Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is it harmful to attach a leash to your dog’s neck?


 Is it harmful to attach a leash to your dog’s neck?
By Emily Larlham
(Note: This article is a work in progress- the more I research, the more I will add to this work.)

People who live with dogs for companionship and friendship all want what is physically and psychologically best for their dog.  We get dogs as companions in order to experience friendship, trust and to take care of another living creature that depends on us for their wellbeing.  Many of us have a sense of pride when it comes to taking care of our beloved dogs, so finding out about information that conflicts with how we are already caring for our pet can feel like a personal affront.  

I used to walk dogs with the leash attached to a collar or slip lead until I was confronted by someone who suggested I use harnesses instead to prevent neck injury.  I felt harassed, annoyed and in disbelief that this ‘know it all’ dare lecture me on how I take care of dogs, because I love my dogs dearly!  I also felt a feeling of shame from the social interaction of being told I was doing something wrong by a stranger in a public place.  Although the information hurt, a seed was planted in my brain and it began to grow.  It has only been a handful of years since I started using only harnesses on dogs and wince when I see a dog hit the end of their lead on a collar.  

In this article I will attempt to convince you for your dog’s quality of life and physical wellbeing to not to attach a leash to your dog’s throat.  Be it for any reason such as obeying leash laws, managing behavior, or being in a serious rush to get out the door.  I strive to put forth the information in a way that will not cause the reader the feelings I felt when I first was asked to consider using a harness instead of a collar.

Aren’t dog’s necks constructed differently than ours?

A main argument I have heard for the use of collars is that dog’s necks are sturdy, strong and not like our necks at all.  In actual fact, the neck of a canine is physiologically similar to that of a human.  Our general anatomy is so similar to dogs that human medicine has been tested on dogs.  Get down on all fours and gently feel your dog’s neck while you are feeling your own.  Both of our necks contain the trachea, oesophagus, thyroid gland, lymph nodes, jugular veins and spinal column relatively within the same places.  Both contain muscles in relatively the same places.
 


A dog’s skin is very similar to ours too.  Obviously dogs are hairier than us and do not sweat, but the skin is almost exactly the same apart from the epidermis of a dogs skin being only 3-5 cells thick when our top layer of skin is 10-15 cells thick.




Can attaching a leash to a collar on your dog’s neck be physically harmful? 
Attaching a leash to a dog’s collar can indeed cause physical harm to your dog if the dog were ever to hit the end of the leash or pull on the leash. This is because the neck of a dog is full of very delicate and important physiology that keeps your dog healthy.  The thyroid gland for example is located in the front of the neck below the larynx. Just one incident of pulling on a collar could possibly cause severe damage to your dog’s health in the same way as damage to your own neck could cause lasting health issues for you.  Why would you take that risk?  The only real benefit of having your dog wear a collar rather than a harness is that it is faster and easier for the dog’s handler to put on for a walk.

The Dangers of Using Collars:

Neck Injuries- Just one incident of pulling or running fast to the end of the leash could possibly cause serious neck damage.  Neck injuries could include bruising, whiplash, headaches, crushed trachea, damage to larynx, and fractured vertebrae. A neck and spinal cord injury can cause paralysis or neurological problems.

In a study of 400 dogs by Anders Hallgren published in “Animal Behaviour Consultants Newsletter” in 1992, he found that “Pulling and jerking on the leash affect especially the neck and throat in the dog.  As expected, there was no correlation between leash handling and thoracic/lumbar defects.  However, one of the clearest correlations in the whole study was between cervical (neck) damages and 'jerk and pull'. 91% of the dogs who had neck injuries had also been exposed to jerking on the leash by the owner or been allowed to pull hard on the leash for long periods of time.”  “Playing is harmless but warm up first.  Dogs that often run, play with other dogs, jump out of happiness or over obstacles, showed no correlation with back problems. This is encouraging.  However, dogs should be given massage and a chance to warm up before strenuous activities, whether it's before rough playing, hunting or agility.”

Ear Issues- In the study by Pauli AM, Bentley, E Diehl, KA, Miller, PE ‘Effects of the application of neck pressure by a collar or harness on intraocular pressure in dogs’, it was found that pressure in the eyes “was significantly increased from base-line values when a force was applied to the neck via a leash to a collar, but not to a harness, in the dogs of this study.” This type of intraocular pressure can cause serious injury to dogs already suffering thin corneas, glaucoma, or eye injuries.

Eye Issues- Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM states in an article ‘Dog collars can cause disease and possibly lead to cancer’ which can be found here: http://www.peterdobias.com/community/2011/07/dog-collars-can-cause-disease-and-possibly-lead-to-cancer/, that “Ear and eye issues are frequently related to pulling on the leash. When dogs pull on the leash, the collar restricts the blood and lymphatic flow to and from the head.”

Hypothyroidism- The collar rests on the neck in the area of the thyroid gland.  As Dr. Peter Dobias says in his article, “This gland gets severely traumatized whenever a dog pulls on the leash, it becomes inflamed and consequently “destroyed” by the body’s own immune system when it tries to remove the inflamed thyroid cells.  The destruction of the thyroid cells leads to the deficit of thyroid hormone – hypothyroidism and because the thyroid gland governs the metabolism of every cell. The symptoms may be low energy, weight gain, skin problems, hair loss and a tendency to ear infections and organ failure.”

Malfunction of the nervous system in the forelimbs- Another health issue that Dr. Dobias points out in his article on collars is the possibility of malfunction of the nervous system in the forlimbs.  He states, “Excessive paw licking and foreleg lameness can also be related to your dog’s collar.  Leash pulling impinges the nerves supplying the front legs.  This can lead to an abnormal sensation in the feet and dogs may start licking their feet.  These dogs are often misdiagnosed as allergic and all that needs to be done is to remove the collar and treat the neck injury.”

Behavioral Problems-  It is commonly believed that in all animals with a brain, behavior is linked to health. In Anders Hallgren study published in “Animal Behaviour Consultants Newsletter” in 1992, he found correlations between injury and behavior.  Anders writes, “That dogs are so similar to humans may come as a surprise to many.” “A common cause of behavioral troubles in dogs is disease or pain.  According to those who work with problem dogs, the most usual source of pain
and disease is damage to the muscles and bones.”  Anders study was focused on back injuries.  Of the group of 400 dogs, 79% of the aggressive dogs had back problems, while 21% had no back problems. Of the reserved shy dogs 69% had back problems while 31% had no back issues.  This study shows that there is a correlation between physical health and behavioral problems.

