Getting Puppy To Wear A Harness?

I am having a big problem with my new boxer puppy Zeus. I have tried everything to get him to wear a collar or a harness. He freaks out throws himself into windows and trees won't eat or go potty. He refuses to do anything except lay or wallow trying to get the collar off. Now we have a harness and he is doing the same thing. I have raised a lot of dogs and never had this happen before.


Kenda from New Port Richey, Florida

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May 9, 20080 found this helpful

Get some little dog treats and treat him when you put on the collar. Find something he loves and be generous. Keep that collar on at all times. He should never be without it. Use a flat woven or good leather collar that fits well. Leave it on at all times making sure it is not too loose and will slip over his head. You should be able to insert two fingers-- just comfortably. Check size often as pups grow fast. Cut off excess if collar is too long and bugging puppy. Replace with larger collar as needed.

Never leave on a training collar (a chain collar) as they can catch on stuff resulting in strangulation.

Please do not let your dog ever be without his collar.


Just yesterday a young Dalmation wondered up on my porch. Just a pup really. Silly and agitated. She had a little blood smeared on her head. She was sweet and willing to let me leash her. Thankfully she had a collar and tags and I was able to call her vet. They contacted the owner and a frantic young mother and family re-united with their 8 month-old puppy.

After you put on the collar, start with the harness and treat each time you put the harness over his head. Then treat and praise. Harness or not, puppy should always wear his collar. Really, as you continue to harness train puppy will forget about his collar.

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May 9, 20080 found this helpful

I've done a bit of research about this because I'm getting ready to train my cat to wear a harness. Did you ever think the harness may be tickling you pet? But we DO know it's driving him crazy! The same thing happened to me when I put one of those plastic cones on my cat so he wouldn't lick his sutures after surgery, he started going mad & running & bumping into things! I thought he would hurt himself so I took it off, then he settled down & behaved!


The advice I've received is to only put the harness on for a few minutes then keep adding more time on every day. With my cat, I'm going to distract him with a bit of chicken or tuna right after I put it on him then get out his favorite toy & play with him. This may or may not help you. Maybe when he's on your lap you could set your fingers on him (kind of firmly) like he's wearing a collar or harness (only it's REALLY your hand), or maybe you could make a light & thin harness out of yarn or string, for him to wear, just so he gets the idea of what it feels like to wear something. Also, try it on him tighter, then try it on looser.

You might also try a doggie backpack on him so he can "work" carrying water for you on walks or whatever. This way, he could get used to something on his back. I know its a long shot & he'll probably hate the doggie backpack just a much!


It sounds cruel, but you may have to put the harness on then hold him down until he settles down & submits to you. Then massage him & give him a treat when he DOES settle down. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know... I do know (from watching the Dog Whisperer) that if you do take the harness off while your pet is acting up & misbehaving he'll think he's won (that round at least) so try to find a time that you can take the harness off when YOU have the advantage & he's mellow & not struggling. Otherwise, he'll have the "power" (over whether or not he wears the harness) & you'll have lost, & he'll have "won"(in HIS mind at least!).

---> The first thing I'd do BEFORE trying any of these things is to buy a product called RESCUE REMEDY any heath food store & all pet supply stores & some vets. This is a homeopathic remedy that works amazingly well in people & animals it's great for people's panic attacks & doggies panic attacks as well. My mom's vet gave her some for when her cats had to travel. It also settles them down when they freak out going to the vet or are hurt. It's called Bach Flower Remedies - Rescue Remedy. I think everybody should have a small bottle of it around for emergencies.


My mothers vet swears by it & it helped my boyfriend's panic attacks when nothing else did. At first I thought it was the "Placebo effect" then I realized that it works for animals & they have no clue about placebos! Rescue Remedy also helps pets that are afraid of thunder storms & fireworks, but I think it works best for those afraid of the trip to the vet! I'd give your pet depending on his size 5 or 10 drops of it about 5 minutes before you put the harness on him.

Wish me luck with my cat & his harness! I'm teaching him how to wear the harness in case we ever have flood or an earthquake & have to evacuate. I want him to be able to go on to a leash that's pegged into the ground, because you can't keep a pet in his crate all day long & sadly, the shelter's don't accept animals, so if a natural disaster ever happened, you'd see 2 adults living with a fuzzy black cat in a super-tiny hatchback car!

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May 10, 20080 found this helpful

I would put the collar on in the house and then play with him with his favorite toy or food. He may scratch at the collar but it isn't going to kill him. Don't attach a leash for the first day. Let him walk around the house and just get used to it. Then the next day attach a light short leash to the collar while he is in the house supervised. Let him follow you around the house and see it isn't going to kill him either. Then gently pick up the leash and walk a few steps with him and praise him if he doesn't freak out.


Most puppies will willingly follow you around the house. After you spend some time getting him to take a few steps and walk around the house then take him outside. I would probably carry him outside the first time with the leash on, because most dogs bolt out the door and you don't want it to scare him if he hits the end of the leash. Then place him on the ground and walk around the yard with him holding the leash. Just talk quietly to him like you did in the house and that should help keep him calm. That is the best info to get started leash walking I can think of.

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By Zeusmom (Guest Post)
May 10, 20080 found this helpful

Thank you all for your input. Zeus is doing much better with the harness he still refused the collar so I am leaving the harness on with his tags on it.

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May 11, 20080 found this helpful

I asked about your dog's problem (learning to wear a the harness) yesterday when I was buying cat litter at a high-end pet store that sells mostly organic & quality pet products. They suggested 2 things other things I hadn't thought about:

---> Pheromones for dogs: You can buy these in a spray or in a defuser. These mimic the pheromones that the mother dog puts out when she's nursing, so they help calm dogs & relieve stress (they are also made for cats). These are made by several companies.

---> She also suggested "Clicker Training" which you need to learn from a qualified trainer who specializes in it.
* a NOTE about my previous post:

There has been some confusion about my cat being left outside on a line while wearing a harness without me being there... I'm not leaving him outside by himself. I'm training my cat to wear a harness because we live in an earthquake area and an area that's been evacuated because of severe floods... I figured, If we ever had to evacuate from our home with him (Smokey) then we could put him on a harness (while we watched him) so he could go to the bathroom & so he wouldn't run away. This way he could get out of his crate & out of our car. (we'd have to live in our car with our cat because evacuation shelters don't let animals in) I'm just trying to be prepared. I don't condone leaving a cat alone while tied up in the yard, harness OR collar!

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