Can Dog Harnesses Encourage Pulling?


Dog harnesses have become popular dog pieces of dog walking equipment over the past decade – and for good reason. However, there is still a prevailing idea that harnesses cause dogs to pull on the lead. But – is there any truth in this? Can dog harnesses encourage pulling? Holidays4Dogs finds out.

Many companion pets today are walked in a harness as opposed to a traditional neck collar. You may even have one for your own dog. The choice in dog harnesses these days is vast and there is usually one to suit almost any breed of dog. It is important to purchase a well fitting harness, which does not impede your dog’s forward movement. Equally, it should not be too tight, or loose enough for your dog to wriggle out of.

Harnesses are great for dogs that pull, simply because they are kinder on the dog. It is a myth that harnesses, in themselves, are the cause of pulling behaviour. While they do not necessarily encourage pulling, they won’t stop your dog from doing so, either.

Harnesses and the pulling myth. 

Many people – and some trainers, even – believe the myth that harnesses encourage a dog to pull. The idea possibly originates from the work of sled dogs, where the sport involves extreme pulling, by dogs wearing harnesses. Within this, is the concept that dogs are more likely to pull wearing a harness, because it is easier for them to use their weight to do so.

However, historically, sled dogs have been selectively bred to pull heavy cargo and, crucially, have been trained to hone this skill.

Sled dog harnesses are also specifically designed to make pulling comfortable and efficient for the dogs. Many people involved in dog sports such as cani-cross use these special harnesses for running.

In addition, animals – (including humans) – have a natural tendency to pull against anything that is applying pressure to their body. If someone were to unexpectedly grab your hand, for example, your natural response would be to pull away.

Dogs are no different, so any pressure applied to their neck, or body, often results in a response that involves pulling in the opposite direction.

Furthermore, one has to take into account the speed a dog moves, compared to people. Their pace is usually much faster than ours.

Harnesses are kinder to the dog.

Harnesses are most certainly gentler on the dog than a traditional collar. In studies led by Nottingham Trent University, scientists found that, collars can cause injury to the necks of dogs. This happens by the dog either, pulling on the lead, or if the lead is jerked by the owner. The scientists concluded that even collars with padding, or wider width collars, were still capable of causing injury.

While harnesses don’t discourage a dog to pull, they don’t do anything in particular to encourage it either. In fact, front-leading harnesses for example, may actually reduce the chance of the dog pulling.

We really like the Ruffwear harnesses as they have two attachment points and four adjustable points for the best fit.

These types of harness mean you have more control over your dog’s centre of gravity. Therefore, if you do have a dog that pulls strongly on the lead, these types of harnesses may be worth considering.

It cannot be stressed enough that, pulling while in a harness might be more comfortable – but this isn’t the same as a harness encouraging pulling.

It is more uncomfortable for the dog that pulls while wearing a neck collar – but is this a good reason to use a collar over a harness, as a means to prevent the dog from pulling?

Wearing a collar while pulling is unpleasant for the dog and it might stop him, or her, temporarily. However, many dogs will still pull regardless of whether it is uncomfortable, or not. At least with a harness, you know the dog is far less likely to suffer injury if he pulls on the lead.

The importance of training.

Training is the only element which impacts on the way in which a dog walks and, ultimately, whether he pulls ahead, or walks on a loose lead. The type of equipment should be irrelevant, as both require the dog owner to show the dog how to walk nicely. Teaching loose lead manners can take time with some dogs. However, success is not dependent on the type of equipment you use to walk your dog, but rather the training techniques used.

Most dogs respond very well to force-free, motivational training. Training should begin as soon as the puppy is able to walk on a lead. Older dogs who have already learned to pull, can be trained in just the same way.


Whether you walk your dog in a collar, or a harness, it is important to teach your dog to walk nicely. This is important for you and your dog’s safety. Therefore, it is not the equipment that is relevant, but rather the training the dog receives. That said, if your dog does have a tendency to pull – a harness is far more preferable for his, or her, comfort. and 4Dogs are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commission fees by advertising and linking to the following websites. Read our full disclosure agreement here