Lead tension Vs Equipment use
Lets define Lead Tension
Lead Tension is when you and your dog are at maximum extension of the lead. It does not matter if they are pulling at 5lbs or 500lbs, the fact is that they are at the full extension of the lead.
The issue is that during this instance - and we are talking about being out and about with your pet dog here - is that your dog is no longer socially attached to you nor are they independent of the environment. The opposite is true, they are socially independent of you and dependent on the environment.
Equipment use is a reliance upon a piece of equipment to solve the problem of pulling on the lead and/or the piece of equipment making it easy and comfortable for your dog whilst also acting as a force multiplier for you.
One of the most touted claims I see is: Use a harness, followed by use a halti, which is then closely followed by the claim that a no pull harness will solve all the problems.
The problem here is that we are relying on the equipment to punish (reduce frequency and/or intensity of behaviour) the pulling. Inadvertently we use a device to temporarily punish a behaviour.
The biggest problem with a lack of adequate training is frustration.
Frustration leads to either rejection or motivation of a behaviour. For example, you work hard to get recognition in the workplace so that you can forge a career and carve out a niche for yourself. As you make improvements you notice that your hard work is no longer being noticed, so you work harder and harder. Now if your persistent hard work does not pay off, you reject the hard work. Why bother, it is not paying off in returns.
We have a similar effect with our dogs on lead. The equipment leads to frustration, since the restrain functions differently the student dog must now look for another solution to solve their problem. With harnesses (force multipliers for your dog) they are able to pull harder, with front attached equipment such as haltis & no pull harness' (force multipliers for you) the dog is subject to greater levels of frustration, which will either promote them to pull harder (motivation) or stop pulling (rejection).
A well known Russian, Ivan I Pavlov found that behaviours can be taught and stopped. He also noted that when behaviours can be stopped that the motivator can be internal (the subject stops autonomously) or external (the subject stops because they have an environmental reason to).
Sound tricky? Lets put it into english:
Internal: I come to a red light, I better stop
External: Highway patrol car driving behind you, I better do the speed limit.
Now the punisher can be temporary or permanent in its effect.
In our case, the equipment is a temporary punisher. To prove it, you will find that the majority of dogs who are put back onto a previous piece of equipment will start to pull again.
You see, they do not learn to avoid pulling, they adapt to the new tool, sure, but they have not learned a skill. As such you cannot call upon that skill when you need it, you must force it to happen by compelling your dog.
But wait, there's more!
What if we slowed things down! What if we decided that the walk is not exercise (it really is not!), but it only serves to enrich our dogs lives?
How frustrating is that enrichment then supposed to be? Imagine whenever you went on holiday, you had to tie your shoes together?! That's hardly enriching and a bit of a no brainer...but that is exactly what most dogs are subject to.
What if we spent a couple of weeks teaching your dogs to Heel, to walk next to us, independent of the environment and socially attached to you?
Start in the Hallway, progress to the driveway, keep progressing to the next driveway and the next...
Soon enough you have a dog that is capable of walking past other dogs, trucks, buses, butcher shops and cafes without pulling at the lead.
Not only is the pulling solved, you can save yourself a trip to the pet shop to buy some over-priced piece of gear. Instead you can buy your dog a nice collar and a nice lead and live with that for 10-15years.