What equipment do I need to walk my reactive dog?

As I was getting Tres and Rosie ready for our walk the other morning, I realized a common question I get asked is:

What equipment do I need to work with my dog, around reactivity specifically?

So in today’s post, I’m going to share some of my favorite pieces of equipment for leash walks.

I should first mention that no piece of equipment is going to resolve all your leash pulling or leash reactive issues.  Equipment can be a helpful piece of the equation, though.  The right equipment can also make the walk safer, reducing stress for the guardian and the dog.  

See?  Important stuff!  Let’s dive into it!

There are 2 pieces of equipment I want to cover with you today:  harnesses and leashes. 


 I LOVE a body harness over a traditional collar any day.  I do not use a collar on walks because of the pressure it puts on very sensitive areas of your dog.  The collar goes around the spine, thorax, esophagus, blood vessels, and numerous nerves. 

Rehab Vet Image

A body harness puts no pressure on the neck.  Rather, it distributes the weight across the body.  

So if you get nothing else from this post, other than to use a harness over a collar, that is a win for the day!

Now let’s cover some specifics about harnesses.  There are back clip and front clip harnesses.  The majority of harnesses at pet stores are back clips (the leash attaches to the harness in between the dog’s shoulder blades).  A front-clip harness attaches near the dog’s sternum, in the chest area.   

The shape of the harness is also important.  Look for a harness that is a “Y” fit.  The straps should NOT go across the dog’s shoulder blades as this can impact their gait.  A “Y” fit harness will go down the center of the dog’s chest.

Y-Fit Harness

My favorite harnesses have BOTH a front and a back clip (which you’ll see why in a little bit). 

Sometimes, back-clip harnesses can encourage leash pulling.  A pattern forms where the dog pulls, they get to go forward.  Front-clip harnesses can be helpful if your dog is a strong puller.  But remember, no piece of equipment is a magic fix. You still need training to teach your dog how to walk nicely on a leash.  

Two of my favorite harnesses are:

Blue-9 Balance Harness

Two Hounds Design Freedom Harness

I use the Balance harness on both my dogs daily.  I love all the adjustable points, it makes getting a good fit really easy.  I have had my current harnesses for over 2 years and use them about twice a day every day and they are holding up nicely.  

Tip:  If you opt for the Balance harness, I recommend getting a color other than black.  The different color goes down the spine of your dog (whereas black, it’s all the same color). The different color makes that strap easy to spot for quick dressing.

I have also used the Freedom harness and I like it as well.  What I love about the Freedom harness is the inside part that touches the dog’s belly is lined with a velvety material.  If your dog is sensitive to chaffing or has really short hair, this could make the harness much more comfortable.  


I know most of us use a standard 6 ft. leash.  Most days, I am walking both my dogs at the same time so I am using a 6 ft leash with each of them.  But in a perfect world, leashes would be 10+ feet long, ideally 15 and even up to 50 feet!  

Why a longer leash?    A lot of loose leash walking issues can be resolved with a long line simply because dogs walk faster than us.  Having more slack in the leash gives them freedom of movement which can reduce frustration and gives them the option to move away if they want. 

You do need to get good at your leash handling skills, but it’s worth your time. 

My favorite long leash is nothing fancy, but I do love the material biothane.  It is soft rubber, it feels nice in your hands, doesn’t knot up as easily, and it’s a breeze to clean.  

A note about retractable leashes:  Opt for a non-retractable when possible.  I understand that some folks need retractable leashes for mobility.  But if you are trying to teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash, a retractable leash could be making the process confusing for your dog in that when they pull on the leash, they get what they wanted (more freedom and movement).  The goal is to keep the leash loose.  A longer leash and good leash handling skills are excellent ways to accomplish that!

What equipment do you use to walk your dog?

Until next time,



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