Dog Aggressive When Taking Harness Off – Causes, Training & Prevention

By Naina Anuman 15 Min Read
Dog Aggressive When Taking Harness Off

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Dogs are usually friendly and loyal companions that can form a unique bond with their owners. Unfortunately, some dogs may have specific triggers that turn them from loving pets into aggressive ones in seconds.

One of these triggers may be the removal of a dog’s harness – a tool used for walking, control, and training.

If your dog is becoming aggressive when you attempt to take off its harness, it is likely due to fear, anxiety, and stress. However, understanding why and how to change its behavior is critical.

So, this blog post explores why your dog is aggressive when taking harnesses off and how you should handle it.

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Causes and Reasons for Dog Aggression Towards Removal of Harness

If your dog is suddenly exhibiting aggression towards the removal of their harness, it could be for one of several reasons. Seven reasons for this behavior are listed below: 

  1. Your dog can be experiencing stress or anxiety. The harness may be a source of comfort for them, and removing it can trigger feelings of insecurity. 
  2. Your dog can be in pain or uncomfortable. If the harness is tight or chafing, your dog may associate the removal of it with pain. 
  3. Your dog may be protecting their territory. If they see the harness as a symbol of dominance, they may become aggressive when it is removed to assert their dominance. 
  4. Your dog may be possessive of their harness. If they view the saddle as valuable, they may become aggressive when someone tries to remove it from them. 
  5. Your dog may be afraid of being separated from you. If they view the harness removal as a sign that they will be away from you, they may become anxious or scared, leading to aggression. 
  6. Your dog may have learned that aggression gets them what they want. If you have inadvertently rewarded your dog’s aggressive behavior in the past, they may have learned that it is an effective way to get what they want. 
  7. Your dog may be displaying aggressive behavior due to a medical problem.

If your dog is suddenly exhibiting aggression, it’s essential to rule out any possible medical causes before assuming it is behavioral.

Prevention of Dog Aggressive Behavior When Taking Harness Off

If your dog displays aggression when taking their harness off, it’s essential to take action to prevent this behavior from continuing. You can do a few things to make your dog more at ease and keep them from misbehaving.

  • First, try acclimating your dog to being without its harness for short periods. Start by taking it off for a few seconds while petting or playing with them. 
  • When putting on and removing the harness, remain composed and assertive. Dogs can sense our emotions, so they may react accordingly if we’re tense or nervous.
  • Establish a process for putting the harness on and taking it off. Your dog will be more prepared and able to stay on task if you do this.
  • It’s also essential to ensure that taking their harness off isn’t associated with negative experiences for your dog. If they always get put in their crate or left alone when not in their saddle, they’re likely to start feeling anxious when the harness comes off.
  • Make sure they always have positive experiences – like treats or walks – when they’re not in their saddle.
  • Avoid punishment while putting on or taking off the harness. This will only increase your dog’s anxiety and make the experience more stressful.
  • Be careful not to startle your dog when taking off the harness. To avoid unduly frightening him, approach quietly and deliberately.
  • Finally, if your dog is still having trouble adjusting, unique calming products are made specifically for dogs who get anxious when taking their harness off. These can help reduce stress and make the experience more positive for your dog overall.

Obedience Training May Also Reduce Aggressive Dog Behavior

If you’re struggling with an aggressive dog, consider enrolling them in an obedience training class. It may just help to reduce their aggression.

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Dog Aggression Training

Not only will obedience training help your dog learn basic commands, but it may also reduce aggressive behavior when taking the harness off.

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There are a few reasons why obedience training may reduce aggressive behavior in dogs. 

First, when dogs are properly trained, they understand their behaviors have repercussions. If your dog bites or attacks someone, they’ll be punished accordingly.

Second, by teaching your dog basic commands like “sit” and “stay,” you’ll be able to control them better when they’re acting aggressively. With proper control, you’ll be able to redirect their aggression toward something else (like a toy) instead of someone else.

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Basic Commands for Dog Training

Third, obedience instruction can help you and your dog’s relationship grow closer. This stronger bond may make your dog less likely to behave aggressively toward you or others.

Take Your Dog to Medical Treatment If His Aggressive Behavior Doesn’t Develop

While it’s true that some dogs will outgrow their aggression, others will not. If your dog’s behavior does not improve with training and obedience, it may be time to consider medication.

Several different medications can help reduce aggression in dogs. These include anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers. However, these drugs should never be given to your dog without an expert’s advice. 

So, ensure to take your dog to a medical specialist. They will better assist your dog’s behavior and offer the best course of action depending on the severity of the dog’s aggression and the underlying cause.

Prepare Your Dog for Medical Treatment Beforehand

When preparing your dog for his medical treatment, you should do these things in advance to ensure that it goes as smoothly and stress-free as possible. 

Be Calm and Assertive: Stay calm and assertive when taking your pup to medical treatment. Your dog will become more uneasy the more anxious you are, which might make things worse. Speak calmly and confidently to your pet, so he knows you control the situation. 

Exercise Beforehand: Taking your pup out for a walk before his appointment can help him release any pent-up energy and reduce his stress levels while at the vet or doctor’s office. This will also tire him out, so he’s more likely to stay calm during his appointment.


In conclusion, it is essential to remember that aggression towards humans when taking off a harness is a common problem in dogs. Identifying the cause of this behavior and using positive reinforcement and consistent training to try to modify it is crucial.

Ultimately, understanding why your dog is aggressive when taking harnesses off can help you and your dog form a stronger bond and ensure that your dog is safe and comfortable when removing their harness.


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Dr. Naina is a highly experienced animal behaviorist with over 10 years of experience in dog training and behavior modification. Dr. Naina holds a Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior, where they studied various domesticated animals' cognitive and social behavior. They continued their education and received a Master of Science in Veterinary Medicine, which included coursework in canine anatomy and physiology, as well as extensive training in positive reinforcement training techniques. As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, Dr. Naina has worked with a wide variety of dog breeds, from puppies to adult dogs, and has successfully addressed behavioral issues such as aggression, fear, and separation anxiety. Their deep knowledge of canine behavior and passion for animal welfare has led them to develop a keen eye for identifying the most effective and humane training tools, including dog collars. In their work, Dr. Naina always emphasizes the importance of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), recognizing that the well-being of dogs is of the utmost importance. They take a thoughtful, evidence-based approach to recommend dog collars, always considering the unique needs and personality of each individual dog, as well as the preferences and goals of their human guardians. Their dedication to their work has earned them a reputation as a respected and trusted authority in the field of animal behavior.