Does your dog hate wearing their harness? Here’s what one trainer recommends

Boston Terrier wearing pink harness
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is your dog avoidant of anything?

It’s fairly common for dogs to avoid things, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Your dog being avoidant of something you don’t want them to be can make day-to-day life with your pup more difficult than it needs to be. 

But what can you do if your dog’s avoiding something, be it a piece of furniture or the best dog harness? Certified dog trainer Melissa Goodman of Mission Pawsitive has offered some insights in a recent Instagram post based on her experience working with a dog who doesn’t like his harness – we think her advice is pretty good!

“It may sound backwards,” says Goodman, “But if your dog is avoidant of something that you do not want them to be avoidant of, encouraging them to move away will make them more comfortable with approaching whatever that is in the future.”

She continues in the caption, “If your dog is uncomfortable with something and shows avoidance, one way to help them with that is to toss food away from it.”

It can be difficult to work out how to put a dog harness on a reluctant pup, but following Goodman’s advice takes the pressure away from the approach. It shows your pup that you aren’t trying to trick them or force them into moving toward something they’re uncomfortable with. It sets them up to want to approach it – and, of course, you can reward this!

In her video, Goodman is working with a dog, Kobe, who avoids his mom when she gets his harness from a closet. He’s quite sensitive to having things going over his head, and the first thing he associates with having his harness put on is his mom going over to the closet his harness lives in. 

What Goodman wanted to do was start by getting him to hang around when the harness comes out, and then remaining in the area – going to the chair where his mom likes to put his harness on him, for example. 

So, as she reaches for the harness, Kobe’s mom tosses the food. Goodman explains, “This makes your dog more likely to choose to approach, as a way to check in to see if they still want to engage with the exercise. And, by default, you end up rewarding multiple repetitions of the approach.”

Kobe’s mom tosses food again when she walks with the harness – this encourages Kobe to come back to her for more at the point where she’d usually put his harness on, rather than having him run away.

If you’d like more advice on why your dog hates their harness and how to encourage them to use it, we’ve got all you need to know. Is it safe to leave a harness on a dog all the time, meanwhile? We’ve got the lowdown on safety issues here, too. 

Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness Nylon Reflective No Pull Dog Harness $54.99 at Chewy

Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness Nylon Reflective No Pull Dog Harness
$54.99 at Chewy
Sturdy and easy to use, this powerhouse of a harness features a breathable lining for comfort and reflective chest straps and side labels for maximum visibility.

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.