explore as we bonded/traveled together

Cato, that was his new name she said – chosen, I supposed, from the Cane Corso/Italian Mastiff heritage –  he continued to smell me.  “Cato” was a famous Roman, philosopher poet.  A follower and teacher of Stoicism.  Perhaps this dog possessed such a spirit?  Then again, maybe he was named Cato after Bruce Lee’s black-masked, kung fu dynamo in the 1970s TV show, The Green Hornet.  The dog certainly appeared athletic.  Or possibly his moniker came from the Peter Seller’s Pink Panther character that was always lying in wait to attack him!  I hoped it was not the latter.

He wasn’t as large as a standard male Cane Corso or as jowly, so my guess was that one of his parents (possibly both) were jet-black Pitbull terriers.  Either way he was a beautiful animal.  His movements catlike.  His eyes were an alluring and friendly amber color and his face could only be described as cute and powerful.

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Here’s Cato at our home during the first critical week of the “Honeymoon phase.” My third book (upcoming in 2019) on dog behavior will be all about Rescue/Shelter dogs and those vital, first few weeks in a new home!  Rambo, our twelve year old boxer, is asleep next to him.

Ignoring Cato was working like a charm and as we shared more time, more moments together, I steadily began to explore a relationship with this strong, dark dog through our mutual senses of touch and space.  I began to perform what I have coined in my business years ago as the “Touch and Go” maneuver.  This “move” or maneuver doesn’t seem like much at first glance to us as human beings but I use it in every single dog training and behavioral rehab session I’ve ever done (at the time of writing this) in the last fourteen years!  Why?  It works and works wonders.  Are treats required?  Heck no – no part of the Garrett Stevens Method requires food or treats or any training tool outside of one’s own body.  (Isn’t that great news for all you nudists following us out there?  I know you’re out there) Is it based in dog obedience training?  No way – most obedience training is honestly a waste of time in 2019 because every method of dog obedience training is excitement-based so that the dog gets pumped up in its energy and then works harder for you – Why do that though when most every dog owner with a house dog desires a calmer, more trustworthy dog?!  Most of us are NOT shepherds any more, most aren’t heading for Afghanistan on active duty with our dogs.  We aren’t as rural in general and certainly we aren’t spending all day afield on a hunt like we used to in days long past.  We have changed and we should be open to letting our dogs change with us!  Being adaptable is what has given our dogs their success since their beginning.  For more info about this and about achieving better dog behavior without the use of positive or punitive reinforcement – read my first book, Dog Myths (available on Amazon and everywhere).

The Touch and Go move is so easy that everyone I’ve ever met concerning dog behavior or training, be they professional or lay person, simply misses it…and therein lies the power, beauty, and art of the thing.

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My black panther!

Want to learn it?  Follow/Subscribe to this fine blog of ours and in the next exciting episode I’ll describe in unabashed detail the Touch and Go maneuver (which helps btw with any dog or pup and with any behavioral issue!) and we will continue our story of how Cato the Corso travelled from a rescue down in Texas to Washington state and from a client’s home into our crazy abode!

-G

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Cato and some clown spending his life in attempts at deciphering the dog language