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My dog hates putting his harness on

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Jessifiy, Oct 25, 2018.


  1. Jessifiy

    Jessifiy PetForums Newbie

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    Basically the question is: how do i get him to want to put it on?

    My pup is 9 months old so until now, he's just had a few cheap harnesses from the pet shop whilst he finishes up his growing and need to chew on the straps. He never enjoyed getting into those either and he'd back away as soon as i got it out of the cupboard. He's a fairly wary dog so in case he was just frightened of it, i spent a long time training him to let me touch him with it and so on, until he could step into it himself. It never really worked. He's very quick at picking up new concepts, he knew how to actually do what i was asking and could do it instantly but after a few days he started backing up again and i just had to sort of manhandle it onto him.

    I questioned if maybe he found the other harnesses uncomfortable or didn't like stepping in or something so i thought a nice new harness that fits well and goes over his head instead of legs, might be a good fresh start. Now like i say, he picks up new concepts very quickly, so he knew how to push his head in on command perfectly after two training sessions. He was happy enough to put the harness on the first few times but then he started backing up again. So every walk i would sit down with his treat bag and slowly click his every move until he'd shove his head in again. As soon as he'd got it on the first time, he'd be happy to put it on straight away for the next repetitions. These days, he doesn't even want to do it for treats, it's a real struggle.

    I can't understand the problem. He loves food, he loves his walks, the harness is loose and comfortable enough as far as i can tell and he knows what i want him to do, he just doesn't want to do it. The last couple of days, i've taking to tediously coaxing him into his harness and then rewarding him with treats and a game of fetch every time he does it, to show him that it really is fun to wear his harness. He'll put his head in straight away as soon as we've done it the first time, because he wants that ball. So i get the ball out along with the harness to show that we can play once he does what i ask, but he just really doesn't want to do it the first time and if i put that ball away, he'd be right back to backing away from me.

    That was really long-winded and i'm sorry, but i'm all out of ideas, i really don't know how to fix this, so any suggestions would be extremely welcome. I don't like to have to corner him into his harness because that can only make it worse. Oh, and he does the same thing to a collar so that option's out too.
     
  2. Sarah1983

    Sarah1983 PetForums VIP

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    Have you tried one he doesn't have to put his head into? Only one I can think of off the top of my head is the Perfect Fit but I'm sure there are others. Mine doesn't like things being put over his head but teaching him to put his head through the harness or collar solved the problem for us. Is he like this with a buckle collar too? How are you positioned when you're putting them on him? That last might sound an odd question but if you're sort of looming over him that could well be the problem. Especially if you're at all frustrated with this issue as he'll pick up on that. Like you say, forcing the issue will only make it worse but obviously got to have something on him to get him out.

    It would also be worth getting a thorough vet check to be sure this isn't pain related.
     
    Burrowzig likes this.
  3. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

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    I read this several times and can't really come up with a reason for the behaviour or a fix for it.
    I can only suggest that you go on with the 'tedious' method that at least seems to work. It might be that it needs more than a couple of days of repetition.
    Perhaps you've over-trained it and alerted your dog to the fact that it really is the big deal he thinks it is.
    I would just go for luring/clicking/ball etc when it is actually time to go for a walk, and maybe the walk may eventually become the reward.
     
  4. Jessifiy

    Jessifiy PetForums Newbie

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    Ah damn, i guess i'm not just missing something obvious then, didn't seem like i was but i was hoping :/

    His previous harnesses have all been ones he steps into, still didn't like getting into them.
    He had a buckle collar for when we were camping and he needed to be tethered but was still in his 'chewing my harness' phase, otherwise he doesn't wear one. He backs away if i get that out the cupboard too though.
    I'm always sitting on the floor and holding the harness up next to me at his head level so he can just move forward and push his head through. Which he does... when he wants to. Not that he can't do it from other positions. When i first got the harness, he learned it so quickly that i had him jumping up on the sofa to get to the harness, doing it whilst we were walking etc, with no problem.
    I can't think that it's a pain thing tbh. He moves perfectly fine during play and such, there's no aversion to me touching him in general, he doesn't pay any attention to it once it's on, or indeed, thinks nothing of putting it on and off once we've got past the initial refusal of it. He has been to the vets in any case, not for this problem specifically so they could have missed something ofc, but the vet poked and prodded him a fair bit and didn't find an issue.

