Dog Harnesses: a terrible idea!


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  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.


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!



10 thoughts on “Dog Harnesses: a terrible idea!

  1. Dog lover

    I have dealt with leash pulling with my own dogs, my foster dog and a friend’s dog and found martingale and front clips to work the best of what I’ve tried. They work better than regular harnesses and collars but definitely aren’t perfect. I always attach the leash to both a collar and the chest clip when using a front clip harness because, as you said, they are too far down. I’d be very interested in trying out your collar as the *best* tools I’ve found are still pretty mediocre.

    • If you like the martingale you’ll adore our hand-made collar! I am extremely, extremely confident about that. 🙂 Most tools on the market don’t work well but if I was going to judge by order of efficiency then I’d give our calming training collar the number one spot with those head halters (they go by different names) that loop around the dog’s muzzle the number two spot (although dog’s don’t like those halters because they itch the top of the dog’s nose) I’d give them those top spots because they are high up and control the head! Third would be prong or martingale but I’ve seen those collars actually aggravate and exacerbate aggression in some more powerful dogs! Anyway those are my top three tools for walking. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Auntysocial

    Hi – first timer stopping by just to touch on what got my attention i.e. the very strong viewpoint about harnesses and the only time they are acceptable.

    I agree entirely with you about dogs that pull and fight and drag people all over the place and my view is the more you restrict a dog or start to rely on something else as a means of keeping them under control, the less control you have and the greater a monster you create.

    We don’t have leash-reactive, pulling nightmares (almost never use leads at al)l but we do have harnesses which both dogs wear solely for safety during travel in the car.

    In the UK it’s illegal to travel without dogs suitably restrained but because we’re in and out and back and forth a lot, I use a harness that takes literally seconds to put on and can be left on.

    The harness doubles up as a safety belt. You just put the front legs through, alter the belt so it’s tight and snug enough, whizz dogs in and then fasten them in with the regular safety belt. Works like any normal seat belt so you can just chuck the dogs in the back or if I only have one, they can ride up front with me and stay safe and secure.

    When we get to where we’re going, just unclip the belt – open the door and dogs are free to go play and do whatever with the harness still in place and not causing any obstruction or discomfort.

    When we’re ready to roll it’s just whistle the dogs back, open the doors and clip them back in again – two seconds and we’re good.

    It’s sometimes preferable for people to use harnesses when they’re training any dog – particularly in an area like ours which has seen several dogs shot dead by farmers after they’ve slipped collars and gone straight for livestock.

    Granted it’s not an ideal means of keeping dogs under control and handling poor manners but if anyone has a dog that’s a particular nightmare for pulling, is new or just very strong and likely to slip its lead and collar in a worst case scenario, I’m all for and will still recommend a harness and use of a lead rope to keep a good hold and better control whilst you are training.

    Otherwise we find them really handy and the simplest, safest way to travel with dogs.

    • Thanks so much for chiming in. Yes, I forgot to mention harnesses are often used in a vehicle and that is a fine use for them. However, I definitely disagree about their use in training because dogs DO pull on them and there’s absolutely ZERO control of the dog’s head and eyes. If dogs are slipping their collars that, to me anyway, goes hand in hand with another modern trend that I find disturbing…keeping the dog’s collar entirely too loose. Every single day in my work I see dogs that are quite practiced at pulling on their harnesses and at slipping out of ineffective or just horrifically sized collars. (I’ve worked professionally and quite successfully helping rehab very dangerous and powerful breeds for the last decade and a half)
      Step 1 would be to use a tool that works. Step 2 would be sizing it correctly. This is why I mentioned our custom, hand-made, training collar (not just for sales) but because anytime a dog attempts to slip out of our custom calming collar or jerk their head backwards or push forwards or even if they pull out the classic “crocodile death roll” our handmade training collar remains on the dog and they quickly learn that all the prior tricks and movements will simply not work to get them free of our calming collar. Please understand I wasn’t just trashing harnesses – I was trashing MOST tools on the market! 🙂 Most of the training tools offered in the market in 2019 are woefully inefficient and cause many dog owners unnecessary heartache or, in the least, wasted energy by struggling too much against their dog instead of working smoothly together as a team. Thanks again for your comment.

      • Auntysocial

        No no no I wasn’t having a pop or trying to call you out with that it’s just one of those things I’ve been picked up for a few times but the assumption is always “You’re crap and can’t walk a dog without that harness” and I’ve had some fair old rambling and ranting before coming up for air of giving me chance to “Erm.. can I just?”

