Our standard poodle puppy, Begley, is 15 weeks old, and we're working on loose leash walking training by doing the "be a tree" method and treating for being beside us or coming back to us after pulling ahead on the leash. We're starting to see some success, but it's pretty slow going (which I expect and am okay with, but wouldn't mind getting faster results, either). I'm wondering about the Easy Walk harness to maybe speed things along, but I have a few questions for people who've used it before.
First, is it safe for puppies this age? If not, what's a good age to consider starting to use it? I don't like that once in a while (when he's really excited about something), Begley starts pulling fairly hard on his leash, and the pressure from his collar makes him cough. But are there other concerns associated with the Easy Walk harness?
Second, does it actually work in training loose leash walking in the sense that one day Begley will naturally walk with a loose leash, even with a normal collar? That is, is it possible to transition away from relying on the Easy Walk harness to maintain good walking manners after a period of time? I guess my question is whether the Easy Walk harness is a positive, effective training tool, or if it just masks the symptoms without really working on the underlying behaviour.
Thanks for any advice and shared experiences! I want to do what's best for our training in the long run, even if it means slower "baby steps" at these early stages.
I think they're safe, but I am not sure if they're teaching your dog as much as they would learn from the method you're already employing. You're not just teaching your puppy to not pull, but you're teaching to look to you for direction and to focus on you more.
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I don't like collars so I tried halti and easy walk harness (or similar) and they both work to a certain point. Before investing in one of those I would suggest you try a simple trick using your regular collar and leash : When you get tired of "beeing a tree" just lift one of your dog's paw, put the leash under it and keep walking. It should stop him from pulling, he won't like it but he will walk anyway and it will give you a break from beeing a tree. When you are ready to be a tree again get the leash from under is paw, it's a reward for not pulling for your dog so it could slow him down on the pulling faster than just the "beeing a tree" method.
You can create an easy walk harness with a regular harness by passing the leash from the back of the dog on the front of his shoulders and back to your hand. What I like about this "home made easy walk" harness is that you can revert to the regular harness to reward your dog for not pulling and to "test" if he pulls less.
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I've been using an easy walk harness with my 7 month old Spoo since the day I got him. Being a chiropractor I was concerned about the impact of a collar on an undeveloped skeletal system, especially when combined with a jumpy poodle. I have had no problems training loose lead walking and, indeed obedience heeling work. I utilized the be a tree technique, combined with treating early and often for being in the heel position and he heels beautifully. At the obedience school I attend they like us to use a collar and he has transitioned to this with no worries at all. I'm not even sure he notices that he is on the collar and not the harness. Good luck with it.
Thanks for the advice so far! I agree with MaryLynn's thought that one of the goals is to have him pay attention and "check in" with us, but am encouraged by Baileysmum's experience in that it's possible to combine the techniques (treating reinforcement) and achieve good training goals. One thing we try to do here and there is intersperse stop, come back, and sit throughout the walk; perhaps that would help reinforce the attention aspect of things, in addition to treating when he's walking in a good position and looking at us? Or maybe use a harness some of the time, and a collar some of the time?
I think we'll try either an Easy Walk harness or the homemade version suggested by julietcr1 tomorrow or on the weekend and see how it goes. If it feels like a band-aid solution for our particular situation, I'll abandon it in favour of perfecting my tree imitation, but if it feels like it will still allow us to work on polite behaviour and good attention, then at least now I have some questions answered and feel less uncertain.
Thanks again! Any other experiences (good or bad) with this approach would still be great for me to hear about. I'll check back in on this thread and let you know how our experiment goes!
I too initially used the Easy Walk harness, thanks to schnauzerpoodle's recommendation and my vet urging me to do so to protect Chagall's trachea. I used the same training techniques of having him focus ("Watch Me!") and "Be a Tree" and changing direction and treating and rewarding for a few correct steps at a time. It took patience, and consistency, but he made a smooth transition to a collar without any problem whatsoever. He now has an extensive collar "wardrobe" and several harnesses for when we go hiking or wading in the river. That's my testimonial. Hang in there, loose leash walking and heeling DOES happen, in time.
Cabryn Chagall CGC
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Thanks for the additional posts! We're definitely going to give it a try. I'm actually really excited to try it now! It's so encouraging to hear that other people have used the harness successfully, and that success will come in time (along with the hard work)!