Before you can start harness and leash training with your pet, you might need to spend some time helping them get used to wearing a harness. A harness distributes weight across the pet’s chest and can feel scary for pets that aren’t used to it. A harness is a better choice than a collar because it prevents a pet from slipping out of a too-loose collar or feeling choked by a too-tight collar.
Pet Harnesses: Getting the Right Fit
Getting the right fit is essential for helping your pet get used to wearing a harness. If the harness isn’t properly fitted, it can cause skin irritation or your pet can get loose from it. Let’s review the signs of a harness that isn’t the right size or isn’t adjusted correctly for the proper fit:
1. As you walk your pet, the back of the harness visibly moves from side-to-side. You want a snug fit that still allows for your pet’s normal range of motion. A harness that shifts from side-to-side is either too big for the pet or needs to be adjusted for a better fit.
2. The pet can slip out of the harness. As you might guess, this is a sign that the harness is most likely too large. Try adjusting the harness tighter and walk your pet around inside the home to safely test it without your pet getting loose outside.
3. The pet lays down or resists walking. If you’ve gone through the steps to help your pet get used to wearing a harness, this is a sign that the harness might be too small or adjusted too tightly. However, check the area around you, if you are outside. Your pet might also show this behavior if there is danger nearby, such as a larger dog running loose.
4. Loss of fur or skin chafing along where the harness fits on your pet. This is usually a sign of improper fit or the type of harness isn’t ideal for your pet. For example, it is best to use a harness designed for cats when using one with your cat. Using a harness designed for a small dog with your cat could result in poor fit.
Getting Your Pet Used to Wearing a Harness
If your pet has never worn a harness before or shows signs of fear, it’s best to go slow and let your pet show you when they are ready to proceed to the next step. This process can sometimes take longer with a cat but each animal has a unique personality.
1. Allow your pet to investigate the harness. Set it on the floor and allow them to smell it, paw at it and even play with it. The more comfortable they are at each step, the better.
2. Put treats on top of and under the harness and let your pet retrieve the treats. Do this several times per day for several days.
3. Without putting it on your pet, buckle and unbuckle the clasps and give treats immediately after. Practicing this with your pet will prevent them from being startled by the sound of the buckle being fastened.
4. Make sure the neck area of the harness is loose enough for your pet to get their head in and out easily. Hold a treat so that your pet has to stick its head through the neck opening of the harness to get the treat. Practice this with your pet until they are comfortable getting the treat and not backing out of the harness immediately.
5. Practice having your pet wear the loosened neck area and receiving treats and slowly move one step at a time to securing the harness on them with it adjusted to the proper fit.
Letting your furry friend get used to a pet harness one baby step at a time is best for pets that seem fearful or wary of it. Once you have your pet wearing the harness, if you plan to go out frequently with your pet, they can wear their harness 24/7. If they won’t be wearing their harness daily or frequently, just be sure to practice with them often so they don’t revert to feeling fearful of it.