Dog more confident in a harness - why?
Over the summer we had a young (18 months) very unsocialized border collie come into our family. She's wonderful in nearly every respect and we've worked hard on getting her over her fears and anxieties - she's making steady progress. She lived with a loving family; she just never got out of the house and yard until she came to us. She'd rarely worn a collar; her previous family forgot her collar and leash when they brought her to us - they didn't even know where they were anymore! To my knowledge she's never had a bad experience with a collar; I've certainly never yanked on it or used it as punishment.
Doggie goes for daily runs with me of several miles, has learned basic obedience and goes to class, and we make frequent outings to dog-friendly places. She has leash manners. But she's mildly dog-aggressive (fear/socialization related - she'll bark and growl with her tail tucked and body shaking) and is very shy around new people and things outside the home.
After an awful run this week, where she barked and growled and lunged at everything from the neighborhood fence-fighting dogs to blowing leaves, I stuck her in an easy-walk harness the next day for our run - I'd had it laying around from a previous dog. I was just hoping that it would make the run more tolerable.
She was like a different dog. She never once even touched the end of the leash - we ran four miles 100% on a loose lead. She didn't bark or growl, her tail was up and happy, she was calm and focused. Seriously, we ran right by a yard with three barking snarling rotties and she didn't even raise an eyebrow. I put it on her for obedience class last night and she was a star - in a room with six other dogs she was happy and interested and just super, not stressed or anxious at all. It's not a leash-manners thing - she's great on leash when she's not stressed. She's just miles more confident and happy in the harness than a collar.
So why? What is it about the harness that's caused all this? I'd like to work her in rally and agility at some point, so she will have to learn to go without the harness - how do I go about keeping the awesome dog that she is with the harness when it's off? I'm thrilled that we've found something that works so well for her right now and want to figure out what the next steps are.