How to Graduate from Harness to Collar

When you notice that your dog is pulling on its collar, you may think to use a harness instead. However, there is a way to get your dog to transition back to a collar and stop pulling on the leash. Just like with housebreaking, proper leash behavior can be taught.

Getting your dog used to a collar and leash again can sometimes take time, depending on how you introduce it to them.

Choosing the Right Collar

It’s important to choose the right collar and leash. Buy a collar that is the right size for your dog. If your dog is still a puppy, don’t buy one that they can grow into. Instead make sure they have one that fits them right now. Choose a small, lightweight collar so that it is comfortable. A wide, flat collar will create less pressure and make it easier for them. You will find thin and round collars that will be light, but this can be more uncomfortable for them.

Tips Before You Begin

Remain relaxed and calm while working on this. The negative energy can affect your dog, and they will keep doing the same action. Be patient. It may take some time for your dog to transition to wearing just a collar and a leash. Eventually they will get it. If your dog is constantly getting tangled in the leash, then the leash is too long. You can either wrap it around your hands a few times to make it shorter or buy a shorter leash.

Changing the Behavior

The best way to get your dog to change this behavior is to start training them to come to you when there is pressure on the leash. You need to do this in small steps and use rewards. If you don’t have time to do this, you can hire a trainer. Just like with potty training a dog, this does take time and you have to be committed.

1st Step: Hold the leash still, don’t say anything and don’t move. Don’t give any on the leash and don’t pull toward you. Let them struggle but don’t make a fuss about it.

2nd Step: When the dog stops struggling, release the pressure on the leash and give praise and a treat. The goal with this step is to reward them for being calm. This may take a few tries, but they learn that freaking out won’t help them and staying calm gives them a treat.

3rd Step: Now instead of rewarding them for just being calm, reward them when they move toward you. Even if it’s just the tiniest movement, it should be rewarded. Repeat this until it becomes common to them.

4th Step: Next give them a treat for coming even closer. Dogs will soon catch on that being calm and coming toward you will earn praise and a treat.

Now it’s time to retrain your puppy to just walk on a leash.

1st Step: Start in a space with zero distractions, such as pee pads, and make sure you have a lot of teats. Put the leash on the dog. Doing this outside can lead to too many distractions for your dog, especially with real grass and outside noises.

2nd Step: Wait until your dog starts to pull and then apply a little pressure on the leash only, so it’s tight but not dragging the dog toward you.

3rd Step: Don’t pull them toward you or adjust to give them even an inch. Persuade your dog your way by calling the dog and gesturing them by hitting your thigh.

4th Step: When your dog comes to you, release the pressure on the leash. Adjust your hand toward them to remove the pressure and treat them. If they come all the way to you, then praise them and give them a reward. Create a big deal about them coming all the way to you and let them know this was the intended action. If they don’t come, keeping calling. They will eventually come and then you can reward and treat them.

5th Step: After praise, don’t pay attention to them until they either walk away or pull. If they don’t, you should walk away until the leash is tense and there is little pressure. Replicate the first four steps.

6th Step: Repeat the exercise five to eight times in a session and repeat throughout the day and every day until your dog will consistently move in your direction when there is pressure on the leash.

Trainer Mistakes

There are some common mistakes that are made when training that can lead dogs to become pullers. Avoid you tugging on the leash. This won’t do anything and the minor discomfort you are causing isn’t a big enough warning to stop the dog from pulling and they won’t learn. Many dogs will fight against the control, so when you tug, they pull harder. When your dog pulls they move forward, and even when you pull they still move ahead, so they will learn that pulling gets them forward. If you rush forward to loosen the strap when the dog is pulling, this actually teaches them that pulling is the answer. If your dog is pulling, you need to wait until the dog comes toward you. Snapping or yanking on the strap can work occasionally, but it’s often used incorrectly so it doesn’t do much. Dogs can think that the loose leash can lead to a snap and they will try to avoid that by keeping it tight and pulling. If your dog is already coming toward you, don’t pull. This can be a problem when the leash is too long, so it’s important to have the right size leash for your dog. With the right training, your dog won’t need anti-choke collars.

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