If it’s damaging their necks, why don’t they stop pulling?!

 

If pulling on the collar is damaging to dogs’ necks, why don’t they stop pulling?!  Dogs are not humans and do not operate behaviorally in the same way we do. It would be commonsense for us humans to stop when we hear ourselves gagging.  Our anatomy is similar physically, however our brains are very different.  We cannot make assumptions about dog’s behavior based on how we behave.  If you grabbed an office worker by the tie, he wouldn’t suddenly start madly puling in all directions going red in the face to get to the walls to pee on them or strain and scream to get to the female office workers in the building or repetitively hit the end of his tie again and again to see if they could reach the free doughnuts in the lunch room until he flipped himself onto his back.  I have seen dogs walk on their two back legs with their weight shifted onto the collar to get somewhere.  I have seen dogs pull so hard that they cannot get a breath into their lungs and dogs drawing in rasping breaths.  I have also seem people jerk their dog so that their dogs whole body lifts off the ground, and as soon as the dog is on the ground again, he is hitting the end of the leash to get to that other dog on the other side of the street. 

Some dogs would chase a ball or herd sheep until they died from overheating.  I know dogs that have broken off their teeth trying to get through fence or crate, and dogs that have ripped out their toenails scratching at the door when an owner left for 5 minutes.  My border collie ripped off the pads of her feet while playing in the desert and did not show any behavioral signs of injury until she got up from a nap, and I realized the pads of her feet were gone.  If you have watched the show Animal Cops you might have seen abuse cases of ingrown collars and severe neck lacerations, where dogs are walking around normally as if nothing happened with a huge gaping neck wound.  Dogs do not exhibit or react to injury in the same ways we do.

How can we know what a dog is experiencing?  Is there a way we can measure pain or suffering?

There is no reliable way of measuring suffering or pain in animals, or humans for that matter.  The most reliable way to measure pain and suffering in humans is through verbal communication with the patient.  MRI scans of the brain can also shed some light on how others feel.  Measuring cortisol levels or stress hormone levels have proven to be an unreliable way to measure pain or suffering, as they are just too unpredictable in studies.  For example, in human abuse cases stress levels could either be higher or lower than average and conclude nothing.  The same unpredictable results can happen when measuring stress in dogs.  Therefore at this point in time there is no reliable way to scientifically deduce the psychological implications caused by wearing a collar.  All we know is that behavior can be affected by the physical health of a dog.

If dogs bite each other shouldn’t it be natural for us to emulate them to train them?
 

It all depends on your morals and ethics whether inflicting intimidation or pain on an animal is an acceptable behavior. It is part of human behavior in a society to bully, rape and kill each other, but that doesn’t make it moral or give one the right to do it to other people. Because dogs and wolves bully, fight, and kill each other does not make it acceptable for us to emulate their behavior towards our own dog.  Dogs play-fight using their mouths, see the photo above left, but that also doesn’t give us a right to use collars or intimidation to manage or train dogs.  Jerking a dog on a collar could suppress a behavior from happening, but it can also cause behavioral side effects such as aggression and frustration.  Non-violent ways of training dogs exist that don’t have unwanted side effects.  There is a myth that all dogs correct each other.  There are some dogs that correct other dogs, and other dogs that don’t.  You can train multi dog households to cohabit the same spaces peacefully and actually enjoy being in each other’s presence using Classical Conditioning, instead of letting the dogs work in out on their own.

Jerking a collar around a dog’s neck does not emulate the biting of another dog physiologically either.  Many trainers hope to emulate dog corrections to train a dog to stay with them or train new behaviors, but dogs do not bite one another to get the other to stay with them or to train them to offer specific behaviors through out the day.  We don’t even know if dogs consciously know their actions affect another dog’s behavior in the future.  There is the
possibility that dogs correct each other as a reflex, or simply because it has been reinforced in the past.  Also, one should be warned that some dogs will become aggressive when other dogs bite them no matter what the reason.


Then how do I punish my dog if he pulls?
 
There is a way of training animals that involves no form of physical or psychological intimidation called Progressive Reinforcement Training.  Please read the Progressive Reinforcement Training Manifesto at www.dogmantics.com for more information.

To solve leash pulling you can reinforce your dog for being at your side with well-timed treats and the reward of getting to move forward.  You can then “punish” the behavior of pulling, by not moving an inch in the direction that the dog begins to pull in and instead move backwards.  There is no need to intimidate or hurt a dog to teach him to walk on a leash.  The main goal is to never follow a dog on a tight leash, even one inch, as it will teach the dog that leaning into the leash will yield the reward of getting to where he wants to go and he will repeat the behavior in the future.  Leash pulling problems can also be the side effects of other behavioral problems such as fear, anxiety or over arousal, so a trainer needs to get to the heart of the problem rather than work on only the side effects.  There are multiple free leash walking tutorials here if you need assistance: www.youtube.com/kikopup
Here is one basic leash walking video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFgtqgiAKoQ

But my dog never pulls on leash… 

Yes, perhaps there is a dog out there, that will never ever pull suddenly towards a smell in a bush, food on the ground, an old friend or another dog.  But there might be some time in that dogs life that the dog might need to be pulled, perhaps a car mounts the sidewalk and you need to jerk your dog out of the way or perhaps a car back fires and your dog runs forward.  We would never attach a leash to a child’s neck to keep him safe, why would we attach a leash to a dog’s throat when there is the option of a harness.  In the same way a human’s neck could get severely damaged if we fell forward onto a collar attached to a lead, a dog can suffer the same harm.   

Make a choice for your dog’s wellbeing- Choose a harness!
Myth: Harnesses make dogs pull.  Truth: People who follow dogs in harnesses make dogs pull.  Yes, in a back clipping harnesses dogs can get more force behind their pulling, and so when they do pull they can pull with more leverage.  The only reason that dogs can’t pull as hard in a collar is because they are using their delicate organs and their spinal column to pull forward.  There are many harnesses on the market today specifically for extremely strong dogs.  If you clip the leash to a front clipping harness the dog cannot get as much leverage as clipping it to the back of a harness, and it is easier to reorient your dog towards you than when the leash is attached to the back of the dog.  If you want your dog to pull you sometimes but not others (perhaps on a skateboard or in a wheel chair) you can put the behavior on cue or you could simply allow pulling when the harness is clipped to the back and not allow pulling when you clip the leash to the front of the harness. 

