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Image by Jackson Jost


& Leashing

Shelter Dogs

Harnessing & leashing dogs can be difficult when dogs are excited, or uncomfortable with invasive handling. Using food to manage dog behavior during leashing & harnessing makes the process safer & less stressful for the dog & handler. 


This protocol uses food to distract dogs during harnessing. Rarely, dogs who guard resources might guard stuffed food toys or treats thrown on the ground. For these dogs, a helper feeding by hand during harnessing can be the best option.


If the dog avoids the harness despite high-value food lures, and you want the dog to be comfortable being harnessed, see Harnessing Plan for Fearful Dogs.



and/or collars and leashes

High-value food

Food toys (optional)


  • Decide whether to use a treat scatter, a stuffed food toy, or peanut butter smeared on a kennel wall or floor, & prepare treats or food toy before beginning. 

  • It’s often helpful to attach the leash to the harness before harnessing the dog. Do this before entering the kennel if harnessing a kenneled dog.

  • If entering a kennel, toss food toward the back of the kennel to move the dog away from the door, or feed the dog in a low position as you enter to prevent him from jumping up.

  • Use a food lure to encourage the dog to move his head into the harness. Move the treats slowly & allow the dog to lick at them as he moves his head forward. Deliver the treats once the head is through the harness.

  • Use food to distract the dog while fastening the harness. Methods for food delivery include:

    • A generous scatter of treats on the floor;

    • A stuffed food toy (can be secured in a chain-link kennel door or fastened to the wall);

    • Peanut butter, cream cheese, or other treat smeared on a kennel wall;

    • A second person feeding by hand.

  • Avoid leaning over the dog while fastening the harness. Keep your body to the side of the dog, & keep your face away from the dog’s face. 


  • Distract dog with food scattered on the ground or fed by hand;

  • If attaching a leash to a harness or collar the dog is already wearing, move the leash clip toward the dog’s collar from the side or underneath. Avoid reaching over top the dog’s head. 



  • Use a food lure to encourage the dog to move his head into the martingale or slip lead. 



  • Allow the dog to see your hand coming toward the collar & avoid fast hand movements toward the collar.

  • Avoid bending or leaning over the dog & keep your face away from the dog’s face. 

  • Use a treat scatter on the floor to occupy the dog while unclipping the leash.

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