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training to overcome fear of harness?

Discussion in 'Labrador Training' started by Lara, Nov 16, 2016.

  1. Lara

    Lara Registered Users

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    Indie has a terrible fear of her harness. We have a big struggle to get it on her, and when it is on, she freezes completely (you can put her tail into different positions and it will stay like that!). This used to be for up to 5 minutes, now it is maybe a minute or so before she unfreezes herself to come and get a treat from me in the kitchen. She actually has an unfreezing ritual - which is kind of funny if she wasn't so miserable :( - she walks with stiff legs backwards around the coffee table, sideways into the kitchen and then after her treat recovers enough to walk forwards.

    She wears her harness for every walk, so at least twice a day, and has done since we got it 4 months ago. So it doesn't seem like she is just going to 'get used to it'. I've tried click-treating for her tolerating it near her, then me touching her with it, then touching her with it near her head, trying to gradually get closer to getting it over her head...but we get so far and no further (the going over her head part).

    Anyway, I read something on here about the bucket game for handling issues - do you think this could be adapted to help us with this harness phobia? Has anyone else had a problem like this? I mean to start with the bucket game anyway as we have huge problems with ear cleaning etc., but not sure if it can help with the harness too?

    Its getting to the stage that I am late for work because it takes me so long to get her out in the mornings :( and I don't think my boss would think 'my dog was frozen' is a valid excuse...:rolleyes:
     
  2. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    I have this with Charlie. I now no longer use a harness unless I absolutely have to do so. And I love harnesses!

    I do not think the bucket game would work for this, and it certainly didn't work for Charlie. Mainly because putting on a harness is not something that you can stop and not do (like you can with eye drops). You either put it on or you don't.

    I spent months on this. Months. I even cut up a harness into little bits in order to desensitise Charlie to it gradually by placing bits close to his body. It didn't work, or rather only worked to a very limited extent.

    I'd say I did improve things a fair bit. He will tolerate it being put on at least and I did reduce his horror of the harness. These days, I tend to put it on outside the house. So I'll put it on and immediately let him off lead and things like that. If he is excited enough about something else, he does forget about it very quickly.

    But, to be honest, some dogs just hate harnesses. My dog is now 3.5 years old, so is far from being a puppy, and I just walk him on a wide flat collar and use the harness only when I judge that to do otherwise might risk his health (e.g. I would put him on a harness if he was watching other dogs retrieve or something like that, where I know he would lunge forwards).
     
  3. zrinka

    zrinka Registered Users

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    I sympathize. Kona hates her harness(es) since around same age, I can not name a single reason why.
    Tried different models, touching game you described, harness laying on the floor all day, putting harness on while feeding... We`ve overcame the freezing part but she hides when she realizes we are supposed to go for a walk. When we move further away, she forgets the harness and enjoys her walk.

    I`m not sure what bucket game is (link please)?
     
  4. Raven12

    Raven12 Registered Users

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    I also have this with Jura, and now have stopped using a harness to walk her. The only time I use a harness is for flyball where she is excited and forgets about it very quickly. I researched and tried various methods to desensitise her to a harness but never had huge success. She will sit nicely and let me put a herness on her, but is very subdued with it on.
     
  5. MF

    MF Registered Users

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    What kind of harness are you using? A head halter or a body harness? My dog hates the head halter, tries to pull it off. But a body harness, no problem at all. (He also doesn't mind it when my husband plays dress-up and puts his T-shirt on him or his socks on his paws and his tail -- Snowie is very easy going that way!)

    I'm wondering if you could get a harness that has straps that you could clip on instead of having to pull it over her head? Snowie's harness could be clipped on if I needed to -- it has a clip under the chest and another around the front of the chest (it's a front-fastening harness). I don't bother unclipping both straps because he's not bothered at all, but this might be an idea if your dog gets frightened having something pulled over her head? How is she with her collar?

    Could it be hurting her? Rubbing under her armpits? Putting pressure on her neck or back? Hurting her back? Have you tried a really comfy padded harness?
     
  6. Rosie

    Rosie Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Is there a reason you have to use a harness?
     
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  7. Lara

    Lara Registered Users

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    Thanks everyone! Ok, it sounds like it is a common problem and not that easy to solve!

    The reason why I need to use a harness is because we are using a training line with her at the moment, so there is not another option really. When we adopted her she came with a head harness (a halti) that she was exactly the same with - we thought it was the head issue so got her a padded, front-attaching harness instead and introduced it slowly with lots of treats - but exactly the same problem. Given that she was the same with the halti, I don't think it is anything to do with it hurting her (and she was scared of it right from the start). And although putting it over her head is the bit she hates the most, she is fine with other things put over her head - we have an LED collar for night walks that slips over her head and she is quite happy about it. It is something about the feeling of something against her body (in a place other than the normal collar place) that freaks her out. And I think that is why she walks backwards and sideways afterwards - she is trying to back away from the feeling of it and trying to avoid it touching her.

    It sounds like we might just have to battle through and wait for the day that we don't need to use one! But JulieT's method of putting it on outside actually during the walk might work for us - I think she is too excited about other stuff then to be frozen for long...and I have finally got around to working on loose lead walking which she does with the lead attached to her flat collar, so it gives me an excuse to loose-lead on her flat collar down to the field, then put her harness on....lets hope she doesn't get a phobia of the field now...
     
