Thursday, April 11, 2013

Journey to Find the Freedom No-Pull Harness

As you know from yesterday's post, we're trying to get a handle on Athena's walking skills.  When we first brought her home in July, she quickly learned how to walk on a loose leash, but as the weather started to get crummy here in Portland, us humans really slacked off in the walking department.  We are totally to blame for Athena's recent pulling habit.

Athena modeling her Freedom No-Pull Harness

Easy Walk Harness:

The first day we brought Athena home from the shelter we had her fitted for an Easy Walk Harness because we had heard that it was the best for training a dog how to walk nicely on leash.  It worked well for a while, until Athena developed some pretty nasty hot spots under her arms.  After the sores healed, we tried the Easy Walk again, only for the hot spots to return with a vengeance.

As Two Pitties in the City would say, here's vintage Athena on her first day home from the shelter wearing her Easy Walk Harness!
Gentle Leader:

That's when we ditched the Easy Walk for the Gentle Leader Head Halter.  At that point we couldn't find any body harnesses on the market that would eliminate the rubbing under Athena's armpits, so we decided to try out a head halter.  Besides tricking people into believing that Athena was wearing a muzzle, the Gentle Leader actually worked some pretty good magic to help Athena in the walking department.  We continued to use the Gentle Leader through our very first Respectabulls walk, but Athena's pulling in the presence of other dogs was no match for this head harness.  She was left with deep groves on her muzzle from the rough nylon of the harness.

Another vintage Athena, this time wearing the Gentle Leader
Holt Walking Collar:

So, we invested in a more high-tech version of the Gentle Leader called the Holt Walking Collar (also known as the Head Halti).  If you're in the market for a head halter, this is definitely the best compared to the Gentle Leader in my opinion.  Although the harness is much bulkier on the face (making it appear even more like a muzzle), it is thickly padded and doesn't twist from one side of Athena's face to the other (a major flaw of the Gentle Leader).  We ordered ours for a very fair price on Pet Mountain.

Athena wearing the Holt Head Harness
Freedom No-Pull Harness:

The Freedom No-Pull Harness had been on our radar for quite some time, but it wasn't until Doodlebug's recommendation that we gave in and purchased it.  We were pretty much sold when we heard that this harness has soft velvet on the underside to eliminate chaffing.  I was positive that this would be gentle enough for Athena's sensitive skin, but I decided to first contact the Wiggles, Wags and Whiskers company to make sure.  I wrote them an e-mail explaining Athena's discomfort with body harnesses and asked if they had heard from any customers who had seen an improvement with this harness.  Here's the response they sent me:

"The velvet lining on the harness does really help prevent the rubbing and chafing sores but depending on how the harness is fitted, your dog could possibly still have some armpit irritation.  I wish I had an absolute answer for you, I am so very sorry.  I will say in 99.999% of all dogs, it eliminates the problem, but there is occasionally one that still has an issue."

With that, we took Athena into our favorite local pet shop for a fitting.  Technically she should wear a medium, but we decided to go with the large to allow for extra room in the armpit department.  We also bought the 1" training leash that has a double connection.  The great thing about the Freedom No-Pull Harness is that it has a connection point on the chest and on the back.  You can attach a double connection leash to both, or simply attach a leash to one or the other depending on the kind of puller that you're dealing with.  This leash has turned me into a 4' leash lover.  No longer do we take Athena out for a walk on a 6' lead.  I feel like I have much more control with a shorter leash, and it helps Athena to stay right by my side.

So far we've been very pleased with this harness and we're happy to report that Athena has had zero armpit irritation!  We've been using the harness on daily walks, for jogging practice, and at flyball practice.

Freedom No-Pull Harness/Holt Head Harness Combo:

One of the very popular trends on Respectabull walks is for dogs to wear multiple harnesses for added support.  The most common combo is the Freedom No-Pull Harness and the Holt Head Harness.  We gave this combo a try on our last walk and did notice a bit of an improvement in Athena's racing walking in the group.  We attach a double connection leash to the back clip of the Freedom Harness and to the front clip on the Holt Harness (leaving nothing attached to the front harness clip).

Mr. Moose modeling this harness combo

Do you walk your dog on a harness?  Which one (or combo) works best for your dog?


  1. We had good luck with the easy walk harness, but unfortunately, Lainey also ended up with sores under her armpits. We then went to the Gentle Leader head collar and it has been great. Although, I'm very interested in the Freedom no-pull harness to pair with the head collar. Thank you for such an informative post...and the pictures are so helpful.

    1. very interesting post.this is my first time visit here.i found so mmany interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion..thanks for the post!dog harness

  2. Rufus usually only pulls for a few minutes into our walk (or if we're going in the direction of his favorite park), so I often get lazy and use his collar. However, I do use his easy walk harness when we are travelling and switching environments a ton. I have read a lot about the freedom harness and really want to try it though.

  3. We've also had a long harness journey and tried every one at PetSmart before ending up with an Easy Walk. Eddie's thick coat makes it look tight, but no chafing so far... hoping it stays that way. His body shape isn't the greatest for sizing it and we do have to clip it to his collar to make sure it stays on. The Holt worked well until a loose dog came running at him and he managed to move it in a way that he was able to nervously and quickly chew right through the strap!

  4. Ray is actually a good walker and I haven't used anything but his Sirius martingale on him in months. But by "good walker" I mean when he wants to be and with fewer distractions. I really want to have a reliable harness for more intense walks in higher traffic areas so I am very happy to read this post!

  5. We walk our dogs on Gentle Leader head collars, and we have also noticed the fur being rubbed off their muzzles. Since Mushroom is small and Badger is about 80-90% good about not pulling, we've been trying (for quite some time) to just switch them to martingale collars. I think it could work this time around with the addition of the Ruffwear Flat Out hands-free leash.

