We originally used a flat collar for attaching Caesar’s leash to when we took him out. And like most new puppies, he was certainly a puller and a barker! He could pull/bark at people, other dogs, birds, a new patch of grass, cars… anything. And as we would gently tug at his leash to bring him back (ok, sometimes less gently than other times for his own safety and our own sanity), he would pull/bark harder. So I started researching this behaviour. I learned that collars can pinch the blood supply to the carotid artery in the neck (thank goodness that made sense to me medically)… and this produces stress in many dogs which will make them demonstrate stress reactions (maybe extra barking/pulling?) even more. I learned that a harness with a back attachment for the leash would not create such a stress reaction, so it would be easier to teach dogs the behaviours we would like from them when we gently tug the leash and teach the behaviour (note: you won’t always need to tug, but this is often the easiest way to get Caesar’s attention if he’s being distracted). So I gave the idea an open-minded try, and our leash-training suddenly became much easier!! Immediately. Really 🙂
So Harnesses win!! If you’re not using one with your dog, why not give it a try and see if your dog is more attentive to your guidance and less stressed overall than without one? Remember that stress can be from excitement (good stress) or anxiety (bad stress) — either way, it can bring with it a behaviour that you may not want to see from your dog. During any time of stress, cortisol is released from the adrenal glands and creates a “fight or flight” natural instinct in animals as well as humans. I believe that neither dogs/humans should release unnecessary levels of cortisol for optimum health, so keep your own, and your dog’s stress levels low to conserve these useful resources for times when they are truly most needed (i.e., real emergencies).
I know I will do just about anything to decrease stress on Caesar and if you’re like me, I suspect you’ll be happy to see the results of trying a harness with your own dog.