  8. Lara

    Lara Registered Users

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    I haven't tried it yet but I just came across it mentioned in this thread:
    http://thelabradorforum.com/threads/scared-of-eye-drops.16798/
    it seems like it is really effective for doing stuff to dogs that need to be done, like ear drops, nail clipping etc.
     
  9. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Don't put the harness on in the same place, don't be predictable with it, otherwise the dog transfers the avoidance of the harness to the place you put it on. Vary the excitement that follows the harness putting on. It a good excuse to come up with loads of interesting new games. :) So harness on, throw ball/play tug/send for retrieve etc. just immediately follow the harness going on with the best thing you can come up with.
     
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  10. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Yep - this is what it's like for Charlie. It's nothing to do with the style of the harness, it's the feeling around his body. He also hates coats and fleeces. It's just the way he is.
     
  11. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Registered Users

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    Moo just lies on the floor and won't move if you put on a harness or coat. She now wears a very loose harness to go out because she almost totally deaf and visually impaired. It's the only way to walk her safely now. She got used to it gradually. Also she's much older and she now relies on me on the other end to guide her and help her negotiate the world around her. She just hated them when she was younger. I was lucky she didn't need one then
     
  12. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Registered Users

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    I just wonder what it is? Moo never liked too much stroking either she hates to be confined and restricted. She doesn't like other people, she ignores everyone. Is it supersensitiveity does she feel trapped or is just a spoilt little dog who likes her own way, I don't think its this. I just know she hates the feeling
     
  13. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

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    I can never understand, if a dog is so scared or worried about a harness, why people continue to use it (though can understand why @SwampDonkey needs to do so). Even with a long line it can be used without pulling on the dog's neck. I just don't like to think of dogs being that worried.
     
  14. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    In certain circumstances, if a person were to step on a long line, or a line got even inadvertently caught, when a dog was heading off at speed, it could break its neck.

    I don't like worrying a dog, but I would worry a dog before I would risk it breaking its neck.
     
  15. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Registered Users

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    When I fell and broke my shoulder I fell really hard.
    Moo was on her lead a and energy produced by me falling caused her to hurt her shoulder. It jarred her hard. It always freaks me our when I see a dog in a headhalter on an extending lead. I tried to explain to the owner what would happen if force was applied but it was pointless.
     
  16. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

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    I wouldn't use a headcollare with an extending lead and I wouldn't use a long line either, at all :) I don't think long lines train a dog, though that is just me!

    Incidentally, is there any evidence of any dog breaking its neck due to long line/extending lead? Not being argumentive, just interested.
     
  17. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Registered Users

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    I know its just so dangerous. I've not come across any statistics but have seen dogs hurt by this. I've also seen dogs on extending leads nearly get run over.
     
  18. Boogie

    Boogie Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Yes, some dogs simply hate harnesses whatever you do and however carefully you introduce it. Guide Dogs call it 'body sensitive'.

    As you can imagine they introduce their harnesses with great care, but there are one or two dogs every year who never take to it and get withdrawn for this reason.

    We are very, very careful how we introduce the puppy jackets. Our supervisor does the first fitting and after that the dog wears it only at meal times for a week or more. Then they wear it only in very quiet areas they know well. If an adverse thing happens in the early days they can associate the two and 'blame' the jacket. Once they are used to the jacket/harness this no longer happens.

    But body sensitive dogs don't take to the harness even with all these careful steps.


    ...
     
  19. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Yep, basic physics.

    What you could do to demonstrate this possibility to yourself, is tie a 30m rope around your neck and tie the other end very firmly to a lamppost. Now back up the length of the rope, and get on a powered scooter. Accelerate forwards until you reach the speed of a dog running flat out, I'd say 30mph would be good, and see what happens to your neck when you hit the end of the rope.

    No, on second thoughts, don't do that. :) You'd probably break your neck.
     
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  20. MF

    MF Registered Users

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    At one dog school we attended, all dogs had to wear head halters. We were training distance stays and had to use a long lead. Even as I type this I get so angry when I consider that I was a novice handler and looked to the instructor for expert guidance. Well, everyone knew Snowie was easily distracted and an immature puppy. So it was no surprise that Snowie saw another class where balls were being thrown (lots of classes on same field) and from being in a down stay a few meters away from me he made a wild dash for the ball. My instinct was to let him run but the instructor shouted: step on his line. What an idiot I was to listen to him. Snowie reached the end of the line and did a somersault. His head got very badly jerked. I only used the head halter at class cos we had to, and after each class thereafter he limped on a front leg. At the time I didn't make the connection until someone mentioned her dog limped from a neck injury. I took Snowie to the vet each time he limped and they never had a definitive answer, one vet thought growing pains (often locums at that practice). When I look back now, I am more likely to believe it was caused by that somersault. Especially given that we also now know Snowie has a slipped lumbar disc. A puppy's neck is such a vulnerable part of their anatomy and based on my experience I'd never risk injuring it with a long line attached to it.
     

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