Teaching a Dog its OK if Other People Reach Over Her or Put on Her Harness

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 29, 2021

Saucy scaled - Teaching a Dog its OK if Other People Reach Over Her or Put on Her Harness

For this LA dog training session we worked with an 8 year-old Chinese Shar Pei named Saucy who doesn’t let anyone but her guardian put on her harness.

We started off by covering some basics; many people inadvertently train their dogs into unwanted behaviors by how they interact with the dog. To make it easy for Saucy to know when she did what her guardian wanted, I showed them how to introduce and use a marker word. This simple and massively overlooked tip can help accelerate the dog’s learning process and reduce frustration on both ends.

I shared a number of other tips covering exercise, mental stimulation, motivation to listen, structure, scent games and how to train dogs by rewarding desires actions (I call it celebrating) as well as some exercises like hand targeting before we got to the main dog behavior problem the guardian wanted help with; the dog doesn’t like having a harness put on by other people.

Some dogs don’t like having strangers put on their harness due to a lack of experience at the activity. This is one of the reasons we teach a collar grab game / exercise in our puppy classes.

Often dogs start resisting having a harness put on because we go to fast or something negative happens like getting caught on a body part or anxiety about not understanding something. I decided to use a Conditioned Emotional Response or C.E.R. to help this dog stop moving away when the guardians try to put on the harness. You can learn a force free way to get a dog to put on its own harness by watching the free positive dog training video below.

It was great being able to get the dog to put on her own harness, especially considering the guardian mentioned she had difficulty putting the harness on herself. After we finished the video with tips on how to get a dog to feel comfortable putting on its harness, I walked the guardians’s boyfriend through the exercise. They key will be to go slow and practice at calm times. After each success, the guardians should give Saucy a treat. Over time, this will help the dog see that putting on the harness is something that gets her a tasty treat.

While we were filming that video, I noticed that Saucy recoiled when anyone reached over her. This was likely contributing to the dog not wanting the harness put on. Since this was a related issue, I handed my camera to the guardians so I could film a quick video on how to use a desensitizing / counterconditioning hybrid to help the dog get over its fear of being reached over.

Practicing this exercise to help the dog get over its fear of being reached over will help in multiple ways. Eliminating the fear of the action will help the dog feel comfortable having he harness put on, but it will also reduce anxiety whenever a human reaches over the dog. As one of LA’s dog behavior experts, I have learned that sometimes fixing small behavior problems can help with bigger or more prominent issues.

We covered a ton of other dog behavior tips in this extended in home LA dog training session. To help the guardians remember them all, we filmed a roadmap to success summary video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr