No Pulling! Dogs Walk Easy With the Easy Walk Harness
A couple of days before we picked up our dog Doughty, my wife and I visited the pet store to check off the items on the list given us by the breeder: crate, food and water bowls, collar and leash, etc.
Everything on the list was a cinch to find and choose until we got to collar and leash. There were so many to choose from — regular old clasp collars in cloth or nylon webbing or leather; silvery choker collars; vicious toothy prong collars. Our little terrier didn't need one of those!
We did what most people do when faced with too many choices — we went with what we knew, which was the regular old clasp collar and a purple nylon leash. So cute! Also way too big. It was several weeks before we fitted Doughty into both, set out for our first walk, and discovered our mistake.
How I Discovered the Easy Walk
Doughty pulled at every new smell and shape and color, choking and hacking all the way up the sidewalk. We tried all the tricks we could remember from previous puppies and a few more we found on the Internet and in the books we'd bought.
Nothing worked. A walk is supposed to be enjoyable for dog and walker alike! We called a local obedience school for help.
Halfway through the first session the trainer suggested we give up our goal of having a dog that heels impressively on a regular leash and collar.
"But what about the pulling?" I said."One day she's going to choke herself!"
"Oh, we'll stop that. We'll just use a different leash and collar."
They sold them in the kennel store, she told us. We were skeptical. If we didn't like it, we could return it.
Five years later, Doughty wears that same Easy Walk Harness every morning on our stroll. Whenever another dog walker stops me on the sidewalk and comments on how well my dog heels and never seems to pull, I smile and point at the harness. "I wish I could say it was me, but it's all in the harness. Night and day. You really should try it."
What's Great About It
The Easy Walk looks like all those other dog harnesses you've seen that loop over the back, under the chest, and across the breastbone. With those, the leash attaches to a ring on the dog's back, the whole setup sort of like a draft horse's harness. In fact, while those harnesses prevent the dog from choking itself, they make pulling easier, while also encouraging the dog's instinct to pull.
It Prevents Pulling
Instead, on the Easy Walk, the leash attaches to the harness with a ring on the breastbone strap. The dog is still secure in the harness and still protected from choking. However, attaching at the breastbone makes pulling more difficult because there's much less to pull against. Plus, whenever the dog pulls, the effect is to turn the dog in toward the handler's legs and feet, no place a dog wants to go.
Put those two effects together and suddenly you're the neighborhood's model dog-walker.
What else is great?
Doughty has seen almost five years of daily walks featuring plenty of fetch in the park and occasional romps in the surf at Dog Beach.
It's Easy to Clean
Just toss in the washer with the rest of your dog's toys and bedding.
What the Easy Walk Compares To
Some of my neighbors with bigger dogs use the Easy Walk Gentle Leader. It's a regular collar with a loop around the dog's snout that's supposed to heighten the "turn-in" effect. Looks awkward to me, but I've never used one.
I've seen prong collars — the vicious toothy things I mentioned above — in use, too, and I understand they have their adherents. I'm not one of them.
Most of my neighbors use the standard harness, and I have as well while dog-sitting my sister-in-law's puggle. It prevents choking, but it does not discourage pulling.
Who the Easy Walk Is Best For
Any dog walker who has struggled with a pulling dog will appreciate the Easy Walk, maybe especially those with small dogs who seem to thrive on pulling (and yapping) and have smaller, less muscular necks.
How It Could Be Better
The harness doesn't cure pulling with 100% effectiveness. My dog has figured out a "crab-walk" in which she angles her body such that the leash and snap rise over her shoulder, like a hobo's stick or a messenger bag strap. Yeah, clever.
Also, the adjustment doo-hickeys on the breastbone strap don't stay put for very long and adjusting them is fussy. It's important to keep that part snug because otherwise the snap and the leash dangle, which makes crab-walking easier and allows the dog to step over the leash. To fix the step over problem, another Easy Walk user I know attaches the leash to the harness and to the dog's regular collar.
What They Don't Mention in the Manual
Nobody else knows how to put it on. Seriously. Your sister-in-law who dog watches for you will put it on like a regular harness and so will the groomers at the grooming place and the techs at the vet.
My trick is to remember that the Easy Walk label is on the top strap and I leave that strap buckled all the time. I unbuckle the bottom strap to put it on and take it off. When we're "getting ready" (don't say that around Doughty unless you mean it), Doughty sits, I slip the loop made by the top strap and breastbone strap over her head, then pull the bottom strap behind her forelegs and buckle it.
Bottom Line Recommendation
I am a firm believer in the Easy Walk Harness and recommend it to dog owners every chance I get. I've even given a few as gifts. At $15 or so, it's a low risk purchase that will pay off many times over in less pulling, more enjoyable walks, and a better handler-dog relationship, overall.
Where to Get Yours
Doughty got hers at obedience school, but I've seen them all over.
- Big box pet retailers
- Local pet supply shops
Priced from $12 to $35 depending on size and retailer.
Note: The PetSafe Easy Walk Harness used to be called the Premier Easy Walk Harness, but Premier was recently purchased by PetSafe. You may see one or the other brand name on the packaging while they work through old Premier branded inventory.
What's your favorite dog walk harness or collar?