Step-In Harnesses: Getting Them On Without Scaring Your Dog

Mar 05, 2024

Do you find yourself fighting with your dog to get their legs into their step-in harness?  That's no fun for either of you, and could even lead to a bite if your dog is scared enough. 

In earlier blogs, I've talked about how to train a dog to be comfortable having an over-the-head harness put on.  In this blog and video, I'll cover some low-stress ways to get your dog's legs into a step-in harness, without manhandling them. 

The four methods I cover and demo in the video below are:

  • Use food lures to get your dog into position: As you can see in the video, having Pancake in a seated position helped with this. For my dog Juno, placing the harness on a small ramp made it much easier for me to lure her into the right spot. 
  • "Sit Pretty":  If you've already taught your dog to "sit pretty" (sit up on their haunches with front paws in the air), you can sometimes use this to slide a step-in harness on to a dog without grabbing their legs. You'll see in the video that I could do this with Pancake with a little extra support, since he's not very good at "sit pretty". 
  • "High five" or "shake": If you've taught your dog to shake on cue, you can place your hand underneath the harness opening for a leg, and cue "shake".  Then you may be able to slide the harness up that leg. 
  • Lickimat or snufflemat distraction: If your dog loves treats, and doesn't behave aggressively around food, this might be an easy option for you. Check out the video for a demo.


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