Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB

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Should I use a halti, a harness or a lead?

Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB
Reading time: 3 minutes

Halti

The halti should only be used as a last resort, if at all. Although this type of lead does allow greater control over a dog by exerting pressure on their muzzle, it can be easy to accidently ‘jerk’ a puppy while using it on walks. If this is done repeatedly, it can cause damage to a puppy’s neck.

In most cases, the halti is used as a way to help control a young dog’s unruly behaviour. However it is better to address the cause of the behaviour rather than trying to control it with a halti. If your puppy plays up in certain situations then try to avoid those and take them to places they feel more comfortable. Ultimately dogs exhibit difficult behaviour because they are not coping, not because they are inherently naughty.

There is no need for puppies to be wearing a halti early on in their development. On a day-to-day basis, a halti shouldn’t be necessary for any dog.

Harness

Unlike the halti, a harness is much gentler. As a harness works on a dog’s chest, it allows your puppy much more freedom to roam. This means that most young dogs cope with them much better than even traditional types of leads.

However, a lot of harness designs can be complex and you’ll need to make sure it’s the right fit for your puppy and doesn’t pinch their chest or front legs. Good pet shops will allow you to try out different harnesses on your pup before you buy one.

A harness is the most comfortable set-up for young dogs. It should be easy to put on, and your puppy shouldn’t be able to back out of it easily. Use a double-ended lead, with one end attached to your puppy’s collar and the other to their harness. That way, if your dog does back out of their harness in an emergency, you’ll still have hold of them via their collar.

Lead

Despite their popularity choker collars and slip leads are not recommended because they tend to strangle dogs when they pull forward.

As the name suggests, it’s a choke mechanism and a lot of young dogs tend to pull forward to explore their surroundings. They won’t understand that the pressure on their necks is due to their pulling action. Their instinct is to try to escape, which will choke them even more. Because puppies don’t yet have the understanding to prevent this cycle, a choke collar and slip lead should be avoided at all costs.

Instead, try to get a gentle, flat collar with a longer lead that will let your puppy explore their surroundings and have a good sniff around. It’s important to use a longer lead so that your dog has an element of choice while out on walks. Sometimes, owners prefer to keep their puppy on a short lead, but this prevents them from properly exploring and learning to cope with things they might encounter. In other words, a short lead means that if a puppy comes across a situation that unsettles them, they can’t move away, even if all they want to do is to move from one side of their owner to the other.

The puppy can then only growl or lunge as a way of communicating their fear. This inadvertently sets up a situation where a puppy develops inappropriate responses. It’s far better to keep puppies on a relatively loose lead.

The best solution

Keep your puppy on a loose lead, with a well-fitting, comfortable harness and try to avoid potentially stressful situations for your puppy. Instead, opt for quiet, calmer environments and you won’t go wrong.

Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB

Claire Hargrave is the only Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist accredited by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) working in Wales. She is also a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. As the animal behaviour profession is as yet unregulated, and to ensure that a behaviourist has an adequate level of practical and theoretical experience, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Dogs Trust and the R.S.P.C.A. advise veterinary surgeons and members of the public to ensure that they only seek advice from behaviourists accredited by ASAB or who hold APBC membership.

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