Harness and Leash Training

Updated: Mar 10

Harness and leash training, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We started harness and leash training as early as we possibly could (Rune was 10 weeks old). Of course we spent the first few days together just de-stressing and learning the ins and outs of our new life as a family but after that we hit the ground running!

First things first we spent a few days getting used to wearing a harness. We stared out with the kitten sized Travel Cat harness. The very first time trying it on we literally put it on and took it right back off. Then we slowly upped the time in the harness by a few minutes every time it was on, which was a few times a day, until he was completely comfortable in it; meaning he basically ignored the fact that it was on. Of course treats were given every time it was put on and taken off, however if treats weren't available, lots of pets worked just as well.

Next it was on to attaching a leash! We would attach the leash that came with the harness basically in the same format as the harness itself. First just putting it on then taking it right back off, then leaving it attached for him to drag around longer and longer till he no longer cared it was there. Keep in mind this was all done in the safety of our house, while being supervised, so he couldn't get hung up on anything. Finally it came time to hold the leash, this was by far the hardest part. Up until this point Rune was mostly in charge of how things went and was basically training himself. Now I was in control and he was not a fan! We started with me just following along where he went and every so often I would stop. This would obviously pull on the leash and make him stop. He threw multiple LONG fits but eventually worked out what was happening. Slowly we went from just stopping to me actually pulling back and directing him where to go, again fits abound! He has come around though, it took quite a bit of patience on my part and wearing himself out on his part for him to realize I wasn't going to back down and he needed to walk where I wanted. I will say in this process we learned that his harness was NOT escape proof and switched to the Pet Safe "come with me kitty" harness. It pulls tight from the back in the same sort of way a martingale dog collar works and seems much more secure, however we both hated the bungee leash that came with it and still use a regular (non retractable) leash. At this point I just grab whatever one catches my eye in the moment, nothing in particular. We have a ton to pick from since I am obsessed with buying new collars and leashes for everyone in the house!

Then it was off to take all this training and knowledge out into the real world. We are by no means perfect, he still has his temper tantrums or does his new favorite thing which is throwing himself to the ground refusing to move, and I won't pretend I never lose patience and get frustrated. Generally though a few quick tugs on the leash will get him moving again or if he just will not have it we always have our pack. Sometimes just putting him in and continuing on is better for both mine and his mental stability rather than fighting him in the middle of the trail. Especially since we usually have multiple other animals with us!

It's important to remember that no matter how far you have come you will always have bad days. Keeping the trust between you two is more important than getting upset and pushing them into things they just are not ready or willing to do at the moment. Even if that means you look like a fool carrying a large cat down the trail like a baby while trying to wrangle two dogs and a 5 year old and all the people you pass laugh and tell you you have your hands full and should have left him at home. Not like I know from experience or anything! :)

and his human!

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