Front clip harnesses are probably one of the most diverse and useful tools known in dog training. Used just like regular body harnesses except for where you clip the leash, they turn the dog's body around to curb pulling and also reduce damage to the neck by steering from the chest instead of the neck. Most dogs don't mind wearing a harness and so don't need acclimated to them, but I suggest having the dog wear the harness indoors to get used to the feel for a little while before going out with one. If you have questions not answered here, feel free to Contact Me, or comment below.
Day One; Hour One: Checking out/Sniffing and Placing the Harness
Touch the harness to the dog's nose while holding it. Mark and reward any time the dog allows the harness to touch his nose. Repeat this at least 5-6 times.
Once the dog is comfortable with the sight of the harness, ask the dog to stay still and put on the harness according to instructions. Most harnesses are placed over the head or under/around the body and then buckle together. Mark and reward once the harness is on, then adjust the harness (if applicable) to the dog's body shape.
Follow all manufacturer suggestions for fitting. Mark and reward once the harness is fully adjusted to your dog. If any struggling from the dog begins, stop and ask for a sit, mark and reward, then ask for a stand again, mark and reward, then continue.
Day One; Hour Two-Three: Walking with the Harness
Now that the harness is on the dog, clip the lead to the ring on the front of the harness. Mark and reward when the dog allows it, and take the dog for a walk. Mark and reward any time the dog walks nicely on the lead. Do not mark if the dog fights it, do not mark if the dog is pulling or lagging behind on the lead, and do not mark when you remove the harness. Repeat at least half a dozen times, the walks do not have to be long. From your driveway to the neighbor's and back is fine.
Day One; Hour Four: Full Acclimation
The dog should be fully acclimated to the harness at this point, and you should be able to walk, perform obedience, and do just about anything else you would do. Depending on the type you use, you may leave the harness on the dog while you are not actively working with the dog. The LupinePet, Ruffwear, and Dean & Tyler harnesses are examples of harnesses that may be uncomfortable if left on the dog.
Front Clip Harnesses offer an ideal way to teach Heelwork and recall by giving the ability to steer and stop your dog when you need to without choking him by his collar.
Heelwork is trained in this way by walking with the harness, keeping the dog's chest at your leg and stopping and applying slight pressure when he moves ahead of this position, teaching him in a kind manner where you want him to be walking during this time. Do not jerk or pull hard on the harness to prevent undue stress to the shoulders or chest of your dog as this can damage his joints and clavicle.
Recall is trained in this manner by attaching a Long Lead and asking for a Sit-Stay, Down-Stay, or Stand-Stay, then walking a distance away. When you say Come, Here, or C'mere, you pull gently on the long lead, and "reel in" your dog, teaching him to come directly to you and nowhere/no one else. Do not jerk or pull hard on the harness to prevent undue stress to the shoulders or chest of your dog as this can damage his joints and clavicle.
Behavior Adjustment: Pulling or Lunging on the Lead
Front Clip Harnesses are the best tool to curb Lunging on the lead as well as general pulling on the lead while walking.
Stopping the lunging behavior is difficult without the help of a professional trainer, but if you can learn to identify your dog's triggers that cause the stress or excitement that leads to lunging, you can figure out when those triggers come into view to stop and turn on your heel, forcing your dog to turn with you and walk away from the trigger. Alternatively, if you cannot walk away for whatever reason, you can stop and take a step or two back when your dog tries to lunge forward, causing gentle pressure on the chest and making it uncomfortable to lunge forward, which may help with stopping the behavior at the moment. However the aforementioned method is the best way to work on this behavior. Do not jerk or pull hard on the harness to prevent undue stress to the shoulders or chest of your dog as this can damage his joints and clavicle.
To curb pulling on the lead during walks, you can use dead-stops (stopping forward motion immediately following your dog's pulling behavior) or turn-arounds (turning on your heel and going the opposite direction) forcing your dog to turn with you and walk with you. Do not jerk or pull hard on the harness to prevent undue stress to the shoulders or chest of your dog as this can damage his joints and clavicle.
Professional Dog Walking
Professional dog walkers who are walking difficult dogs may enjoy the bonus of a No Pull Harness to enable easier walks with dogs that pull or with dogs that are brachycephalic that walking on a collar or headcollar may be too dangerous or prove to be more difficult. The added control offered by the harnesses, and removing the pressure from the throat, reduces liability and chance of injury, which may ease a pro dog walker's mind (and checkbook).