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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have five chihuahuas, and while currently I'm not able to go anywhere without someone driving me and my yard is small, I'm going to be moving to a new house - it's a gorgeous, cozy log cabin with 110 acres of mostly empty land around it. Since the yard is so big I'd love to be able to walk my dogs around there daily, so I'm trying to train them how to act on a leash.

Some of the have some issues, though, primarily with getting the harnesses on. The harnesses I use have holes for the front legs, velcro at the top in the back and a part on the shoulders that clips like a seatbelt. I usually put the front legs in, pull up the harness and then secure it, but my 10-year-old dog won't let me do anything with his paws. He keeps pulling them back out of the holes. My 5 year old girl runs from me when I try to put the harness on her, my 2 year old boy freezes, and the other two do fine.

Once they're ready and on their walk, they're happy and perfectly fine, but I want to get them more comfortable with putting the harnesses on. Any ideas other than just letting them get more used to it? I was planning on trying giving them a treat or a bite of cheese after the harness goes on, to let them associate harness time with good things happening.

As well, while pulling isn't really a problem since our biggest dog is a 10 pounder and they don't pull on the leash much anyway, they usually try to walk in front of me or behind me, and I'd like for them to walk beside me. I'm not sure how to train them for that, though.
 

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New apparel can be scary! I would set the harness out on the floor for a while. Let the dogs sniff and observe them until they learn that they don't pose any harm. Put treat on top of the harnesses, in the leg holes, etc. Pretty soon, they'll think they're the best things ever! By the way, I am so jealous of your new home. It sounds a-mazing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That's a good idea. I've already taken them on their walks today, but I'll try that tomorrow morning when I get the harness out. Thanks!

It's perfect for dogs, and it works out perfectly for us humans too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
They're very loud for tiny dogs =p I used to have six.
 

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I'm really curious to see what others have to say about training small dogs to walk next to you on the leash. Although my dog is almost double the size of yours at 16 pounds, she is quite low to the ground after a while of walk, sit, treat my back was tired from all the hunched over walking I have to do to treat her!

I've seen some great videos that others have posted, but they're all with larger dogs that can easily reach a treat in your hand at your side. After our first training session, I was getting concerned that I was only teaching Ginger to walk like a human next to me on her back legs :)

That's why I worked in the "sit" portion in order to get a treat. Now that she's keeping 4 paws on the ground, I've moved on to use the "look here" command as we walk to get her to walk and look at me, just bending down to treat her as we walk every few steps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The past few days I've been keeping my leash shorter (I use a simple fabric leash, so I hold it at the end and then wrap it around my hand until I'm happy with how long the unwrapped part is) so they have to walk close to me. All my dogs have been doing really great since I've started doing it this way, so it at least should help me teach them to walk beside me.

I don't use treats much with my girl because I'm trying to get her to lose some weight (one of the reasons we're walking extra; she loves food a bit too much).
 

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I've had some really good success with the "be a tree" technique to help reduce pulling on the leash. I never specifically taught my pup Merlin to walk next to me, but now that he tries not to pull regularly, he just naturally fell into step next to me. We've been working on it for a month, and he still needs work, but he's definitely better than he was.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Mine don't pull, but they love to try and tie up my legs and/or trip me.
 
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The past few days I've been keeping my leash shorter
I don't use treats much with my girl because I'm trying to get her to lose some weight (one of the reasons we're walking extra; she loves food a bit too much).
I was concerned about that also. My girl loves her kibble, so I decided to start the habit of using that as a regular training treat. She's been getting 1/2 cup in the morning and 1/2 cup at night, so I cut her back to 1/3 cup in the morning, 1/3 cup at night, and 1/3 cup in a zip-lock bag for that days training session mixed in with a few higher value treats for extra special behaviors. She doesn't notice the difference in her meals, and it makes her "work for her supper" a little bit :)
 

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Hi and welcome. To get the dogs to like their harnesses, you first need to create a conditioned emotional response. You can see it in action in the video below. In the video Jean Donaldson is getting her dog used to wearing a head halter. The same principles apply for any type of gear that a dog dislikes. Ideally, you'd do this when first introducing something new but it still works. It might take a little longer for dogs that have developed a dislike to the harness already. It's all about Pavlov and it works beautifully. :)

Good luck and your new place sounds wonderful.

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks, I'll try that before their walks tomorrow. I've been setting the harnesses down on the floor so they can sniff them and such, and today they did much better - my older boy is practically jumping up and down when he sees the harness now that he's associating it with fun walks, and the others are warming up to it slowly.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Practiced some today with my oldest two dogs since the younger ones are still sleeping. It seems to have helped a bit; I would have liked to work on it more, but I have things to do during the day and only have two hours free in the mornings.
 

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Another trick for 'gear love' is to put it on before the dogs get something really great, preferably grub. Get the harnesses out before dinner time or give your dogs a really good time-release reward (like a stuffed kong, puzzle-toy or edible chew) this way the dog is rewarding himself constantly for being in the harness.

After a few sessions of this and you can take them on walks without them being too hung up on the harness to enjoy the exercise… the walk in itself becomes the 'time-release' reward for wearing the harness, and soon they will be jumping into them because harnesses mean that a fun excursion is just around the corner :)
 

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I bought that exact same harness this week!

Out of all the 5 different harnesses that I have for him he likes that one best and his two homemade harness vest best. With Zody wearing it doesn't seem to be the problem. No clip is jabbing him in the knee like one of his harness do, and it's not to tight like another is, but he does not like to be restrained and have his paws and legs manipulated while it's put on. To get around that I lay the harness out flat on the ground, call him over, and lift him up a bit and put his feet in the holes of the harness. Then quickly pull the harness up, Zody will usually stang still long enough for me to do that. After that velcroing it and snapping the clip is easy and he gets a very good treat after it's on.

I'm using the be a tree method to get him not to pull, and pairing it with changing direction every now and then to teach him to pay attention to me. He's doing pretty well with the be a tree, he'll pull a bit, look back at me and then run up for his treat. I'm guessing that pressure on the harness has sort of turned into a click for him and he thinks of it as harness pull = treat LOL. At least he hasn't started pulling on purpose to get the treat!
 

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@Rain--can you post a photo of the harness you made? I'll take a look and see if I can find it somewhere on forum. Another harness-hating chihuahua here.

OP--You've got the "pack mentality" working for you--if you can get one or two to get in line, I'm sure the rest will follow! hopefully not vice-versa.
 

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Maybe just put the harness on in the morning and leave them on during the day. The more they wear them the more they will forget they have them on.
 

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@Rain--can you post a photo of the harness you made? I'll take a look and see if I can find it somewhere on forum. Another harness-hating chihuahua here.

OP--You've got the "pack mentality" working for you--if you can get one or two to get in line, I'm sure the rest will follow! hopefully not vice-versa.

Here's a picture of him in it. I didn't make it though, I only wish I was that talented, one of the mods made it for Zody.
 

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OP--sorry about the hijack!

Thanks @Rain! I found directions for a very similar one at:
Little Dog Harness Tutorial :: Dog Under My Desk
(if anyone is interested)--looks pretty easy.

I talked with my sister, who likes doing those crafty, recycly sewing projects like making rugs out of jeans, and she is going to make it for me! I'm going to make the belly wrap part narrow, to keep the body contact area to a minimum. I've got a really good feeling about this harness, especially since I can just wrap it from the top--no trying to fight and get his feet into anything.
 
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