    Tbh there's only two reasons i can think of now; 1) he's messing me around deliberately so that he gets more treats (well joke's on him cause that's his regular food he's eating) or 2) he just finds it annoying to wear something and thinks that if he has enough tantrums about it, then he'll get his own way. He can be tricked into getting into it eventually (when his stomach and play drive win out), but once he has time to think about it, he remembers that he hates it and is too smart to be tricked into liking the harness for good. Like a toddler. I thought that would all be overestimating my dog's level of understanding, but i'm completely at a loss otherwise.

    *sigh* The ball thing is working for now, but i was hopeful about all the other things i've tried.:Banghead
     
  5. StormyThai

    StormyThai Moderator
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    Are you sure that the harness fits properly and when you say it's loose, how loose?
    This will not be about "tantrums" or getting more treats...Tricking him into the harness won't be helping at all because it won't change his thoughts on the whole thing, as he shows by refusing to be tricked ;)

    As he has never enjoyed wearing a harness it sounds like you may have sensitised him rather than desensitising...are you going to any training classes at all?
     
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  6. 3dogs2cats

    3dogs2cats PetForums VIP

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    Is it possible he is excited by the prospect of a walk and seeing the harness makes him behave like this? My boy behaves in a similar way, as soon as he sees his harness in my hand he leaves the room! I used to think he didn`t like it and as I know my girl doesn't like things going over her head I figured he was the same and got him a Perfect fit too. Didn`t make any difference and he is the same just with his collar, lead or coat so eventually came to the conclusion he gets excited by the thought of going out and doesn`t know what to do with himself! It is difficult to explain how he behaves without seeing it and it may be nothing like your boy, just thought I`d mention it as a possibility. I tell mine I`m not chasing after him and I`m not faffing about with him, he comes and gets ready to go out or he is not going out. He has got the message and although he does still move away and leave the room he comes back quick enough in case he gets left behind!
     
  7. Sarah1983

    Sarah1983 PetForums VIP

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    Perfect Fit harness they don't need to step into or have it put over their head. The entire thing comes apart so you could easily undo one side and fasten it around him. Although it may not help if he's balking at just the sight of the harness.

    It could be that the harnesses are causing him discomfort simply being on the same way anything on his face really bothers my dog. Or that one did cause him discomfort/pain at some point and he now associates it with all harnesses. I agree with Stormythai, it's not tantrums, there will be a reason he's behaving this way and it's very easy to sensitize a dog to something instead of desensitizing unfortunately.
     
  8. Jessifiy

    Jessifiy PetForums Newbie

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    I don't think it's this, if i put the harness down or just stop what i'm doing and wait, he'll just sit there and eventually lie down. He doesn't back out of the room, just away from me whenever i reach for him, no matter how slowly i do it.

    I mean, i was joking haha. Although, at this point i'll consider anything.

    I can fit my fingers under there easily, but not so much that it's swinging around when he moves. Some of his old harnesses didn't fit properly, particularly once he'd been in water and they loosened up. So i made sure to get a decent new harness that fit well and stayed like that, in case it was uncomfortable for him. And like i say, he trained into it well initially but then after a little while, he got less and less inclined to do it. So maybe sensitisation? Can't say i know what it is i'd have done to cause that though? When he first developed the backing away issue (and it was so long ago now, i couldn't tell you the specifics around it) i figured he needed me to desensitise him to it, so like i've said, i went through the whole process and it was a long one. We trained right from the 'putting it down and letting him sniff it' stage, to holding it near him, to touching him with it and so on and so forth,until, he could step into it. He was never 100% about it but i put it down to more repetition needed and it being a harder concept to learn, stepping one foot then the other into a small hole. Looking back, i think it was that he didn't want to do it, not that he didn't understand. Repetition never helped and he just got worse again. Then i got this new harness and here we are.

    Maybe i should keep his harness just on the floor by his crate for a while? It hangs up on the radiator when it's wet though and he doesn't care. But maybe i should take to picking it up occasionally and walking around with it? Not paying any attention to him? So he learns he doesn't need to back away? Or maybe i should leave it in the cupboard where i want it to live, but take it out every so often and do the same thing? Not really sure that's going to help though since it's that he doesn't want to get in it. He'd probably eventually try to chew it if i left it on the floor, thinking he's got a new toy :/ Any suggestions?

    I took him to see the local volunteer puppy class when i first got him, but they were so overly judgy, i didn't think i could take it tbh. And since he's such a quick learner and i did bucket loads of research before i even got him, we haven't had any problems with anything else, training's going smoothly other than this harness thing. So no, i don't have anyone else to ask really, short of seeking professional help.
     
  9. danielled

    danielled Guest

    Are you sure it’s not rubbing anywhere?
     
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