Choose a well fitting harness that distributes weight evenly and that does not pinch or rub specifically on one area (for example in the armpits).  Make sure not to buy the type of harness that tightens like a slip lead when the dog pulls in order to cause discomfort or pain. Halters that fit over a dogs head could also cause neck injuries but in a different way than a collar, as the neck is twisted to the side or back if the dog were to hit the end of the leash.  Don’t buy a harness that rests on your dogs neck as it could be just as damaging to the throat as a collar, making wearing the harness instead of a collar pointless.  Many suggest a prong collar is more humane as the dog will not pull, but if the dog were to pull once, all the pressure of the collar will rest on a few tiny points on the neck. What if that point were to rest perfectly on the center of your dogs’ jugular vain, or larynx.  Shock collars are also not a solution because of the behavioral side effects that can occur.  Shock collars are under investigation in many countries for being inhumane and banned in many parts of Europe (including Sweden where I live).

In conclusion

If humane is defined as having regard for the health and wellbeing of another, then I believe that attaching a leash to the collar on your dog’s throat is not as humane practice as attaching the leash to a harness.
Walking a dog with a leash attached to their neck is just not worth the risk of the physical damage to your dog’s delicate neck, the organs housed within the neck, and the rest of the body that is affected by pressure on the neck. 
 

On a final note, TRAIN your dog to walk with you.  Don’t just put your dog in a harness to prevent pressure on the neck.  Training a dog is a wonderful way to spend time bonding and interacting with your dog and should be one of the joys of companionship.


Please spread the word.  Use a harness when you need to attach a leash to your dog! 

  
Above pictures are of the author's dogs Trisch, Lacey, Tug, Splash and Kiko in their harnesses.


References:

Pauli AM, Bentley, E Diehl, KA, Miller, PE.  Effects of the application of neck pressure by a collar or harness on intraocular pressure in dogs. J.Am.Anim.Hosp. Assoc.2006:42:207-211

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM’s article ‘Dog collars can cause disease and possibly lead to cancer’ http://www.peterdobias.com/community/2011/07/dog-collars-can-cause-disease-and-possibly-lead-to-cancer/
“Dr. Peter Dobias has been in Veterinary Practice since 1988. In 2008 he sold his thriving holistic veterinary practice in North Vancouver, BC Canada to pursue his passion for educating the public about disease prevention and natural treatment methods.  He also started a not for profit society aimed at animal welfare, holistic cancer research and educating the public on the dangers of choke and prong collars.  He believes that together, we can create a healthy and long life naturally. Visit him at www.peterdobias.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/drpeterdobias.”

Boyd JS (1991) Color atlas of clinical anatomy of the dog and cat. Mosby, London

Mielke, Kerstin (2007) Anatomy of the Dog In straitforward terms, Cadmos, Germany

Evans, Howard E., deLahunta, Alexander (2004) Guide to the Disection fo the Dog, Saunders, United States of America

Anders Hallgren, Swedish Vet. Study; Animal Behavior Consultants Newlsttr; July,1992, V.9 No.2.


96 comments:

Omar Zambrano González said...

I'm a huge fan of you...!!

I really emjoyed reading this article. I am one of those people that use a collar on my dog's neck, even when i once read on the internet that using this type of collars is bad for our dog's health, but was not so sure of it until now that i'm rading this text of you.

i'm going to look for one harness and i won't put again a leash on my dog's neck.

Thank you for showing us your knowledge and helo us to have happier and healthier life with our dogs.

Gretting from México

Omar (me) & Xólotl (my dog)
https://www.facebook.com/omarzambranogonzalez

Sharon Yildiz said...

Hi Emily,

Very well written article. I switched from collars to harnesses when the Easy-Walk (or Sensation) harnesses came out about 10 years ago. Prior to that, I didn't think harnesses gave enough control because I was walking 3-4 dogs at a time. With the Easy-Walks and positive reinforcement, my dogs learn to walk without pulling.

BTW, I tried a front-attachment harness on my Papillon puppy (then 6 lb.), but it got tangled in his legs. So he gets to wear a standard "vest style" back attachment harness. Luckily, he naturally walks in heel position and required no training to not pull with this type of harness. Anyway, I highly recommend switching to harnesses, as dogs are much more comfortable with them.

Kimm and the Kimmlets said...

Awesome article that I plan to share widely. Thanks Emily!

Kim and CanDo

Dos Doggies said...

I switched to harnesses about 2 years ago.
Dingo can be a bad puller at times so he wears an easy walk. Dasy walks perfectly so she wears a step in

Susan Mann said...

Thanks for a good article on an important topic. My youngest dog didn't have a collar on at all until she was around a year old, wore a harness while growing up. I do occasionally use a leash to a collar for very short periods getting a dog from a to b, but avoid it as much as possible- I think I've used a collar twice in the past year.

Ivetka said...

Do you have a link to the Hallgren study? I can't find it online.

Fajsty said...

at the bottom here: http://www.jycketryck.se/empty_19.html

Manaka Niita said...

Dog's collar should be relaxing and not to tight so that they can move freely. On the other hand, are their others health support aside from dog probiotics that can help my pet dog achieve optimum health?

Bre said...

I am not too proud to admit that I was one of those people that thought harnesses encourage a dog to pull. However, when I gave it more thought, prompted by your article, there is no piece of equipment that can exact a behavioral change from a dog-it's the way the human uses the equipment and reacts to the situation.
I'm also not too proud to admit that the whole way through the article I was thinking, "Yea, well this is only important if you have a dog who pulls...I trained my dog, he doesn't pull, he walks right next to me with no problem". Until I thought about it some more, and recalled a few occasions where a squirrel ran across the sidewalk and my dog went into chase mode. I usually just let go of the leash when this happens (Obviously not if we're on a road or something) because we generally just walk on the sidewalk in my quiet neighborhood. But sometimes I can't let go, or don't let go in time to avoid him hitting the end of the leash.
I actually have a harness that I use when I ride my bike with my dog to exercise him-for all the reasons you specify. Why did I not make the connection that the same rules apply when walking?? I don't know.
Thank you for this informative article.
We will be using the harness from now on for walking (when he has to be on leash that is).
Do you have any thoughts on retractable leashes as opposed to standard? I've always believed that retractable leashes are more dangerous because the dog can get some serious momentum before it hits the end of the leash-but with a harness I suppose that too could be avoided.

