A dog harness can be a valuable tool to have whether you are adopting a puppy, bringing an older dog into your home, or you've had a dog for years and are ready to try something new. Dog harnesses are much safer, comfortable, and more versatile than your standard dog collars.
Instead of simply going around your pet's neck, harnesses go around the neck, shoulders, and chest, thereby providing a good balance of support.
There are many different kinds of harnesses for dogs to choose from, but ultimately it will be your preference. Typically, dog harnesses are made from nylon or leather, but some are made out of different types of fabric and actually look more like a vest or jacket than a harness.
Depending on your needs, there are three different major dog harness styles:
- Back-Clip Harnesses
- Front-Clip Harnesses
- Tightening Harnesses
- Dog sling harness
ULTIMATE LIST: The 50 Best Dog Harnesses for Walking Your Dogs
Back and front-clip harnesses are named based on where the leash clip is located on the device. Back-clip harnesses are the most common type, and they are also the safest for your pet. However, they aren't meant to stop your dog from pulling on a leash because they do very little to discourage bad behavior.
If your dog pulls, or you will be getting a puppy that will need to be trained not to pull, a front-clip harness is your best bet. The leash attaches to these harnesses in the middle of the dog's chest. Front-clip harnesses allow you to direct the dog in any direction you choose and also make it easy to get the dog to turn and face you if need be.
Tightening harnesses are designed to apply pressure to the dog's chest when they pull on the leash. They don't hurt the dog, but they will make him uncomfortable enough to stop pulling. This type of dog harness is great for training and working with dogs that tend to tug on their leash. The only downside is that tightening harnesses teach the dog to walk well with that device but may not help them learn to walk politely when wearing a standard collar.
The dog sling harness is completely different from the rest, and is a “special” type of dog lifting sling that helps senior dogs with degenerative disease walk, as well as support any canine who had surgery and needs assistance. You can see what they look like and how to pick the best dog sling harness here.
Once you've selected the type of harness that you feel will best meet your pet's needs, you should follow a dog harness user guide to make sure that your pet is safe and comfortable while wearing the device. If you don't put the harness on the way that it was intended to be worn, it may rub on your pet and physically harm him or make him unwilling to wear the harness again in the future.
Before we begin the guide, here are a few helpful videos on dog harnesses:
- How to Measure for and Choose the Right Dog Harness (Video)
- How To Put On A Dog Harness (Video)
- The Best Dog Harness Review (Video)
- How No-Pull Dog Harnesses and Collars Help with Dog Leash Pulling
Dog Harness Guide
Making sure your dog is comfortable
Today, when shopping for dog harnesses, dog owners often inquire about pet collars as well. However, many dog experts believe that harnesses are a better product because collars have been known to injure a dog's trachea or neck.
Even with that type of information to consider, choosing a dog collar isn't necessarily all bad. Collars and harnesses can be comfortably fitted, depending on the temperament and activity level of the dog.
Some pet owners also choose to use dog collars alongside harnesses. Their dog is typically fitted with a collar, but if they are walking a pooch on a leash, they'll switch out the collar for a harness.
The choice is yours, but you will need to observe your dog and do some research before deciding what is right for your situation. This dog harness guide is a good first step.
Fit the collar or harness on the dog
Canines come in a variety of sizes and shapes and display various abilities and dispositions. Therefore, a harness that work for one breed of dog may not be suitable for another type of canine. Similarly, some dogs can wear well-fitting collars that do not hurt their necks, while the same collar on another dog may be detrimental or injurious.
Fitting a harness correctly can be tricky at first, but once you take it off and put it back on your dog a few times, you will have it down to a technique. All dog harnesses will come with instructions that you need to follow to ensure a proper fit.
If the directions seem confusing, or you are having a hard time understanding them, try looking up a video on the manufacturers website – most dog companies will have explanations for their products.
If you can bring your pet with you to the store, a trained associate should be able to help you fit the harness on your pet. Many veterinary offices sell harnesses for dogs, and if you purchase one there, your vet or their staff will be able to walk you through the correct way on how to put the harness on your dog.
Top 5 best selling dog harnesses on Amazon:
Classic dog collars vs. dog harnesses
In order to compare harnesses, you must review the traditional dog collar and its benefits and drawbacks. In the past, dog collars have been used as the classic accessory for dog training and walking. Most people are acquainted with the necklace-like collar. However, some collars will have additional features, such as a metal choke style collar (not recommended) or the martingale design (some dog trainers advise using this one with more stubborn dogs).
The choke collar, as the name suggests, can be potentially injurious and has caused numerous documented cases of neck and throat injuries in dogs. This kind of collar has given rise to the popularity associated with the dog harness, although some dog trainers still choose to use choke collars.
