(Part of what makes TransPaw Gear’s product the best pet harness is the simplicity of use for the human part of the team. If you haven’t already, read our post on sizing and putting your dog’s harness on for more details!)
Now that you’ve purchased the best pet harness and are ready to unleash adventures with your dog, it’s time to put the harness on. Many dogs will have no issue with this, and will happily accept our comfortable harness for what it is: the sign of fun to come.
Other dogs are sensitive to certain kinds of body handling, or simply uncomfortable with an unfamiliar item like a harness being near them. Wondering if your dog is nervous? Look for signs of discomfort, such as acting startled when you bring the harness close to them, flinching away or pulling back, and/or licking their lips repeatedly. (If your dog growls or snaps when you attempt to put on the harness, seek the assistance of a certified professional dog trainer, such as TransPaw founder, Joan Hunter Mayer.)
If you see signs of stress, don’t worry! You can address this with a little time and effort. The process of helping your dog enjoy having their harness put on is called counter-conditioning and desensitization. Here’s how it looks:
Arm yourself with a bunch of treats, or a portion of their meal if they’re enthusiastic eaters.
- Start with the harness out of the dog’s line of sight. Bring it out so the dog can see it, and feed them a bunch of treats/food in a row, all while the harness is visible.
- Move the harness back out of sight and stop giving treats.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2, bringing the harness a bit closer to the dog each time, until you can touch the dog with the harness, and there are no signs of distress. Ideally your dog is wagging and looking excited every time the harness comes into view, because they’ve come to associate it with getting delicious treats, which means “good times” for them.
Start again. This time your goal is to fasten the neck strap around your dog’s neck. Before you begin, fasten one of the neck strap clasps, leaving the other one unconnected.
- Hold one clasp in each hand and move the harness toward your dog’s neck as though you are going to fasten it (like you would a collar). Bring it as close as you can without your dog showing any signs of stress, then give your dog a treat.
- Gradually work toward being able to fasten the neck clasp, treating each step of the way, until your dog shows no signs of discomfort at having the neck strap around their neck.
You can take the time to feed treats throughout this process, as you’re not rewarding any particular behavior. You’re just helping your dog form this positive association with their new harness.
Now you are ready to get your dog fully dressed. If you are doing this on your own, you can use a few different strategies:
- Freeze peanut butter in an interactive food toy or small container. When frozen, hold this between your knees for your dog to lick while you affix the harness fully.
- Give your dog their meal in their regular dish. While they are eating, you can finish putting the harness on.
- Smear something delicious like peanut butter onto the refrigerator door. While the dog licks it off, finish putting the best pet harness on your dog.
Should you have a human helper, one person can feed treats while the other fastens and fits the harness.
If your dog is still showing signs of nervousness, you can slow things down by offering them more control over the situation. Begin with the initial steps outlined above, but when you get to step three, allow your dog to approach the harness on their own, as opposed to bringing it closer to them. This allows your dog to set the pace and decide as to how quickly they want to get dressed.
Continue to treat your dog for being brave, whenever they get closer the harness, or even show any interest. If they walk away, this is fine. Give them a break and try again a little later. You may have to repeat the initial steps until they develop a positive conditioned response “YAY! it’s the harness!” and learn trust the game, the harness itself, and you! Once your dog is showing more interest and less nervousness, continue with the steps we’ve outlined above.
You can continue to create positive associations with the harness by taking your dog on amazing adventures after their harness goes on! (Don’t worry, the best pet harness is so comfortable, most dogs love it right away!)