Lauren Wojcik said...

They don't stop pulling because of the Opposition Reflex.

Anna Bettina said...

Absolutely fabulous! Thanks for writing this Emily - As a holistic practitioner who is also a trainer, the spine is very important for blood flow, energy flow & more! I am trying to educate people everyday about getting their dogs off of collars & onto harnesses!

This is an important topic for all dog-owners to be aware of!

Kimm and the Kimmlets said...

Bre, I personally am not a fan of extenda leashes as they can break easily, or got twisted around a dog's leg, or your legs, and the rope burn or worse can be very painful. Also if you drop a flexi and it startles the dog, the noise it makes bouncing around can make a dog run away due to fear. I do use them to get my dogs to go potty sometimes when travelling, but generally I am happier with my 6 ft leash.

Predator Gaming said...

Can you use a harness on a labrador without making him pull even more?
Anyone - any experiences?

D.O.G. Wishes said...

Thank you, Emily! I will be referring to this post a lot with my clients. :)

I agree 100%, except my greyhound, JoJo, doesn't. She refuses to eat, walk, play, or anything in a harness. She has absolutely no misgivings when I put it on, wearing it without a leash, or what have you. She flat out REFUSES to walk in one, and will not take treats or anything. I don't think she likes the pressure behind her armpits. I've tried all the different styles of harnesses, no luck. Any suggestions?

ClickerPets said...

Well done, Emily!
Thanks for going into depth about this topic. I learned quite a bit of stuff that I didn't know. It's so sad that some people just attach the leash to the choke chain on their dog's neck and don't think twice.

I did a short presentation at my school about how dog collars can be harmful. A few weeks later, one girl came to school with her little chihuahua who was wearing a harness. She thanked me for sharing the dangers of collars only uses a harness on her dog.

After doing a practice of my speech for the class, one boy said that his dog got wounds from the prong collar digging into his neck. :(

In preparation for my speech, I collected all the different types of collars that I could get. I borrowed some collars from a neighbor who had some collars, but didn't use them. When I brought them home and was looking at them, and wow, the prong collar looks so evil! My sisters and I tried it around our legs and arms and it hurt! Whoever would think to put that around their dog's neck. How is that a moral thing to do!?

Thanks again, Emily! :)

ClickerPets said...

Well done, Emily!
Thanks for going into depth about this topic. I learned quite a bit of stuff that I didn't know. It's so sad that some people just attach the leash to the choke chain on their dog's neck and don't think twice.

I did a short presentation at my school about how dog collars can be harmful. A few weeks later, one girl came to school with her little chihuahua who was wearing a harness. She thanked me for sharing the dangers of collars only uses a harness on her dog.

After doing a practice of my speech for the class, one boy said that his dog got wounds from the prong collar digging into his neck. :(

In preparation for my speech, I collected all the different types of collars that I could get. I borrowed some collars from a neighbor who had some collars, but didn't use them. When I brought them home and was looking at them, and wow, the prong collar looks so evil! My sisters and I tried it around our legs and arms and it hurt! Whoever would think to put that around their dog's neck. How is that a moral thing to do!?

I'm going to help spread the word! Thanks again, Emily! :)

ClickerPets said...

Well done, Emily!
Thanks for going into depth about this topic. I learned quite a bit of stuff that I didn't know. It's so sad that some people just attach the leash to the choke chain on their dog's neck and don't think twice.

I did a short presentation at my school about how dog collars can be harmful. A few weeks later, one girl came to school with her little chihuahua who was wearing a harness. She thanked me for sharing the dangers of collars only uses a harness on her dog.

After doing a practice of my speech for the class, one boy said that his dog got wounds from the prong collar digging into his neck. :(

In preparation for my speech, I collected all the different types of collars that I could get. I borrowed some collars from a neighbor who had some collars, but didn't use them. When I brought them home and was looking at them, and wow, the prong collar looks so evil! My sisters and I tried it around our legs and arms and it hurt! Whoever would think to put that around their dog's neck. How is that a moral thing to do!?

I'm going to help spread the word! Thanks again, Emily! :)

city said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

elizabeth popp said...

WOW! what a nice plug for your dog-training website! i would like to have seen a LOT more research and mention of the many causes of leash-aggression and how breeding, genetics and socialization impact upon it. i also would like to have seen the research into hypothyroidism and how much of it is caused by leash-walking and how much is due to genetics and breeding.

elizabeth popp said...

i am responding to bre...
i have dogs who pull on a harness more than they pull on a flat buckle collar. i own 4 border collies and they will pull six ways from sunday to get at whatever it is that they love. it doesn't matter whether it is a harness or collar.
i have had great success with gentle leaders. most people don't like them because you actually have to do some conditioning before you can walk your dog. it gives you control of the head (like a halter on a horse). there is nothing around the neck or back or shoulders. it is a loop around the muzzle that fastens high up behind the head. the leash attaches to a ring under the chin. it is imperative, however, that the dog is gradually introduced to the gentle leader. i put it on the floor. if they move towards it i mark and treat. i then hold the muzzle loop up and if they approach it, i mark and treat. we gradually work up to the dog putting its muzzle willingly into the loop. then we progress to clipping it on. once i have achieved that, i feed them while they are wearing it for several days. then we go on to the leash and just taking a few steps and progressing from there with lots of rewards to short walks. when i hear people say that their dog absolutely HATES the gentle leader and paws their muzzle to get it off, that tells me that they have not put in the time necessary to achieve any sort of success.

i am surprised that this author never mentions gentle leaders with all of the "research" she cites.

elizabeth popp said...

if any of you are even possibly thinking about doing certain performance sports with your dogs (obedience, rally, etc.) harnesses are not allowed. in agility, you can walk your dog to the line in a harness, but it must come off before the dog runs. in obedience and rally, only flat buckle collars are permitted. harnesses are also not allowed in conformation competition. so at some point, if you are considering showing, you have to come to terms with these "tools of satan".

elizabeth popp said...

