Stop Dogs From Pulling On Leash--Using Harnesses and Head Halters
Updated: May 19, 2021
Need help to stop your dog from pulling? It's best to start with the right equipment. If you’re having serious problems, we recommend that you talk with a local trainer. But the right equipment can make a big difference in your daily walks.
For equipment, you have two primary options. The first is a harness designed to redirect your dog’s forward movement to one side by using a front attachment. This keeps your dog from leaning in and continuing to pull. These work well for many dogs and are an easy for your dog to adjust to.
The second option is a head halter. These can be incredibly effective if used correctly, but they come with a bit more of a learning curve for both you and your pup. We promise they are not as difficult as they might seem at first, though! If you take just a little time to learn about them and how to use them correctly, they can help even the most difficult dogs!
Not every harness works well to stop your dog from pulling. The most common mistake we see is choosing a harness that actually makes the problem worse. It’s usually from good intentions--your dog is choking against their collar, so you put them in a comfortable, padded harness, usually with a back clip. Unfortunately, in most cases just encourages them to pull more.
What do you need? First, the harness should have a front clip. Considered an essential feature of a "no pull" harness, a front clip helps redirect your dog to the side if they try to pull forward. The fit of the harness is important too-if it's too loose and slips to the side, it's not as effective.
Key Benefits Of Front Clip
Redirects Momentum It redirects your pup to the side when they pull, so it prevents them from leaning in and gaining leverage. The harder they pull forward, the more it redirects them to the side.
Stops the Opposition Reflex Redirecting your dog provides another important benefit--It stops them from reflexively continuing to pull against the resistance. The opposition reflex is your dog's automatic reaction to oppose a force. You’ve seen this in action many times by now: if you pull your dog forward, they may lean back and resist your effort; and if you try pushing your dog down (for example, into the sit position), they brace against your pressure. A harness with a back clip creates resistance against the front of your dog when they start pulling, which may just encourages them to continue to pull. By redirecting the dog to the side, a front clip removes this natural reflex.
In our experience, harnesses with simple straps work better than those with solid fabric fronts. In addition to not providing the additional fabric for them to push against, the harnesses with straps tend to fit better since they are more adjustable.
Here is our favorite no pull harness, the 2 Hounds Freedom harness.
2 Hounds Freedom No-Pull Harness
The Freedom No Pull Harness provides 2 attachment points--clips in front and on the back. Either or both of these clips can be used. The clip on the back is a martingale loop, so it will tighten when your pup pulls, providing some feedback. We love these and think they work great, and they are our go-to recommendation.
The PetSafe Easy Walk Harness is probably the most popular style of the front-attachment harnesses, and it works great too. We don’t love that the martingale loop is on the front, but it’s designed to provide more feedback when the dog pulls. If fitted properly this works great, but they tend to loosen and need readjustment frequently.
If you need more control than a harness provides, we recommend a head halter.
A head halter lets you guide your dog’s head--this gives you more influence over what they look at as well as the direction they are going. It also makes keeping your pup from snagging city street snacks during a walk.
Head halters are easier to use than you might think, but they do take a bit of an adjustment. You will need to acclimate your dog to it too. If you aren’t familiar with them, it might be best to start at your local, trusted pet shop or a trainer. The staff there should be able to advise you on options and help you choose the right size/fit for your dog.
K9 Transitional Leash
Our personal favorite option is the K9 Transitional Leash (we aren’t even a marketer for them--we just really love this product!). We can help acclimate your dog to these and show you the best strategy for using them. The team at K9 have put together plenty of materials to help you properly use these too, so visit their site:
This slips over your pup’s neck, and you pull a loop of the leash around their muzzle. Since it’s all one piece of connected rope, when you pull the leash it gently tightens around the muzzle, providing immediate contact pressure for training purposes.
Other Head Halters
Two other popular models are the Pet Safe Gentle Leader and the Halti Head Collar. While neither of these provide as much feedback to your pup as the Transitional Leash, either can be a great choice for ease of use and effectiveness.
We’ll have some additional tips for using head halters out soon. However, you may want to consult with a trainer if you’re having any problems getting your dog started with them.