How does a no pull harness work, and will it work for your dog? You may feel frustrated and defeated if you have a pup that loves to yank and tug on the leash as though they’re competing in a sled dog race. A dog that hauls you around bodily when you simply want to go for an easy walk around the block is annoying and dangerous. Even little dogs can do massive damage to themselves by pulling on their leash, so this problem should never be ignored.
It is also very difficult to cure, with many resorting to punishing prong collars and e-collars for trying to get their dog under control. But can a no-pull harness solve your problem? Let’s take a look at what this kind of dog harness is and how it works.
How Does A No-Pull Harness Work?
No-pull dog harnesses generally work by first shifting the force of pulling or jerking from the neck to the chest and shoulders. The D-ring placed on the front of the chest rather than on the back is what stops the pulling. If a dog pulls or rushes, the leash clipped to the front area causes them to pivot to face their owner.
This means that a dog’s own momentum causes them to spin and face away from the direction they want to head in. This naturally curbs their urge to pull.
Straps and padded areas should cover a dog’s chest, slip under their arms, and clip on the back, safely distributing weight across the dog’s torso.
Using a no pull harness removes the dangers of pulling that come from excess pressure on the neck, sudden whiplash, or the possibility of yanking their owners from their feet. But at the same time, they also help deter pulling.
Most importantly, the D-ring placed on the front means the handler does not need to resort to harsh treatments such as an electric training collar on a dog walk.
Another kind of harness, the Halti no-pull harness, works by squeezing and tightening the chest of a pulling dog. The Halti harness may benefit some dogs, but dedicated pullers have been known to ignore it.
On the other hand, the front-clip harness relies on the natural action of the dog to curb pulling. A pulling dog learns that it does not benefit them to rush by finding themselves spun around every time they charge forward.
Together with obedience training, this can be the first step in using methods to teach a dog how to walk politely at your side.
The front-clip D-ring is also a common feature on canine tactical harnesses. If you are interested in tactical harnesses, see our article here. If you are unsure which harness may be best for your dog, you can have a look at the different types of harnesses here.
Why Do Dogs Pull On The Leash?
An excited dog naturally aims to reach their destination as quickly as possible. This is especially true if they are going somewhere fun such as a dog park, if they catch and interesting scent, or if they are simply excited to be out of their yard and on an adventure. This natural exuberance leads many to pull as hard as possible on the leash.
To a dog, the leash can be nothing but a hindrance if they smell something intriguing or spot a neighbor’s cat and want to give chase. Many experts also believe that pulling is a sign of dominance. This display originates from a dog’s natural pack mentality.
But ultimately, pulling is a learned behavior. If a yank or a tug worked once to get a dog to the dog park a bit faster, there is a reason for them to do it again.
Ultimately if good behavior on the leash isn’t shaped from a young age, dogs also have no reason to know what good behavior looks like. This is why early training on the leash in a reliable puppy school is so important.
Are No Pull Harnesses Safer Than Collars?
Pulling on the leash is more than just annoying. Of course, leash pulling does make walking unpleasant for the pet parent. And the more badly behaved a dog is on the leash, the more likely the owner is to avoid taking their dog out for walks altogether. This negatively affects a pet’s quality of life. Lack of exercise can cause further destructive behavior, such as digging, barking, or chewing.
This sadly causes many owners to resent their dogs, and the frustration can whittle away at their bond with their animals. Sadly, the situation can escalate to increasing punishments, using cruel tools such as e-collars excessively, locking dogs away, and even abandoning dogs at the shelter.
So having a dog that walks politely beside its owner on the leash is actually a crucial part of a healthy relationship with our dogs.
But the dangers of pulling go beyond a pleasant walking experience. Dogs who pull risk yanking free and dashing into dangerous situations such as oncoming traffic. They also risk their owners as large or strong dogs frequently yank their owners off their feet. This is particularly dangerous for children or seniors.
Studies show that pulling or jerking on the leash can cause between 40 and 141 newtons of force on the throat. This is enough to cause significant neck damage, and it often does. A collar puts a lot of pressure on the neck and the throat during walks, while a no-pull harness distributes this weight evenly across the chest and shoulders.
In extreme cases, the pressure applied to the neck by collars could lead to dangerous levels of eye pressure and tracheal collapse. Since smaller dogs tend to have very fragile tracheas, it is vital that they walk in a harness and not with a collar.
But no matter the size of the dog, the neck is a hub of a vital hub of nerve endings, vertebrae, and fragile cartilage. One severe case of pulling could lead to serious throat damage.
So Why Not Use A Regular Harness Instead of A No-Pull Harness?
A regular harness such as a step-in harness definitely removes the strain and danger from your dog’s neck and throat. However, if your dog does not already know how to walk quietly at your side and is prone to pulling, a normal harness can make the problem worse.
A clip on a dog’s back or shoulders is essentially similar to what dogs may use when pulling sleds. If a leash is only attached to the back of a dog, it gives the handler less overall control over the dog, and there is not much to restrain or restrict pulling. This can encourage many dogs to pull harder and cement the behavior.
So if you have a pulling dog, choosing a harness that discourages or stops pulling is vital, or it can exacerbate the issue.
Is A No Pull Harness All You Need To Stop A Dog Pulling?