now that i think about it, i'm not sure about whether a dog can be walked to the line in a harness in agility competition. i'll have to check he rule book. i am sure, however, that harnesses are not allowed in conformation, obedience and rally, whether it be akc or ukc.

elizabeth popp said...

so emily,
feel free to comment here. you have done some "research" but you only cite one or two so-called "experts" in behavior. the rest are "dog anatomists". as will rogers said, "there are lies, there are damn lies, and there are statistics." as i said in previous posts, no mention was made of possible genetic or hereditary predispositions to the conditions you are citing are due to leash-walking. (hypothroidism, eye problems, aggression). leash-reacivity is there and it can be made worse by dogs straining on their leashes and feeling pain. but what you have failed to see, is that leash-reactivity is a "given" with some dogs. it doesn't seem to happen with many other dogs, no matter how much leash-straining occurs. the leash-reactive dogs (and that tendency seems to be present early on) associate the pain with the dog they see, and it escalates from there. so much of it is due to genetics coupled with socialization. i am very concerned that you posted this article without being adequately informed beforehand that genetics, coupled with structure, coupled with socialization equals the total dog you must deal with at the classes your referral website endorses. you just went on and on, condemning leash-walking and implying that the only solution was a harness. my border collies pull harder with a harness than they do with a flat-buckle collar.
there is such a thing as a "gentle leader" which i have had much success with. i guess i don't have to tell you about it, because you seem to be so well-informed on all aspects of dog behavior.

Pam's Dog Academy said...

First, let me say that I just love this article!

Just to add a bit of information. I do agility competitions (AKC) and I use a harness on my border collies. I walk them into the ring with their harness take it off and set them up for their run. I have never had anyone say anything to me. I firmly believe that if you train the dog how to pay attention to you the handler, you will not need a gentle leader in performance sports.

However, I have had some clients that benefited from a head halter because if that is what would give them control to at least get out and walk their dog, then it is better than the alternative (choke chains, prong collars, or not walking at all). However, I would FIRST do EVERYTHING I could as a trainer to help those clients be successful with a harness.

I LOVE this article and think it was well written and to add more information on genetics, hypothyroidism, leash reactivity, or breeding would have just been to much and would have made the article too busy! Those things should be addressed in a separate articles, if Emily chooses to write about them. However, it was clean and to the point.

ClickerPets (Annalise) YOU ROCK! I just love how sweet you are and how much you are into learning about dogs and training. Keep it up! You are such a great influence on your peers! You are the best!

Omar, I hope all is going well! We should meet up sometime. I have not seen you since Emily's seminar. :)

D.O.G Wishes, We had FUN TODAY! Dolce is amazing! He did so well at agility. :)

On another note, If a dog is pulling, then the owner has not spent quality time really teaching the dog what to do. It is our job as owners/trainers to teach our dogs what we want them to do. If a person allows a dog to get away with pulling, then it is not the dogs fault for pulling (harness, collar or head halter), it it the HUMANS FAULT for allowing it and for not teaching the dog to not pull. I hate the excuse that someone has tried everything and nothing works. Seriously, it is consistency, sticking with your criteria and taking the time to work with the dog. If you walk multiple dog, each dog should learn separately how to walk nicely. Only add a second dog when the both of those dogs have been trained, walked in many locations to generalize the behavior, and know that pulling means turn back to the owner and release that pressure on the leash. Don't walk all 4 dogs together if you know they are going to pull. It is not rocket science. :) Just training & being consistent.

If one teaches their dog not to strain or pull on a leash they will not feel pain and therefore will be less likely to have leash reactivity issues. Life also plays a role in all that. A dog that has been attacked by a dog can have leash reactivity because he is now scared to death of other dogs. Not because he pulled on leash and felt pain, but because another dog actually did cause him pain. That is not genetic. That is not breeding. That is an irresponsible dog owner that let their dog off leash (without it even knowing a recall) and let it run up to a dog to attack it. I have seen and heard stories from clients of this happening many times, not to the same dog, but to many of my clients dogs. That one attack can cause leash reactivity. After being attacked the stress from being around other dogs can cause other medical issues as well, but I am not writing an article here. Just stating what I know to be true from my own experiences. The dog that was attacked was not under socialized. The dog that did attack probably was... The dog that did the attacking probably had poor genetics or breeding, etc...

Pam

Pam's Dog Academy said...

One last thing that I would like to say, is that it is my opinion that a head halter is not a cure all. It is a management tool. You might be managing pulling, managing the dog from being able to fixate on moving things like BCs can, and maybe managing the dog so that he can't lunge and bite someone or something. If you DO NOT have time to train a dog not to pull or for the average dog owner that does not have the time to train then by all means use a head halter (gentle leader, halt, etc.). If you are in an environment where you might be worried or unsure of your dog and how he will act in a new place, then maybe use a head halter, but it should IMO be used as a temporary management tool and as a LAST resort. Not as a permanent fix. Head halters can be dangerous if not used properly and can really tweak the neck or even break the dogs neck. Yes, I have seen it happen first hand. Not GOOD! If a head halter is given too much slack and the dog takes off after something the dog could in fact snap or tweak his neck and have serious injury or even cause death. If someone is using a head halter they need to be taught how to use it. I have seen people yank a dogs neck with a "gentle leader" on and that is just not acceptable. Just because it is a gentle leader and it is supposed to be more humane than a choke chain, prong collar, or worse, it can be used wrong and can be punishing to the dog and even injure the dog. Let's face it if someone does not have time to train their dog to walk on a loose leash and needs to resort to a gentle leader per say, then they are not going to take the time to desensitize and classical condition the dog to LOVE his head halter, gentle leader, halti or whatever brand they buy. They are just going to put it on and go for a walk, and not care one bit how the dog feels about the device.

Ok, well that is my two cents worth!

I MISS YOU EM! Come back to SD soon and visit. Bandit, Twix and Isabelle miss you too! I know that Twix misses Tug most of all and that Bandit misses Splashers! :))

Have a great evening, everyone!
Pam

Emily Larlham said...

