Author - Linda Lady
He was tall and broad for a five-month-old pup and his block-shaped head made it easy to spot him among the other nineteen Great Danes. His black coat glistened in the sunlight when he played in the field around the kennel. I would turn my back to him to play my part of his daily game and gaze at his shadow as he reared up like a horse and pawed the air to make a light landing on my shoulders. We had an unbreakable bond -almost 40 years ago. I will always remember the sharp pain shooting through my arms when Champ pulled me across a driveway and I fell - elbows first. I will not forget, because I never want to. It was a small price to pay for thinking he was misbehaving. Decades later, I discovered he had only done what all dogs need to do. What I uncovered about pulling behavior is the bedrock of our harness system. It sheds a brighter light on dogs and explains why dogs pull. Conventional wisdom of on-leash behavior is what other products, including knock-offs, are based on and why they often cause pulling in the first place. I hope to open your eyes to a new perspective that can improve your companionship and walks with your dog - like nothing else.
If you are trying to teach your dog not to pull, I am with you because I have been there. Champ was a loyal companion, but he had a split personality; one off leash and one on. A trainer told me to correct him because his pulling was from a lack of attention on me and his drive to get somewhere. People still think this, and products are still made to discourage pulling behavior. It did not make sense to correct Champ at the time from an emotional point and now I think it is completely sense-less because dogs need to pull – when they pull. There is a hidden reason why dogs pull. Dogs have a reflex in common with horses that makes them move for self-protection. Despite my background with horses, I did not make this connection to dogs and my dog training for years. Then I saw my dogs reacting to pressure like horses do and I had an epiphany. The reflex I am referring to is different from the opposition reflex people talk about, although at first, I thought it was the same. I call it the touch reflex because it is not about opposing forces or about dogs resisting the pull of a leash. Instead, this reflex is triggered by pressure or sensations to protect dogs and horses from flesh injuries. It makes them move without conscious thought, like how your leg jumps when a doctor checks your reflex. I am talking about when your dog is at the end of the leash and there is tension - not before. Pulling behavior may feel like your dog is on a mission to get somewhere, but it is a basic instinct instead. The real eye opener is, we cause the behavior.
A customer called and asked if a SENSE-ation® harness would stop her Shetland sheepdog from dragging her across a parking lot to get to a pet store. The lady had tried a variety of products to stop the pulling and said she wanted to hear what we had to say, but did not believe our harness would work. I told her our harness alone would not work, she first needed a new outlook to use it properly. She had been using products made to discourage pulling and thought the front leash ring on our harness was to help her disrupt her dog’s balance and turn her dog around. This is NOT the purpose of a Front-Connection™ harness.
After two weeks and a long discussion, the lady called with a glowing report. On her first return to the parking lot of flurry with her Sheltie wearing a SENSE-ation® harness, her dog was excited when they started to walk, but trotted beside her. You may be thinking the Sheltie was an easy case and the harness is not likely to work with your dog or as well. The Sheltie would not have walked nicely without her owner’s new outlook and approach. If she had continued to think about how to discourage or correct her dog’s behavior, she would have used restraint and triggered her dog’s reflex – making her Sheltie pull. Instead, she used our patented method of leading her dog forward while pulling her leash upward.
A SENSE-ation® harness is called a Front-Connection™ harness not only because you can lead your dog from the front, but most of all, it creates a unique connection with your dog’s sense of touch. The harness is a tool designed for methods that get to the heart of pulling and prevent the behavior. Other products, including knock-offs, inhibit a dog’s forward motion with discomfort or restriction and restraint. This raises defenses and leads to defensive behaviors like pulling, lunging and aggression. Our harness system instead, uses a unique chest strap that pivots and slacks over the shoulders to encourage forward movement. This works with the touch reflex and lowers defenses to help your dog follow the leash calmly and naturally. At first, we use positive reinforcement to pair pressure with rewards. The key is the gentle pressure; applied in the right places and at the right time. This creates cues and leads to true loose leash walking. Our pro-active approach is not hard, but I do recommend assistance from positive reinforcement trainers familiar with our methods. They provide hands-on support and help manage behaviors that can make it difficult not to use restraint, like prey drive.
In closing, I hope you have gained a new perspective of on-leash behaviors that sheds a brighter light on your companionship. You can stop trying to teach your dog not to pull and use a SENSE-ation® harness to prevent the behavior instead. There are countless success stories, including one of my own. My dog Aussie had been the hardest dog to walk until my harness revealed his true nature. You too can discover your dog has always been willing to walk – with you.
Linda Lady is Co-Founder of Softouch Concepts, Inc. and the inventor of Front-Connection™ harnesses. She is a positive reinforcement trainer of both dogs and horses.