One common complaint I hear among dog owners is that their dog pulls on leash during walks. I feel their pain, especially since Gandhi was once in the habit of using his 88 pounds of canine power to drag me around our trails.
It hurt my knees and my arm to “walk” him as he lurched me along like a trailer with two flat tires. He pulled on me, I lost my balance and pulled back, and on we went. Neither of us were having much fun.
To Gandhi I probably felt like excess baggage that he had to lug around in order to get where he was going. Dogs walk faster than humans, after all. Their natural gait is like a jog to the average person.
To me it felt like my arm was about to rip away from my body, and with each awkward step must it have looked as if I were reenacting a scene from “Night of the Living Dead.”
My goal was to give Gandhi daily exercise and share some quality time with him, but it felt more and more like punishment for both of us. Something had to give.
Then it dawned on me…”Oh, I am a dog trainer. I know how to fix this!”
I considered a variety of dog walking equipment and quickly ruled out shock collars, choke collars and pinch collars. As a force-free trainer it would violate my Code of Ethics to use those devices, but I also ruled out their use as a practical matter.
Shock devices offer no advantage in training, yet they yield significant negative fallout. Choke collars increase intraocular pressure significantly and can damage the vision of some dogs and cause trachea damage in others.
Psychologist and Animal Behaviorist Anders Hallgren wrote about a study of 400 dogs in a normal population, 63% of which had chiropractic spinal defects. Worse, 91% of dogs that had been “pulled hard” on leash and had neck injuries.
Pronged collars were designed to resolve the dangers of choke collars but present their own hazards. Diane Garrod, a certified Tellington T-Touch Practioner describes the physics of choke and prong collars in her “Barks from the Guild” article.
Applying physics, an 80-pound dog can generate 120 pounds of pulling force. A choke collar increases pressure on the neck to 32 pounds per inch, while a 20-pronged collar increases pressure to 579 psi at each prong tip. I saw too many photographs of dogs requiring veterinary care to pull an embedded collar out of their neck to consider using such a thing on my furry buddy.
My solution was simple. I bought a no-pull dog harness with an attachment ring on the chest. A chest harness is more secure than a neck collar and eliminates pressure on the neck entirely. A front attachment reduces the dog’s leverage, and if he does pull, it gently turns his body back toward the handler.
I combined the chest harness with a hands-free leash belt worn about the hips. Taking my hands off the leash prevented me from repeating the old habit of pulling and restored my balance. It securely fastened the leash to my (lower) center of gravity and freed my hands to deliver training treats.
Carrying a supply of cheese and beef I quickly taught Gandhi to walk beside me with a loose leash, creating a reward zone next to my thigh. When we walked side-by-side, the treat bar was open. If he pulled, I stopped walking and the treat bar closed.
Initially I had to cue him to return to my side so we could resume the walk, but he quickly learned that if he created tension on the leash, it was his job to return to me…and I rewarded him for his brilliant problem solving. Once he learned how to do his job, the treat bag went away.
I got out of the adversarial rut we were in and regained my happy walking partner. Now we both look forward to our daily walks, just as I always intended.
 "Effects of the Application of Neck Pressure by a Collar or Harness on Intraocular Pressure in Dogs." Pauli AM, Bentley E, Diehl KA, Miller PE. Department of Surgical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.
 “The Argument Against Prong Collars”, Diane Garrod, “Barks From the Guild”, Issue No. 10, January 2015.