I "plugged" my own webite because it is the only source in the entire web and the entire world (sadly) that describes in detail the Progressive Reinforcement Training Manifesto. Even Karen Pryors website has no definition of a type of training that excludes all forms of intimidation. I hope that people will read my manifesto and consider changing their way of interacting with other animals and also people. I am not interested in referring people to any other type of training that involves intimidation in my article. All my leash walking videos are free. So I hope to gain no profit from people looking for advice walking their dog without jerking them by their necks.
I am sorry there IS NO DATA. :( I wish there was. And I hope this article will urge people to CREATE data. But the general fact that dogs necks are as delicate as ours will be enough for me to educate the public of the dangers of attaching leashes to dogs necks. Its just not worth the consequences even if there is no data. I would not attach a leash to childrens necks either, even if there was no data saying whether it caused behavioral changes in them, or whether it caused internal buising or damage to their spine if they were to trip. It's just not worth the risk. I have no benefit for telling people to use harnesses over collars, besides hoping that animals are treated more ethically and humanely by our society.

Emily Larlham said...

Winning prizes in 'contests' is not in the dogs best interest but the humans, I think people should always consider what is in their dogs best interest as well as their own. If their dog is overly stressed by contests causing them to pull on leash, then I would advise the owner to train their dog to feel comfortable in contest environments before making their dog go in the ring to win them prizes. I personally see no importance in the relationship between a dog and a human on winning prizes in competitions. If that is the only reason people can see worth in their dog, then they will set themselves up for disappointment when their dog doesn't win or do perfectly.

rekha said...

You just opened my eye. I didnt thought a leash can give this much effect on my pet. :-( Thanks for this useful article. I will spread this to my best.

On Cue Aussies said...

The vast majority of harnesses shown on this page really are not constructed in a way that is ideal for a dog. Almost all of them cut across the shoulders - inhibiting the dog's movement (and thus having a punishing affect). Chris Zink spent some time evaluating harnesses and will only accept those that don't interfere with the shoulder at all.

Emily Larlham said...

On Cue Aussies- Great that you left a message. Martina my fiancee is building the end of my article with all different examples of harnesses (I posted the article while I look for more research and she builds the end of the article of which harness to choose for your dog). Could you please email me some pics of all the harnesses on your dogs that don't impede shoulder movements. None of the dogs are pullers pictured, apart from Tug my terrier, perhaps I should not have named him Tug... Any harness that does not have a y in the front makes him choke if he suddenly darts off and hits the end of the leash. I do believe harnesses can be very "punishing", but I think you meant "harmful" rather than the word "punishing", the word punishing in terms of dog training means that the harness decreases some sort of behavior in the animal. As anything that is technically defined as "punishment" decreases behavior, and many dogs would pull in harnesses even if it hurt them. I have created 3 videos on youtube on conditioning dogs to not find harnesses punishing to be worn. Many dogs can have an aversion to wearing harnesses. The idea is to never let dogs pull in the harnesses, apart from the ones used for sled dogs and cani cross etc. Pulling into anything on a dog or a person could be damaging. No one should really ever let a dog pull into anything if they want their dog to be healthy, an option for people who dont want to train their dog to walk on a loose leash is to exercise their dogs in large safe areas where the dog can be off leash. I like to train dogs to give into pressure, so when the dog feels leash pressure, its a default cue to turn to owner. That way the leash pressure is not punishing but a cue to back up or turn back and offer attention.

On Cue Aussies said...

I did mean punishing from an operant conditioning standpoint. If a harness is inhibiting shoulder movement, then it is decreasing movement of the shoulder. Decreasing movement is punishing. And yes, it can be harmful also. It's very hard to find harnesses that don't impinge on the shoulders, and even those designed to not impinge must fit properly also.

Emily Larlham said...

If the animal decreases a certain behavior then it could be called punishing, but many dogs will pull with the same force even if it hurts, whether it be on a prong collar, a harness, or a chain with an ingrown collar in a gaping wound. If dogs found a harness that sits on the shoulders or a prong collar punishing, they would no longer pull against it, and there would be no issue with damage being caused. The problem is that dogs dont find things that hurt their bodies punishing. Sadly, if pain worked to train dogs, then there would be a lot of obedient dogs in the world... because most people look to pain as an easy fix. Habituation and sensitization can also happen. All dogs are different and so a harness could be "punishing" to one, while not "punishing" to another, in the same way as one dog could find a shock collar "punishing" or not, or you yelling punishing or not, or you kicking them punishing or not. The dog nor the human decides what is a "punisher". A dog that pulls in a harness and continues to do it is being reinforced in some way by doing it, not punished. Some dogs might not pull in harnesses because they find them punishing, but I would not generalize that to all dogs,just from observation I have seen dogs pulling quite hard in all types of harnesses.

Tasha Miner Salsido said...

@On Cue Aussies: On what do you base your opinion that impeding movement is punishing? I get the impression that a punishment must be emotional in some sense, not strictly physical. That's not to say a harness can't be punishing, my own greyhound detests them and is clearly upset when she walks in one. However, for a dog who isn't bothered by it, but has its gate somewhat restricted, I wouldn't think of that as punishing. I also wondered, as Emily does, which harnesses you recommend that don't impede shoulder movement? I have a Walkeez harness for hiking and agility training... is that one of the brands?

Again, I'm very grateful for this post! I personally used a Halti as a training tool for my reactive dog, Dolce, and it has done wonders for us. We're now able to "graduate" to a harness that clips in front, the Sensation harness.

I think we all need to remember it's about knowing that these are just tools to help train a behavior to occur naturally in all circumstances, not equipment to use for all aspects of life for the dog, necessarily. I use different tools for different circumstances, as they all have benefits and consequences that suit different needs.

On Cue Aussies said...

Punishment has to be emotional? Not at all! It can be purely physical.

I equate the harnesses across the shoulders to something often done is dressage classes. Students tend to pull their shoulders forward, but need to pull them back. For students that can't seem to sit up straight, they will put a vest on them that has straps across the front of the shoulder. It impinges the forward movement and causes discomfort so you pull your shoulders back again. Pulling shoulders forward is punished because it decreases.

The impinging may not cause a decrease in pulling, but it is surely causing other changes in the dog. Their movement and gait will change as they compensate. If we are going to be truly fair to our dogs, we surely don't want to cause that discomfort and change.

Instead of asking me what harnesses I recommend, I suggest you talk to Dr. Chris Zink. She has spent years studying phsyiology and dog movement and is the expert, not me. I was on a list where this came up, people would send links to harnesses they liked, and she would comment on how they were good or bad. Go straight to the expert and ask her opinion on your harness of choice.

