My Freedom No-Pull Harness came in the mail today and I was so excited to have Pearl try it on! She was a little hesitant about letting me put it over her head, but didn’t seem to mind it once it was on. Once we got outside her tail was up and wagging. The harness has a double-ended leash with one end connecting to the martingale loop in the back, which tightens to discourage pulling, and one end connecting to the front to help with steering. The leash is the perfect length for me, a little shorter than the one we had been using, and I definitely felt like it was easier to control her when she did her crazy lunging and barking act at the dogs we encountered along the route. I am hoping Pearl and I both continue to like it- so far I am really impressed with it. Plus, I think she looks super cute in the raspberry color (although I can’t take the credit for the color- my husband picked it).
Walking has been one of our biggest challenges since day one. Pearl is a high energy dog with a strong prey drive who is very dog reactive when on leash. She pulls, lunges, barks, and generally demonstrates incredibly bad leash manners. We recently moved to a house with a fenced yard, but Pearl figured out how to jump the fence pretty quickly, so we continue to be dependent on walks for practically all of Pearl’s exercise- we usually walk her three times a day.
Some things I have learned have made things a little easier. The first thing that really made a positive difference was the easy walk harness. It’s affordable, available at most pet stores, and Pearl never minded wearing it. A harness is not meant to replace training and we still have a long way to go on that front, but it was the first thing that allowed me to control Pearl and prevent her from pulling me all over the place as we walked, saving my arms and back and her neck. Unfortunately, it fit Pearl awkwardly, rubbed under her armpits, and also had a tendency to loosen at the points where it could be adjusted. Still, we kept going back to it over other things we tried and if it fits your dog it can be a really great tool.
The easy-walk taught us that a no-pull harness would help us have a better walking experience with Pearl. We just needed one that fit her better. There are a lot of other no-pull harnesses on the market and from reading reviews of the various options it seems that different owners prefer different styles and there are several good options. I ended up choosing the Freedom harness because it has a thicker strap, you can attach a leash to the front or the back of the harness (and I love the 2 ended leash option), it has a velvet lining on the strap that goes behind the legs to prevent rubbing and chafing (which had been our problem with the easy walk), and it seemed to be (and has proven to be) easily adjustable and pretty easy to put on compared with some of the other choices. It feels well made and they have a chewing warranty, which is pretty nice.
While on the subject of dog walking, one of the BEST pieces of advice I have gotten about loose leash walking is from Kristine over at Rescued Insanity. She told me how she used a clicker to help train Shiva to be a better loose leash walker, clicking and treating for any eye contact (this is a lot like the technique recommended for dealing with dog reactivity in Patricia McConnell’s Feisty Fido, which we have been using to help with that issue). My husband and I started clicking and treating Pearl anytime she turned back to look at us while walking, making sure to offer her the treat down by our left side where we want her to be. We started making progress immediately. Of course, now that she has caught on we end up giving her a thousand treats every walk. We haven’t quite figured out how to phase out the clicking and treating and we sometimes run out of treats by the end of the walk, which is never good. But it’s pretty exciting to see how Pearl has improved and she seems to love walks even more since we started this- as soon as I get out her leash she races to the door and practically wags her tail off. I know we’ve come a long way with our walking because I actually can’t wait to take Pearl on her evening walk tonight (did I EVER think I would be saying that?!?).