Collars, Halters, Harnesses and Leashes for Strong Dogs + Reactive Dog Training Resources

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Let me start this off with a little story, the moment that started my [desperate] search for dog walking resources for dogs like Andi who are so sweet and gentle yet have the strength of Arnold Schwarzzenegger. So picture this:

The sun is finally out after a night of pouring rain. Lindsay and Andi (a beautiful lovely 50-lb pit mix) have been cooped up in the house all night and cannot wait to get outside! It's 8:30 a.m. aka rush hour, and Lindsay and Andi live on an extremely busy street in their city. They walk onto the wet grassy median where all the dogs go to use the restroom. Suddenly Andi sees a squirrel and completely loses her sh*t!! Because there are only TEN MILLION SQUIRRELS LIVING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Before Lindsay knows it she is essentially water skiing down the median with Andi as her speedboat, pulling her along, Lindsay holding onto the leash for dear life. Finally Lindsay eats it, falling face first into the muddy wet grass. Does this stop Andi? Of course not. Lindsay continues to be dragged. On her face. In front of traffic

This story has not even been dramatized in the slightest. Did I mention I was completely dressed for work? So this was when I decided it was time to do something. I researched training which at $300 for a few weeks of training sessions (where we would have to be around other dogs which are more exciting to Andi than squirrels) Andi and I would both be traumatized and neither of us would have money to eat. So I researched and tried out some different dog walking tools. These are my review of the harnesses, halters and leashes we have tried out- they all have pros and cons but they all HELP, and are ASPCA approved!

The Gentle Leader
  • How it works: The Gentle Leader places gentle pressure on the back of the dog's neck which prevents her from tugging at the leash. The nose loop directs the head in the direction you want to go.
  • Pros: It really DOES work (I could hold onto Andi's leash with one finger while walking her on this), a lot of times dogs don't need additional walking training, no choking the dog
  • Cons: Can rub away at the fur on dog's nose leading to raw exposed skin, takes some time to get used to (for dog and owner), must be fitted exactly right (you've got to watch the DVD that comes with it) which makes it hard to have others walk the dog (aka parents, dog sitters, etc), also I'm really defensive about my dog and HATED when people would say "oh did your pit bite someone so you have to keep a muzzle on it?" This is in no way a muzzle but I hated that we could be stirring up these "nasty pit" thoughts in people's heads.

Front Clip Harnesses
  • How it works: Straps go over their back and under their arms so that when they pull their front legs out from under them- kind of like they're trying to swim but there's no water. 
  • Pros: The webbing and adjustments make it great for girthy/wide-shouldered dogs (like pits), 6 different sizes ensure great fit, takes no time to get used to (you can use it right away), really effective. You really really have to measure you dog to make sure you get the right size.
  • Cons: Can cause rubbing/chaffing for the dogs, and it snaps awkwardly under their arms which makes it easy to accidentally pinch that super sensitive skin down there and virtually impossible to strap on without harm after a few cocktails. This is why I got rid of it...maybe now that I've cut back on drinking I can get back on it because this was my favorite.

Regular Harness
  • How it works: Straps around the dog, leash attaches to a ring at the top.
  • Pros: Good for dogs with throat or trachea issues, maybe it's good for small dogs?
  • Cons: This actually seemed to make pulling worse for Andi. My theory is that it was like a "hug" on her and got her all excited, or it was more fun to pull with a jacket around her.

Sporn Training Halter™ 
  • How it works: Similar to the Front Clip Harness, but work as more of a pulley system. Sherpa sleeves cover the cords so they don't cause chaffing under the dogs' arms.
  • Pros: The sherpa sleeves reduce chaffing, it really did stop Andi's pulling
  • Cons: Looks like the dog is being strapped in for a space flight (the sherpa sleeves are huge), broad shouldered dogs (like Andi) can easily step out of the restraints.

I have been emailing with a trainer who suggested Washington Animal Rescue LeagueSpot on Dog Training DC, and FREE workshops at Your Dog's Friend. She also forwarded me the ASPCA's Training Guide for Leash Reactive Dogs. Andi and I are definitely going to try the neutral-dog training technique!

What do YOU do for your strong or reactive dog? Training advice? Dog tools?

Linking up today:
The Grits Blog


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