A no-pull harness works together with consistent, positive reinforcement training to teach a dog to walk politely at your side. Remember, pulling is a self-reinforcing behavior. If a dog manages to make you walk faster or change direction, they are automatically rewarded for pulling. This means they can teach themself to do it very fast.
Using a harness that causes them to pivot when they pull removes the reward. This is very helpful and an easy way to avoid crueler methods.
However, you must follow up with training to reinforce good behavior on the walk. By conditioning a dog to walk correctly beside you, you shape the kind of behavior that makes walks safer and far more pleasant.
Do No-Pull Harnesses Hurt Dogs?
A no-pull dog harness that uses a D-ring to clip the leash in front does not hurt a dog. These dog harnesses work simply by causing pulling the dog to the side or around. This prevents them from yanking themselves and their owner forward on the leash.
A no-pull dog harness that works by tightening around the chest certainly can cause more discomfort. If a dog has a high pain tolerance, they risk tightening the harness so much that it may conceivably cause pain. For these dogs, it may be better to explore other options.
What To Look For In A Good No Pull Harness
Whether choosing a full-fledged harness with all the add-ons, such as a carrier handle and padding, or a more lightweight option, here are the basics for selecting the proper no-pull harness for your dog.
The Correct Size & Fit
Each company has its own sizing guidelines, which can lead to confusion, especially when you order online. Remember, if it doesn’t fit your pup, it’s unlikely to stay on, leading to an escape. Similarly, a harness that is too small can cause chafing and pain.
Therefore, each harness you consider should have a clear-cut sizing chart that tells you how to determine which is best for your dog. Suppose you run across a harness you like but are still unsure of. In that case, the best thing you can do is email or contact the manufacturer with your dog’s measurements. They’ll be able to tell the exact size you need.
A correctly sized harness should not leave indentations on your dog’s skin after removal. If you see the skin around the harness at your dog’s neck and shoulders start to bunch up, it’s vital to loosen it. You should be able to fit two fingers between the harness strap and your dog’s body at any point on your dog’s body.
Make sure all straps are fully adjustable to ensure that you can customize the harness to your dog’s unique shape.
Versatility & A Front-Clip Leash Attachment
A basic no-pull harness should offer you at least two options of where to place clip your leash, or a dual clip system. The D-ring in front is necessary for the harness to work to cause your dog to pivot when they pull. However, you should also have the option to clip your leach on the back for a regular walking leash.
Basic lightweight harnesses made from minimalist straps may simply allow you to choose where to clip your leash. More intricate vest harnesses may give you the choice of carrying handles on the back of the dog to help you gain more control if you need it or even to lift your dog entirely off the ground.
The actual weight of the harness is also vital to consider. You don’t want to have a heavily padded leather harness weighing down a puppy with growing bones or smothering a Chihuahua. The extra weight can wear down their joints and bones or even create spinal issues in dogs not built to carry it.
However, you also don’t want to put a super lightweight harness on a large or giant breed. There’s a good chance they could tear right through it after several uses.
Materials, Straps, & Comfort
The breathability of a harness is critical in determining how comfortable it is for your pup. Breathability refers to how well the air can flow through the harness and contact the dog’s skin. The more breathable a harness is, the safer it is in a warm climate or when your dog exercises intensively.
For this, you usually look for nylon webbing that allows air to flow freely.
Harnesses that lock air in make it difficult for a dog to lose excess body heat naturally via shade or a cool breeze. Some breeds are particularly at risk of heat stroke or dehydration if they are too hot while exercising. So while a harness that envelopes your dog’s body helps them feel safe, it must not keep them from being able to cool down.
You can choose between simple, lightweight harnesses with thinner straps that fold under the arms. However, thicker straps and padding harnesses help avoid chafing, give some protection, and are generally more comfortable.
Points of Control
The biggest motivation behind the invention of a no-pull harness was creating an alternative way of controlling your pup without the risk of choking that comes with traditional collars. A no-pull harness moves the control point to the dog’s back or chest rather than the fragile throat.
The benefit of changing the control point from the neck to the back or the chest is undeniable. It reduces the pressure applied to a very vulnerable part of your dog’s neck. It is also a safe and more effective method of controlling your dog.
Range of Motion
Finding a dog harness that allows your dog a complete range of natural motion is essential.
Your dog needs a harness that allows them to move its limbs in a natural gait while still giving you control.
A poorly manufactured harness will force your dog to walk or run in an unnatural gait, risking injury. It can also keep their heads at strange angles, putting strain on their necks and back. So keep this in mind with head Halti harnesses. Some no-pull harnesses restrict a dog’s shoulders, which puts strain on their musculoskeletal system.
We are sure that the last thing you want is to go to the pet store every few months because your dog’s harness is damaged. A good no-pull harness should withstand a significant amount of force, wear-and-tear, and environmental factors such as heat and water. Look for washable machine harnesses.
Buckles should be heavy-duty, freeze-proof, and break-resistant. A reflective chest strap across the harness is another essential feature in promoting visibility in low-light situations. This makes it safer to walk at night or early morning.
A no-pull harness is a practical training add to help stop dogs that pull and yank on their leads. The front-clip leash adaptor pivots a dog to face you when they pull, removing the natural reward they get from pulling. By selecting the right no-pull harness and employing a positive training method, you can train even the worst-behaved dog to walk calmly beside you.
Phys.org. 2022. Collars risk causing neck injuries in dogs, study shows. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 September 2022].
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.