Woahhh! The Opposition Reflex and Training Equipment

And now for the results and answer to our PupQuiz! (If you didn’t take it, check out the previous post.)  Let’s see what people thought…

Q: Why do some dogs pull so hard on leash that they cough and choke?
 6%  It doesn’t bother them.                                
 0%  It’s a reflex.                                                            
 71%  Drive to investigate environment is very strong.                      
 24%  They’re so excited, they just can’t hide it.                   

The answer?  It’s a reflex!

That’s right, dogs have an “opposition reflex” that causes them to push against pressure.  Traditional buckle collars and harnesses can actually encourage a dog to pull forward because they press against the throat and chest.  (And with collars, all that pressure is right on the trachea, which can be injured as a result, eek!)

So how do you help a dog who’s pulling like crazy (or even jumping, too) to walk nicely on a leash?

Here at the shelter, we use two special pieces of training equipment, the Easy-Walk Body Harness and the Gentle Leader Headcollar.  They are designed to not put pressure on the front of the dog’s body (so they don’t forge forward) and teach them to back away from pressure.


The Easy-Walk Body Harness is a front-clip harness.  The D-ring (the metal loop the leash attaches to) is located at the front of the harness, on the chest.  So, when a dog pulls, the pressure from the leash is distributed across the body, and the dog is turned towards its handler.  The chest strap sits low on the breastbone, so it doesn’t put pressure on the trachea.  We use the body harnesses for dogs who need a small to moderate amount of help with walking nicely.  In the photo to the right, adoptable Bella is modeling the harness.

For dogs who are very strong and/or who have a tendency to jump, we will often outfit them with a Gentle Leader Headcollar.  It is much easier to lead a large, strong animal by the head rather than the neck (Just ask horse people!).  The headcollar directs pressure to the back of the dog’s neck, so when they pull and feel that pressure, they back up.  When they back up, the leash relaxes and the pressure is gone.  The headcollar is not a muzzle at all, and the dog is free to open its mouth normally.  Dogs can eat, drink, and play ball with the leader on! RosieLeader 


Rosie, recently adopted, models the GL Headcollar in these photos!


4 Responses to Woahhh! The Opposition Reflex and Training Equipment

  1. i knew that it was a reflex but i wasnt able to send my answer o:

  2. bhsdogblog says:

    Glad you knew! The PupQuiz was closed after the answers were posted. We’ll have a new one to vote on soon!

  3. Randi says:

    I love animals sooo much escpecially dogs and I can’t belive I didn’t know that!!! lol!!

  4. Dawn says:

    The Wiggles Wags and Whiskers patented harness was the first to incorporate a martingale loop on the harness and features dual control. I love it for my dog, the martingale loop tightens around the dog’s chest and the front connection allows you to work against the opposition reflex. Take a look at them, they donated to my group that I work with, you can always ask them if they will send you samples!


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