Harnessing a Dog who’s a Power Puller

The first time I saw my dog Cupcake, about a year and a half ago, she was a sad little puppyface on Facebook, recently rescued...


The first time I saw my dog Cupcake, about a year and a half ago, she was a sad little puppyface on Facebook, recently rescued and in need of a home. She looked so small and skinny, I figured she’d be no trouble at all to fold into my pack. So fold her in I did. Lazarus, that rowdy rascal,was very happy to have such a pretty sweetheart.

I estimated her weight to be about 30 pounds. Little did I suspect that she’d turn out to be 45 pounds of solid muscle, and a power puller to boot. (Not to mention an escape artist with the high-jumping skills of a circus K9.)

With square meals, between-meal treats both given and stolen (includingthe memorablecannibalizing of aBabyCakes cupcake with coconut frosting – thank goodness it wasn’t chocolate),and lots of exercise, this strong little dog grew even stronger. Lazarus taught her his wrestling moves, and he lived to regret it, because she became robo-pup, easily whipping him at every play session.

One day, Cupcake’s collar snappedin half on the street, and I had to get her home by looping her leash through its handle. Another day, sheyanked me so suddenly and so hard thatI lost contact with her leash. She dashed across First Avenue and proceeded to sprint Northward at top speed.

I ran after her as fast as I could.Passersby were givingthe mad, dashing doga wide berth, so I screamed, “She’s friendly! Please stop her!” Thankfully, as soon as they heard that, two people tackled her -a young man anda Mom who swiftly parallel-parked herbaby carriage against thefacade of Starbucks. Cupcake was safe. It took me a few minutes to still my pounding heartbefore we could head back home.

Even after that highlystressful incident, I never did anything to curb Cupcake’s pulling power. I idiotically assumed she’d slow down with time.After another collar snapped in half, I finally found one that could withstand the force of her muscular neck without choking or piercing it with prongs; it’s made by Lupine, and it saved both of us. (Plus, it’s my favorite shade of hot pink.Fashion forever!)

Still, something had to be done about that pulling. My back and shoulders couldn’t take too many more abrupt yanks.

When I learned about the Walk in Syncdog walking and trainingsystem, the genius invention of dog trainer AleciaEvans(read aboutherhere), I knew the first dog in my pack to road-test it would have to be Cupcake. So we road-tested it – and I’m very glad we did.

At first, Cupcake thought I was strapping her into some sort of Harry Houdini contraption. As I tightened the harness straps and fastened the quick-release buckles, she sat pretty and gentlyoffered meher paw. It was her way of reassuring me: “Don’t worry – I’ll be out ofthis thingin no time!”

Then I attached the leash to the ring at the front of the harness, and off we went – a lot more slowly than usual. Cupcake never expected to be outfoxed by a little contraption made of nylon, polyester,and plastic!

Once outside, she was a changed dog. She sat down expectantly, giving me her full attention.This enabled meto take a relatively focused photograph to use as evidence of this historic occasion. I haven’t got a lot of Cupcake photos because, well, she’s always moving too fast or yanking my arm. Now I’ll be able to shoot an album full.

Cupcake was doing the unthinkable: walking calmly by my side. She waslooking to me for direction instead of takingmeon ahigh-speed guided tour ofour hood. She was impersonating a very good dog. Or maybe she was finallybeing one.

This was such a differentCupcake that Ifeared she might forget to do her business – like the time she neglected to pee outside, came back indoors,and promptly relieved herself ona temporarilyunprotectedTempurPedic mattress. As you can see in the photo, Cupcake is awful cute; this is what saved her life that night.

But she didn’t forget to do her business. In fact, she did itmore efficientlythan usual. Number two followed quickly on number one, and – several pounds lighter – Cupcake was ready to enjoy her walk withoutpulling my arm out of its socket.

No doubt the harness felt good for Cupcake to wear: Its soft fleece lining is designed to be comfortable againsta dog’sbody.Meanwhile, the fashion hound in me appeciates how the robin’s-egg-blue color looks quitechic against her basic black coat.

Do you have a no-pull success story? Please share it in the comments!

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