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How a Good Training Harness Can Make it Easy to Leash Train Your Dog

Walking your dog isn't just good for your dog - it's good for you, too.

When you get out into the world on a regular basis with your best canine friend, you burn off calories, increase your muscle tone, and you may even improve your mood because of all that good serotonin that comes with exercise!

But these good things happen only when your dog is able to walk politely on the end of a leash instead of turning your walk into a shoulder-wrenching tug of war. If your dog isn't polite when you walk, you come home with an aching shoulder and a mind full of bad thoughts about your furry friend.

Your dog's lack of manners on a leash can stop you from enjoying his company on a walk, and could affect your human/canine bond. The puppy you took home with such high hopes just a few months ago can start to feel like a monster. You feel guilty not taking him out, but he tries to tear your arm off as soon as you snap on the leash. Some dogs even end up in the local shelter because they have no manners, or their owners put an ad in the paper that says "free dog to good home. Needs room to run."

It's no wonder so many people are searching for an easy solution to this problem. Unfortunately, some celebrity trainers try hard to convince us that training a dog to walk properly is part of a contest of wills between human and dog. You get the feeling that if you let Fido walk a few paces in front of you, everyone in town will know your dog is the boss of you. We've been told that most problems with leash walking happen because the dog is trying to be in charge, acting out dominance, and trying to take your proper place as the alpha pack leader.

Come on - it isn't a war of the worlds, it's just a conflict between what you want, and what your dog wants, with some major miscommunication thrown in to make things interesting.

Fortunately, most dogs enjoy learning new things, and walking politely on a leash can be fun for them, too, as soon as they figure out what we want. You just need a way to explain it to your dog in a way that he can understand. After all, don't you really think he'd enjoy his walks more if he didn't have to drag a full-grown human around town?

This is such a common problem for dog owners because the whole idea of walking on a leash goes against a dog's natural instincts. He doesn't understand the point of a leash at all - he would much prefer to run free instead of walking slowly by your side. The dangers of moving cars and your reasons for not letting him chase the neighbor's cat completely escape him.

When you attach a leash to your dog's collar, and then pull back on it, you actually trigger several instinctive behaviors that cause your dog to do exactly opposite of what you really want him to do.

Most of us can re-train our dogs to be polite on a leash if we look at it from a dog's point of view. Using a training harness that has been designed to avoid the instinctive pull will also help.

During my research for this article, I discovered that one of the least expensive training harnesses actually works the best, and is easiest to use. The Sporn halter looks funny, but it works, and it slips on without needing to fuss with the straps - a great benefit when your dog is excited about going out.

When I received the halter in the mail and started using it, Bingo learned to walk politely in one afternoon - seriously. I had tried four other harnesses before I found the sport, and they were close to what I needed, but they each had their drawbacks.

Bingo still needs to be reminded about the rules occasionally, especially when the neighborhood squirrels tease him, but our daily outings are enjoyable for both of us.

Dogs have different personalities, just as people do. Some dogs have actually been bred to pay little attention to humans. These are the dogs that have historically filled the canine jobs that require independence. Some famously independent (some would say "stubborn") thinkers are Beagles and Great Pyrenees. These dogs are certainly not dumb, but it might take more patience to train them. My mother once had a mutt who was so stubborn that I suspect it would have taken weeks, if not months, of patient training to stop him from pulling us down the street - even with a special harness.

Other dogs have been bred to be intensely aware of their humans, and they watch for every sign that they're doing what you want them to. These dogs tend to be easily trained if you explain things to them consistently and clearly, but they can be a bit high-maintenance because they never want to be alone. Each doggy personality has it's quirks, but that's one of the things that makes us love them so much. The good thing about a training harness with these breeds is that it allows them to 'get' what you want them to do. Once they figure it out, they're almost always willing to do what you want.

One thing that most dogs do enjoy is learning new things and challenging their minds. That comes in pretty handy for humans who need them to learn new skills. As long as we match the training technique to the way their minds work, they can learn almost anything.

No matter which type of dog you have, he or she can be trained to walk politely on a leash. The only difference will be in how long it takes for your dog to "get it," and how much patience you'll need.