The first in our behavior series will be a study of chest and head harnesses. To start this process you will need to know that the best thing for a well behaved pet is you. Gentle, firm, consistent training is the key to success for any pet. In order to effectively train your pet you must have an open communication and reward system in place.
Some of the best tools available to aid in communication are head and chest harnesses. For most people they are easy to use, effective, safe, and competitively priced. Trainers like these products because some of the difficult behaviors respond well and some anxious pets are able to relax. Veterinarians also prefer them because a chest harness frequently enables you to assist your dog with walking and getting up. However, with any tool if not used properly it can lead to an untrained pet and an upset owner. If a harness is misused both owner and pet can become stressed, frustrated, and confused.
All cats and short nosed dogs (brachycephalic breeds) need a chest harness instead of a head harness. Chest harnesses are a popular tool for a good reason. Short nosed dogs and small breeds (i.e. bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pomeranians) can have health conditions including collapsing trachea, heart disease, and Cervical Disc Disease which can be exacerbated by a traditional collar and leash system. A properly fitted chest harness puts pressure on the chest rather than the throat preventing various conditions. Many working dogs also wear chest harnesses. Several brands available are the Gentle Leader, Halti, and DreamWalker. You may need to try several chest harnesses before you find the right one.
Most dogs do best with a head harness as it helps facilitate communication. A head harness will allow you to better direct your pet in understanding what you want. It can also help keep your pets attention directed at you. When your pet pulls the head harness turns your dogs head to face you. A head harness also keeps pressure off of your pet’s throat. There are many different varieties available and you will need to try them to know which works best for you and your pet. Many pet stores will allow you to try the harness on your pet and take a trial walk around the store.
Remember the halter is a tool to help you communicate with your pet. In order for it to be an effective tool it needs to be properly fitted which can be done at most pet stores, manufacturers, and here at All Creatures Animal Hospital. If you have questions about using your chest or head harness please contact us for more information or a behavioral consult.