Our dog has a neck condition that flares up from time to time, and our vet has instructed us not to use anything that will put strain on her neck when we walk her. This includes any kind of collar or head collar.
She has never been very tolerant of anything around her chest— any time we’ve tried clothes or harnesses, she freezes in place until we repeatedly coax her with treats or remove the offending object. As collars aren’t an option, we’ve tried multiple harnesses but seem to have only succeeded in traumatizing her. She’s now fearful of being touched anywhere the harnesses clipped, and no amount of training or desensitization has seemed to make a difference.
I’m at a total loss for how to help her. Our options are to risk injuring her neck or continuing to make her uncomfortable and fearful. She became so afraid of my husband that I’m the only one who can manage to get a harness on her at all. It’s killing me because I feel like I’m torturing her and losing her trust every time I take her outside for a walk or to go to the bathroom.
I plan to continue to try to desensitize her and offer as much positive reinforcement as I can, but I want to be sure that whatever harness I’m using is not capable of causing her any discomfort. Does anyone have any recommendations for the kindest, gentlest, softest, least frightening and least obtrusive harness?
Sounds like with her neck condition a harness is your only option. You need to desensitize her to the harness. Use a HIGH value treat such as raw meat or cooked meat. Slowly introduce the harness and reward her for looking at it, gradually move it closer and closer to her rewarding each time, eventually you can have it touching her, to laying on her, to being around her, to being buckled to her. But do this slowly as in over the span of days and make sure you use a high value treat. As you do this her brain will send off good signals every time you reward her and she will eventually associate the harness with good things!
I will also suggest doing a nice training session before hand with regular treats to get her motivated and her brain working, that way she will be in the learning mindset when you introduce the harness!
I’ve been using this method with the dremel to desensitize my dogs to nail trims, it takes a long time but it works!
I’d put it on her at home and just let her chill indoors with it before trying it outside? A couple friends have chihuahuas who wear their Puppia vests most of the day, indoors and out, without any issues.