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How to Put On & Fit a Dog Collar or Harness

Learn how to put a dog collar or harness on a puppy and make sure it fits from dog trainer Robert Haussmann of Dogboy, Inc. in this Howcast video.


Fitting a harness or a collar on your puppy can be a little bit more daunting than it sounds. It's very important that you know how to fit a collar on a dog so it doesn't slip off or so that it doesn't hurt them. The rule of thumb is typically that you can get two fingers through the collar, but it's no looser than that. You don't want it to be so loose that it can come off the dog's head. When you're walking with them out on the street if they see something or they try and pull back, it could very easily slip over their head, and they can get away, and that's just not safe. So when you're using a collar, you want to be sure it's two fingers. I typically get these flat-buckle collars. See, they can get away from me. So it's just a buckle that clips together like this. They also have them with metal belt loops. They're flat, and they're strong, and they're secure, and it's about two fingers through.

Now fitting a harness is the same thing. There's different types of harnesses. This is a traditional harness that the leash gets clipped on the back. So what we do in this situation is put the small end over the dog's head. All right. We're going to put his one leg through this hole here. Stand up, bud. Let's get up here so everybody can get a good look. All right. And then this final strap is going to come around behind his armpit and clip into that spot right here. Now this is where the leash gets clipped on this. Now roughly the same thing applies with a harness. If you can get two fingers through, that's good.

You don't want it be so loose that it's ill-fitting and maybe rubbing the dog in a weird place. When these are too tight or too loose, they have a tendency to rub under the armpits a little too hard and kind of give them a little rash or strip some fur away. So it's really important to have it fit tight. Sometimes people will think that it's too tight. They feel bad for the dog. Just remember it's the same way. It should fit like your belt or like your shoes. It could be nice and snug without being too tight or too loose. That's the idea for a harness.

Now there's a harness that I use quite a bit for large dogs who pull and large puppies who pull and even small puppies that pull. Sometimes you want to be sure that you're putting pressure on a dog's throat when they're too young, because their spine and their trachea are developing, and using a collar when pulling them around can really do some damage to their throats. So a harness like this is great.

However, if you have a dog that pulls and the leash is clipped to the back or even with the collar here, the dog will tend to pull against that pressure. It's called an oppositional reflex. So when you pull here or you pull from a harness on the back, they tend to drop their weight into it. It actually encourages pulling, which is hard to see. People are trying to correct the dog from pulling, accidentally causing damage to the trachea or to the spine as it develops, and the dog is reacting to that reflex and pulling against it.

So they do sell something called an Easy Walk Harness. There's one called a Sensible Harness, and they work really well. When you look at this, all right, there's three different color straps. The one strap that's a different color comes off. The whole contraption goes over the dog's head. Then I'm going to do the same as before and clip this under his armpit. Okay. Now you be sure it's coming under both armpits here and here.

Sometimes people will put it on accidentally with one leg coming through here, this area, and it will just fall right off. So make sure it's fitting correctly. Now with this, if a leash is clipped to the front here, when the dog pulls it will actually bypass that oppositional reflex, and the dog will spin back around. Hence pulling no longer works for the dog. Dogs really only repeat what works for them. So if it's not working to pull, they tend to not pull, and then you can reward them for walking next to you.

These are great tools. They're great devices. Any harness that you buy, if you're confused about the way it works, these days almost all these companies have tutorials on how to use it, if not instructions in the actual packaging. So there are great things to choose from. Make sure they're fitted correctly so you're dog stays safe and so that they stay comfortable, and you can go for nice, long walks and enjoy it. So that's how I would show you how to fit a collar or harness.

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