  6. We use the same harness (exact same shade as Athena's, too!) on Pyrrha, and it has been wonderful. Our trainer recommended these harnesses and we got one right away! Glad that it has been working for your girl!

  7. We use a Gentle Leader. The problem with the newer ones is the nose portion is thinner than the rest. It used to be thicker, which had less of a problem. They also used to sell a fancy version with a ribbon design on the outside and fleece lining for comfort. I still have a Large in the older style (which I bought with my first dog 16 years ago), but the newer ones I've been thinking about sewing on some sort of padding or even swapping a piece of the "free leash" into the nose portion. Since the clasp is still big enough for the thicker webbing it should work.

    Our dogs have never had sensitive skin though. They usually just get a sweat line where it was, no actual rub marks. I was worried about the Husky, since she's got white fur/pink skin up there, but its not been an issue. I've thought of trying a martingale collar, but with all the fur I'm not sure the Husky would notice.

  8. I used the Easy Walk Harness and had the same issues after a while. After reading your previous post about the Freedom Harness, I ordered one. Unfortunately the order was messed up and I didn't get the training lead with it but the harness is much better. My local shelter used to tell people about the Easy Walk Harness but I've asked them to change to the Freedom Harness. The only downfall is it's not available locally while the Easy Walk is. Worth ordering though! Thanks for the information!

  9. I think I need to get a harness for Dottie, she's a major puller and getting worse by the walk. I've been trying some training things with her but the extra help from the harness might be just what we need. Great post, now it's time to go shopping!

  10. Tess doesn't really have too many issues walking anymore.  She was an easy fix.  I did just invest in a 4' leash, too, from Petco and we LOVE it!  It also has a slot in the bottom that you can use as a traffic lead!
    As we stated in one of our earlier posts ( we use a prong with Edison.  We tried the Halti with some success, but it was no match for his "melt downs" and think he'd be the same on the harness.  I don't think I'd be willing to buy one unless I got to try it out first.

    We walk Ed on a 2' traffic lead attached to his prong and a 6' lead attached to his collar -- added security, but also allows for some mobility at stops.

  11. We have tried multiple harnesses on the smooches. Maggie tried the Easy Walk and also got hot spots. Then, we tried a Gentle Leader to help with her reactivity. Nigel worked with an easy walk harnesses for a while but honestly, we've given up on harnesses and different collars. Our behaviorist has us working with the pups on a version of NILF and we use a Chuck It to set their boundary on the walk (like a "do not pass go" point). It's been working so well for their nice walking skills and we're super pleased with their progress! I'm glad the No Pull is working for the Bean!


    This is a harness we have at home that we've used on several dogs. (I bought it at a local pet shop, not Petco.) This is the harness we walk Madden on. It is perfect for no chafing, never had any sores or marks come from this. Hades is our SUPER POWER PULLER and he used to wear this harness. We stopped using it for him, I don't remember why, probably because he's too determined and it wasn't helping anymore.
    For Madden this is a perfect harness as long as she's not at an adoption event. It allows control but if you have a reactive dog I don't reccomend it because it's not good for corrections. Now that I say that, that's probably why we stopped using it with Hades--he is too reactive.
    Other than that we've used pretty much every harness you can think of!

  13. Great post - thanks for this! I have been wondering about the Freedom Harness - this is the best description I've see of how it is used. My Star is a puller too - she is getting better, but it has been a LOT of work to get there. The best we did was the Halti - that worked wonders for a few weeks, but as the newness wore off, we were back to old habits. Our biggest concern with the halti was that there was no carry over - if she walked without it, it was as if we hadn't done any training at all. Might just try the Freedom Harness. We have started clicker training recently and that seems to be going well, so I am hopeful that we will make faster progress now! Again, thanks much for the post (I think I followed a link here from Oh Corbin... love how the internet always gets me around to where I need to be!)

  14. I just walk Kaya and Norman in their regular collars, but I'll have to remember this one next time I'm taking care of or fostering a puller. Actually Kaya is really a puller at heart and drags other people down the street, she just knows better with me:/ I think I've said it before, but Athena looks awesome in pink!

  15. I used to use the Easy Walk harness but it didn't fit Lilee well. That plus the martingale loop on it still lets her pull. We switched to the Sense-ation and it's way better. It's supposed to be softer too, but in my opinion the nylon just seems smoother.

  16. Toby has been getting with his walking over the past several months, but he's still not to the pointg where a regular collar would be enough. We're still working on self control when he sees something super-duper exciting.

    We were using the ez-walk, but he'd be chafed under his arms after a long hike. I repurposed a fleece piece meant to go on top of a horse halter and put it over the bottom strap of his ez-walk. It slid around too much and was bulky. We tried the gentle leader, but he was able to get it off! (Even after our trainer re-fitted it for him, he was still an escape artist!)

    I'd been interested in the freedom harness because Toby's best friend has one and really seems to like it. Your post sealed the deal for me and I bought one the next day. It's been great! We're going on a group walk this weekend, so I may try the gentle leader/freedom harness combo if he starts racing too much. (At least I'd still have a connection on the harness if he gets the GL off!)

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  18. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post. I will try to get the hang of it!

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  19. I'm still struggling with this. I was using the Easy Walk, which was working so well, until I noticed blood running down the leg of my Jack Russell. I realized it had rubbed raw the armpits on BOTH my dogs. What a crappy mother. The JRT really needs something - freaked out with the Halti collar. I guess I'll check out the freedome harness next. Thanks for this, it was helpful.

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