Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things that make life easier: Easy Walk dog harness review

Our dog is large. Our dog is strong. Sometimes walking our dog is not a pleasant experience.

Our dog trainer friend Laura has taught us some good tips for training your dog to walk nicely. The goal is to have your dog walk at your pace with a loose leash, not pulling and straining to get ahead. One technique: You basically stop whenever the dog starts pulling at the leash (act like a tree). You don't start walking again until the dog is behaving. Another technique: When your dog is pulling toward something, you turn around and make him walk the other direction (penalty steps). The dog is supposed to be annoyed by these things and figure out that he has to walk nicely in order to avoid the irritation.

These techniques require some patience, which we would be ok with, except our dog is silly. Though we've practiced and practiced, Murphy just thinks everything is a really fun game. And if he does something to make his walk last longer, he's even happier. So acting like a tree or giving penalty steps only actually makes him more energetic and he seems to pull even more. Quite a predicament.

Then our friend Melissa told us about an amazing product she recently discovered. It's called the Easy Walk harness, and it's made by the people who make the Gentle Leader.

Here's some blurry photos of Murph sporting his new harness right after we got it:





The Easy Walk is different from other dog harnesses because the leash clips on it in the front, near the dog's chest, rather than on the top of his back. When the dog tries to pull or get ahead of you, the leash gently turns him around so he's partially facing you.

We tried it out last night and today, and all I can say is this thing is a Godsend. We had two of the most pleasant walks since we've had Murphy. At first, he seemed confused and thought we were the ones pulling the leash and forcing him to partially turn around. But he quickly figured out that the way to avoid this was to keep an eye on us and our pace and stay within that range of motion. When he would get excited or forget, the harness would gently remind him to look at us and slow down.

Here's Murphy starting to pull:



And here is the Easy Walk harness turning him slightly to face us:



And eventually he understood and started walking next to us:



I don't think this is a replacement for actually training your dog to walk nicely, but it is definitely a nice training tool. This thing has made an amazing difference in our daily walks. We still follow Laura's advice and stop when he pulls or tugs. Our plan is to use this to teach Murphy to watch us and stay at our pace When he has that down pat, we'll try hooking the leash to his collar instead of the harness. When he's fine with that, we'll remove the harness altogether.

Review:

Easy Walk Dog Harness
$29.99 at Pet Co, $16-20 on Amazon


Pros:

  • Comes in a variety of sizes (including in-between sizes like medium-large)
  • Doesn't hurt the dog's delicate throat area like a choke collar
  • Doesn't irritate our dog like the Gentle Leader
  • Reinforces behaviors that we want to encourage (dog making eye contact with us during walks, matching our pace, not pulling or tugging on the leash)
  • Harness is comfortable and doesn't seem to bother the dog
Cons:
  • Only comes in two colors (red and black) - This really isn't a big deal to us.
  • Should be combined with other training techniques so your dog doesn't learn that he only has to walk nice when he's wearing the harness (and can act like a maniac at all other times)

2 comments:

nick May 29, 2009 at 9:33 AM  

What I've been doing lately, is taking Nala on a bike ride. She get's to run like you know she wants to, and then she has a hard time keeping up and realizes that I'm the leader. When we walk, it's always way to slow of a pace for her. Biking may be a bit touigher with Murphy cause he's so big, but I bet you can do it!

Kristi W. May 29, 2009 at 9:39 AM  

That's definitely something we want to try, but right now I'm worried about Murphy yanking me off my bike and ripping my face up on the pavement. You saw how much energy he has! Maybe I'll give it a try once I buy a helmet.

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