On Cue Aussies said...

A comment on one harness from Chris Zink:
Yes, I just completed a study on this exact harness and showed that it significantly alters dogs' gaits, even when there isn't a leash attached. I performed this study using a Gait-Rite analysis system. This is a system with a 26-foot mat with 26,000 sensors in it that detect the dogs' feet, stride length, etc.

And on another:
Just personally, I would not use this harness because it is restrictive. Note the band that goes across the shoulder blade, starting at the shoulder joint. JMO.

And her comments on a harness she liked:
Yes, I really like this harness, but you need to make sure that you get one that is TIGHT around the neck - so tight that it can be a bit hard to get off over the head. Then you know it fits. Simon at Walkeez is a really great guy and will help you fit a harness and also will custom make them- this is the harness I use on my agility dog.

Email her for her opinions and advice. It is much more valuable than mine. She's done the research. She doesn't want the dogs restricted from a health stand-point. And restricted doesn't necessarily mean they won't pull, but restricted movement is an issue with more than just pulling.

On Cue Aussies said...

Comment on another harness:
it actually is restrictive. Note the way there is a band that goes from the front of the chest across the shoulder blade to the dog's back. If I were to do thermal imaging on your dog after he has been wearing it, I am certain I would find that the band in front, especially where it goes across the shoulder, is chafing and creating heat in the muscles.

Emily Larlham said...

There is a confusion between dog trainer lingo and everyday lingo, anything that is "punishing" in terms of animal behavior has to decrease behavior, it can't just simply be physical like the term physical punishment in the courts. In terms of behavior it has to decrease. This is why I left out all the terms such as "positive punishment" and "negative punishment" from my manifesto. I looked at the harness, and it looks very similar to the hurtta harnesses.I will continue to gather research. Another issue if you really want to delve into screwing up a dogs gait, is how fast you walk next to your dog. If you walk the incorrect pace, you can screw your dog up big time, and cause them to walk like a camel instead of a dog... That will be for another article...

philospher77 said...

While I am not opposed to harnesses, I will say that it is very difficult to find one that fits well, especially on oddly-shaped dogs, like my greyhounds. In general, I can get a harness to fit well in one position (generally standing), but if the dog sits, or, even worse, decides to drop her head to sniff something, the harness tends to get loose and slide around. Or else they cut into the armpits. If you are going to promote harnesses, could you please provide some guidance on how to fit them? Thanks!

Emily Larlham said...

All sighthounds have very delicate necks. All dogs are shaped differently so not all harnesses will work for all dogs. For our sighthound trisch we got a harness specially made for her body shape, which is also escape proof from here:

Sighthound Design by Jecka http://hem.passagen.se/jeckson/

As I said, the article is a work in progress, I posted it early to stop people using collars, while I do the research. I am getting married this weekend and then I will be back researching but I dont like plugging brands, as they can be great for one dog but not for another.

The point of the article is dogs necks are so delicate like ours, ANY harness, ill fitting or not, will prevent your dog from getting serious damage to their neck. YES, some harnesses are crap and some are not. The article is about the dangers of attaching the leash to a dogs neck. I make a vow to research and add discriptions of all types of harnesses and which ones weve researched to be best... but really the problem is, a pug, a whippet, a boxer, a chihuahua, a bulldog, a border collie, all are shaped differently. The main idea is to teach the dog not to pull, and then the harness is just for rare occasions that save your dog from running off and being hit by a car, or to obey leash laws. Obviously if you have a new rescue dog or puppy there will be quite a bit of hitting the end of the leash while in training.... Please stay tuned for the section on harnesses... But I will try my best not to find research that isnt done by the same company that sells the same product... if you know what I mean. I actually made Kiko my chihuahuas harness myself- I could not find one on the market suitable. The front red bit is made of strechable fleece, and the back fits well behind the armpits, so while she is walking nothing impedes movement, and then if she were to pull on a rare occasion, the weight is defused into the material that is stretchy. Anyway, off to plan my wedding now...

agandl said...

Thank you - an excellent article. I already use a harness with a front link for one of my dogs - I have now ordered one for the other.

I have also found your video clips excellent and shared them widely

Dog Charming said...

Just a quickie, I agree with Emily about collars, the delicate neck area and the risk of injury in the event of a sudden pull. I am looking for a chest harness, and my concern about chest harnesses is the restriction of the scapular/shoulder complex of the dog. Not in a training sense, but in a physical sense - the physiotherapist in me notices how the full free movement of the scapula is prevented with many harnesses. I'm not sure what the long term effects of this restricted movement may be. Stiffness? Reduced range of movement? Chronic pain? Don't know. But it's just a thought. I haven't found the perfect walking gear - but I do agree on finding the least intrusive and one that causes the least amount of harm in an emergency situation. And never let the walking gear take the place of teaching your dog. Thanks Emily for the passion and care you take to make the lives of dogs better by educating and challenging their guardians to think critically :-)

Marjorie said...

I haven't used a collar for years other than to hold their ID tags. When I got my first Cavalier four years ago we were walking on a collar and leash when she suddenly lunged up and forward to catch a snowflake and when she hit the end of the leash her hind end came out from underneath her and she flipped backwards hitting her hear very hard on the pavement. I went out the next day and bought a harness and I have not walked off a collar since.

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Dogert said...

Wow there are some crazy comments here...
Some things I would like to point out. If you have already trained your dog even a little to walk politely on a collar but not done the same with a harness, of course the dog is going to pull on the harness at first. It's a different situation, dogs are situational. If you haven't, they still might pull on a harness more just because it hurts less, but this is no reason to not train. And as she said, A WORK IN PROGRESS. Do people not read anymore?

Okay I'm a huge fan of your videos so had to check out your blog too. I've been using a harness because I found out it reduces reactivity (and it did!) way before I found out the truth about dogs' necks being just like ours.
Here is a study to add to this (if you don't have it already) under eye issues: http://1stsat.cynod.com/CollarsandEyeIssues.pdf
Can't wait to see more added to this.
(on a side note, you should make your manifesto in bigger font so people don't have as hard a time reading it)

Erik Grendahl said...

Jean Donaldson refers to a study on neck damage to dogs resulting from leash jerks. I believe she references the study in Culture Clash.

Erik Grendahl
Country Canine
www.countryk9.net

James said...

