When teaching your rambunctious Boxer to walk on a leash without pulling like a maniac, three things are essential.
And the right kind of harness.
The most effective harness for training a Boxer to walk calmly on the leash is a front-attaching, no-pull harness.
Choosing the correct harness is important, because different designs put pressure on different parts of the body.
Not all harnesses fit the Boxer body shape well, so try before you buy or be willing to make a few returns before settling on the perfect one.
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Back-Attaching Harnesses For Boxers
A regular, back-attaching harness might be fine for an older or already well-trained Boxer.
It’s preferable to a collar in terms of avoiding strain on the neck.
It’s hard to go past the Julius-K9 Powerharness for sheer looks.
It’s incredibly well constructed and we love the velcro, glow-in-the-dark labels.
But a back-attaching harness usually won’t offer enough control for a young Boxer that’s highly excitable and still learning to behave on leash.
The difficulty with a back-attachment is that it only encourages pulling.
The surest way to make a dog — particularly a Boxer — want to go in a direction is to restrain him from doing so.
When a Boxer pulls and feels the tension of the taut leash pulling him back from behind, this restraint activates his oppositional reflex and amps up his effort in working against that restraint.
Holding a dog back is actually used in this way in training to increase motivation and anticipation of release.
(This is why it’s recommended to not let a dog stand on a taut leash.
Instead, flex the wrist in a pulsing motion to create an irritating effect.
If you do the pulsing, your Boxer is more likely to step back to slacken the leash and make the pulsing stop … whereas he could probably stand all day at the end of a tight leash.)
Front-Attaching Harnesses For Boxers
This is your best option for a Boxer.
The Ruffwear Front Range harness is a sturdy example.
Front-attaching harnesses are a kind of no-pull harness.
Because the leash attaches to the harness at his chest, when the dog pulls, he is steered sideways into the owner.
(As opposed to being able to muscle straight ahead like he can when the harness is attached on his back.)
This frustrates his efforts to get where he’s wanting to go and discourages the pulling.
While it won’t be enough, on its own, to stop a Boxer pulling … a front-attaching harness certainly goes a long way with a Boxer.
It might even be essential.
No-Pull Harnesses For Boxers
There are other kinds of no-pull harnesses that use loops under the armpits that tighten in response to pulling.
This may or may not work for your Boxer.
Some versions of this type of harness, like the Halti, have an unfortunate design that means the ring that attaches to the leash is in a position where it flops around and can hit your Boxer in the face.
Be sure to check for this.
T-Bar Harness Or X-Shape Harness?
This is like the difference between a racerback and a regular shirt.
A harness shaped like an X across your dog’s chest allows freedom of movement at the shoulders.
Not so for a T-bar harness, particularly a front-attaching one where the leash attaches in the centre of that horizontal T-bar that goes across the chest.
A T-bar design can result in backward pressure being applied to the shoulder joints, when your dog pulls against the leash.
This could cause strain and damage over time and is probably best avoided.
As appealing as many of the T-bar harnesses might look, aesthetically .. it’s better for your dog’s body to go for an X-shaped harness that steers clear of the shoulder joints.
A whole heap of harnesses are off limits when you have a dog as powerful — and potentially hyperactive — as a full-grown Boxer.
Maybe the Boxer tendency to pull on the leash is why mesh harnesses don’t come in large enough sizes to accommodate their adult chests.
Perhaps they wouldn’t stand up to the strain?
However, when your pup is small and just getting used to wearing a harness, take the chance to enjoy a soft mesh number like the plush Voyager Step-In.
It’s gorgeous, and super comfy for your Boxer pup.
We also love the Puppia designs for those early months.
Car Restraint Harnesses For Boxers
For the car your Boxer ideally needs not just his regular harness, but one designed specifically for the car.
Look for one that has been crash tested like the EzyDog Drive Safety Harness, which is best in its class.
You feed the seatbelt through the loops.
The Sleepypod Clickit is another quality choice.
Keep in mind the collision protection claims generally only apply when driving slowly, and dog harnesses will offer little protection at highway speeds.
All the same, if you’re doing any time in the car with your Boxer on a regular basis, you need a proper car restraint.
Some restraint is better than none, but a poorly fitted harness may injure your dog in a crash.
A purpose-designed car harness will help prevent your dog becoming a projectile if there’s a sudden stop … or being thrown from the vehicle if there’s an accident.
You can also buy attachments like the Kurgo Direct-To-Seatbelt Tether that click directly into the seatbelt fastener on one end, and your dog’s harness on the other.
Get into the habit of restraining your dog even for short trips.
Harnesses With Handles
Many harnesses like the OneTigris Tactical vest now come with in-built handles on the back, between the shoulder blades.
These can be handy for grabbing your dog and steering him out of a dicey situation.
Not to mention this military-style vest looks pretty badass!
But remember these handles are not designed for actually lifting your dog.
Using them in this way will put enormous pressure on your dog’s rib cage and may well injure him.
Checklist Of Useful Features In A Harness For A Boxer
The most important features to look for in a harness are:
- whether it’s front or back attaching
- quality — you want a strong, well-made, hard-wearing harness that won’t tear and with clasps and buckles that won’t snap or rust
- materials — make sure fabric is soft and padded and ideally made of natural, breathable fibers like cotton
- fit — the deep chest but lean build of the Boxer can mean some harnesses don’t work for the breed
- adjustability — can the harness be tailored to the individual dog’s chest and rib cage dimensions?
- washability — will it wear well over time and be easy to keep clean?
Other features that might be useful include:
- reflective strips — if you do a lot of night walking these could improve visibility
- identification — some harnesses offer velcro name and ID plates
- pockets for poop bags etc
The Hurtta Polar Visibility Vest is a dual-purpose speciality vest for winter adventures in the woods where you don’t want to be mistaken for a deer.
Head Harnesses For Boxers
If a front-attaching harness and proper training aren’t making a dent in your Boxer’s leash pulling antics, trainers may recommend a head halter like the Gentle Leader.
Just make sure you know how to fit head harnesses properly and how to use them — otherwise they can injure your pup’s nose.
Check the brand you’re using actually fits a Boxer’s brachycephalic (squashed-face) head shape.
Get knowledgeable assistance if you’re unsure.
If your Boxer spends a lot of time on boats or you’re planning on getting him used to the kayak, you may want to consider a dog life vest like the Outward Hound Granby Splash Life Jacket.
These can literally be a life saver if your dog falls into deep water.
There is no substitute for training and practice when teaching your Boxer to “loose leash” walk.
However, there are some training tools that can help enormously.
The type of harness you use can make a big difference to how well your Boxer walks on leash.
A front-attaching style will give you much more control and help making pulling less rewarding for your Boxer.
The real key, though, is working on keeping your dog highly engaged with lots of encouragement, eye contact, treats and praise.