"My Puppy Doesn't Like Wearing A Harness" - The Importance of Getting Your Puppy Used to a Harness
Congratulations on becoming a new dog parent! Welcoming a new furry member to your family is an exciting and fulfilling (and maybe somewhat tiring) experience. However, it comes with a lot of responsibility, including ensuring your puppy's safety. One way to do this is by making them wear a harness, even if it seems like they don't like it.
Why is it important for puppies to wear a harness?
Whilst we recommend a collar for puppies to ensure your contact details are easily found if they go on an accidental solo adventure, using a harness is a safer option than attaching a leash to your puppy's collar when out for walks. Collars can put pressure on a puppy's growing neck, which can cause injury, especially if they pull or tug. A harness distributes the pressure more evenly across your puppy's body, reducing the risk of injury.
Additionally, using a harness gives you more control over your puppy during walks. This is especially important if your puppy is still in the training phase and prone to distractions or running off. A properly fitting harness can help prevent your puppy from slipping out of their collar or harness.
We sometimes receive messages from new puppy parents shortly after they've received their new harness saying "My puppy doesn't like wearing it, what should I do?". Here's the thing: your puppy has just come from the only place they've ever known, has probably never worn anything on their body and is only used to being 'told off' by their fur-mama. Suddenly, they've arrived to their new forever home with you where a human is trying to tell them what to do, they don't have their littermates to learn from and they're being asked to wear something that feels funny. It would be weird, right?!
Right from the get-go, puppies are learning what they can and can't get away with, who their 'pack leader' is and how much authority that person has. Getting your puppy used to their harness, even when they might roll around and use their dramatic 'get this off me' face is one of the steps that will make walking in the long run much easier and safer for you all.
Puppies are often wiggly and curious creatures, which makes it easy for them to escape or get into trouble. A properly fitted harness can keep them secure and prevent them from running off or getting hurt. Even though it's likely that your puppy won't be ready to go outside on walks yet, having them wear a harness right from Day 1 at home will help them get used to wearing it quicker, ensuring you're all prepared for happy walks when the time comes. Here are some tips to help your puppy get comfortable with wearing a harness:
Have Them Sleep In It
One way to get your puppy comfortable with wearing a harness is by having them sleep in it. This might seem strange, but it can help your puppy associate the harness with a calm and safe experience. Let them wear the harness around the house and encourage them to nap while wearing it. This will help them get used to the feeling of having something on their body, which is usually the feeling that puppies don't like to begin with.
Persistence is key - don't give in to their puppy dog eyes if they want their harness off - they are simply 'testing the waters' and seeing if you'll do exactly as they want. But YOU are their new pack leader and YOU make the rules now. If you put the harness on them, commit to it staying on them for a certain amount of time and it comes off only when you decide, not them.
Reward Them for Wearing It
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool when it comes to training your puppy. Reward your puppy with treats, praise, and play time when they wear their harness. This will create a positive association with the harness and make them more likely to accept it. Be consistent with the rewards, and eventually, your puppy will start to associate wearing the harness with their most favourite experiences.
Don't Give in to Their Complaining
It's common for puppies to whine or complain when they are made to do something they don't like. However, it's important not to give in to their complaining when it comes to wearing a harness as it's for their own safety that we are forcing them to wear one. Giving in to them will only reinforce their behaviour and make it harder to get your puppy to wear their harness in the future. Incidentally, it will also be teaching your puppy that if they complain and you remove the harness, this behaviour might also work with other things, leading to a cheeky puppy that will be difficult to train in general. Instead, be patient and consistent with training, and your puppy will eventually learn to accept their harness, and accept you as the boss that should be listened to.
Making your puppy wear a harness is an essential part of keeping them safe. While it may take some time and patience to get your puppy comfortable with wearing a harness, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. By having them sleep in it, rewarding them for wearing it, and not giving in to their complaining, you can help your puppy get used to wearing a harness which will better prepare you for walks, car travel and park play dates in the future. With a little bit of training and patience, your puppy will soon be happily wearing their harness and enjoying all of the adventures that come with being a well-beahved doggo!