Rescue Dog Screaming at Harness

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Rescue Dog Screaming at Harness

This is a discussion on Rescue Dog Screaming at Harness within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi everyone, brand new here and hoping to get some help. In late May I adopted a 2 year old Chihuahua mix. When we first ...

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Old 07-15-2018, 11:37 AM
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Unhappy Rescue Dog Screaming at Harness

Hi everyone, brand new here and hoping to get some help. In late May I adopted a 2 year old Chihuahua mix.

When we first brought her home she would scream like you are stabbing her anytime you tried to touch her. She is doing a lot better, 95% of the time there isn't screaming anymore when you are just going for pets, and she is starting to love human touch and love.

However, she has started screaming when I am putting on her harness or leash. She's never really enjoyed putting it on, always trying to press herself down to the floor. However, it seems to be getting worse. She is screaming and crying and peeing all over from the fear. Once it is on, she has zero problems. Like, the MOMENT it is on, she is happy and knows it is time for a walk. And these aren't tiny screams either. I've had neighbors ask what is wrong- she seriously sounds like you are killing her!

I've tried several kinds of harnesses, it is the same no matter what. Her current one is one that fits her well, with velcro in front of her chest and under her ribs. I've tried over the head (she hated it) and step in (about the same reaction as the current one but a worse fit). She is absolutely fine with it being on, but also doesn't like it when I take it off! It is JUST the putting on/off that she is so afraid of.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to help her? I do treats after it is on, and she knows she gets treats.
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Old 07-15-2018, 11:47 AM
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Have you considered leaving it on her for longer periods? So that she doesn’t have to go through the terror every time she has to go out as she adjusts to her new life of love.

What about just using a collar instead of the harness?


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Old 07-15-2018, 11:56 AM
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I typically leave it on her from the time we get up until we go to bed. Do you think I can leave it on for longer?

I don't want to use just a collar because 1) she has a similar problem just getting her leash attached (screaming a lot), and 2) my grandma had a similar size dog who snapped its own neck on a collar/leash and I'm hoping that the harness will make this not happen.

Thanks for the advice!
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Old 07-15-2018, 01:03 PM
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IMO a harness is a much better way to walk them, rather then attaching a leash to a collar, which puts a lot of physical stress on their spine. Its just going to take time and perseverance for her to adjust to being handled. Its a slow process, but you will slowly see progress.
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Old 07-15-2018, 01:42 PM
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If she is a puller I wouldn’t want the collar, even if she didn’t scream at that either.

It sounds like she’s making really good progress; but is there any chance that a change in leash style might help? A different kind of snap, different color, different texture, different length? What if the leash is laying on the ground and she approaches it instead of it approaching her? That wouldn’t necessarily work with the harness but it might help with each time putting the leash on.


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Old 07-15-2018, 01:54 PM
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I've tried two different kinds of leashes (retractable and normal nylon lead). She doesn't scream as much at the nylon, but she goes potty better on the retractable.

I know she has been abused relating to potty issues, so I'm guessing the harness screaming is related to that. She gets very fearful of peeing or pooping in front of me, preferring to "go" under furniture or in corners where I can't see her. I'm guessing she was hit because she peed or pooped where she wasn't supposed to. Sigh. She is SO small I can't believe someone could hit her.

Thanks for the advice everyone, it sounds like slow and steady is going to win the race here!

AND as I was writing this she decided her new "thing" is to scream at passing cars because I've told her "no" to barking at them....

SilverSage- that is a good idea with changing up the types. I got her a new harness yesterday (same style that fits her best, but more breathable because it is so hot out), which didn't help- but I'll try using a different leash she hasn't seen before and see if that helps. She is VERY smart, so I'm hoping she will learn this soon.

Last edited by Neala; 07-15-2018 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 07-15-2018, 01:56 PM
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Poor sweet girl; yeah that sounds like some really deep emotional trauma.

Being that she is so soft, what about a long soft rope with a snap at the end instead of a leash? And what if you left it laying all over the floor in between potty breaks?


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Old 07-15-2018, 02:12 PM
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SilverSage- Do you mean like a rope leash?
Like this: https://www.etsy.com/listing/5869820...6aa1:586982002

I've seen them around, but I thought they looked too big for her? I've never had such a small dog, so I'm always worried about making it too much for her.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:16 PM
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No, I mean just go to your local hardware store and find a lightweight (like as thick as a pencil) cotton rope, and get 10-15 feet of it. Should cost less than $1/foot. Then pay like $2 for a snap, tie the snap to one end and tie a loop in the other. It won’t look, smell, or sound like a regular nylon leash, and it may be different enough to help her see it as something different. The length will let her get far enough away from you to be comfortable but won’t make the scary leash should of a retractable leash.


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Old 07-15-2018, 02:34 PM
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SilverSage- I LOVE it!!! I think I'll have time to run and get that tomorrow. Thanks so much!
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