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Betsy Boo said...

Its incredible what you can do when you use clicker training and other positive methods- my betsy is no means a pro but I am still amazed at what she has achieved in such a short amount of time :) She has taught me so much! She has her own youtube channel- I think she thinks its me that is being trained! http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoC8Zdmp3qxKVgn5jTebCVw?feature=guide

Michael Lego said...

Dogs owners must know about it. Too much tight collars are not good for your pet because it is a threat to their health.
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stubbypuddin said...

Thank you for this. I'm a big fan of harnesses. I think flat collars should be for holding ID only.

And that's the other problem with flat collars. If you walk a dog in same collar than holds ID, and your dog slip his/her collar, then you have a loose dog without ID.

But I have seen dogs slip harnesses - not as easily as a flat collar. So I use a harness/martingale combo - with pressure on the harness and a martingale as a backup.

I made a video of how I do this but don't know if I can post the link. If you google "youtube peteducation collar and harness safety" the first two videos that pop up are mine.

Thanks again for this and all you do

Jamie said...

Pulling with indiscriminate force and without care for the dog can be damaging. Thanks for your post, this is an eyeopener.

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Sze-Jade Soh said...

• This post is indeed an eye-opener, as many dog owners continue using dog collars. The graphics in your post have definitely made the complexity of the injuries more understandable. These potential harm should definitely be spread around amongst dog owners. I have experienced my dog continuing to struggle against its collar despite coughing and choking. Never have I thought it would be damaging. Thank you for this informational post.

Emily Watson said...

Dogs owners must know about it. Too much tight collars are not good for your pet because it is a threat to their health.

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musicofnote1 said...

If there is one specific factor that will effect your dog's git with a harness is one that is set up such, that the vertical straps running behind the front legs is too close to or in many cases slips under the front legs, especially during the back swing of the front legs. Most harnesses make in North America are fit this way. Several European ones however are not - one common recommendation from European harness makers is, that this vertical strap be approx. a hand width behind the front legs, when the dog is standing still and straight. I've ordered a Mekuti (also TTouch product) harness with an extra long longitudinal back strap - approx 6 inches long or so. this harness is one that allows the leash to be hooked onto 3-4 different positions on the back and/or the front and/or the sides.

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Saramidas said...

This article is great! I'm glad you pointed out that a dog's neck is so similar to ours, this should get people thinking and onto soft harnesses.

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Milliscent Morgan said...

Thanks for this blog that gives great information same as the post of dog obedience training NH. Thanks!

ThanksandGig'Em said...

Hi Emily, I mentioned your post in my blog here. . Great information, thanks for sharing.

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Anwell Valderama said...

Dogs should not be treated that way. I understand that they need to leash their neck especially if their roaming around the public. But if there's a chance that he behaves well, I guess there's no need to do it that way.

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Rohini Chawla said...

Oh Wao Emily. This post is absolutely fabulous. Thanks for writing under this topic. For dog owners, who are still learning how to raise puppies in a proper manner, these tips will help a lot and they should be aware of harmful effects associated with attaching leash to the lovely dog. After reading this post, people can educate themselves about the importance of spine for blood and energy flow in dog’s body.howtoraisepuppy.com

Mavis Vermillion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mavis Vermillion said...

The use of different kinds of leashes and collars depends on the breed of dogs, and whole physical condition of dogs. So before getting one, you better ask your vet what kind of leash or collar that you must use for your dog. =)


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It is the best way you want effortlessly and conveniently. The visual training made make every steps of the training more enjoyable and easier.

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Debby said...

There are some new (to me, anyway) harnesses illustrated here. I hope you'll leave some links for a wide selection of options.
I've been using a harness with my dog for years now. Seemed like overkill for a dog that doesn't pull on a lease, but common sense told me it was kinder.

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Steph said...

What are your thoughts on halters like the Gentle leader and the Halti? My vet and trainer both suggested I try them on my 70lb border collie while he learns to heel.

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Joan Price said...

Great write up! Thanks for the share. I have never been a big fan of traditional collars ever since I took my dog to a dog training class in Maryland and the trainer told me how bad it was. Personally I feel that those harnesses are not only better for the dog but make it easier to control the dog on a walk as well.

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Dapper Dog Press said...

THANK YOU for writing this article Emily!

I have read through some of the comments posted here and it seems like many of your readers are still trying to find their "perfect walking gear". Just wanted to add that we love the Wonder Walker and have had great success fitting it on several of our differently shaped dogs. We love it so much we even wrote a blog post describing why --> http://dapperdogpress.com/why-we-love-the-wonder-walker

Thanks again for everything you do for the training world :)

Dapper Dog Press said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bubblegum Casting said...

Great blog!

Ricardo Muriel said...

hi i like your page and have much reason in your subjects
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Amber Hemmer said...

This is a great article. I've always wondered about how a leash impacts a dog, but since it's the norm, I don't really question it too much. Thanks for putting this information together!

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I read your blog. Such a great information which is very helpful for us.Thanks for your consideration. If anyone wants to any tips for pets then come with us and get tips for pets.Thanks again.

Unknown said...

Hi Emily,
Re the references for your article, Dr Anders Hallgren is not a veterinarian; he's a psychologist. See: http://www.andershallgren.se/en/ Also, the study has been published in book format, "Back problems in Dogs", recently translated into English: http://www.andershallgren.se/en/books.php
Sincerely,
Lisbeth Plant
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Elayne Taylor said...

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Kind Regards,

Elayne Taylor
obedience training

Albert einstien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Albert einstien said...

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thomas morrison said...

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Joey Austin said...

Nice to know this topic, it was really nice to know about this for my dog. Thanks for sharing this here and I'm sure everyone needs this.

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Richard Cypher said...

Thank you for posting this about harnesses. I try to get harnesses for my dogs whenever I can. My border collie needs a collar however since he eats through the harness and I just can't keep them on. Are there any collars that are less damaging that you've seen?

Richard | http://www.aocb.com/training

Joseph Morris said...

This word needs to be spread. Just the other day from coming home from work I saw a little dog on just a leash, I stopped and suggested them getting a harness after explaining why it is important but I don't think they believed me or thought I was crazy!

Joe, author of http://www.anydogrescue.org

Liama Jhons said...

let's assume the best thing about dog training is to trained the dog well.
Training dog for a leash

deny lost said...

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