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EQUIPMENT WHICH WILL TIGHTEN HAS THE POTENTIAL TO FRIGHTEN


Something I come across regularly in the R+ community on social media is recommendations for the 2 Hounds Freedom harness, and I have never understood why they are so popular. Its main function is to reduce pulling, and is designed with a martingale loop across the shoulders in order to achieve this.






If you aren’t familiar with the product, here is some information from their website:


“The 2 Hounds Design Freedom No-Pull Harness features a martingale loop on the back of the harness that tightens gently around your dog's chest to discourage pulling, as well as a front loop for ultimate control. Perfect for all dogs:”


“Tightens gently.”


Yet, it will need to be sufficiently aversive to deter the dog from pulling, which means he will experience physical discomfort.


“Perfect for all dogs.”


So, I could use it on my nervous, reactive dog? I’m sure having his shoulders pinched and squeezed is really going to help him feel safe, isn’t it . . .


"The Freedom No-Pull Harness design minimizes or eliminates pulling, neck strain, and the chance of escape. Recommended by trainers as the "ultimate in flexibility, control, and training."


And now we come to the safety element for potential escapees. Yes, being safe is paramount, but so is FEELING safe, and there are far better harness choices for flight risk dogs which do not tighten on the body. There are harness options which have an extra belly strap, and a connector can be linked between the harness and a collar as a safety back-up. There really is no need to use any equipment which will tighten if the dog pulls away, reacts to a trigger, panics, etc. If someone feels that there is a need, then I would have to question why that dog is being placed in those situations in the first place.


As for the last comment, we know that walking equipment does nothing to teach a dog how to walk nicely on the lead, only training does (unless we are using that equipment to suppress a behaviour, where the dog learns that pulling=pain, so they avoid it). The trouble is, they can also associate the discomfort with other things, besides the pulling.


Now let’s think about this in terms of an anxious dog, a dog that is reacting to a trigger he has just spotted whilst out on a walk. He starts to panic and pulls towards the trigger to try to scare it away. The harness tightens and causes pain, so his panic increases, but the trigger is still getting closer. More pulling, more pain, and frustration creeps in at not being able to escape. Eventually, frustration turns to aggression. Or, he is so scared of the pressure from the harness that he is unable to communicate to his trusted person that he is worried by the trigger; every time he has tried, it has resulted in pain, so he gives up, suffering from emotional shutdown.


Some comments from the general public, taken from Amazon reviews:


“Have to admit after 2 years of trying everything to stop our dog pulling on the lead I bought this with a lot of scepticism. But it was like a miracle.”


“This is the best harness for a pulling dog. Amazing.”


“Brilliant harness. Really easy to fit on my dog and is fantastic at stopping him pulling. I would recommend to anyone who has a big, strong dog that pulls on the lead.”


Enough evidence of the aversive nature of the harness?


“We went out on our usual walk in the countryside and I am honestly amazed by the transformation!! Initially, there was no pulling at all until he got used to the harness. Any pulling after that was quickly corrected by a slight (and I mean slight) tug on his lead”.


So, it worked for a bit, then the punishment had to be escalated for it to continue to work…


“The no-pull design gently discourages pulling and lunging, making walks more enjoyable and controlled. My dog's behavior has noticeably improved since using this harness…”.


“ Our first time out she was a different dog. NO JOKE!! ……. I can’t say why the harness has made such a difference in my dog. To be honest I don’t care.”


Jeez, poor dog.


There is plenty of evidence here that the harness successfully stops pulling, therefore we have to concede that it is aversive, surely?


Please carefully consider the equipment recommendations you make to others, including how it functions and its purpose. Please also be prepared to acknowledge that there might be better options available that you may not yet have explored. If we feel the need to defer to the old arguments, “the dog decides what is aversive,” “it isn’t as aversive as ******” etc, reaching the point of splitting hairs and arguing degrees of aversion in order to justify our actions and choices, we are failing as advocates of R+, and therefore also failing our dogs.


If you're looking for alternatives, there is a fantastic post from Caring for Rescued ex Street Dogs  which has some great harness recommendations - well worth a read!



Link to my blog on walking equipment:



HAPPY HARNESSING!


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