They aren't always harmful, but you must be well trained and know precisely what you're doing in order to use a choke collar effectively on a canine.
The martingale collar is designed to gently close around a dog's neck when he either pulls on it, or backs up. In turn, the collar stays flush with the neck and your dog is unable to pull out of it. These pet collars are much more highly recommended than choke collars. In fact, martingale collars are sometimes recommended over dog harnesses by certain pet experts in the case where a dog's long hair would get tangled or pulled if they were strapped in a harness.
The martingale, which is also called a slip collar, is typically recommended for the dog that may attempt to slip out of his collar every now and then.
If your dog is not in the habit of pulling on his leash and is free of any health issues involving the respiratory tract or trachea, then he is a viable candidate for most types of dog collars.
However, if he tends to lunge or pull when he is on the leash, it is better to outfit your canine with a harness. Not only will a harness keep him from getting physically injured, it will also keep him from escaping if he pulls too hard or tries to back out of his collar. Generally, when it comes to dog training and walking, harnesses still remain the number one choice among dog owners today.
Besides the dogs that tend to pull on their leash, Fidos that exhibit short muzzles and toy breeds are also good candidates for harnesses. Dogs with short muzzles tend to have respiratory issues and a harness reduces all risk of the product interfering with their breathing. Likewise, toy breeds and other small dogs are more delicate than medium and large breeds. Therefore, a collar can be quite hurtful to their necks.
When to select a particular type of dog harness
Along with the numerous different types of dog harnesses, there are also some unique styles made for special circumstances. For example, there are dog harnesses that are designed for exercise and training purposes.
These harnesses are made so the dog is able to breathe properly at various training intensities. The handle on the harness can be customized so it appears at the top, thereby causing less discomfort when the dog is walked or is running.
There are also special harnesses made so that you can provide your pet with mobility assistance. These Y-shaped, chest padded harnesses can be made of leather or nylon and they provide the most comfort for canines that may need a lift every now and then.
Your dog may need one of these harnesses if they are older and require help getting onto higher surfaces or climbing stairs. Mobility assistance harnesses are also commonly worn by dogs that are recovering from an injury and need to be carrier in order to keep stress and weight off their legs, hips, or joints.
There are also mobility assistance harnesses for dogs that supply mobility assistance to humans. These service dogs wear harnesses that feature even more padding, especially in the breast area. These mobility assistance harnesses must be durable enough to pull a wheelchair and comfortable enough for the dog to wear for a good part of the day.
Tips and tricks for selecting a dog harness
If you live in a humid climate, select a harness made of nylon. These harnesses breathe better and the humidity won't effect their size at all, unlike leather harnesses. Speaking of leather, use a leather conditioner on a dog harness made of that material in order to keep your dog comfortable in high-humidity conditions. Humidity can make leather shrink which would make your Fido pretty uncomfortable in his harness after a long walk.
Padding is also essential for your dog's comfort, and it is one of the main reasons a harness is often chosen over a collar. Cheaper harnesses are usually just that… cheap. They are made with poorer quality material and they don't have as much padding. Spending a little extra now will make your pup more comfortable and may keep you from having to replace the harness quickly.
Choosing a harness with a handle on the top will allow for better control of your dog, especially when he is off the leash. While you cannot use the handle when leading your pet, it is a nice convenience if you need to quickly pick up your dog, steer him in a certain direction, or walk him somewhere off-leash.
Another great choice would be to add some reflective trim to your harness if you walk your pooch at night. You can purchase harnesses for dogs that already come with reflective trim, or you can add your own if the style you like doesn't come with that option. This is very beneficial for dogs that go outside at night so that it's easier for everybody to spot them.
Be sure to check the fit of your dog's collar or harness on a regular basis. As dog products age, sometimes the buckles will loosen or the material will slip and allow a little extra space in your dog's harness or collar. This could be extremely dangerous if you don't realize it and take your pet for a walk. If they pull or try to back out of their harness, that little extra space could be just what they need to escape.
Whether you choose to use a collar, a dog harness, or both, be sure to do your research or consult with an expert to decide what is best for your dog and their individual situation. If you have questions that you can't find answers to, your veterinarian, a local dog walker, dog trainers, or any other professional that works with canines and canine equipment regularly would be a great resource.
Also, remember that this dog harness guide is just that, a guide. Every dog is built differently and so is every harness. Make sure to follow the specific instructions for the harness that you purchase, and be sure to take your dog for a trial walk around your house or your yard before you take them to a new location with more unusual distractions and multiple new stimulants.