        The farmer we got my youngest collie from had a go when we picked the dog up and put a harness on to get him in the car. He admitted and held his hand up for having assumed it was for walking / pulling and said he didn’t realise they work as safety harnesses too. Even went “Eeeh that’s a good idea it means you don’t have dogs rolling around in the back eh?!”

        Yep.. that’s the idea.

        Otherwise all are dogs are naked most of the time indoors and out. Neither of them have collars other than the ones we leave hanging up in the hallway with old halters and ropes that have been hanging up and gathering dust for yonks too.

        I’m with you 100% about it being a worry when people use them as an alternative to just basic training. Absolutely.

        The first thing we do is off-lead – solid stop or “emergency stop button” and recall. You need to be able to bring your dog back and switched on to you in a heartbeat and for me the thought of being reliant on anything else is terrifying 😦

        People panicking and fumbling for whistles and clickers and all sorts as their dog is hurtling towards busy traffic and certain death is horrendous. Interesting a really loud two fingered WHOOP-WWWOOOOOOOP!!! snapped them back and headed to us.

        The only time I recommend and would always encourage people to use a harness is if they have a dog that isn’t yet trained and they lack confidence and / or are out in our neck of the woods.

        We live in a very rural farming area where you can’t from one place to another without crossing or having to use footpaths through farmland. One farmer has been forced to shoot two dogs in the last few years it’s tragic and I just don’t think people fully understand the risks and for want of such a simple basic level of training it’s a needless tragic loss and awful way to lose a dog.

        I’m one of those that wanders around with a safety “In care of emergency” leads round my neck and stuffed in the glove box for vets and when we find lost and stray dogs now and then. Never one for much in the way of tack or tools with horses either I was always just halter – rope – leg up and I’m good. With animals I find less is more.

        The more tack and tools and crap you start throwing in the mix the less control you have and the less safe you find yourself so my approach is as bare ass basic as it gets.

        Have a voice that carries far and wide when I need it and generally that’s all I ever really need.

        Absolutely agree people need to be less reliant on anything other than what’s right there and always available to use and wish people didn’t just rely on good nature of their breed and a good helping of luck.

        Have seen a couple of dogs caught on a fence posts from a collar though dear God that was awful. Had to grab one by the scruff and lift his arse end up before he broke his neck 😦

        But yeah I’m with you and wasn’t having a pop at all don’t worry!

      • Auntysocial

        I may come back you on this though cos the one thing that does bother me is seeing dogs that do sports and stuff like Flyball wearing standard neck collars they are being held back and I’m sure must be doing serious damage 😦

        They don’t have rev and get the dogs stupidly wound up as well which doesn’t help or do much good.

        In that case I’m “Put a harness on him or he’ll end up garotting himself on live coverage at Crufts” 😦

        That’s something for another time but yeah I’ll get back 🙂

  3. I bought an expensive harness for my dog, a 53 pound standard poodle, just to use in the car to keep her restrained. She loves to go for car rides and, weather permitting, will gladly sit in the car while I run my errands. However, within two weeks she had chewed through the harness, rendering it useless. I tried to sew it back together but it was ineffective. Can you suggest any other product that would work for keeping her restrained in the car? She is not normally a chewer, But I guess it just annoyed her. Thanks, love your blog!

    • Thanks for your question. Sadly, I cannot suggest a good tool in this case as my dogs have all ridden loose in the back of my Subaru Forester (which is cozy for them and has a rubber floor mat) so I have little knowledge or information on the differing harnessing options for vehicle restraint. Sorry I wish I had a better answer for you. (I know plenty of people that crate the dog in the back of the vehicle…?…that may be an option for you)

  4. FYI for anyone who happens to read this… I’ll put our handmade, calming collar to the test against Anything out there on the market and I regularly do as we average about 5 to 7 private sessions (most of which are 80lbs plus dogs with serious aggression issues towards people and towards dogs) with our clients every single day! In fact, many of our clients initially don’t believe me either when I talk about our collar and how much better it works than EVERY Harness out there…that is, right up until they try it and then the comments start coming…I can’t believe it! or He’s never walked this calmly before! or Your collar is unbelievable! Et cetera, Et cetera, et cetera. We are so happy that we can offer this unique and highly efficient product in an industry filled with tools that often let people down because they simply don’t work well for walking or controlling a dog on leash. Our calming collar stands head and shoulders above the rest

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