Dog harnesses or body straps are preferred by most dog owners who may have pooches that are slightly more uncontrollable or those that get easily distracted. While most of us use collars on our dogs, if they get too excited or even anxious about something while walking, they can snap their necks because of the pull or tug on their leash. Many dog owners prefer the use of body straps on their pets because it gives them better sense of control over the movement of their dogs. And if you think your dog needs the same level of attention and control like the pets of these dog owners, then you’d be glad we’re here sharing with you the best dog harness options in the market today.
Dog Harness Buying Guide
Buying a canine harness means you will have to consider quite a few things. Here we’ll try to explore some of these considerations so you will have a better chance of getting a more appropriate harness for your canine friend. Do understand, however, that these are intended as general guidelines only so feel free to make the necessary adjustments to fit your Fido’s specific needs.
Determine If You Want A Dog Harness With A Back Clip Or A Front Clip
One of the first things you may need to decide on is whether you will go for a D-ring located at the front, typically right in the center of the chest strap, or you will opt for a D-ring strapped to the back of the harness. Generally, it all depends on the type of pooch that you have.
If you have a dog that is a small breed or is diagnosed with neck injuries or even respiratory or airway problems, then a back clip is perfect. The reason for this is quite simple. Since the pull from the leash occurs at the back there’s no strain on the neck area. However, back clips should never be used on dogs that are aggressive or powerful pullers as well as those with very little training and have a very high predatory drive.
If, however, you have a pooch that jumps, pulls, and gets easily distracted while you’re walking, but not to the point that it is very powerful enough to drag you, then a front clip design is best. This helps you establish better control over your doggie’s behavior so you can easily correct it. Sadly, like the back clip, powerful pullers, untrained dogs, and canines with exceptional predatory drive are best controlled using other mechanisms.
Different Types of Dog Harnesses
If you have been to the pet supplies store already you’d notice that there are different styles or types of harnesses for dogs. Some come in different colors, patterns, and designs. The point is that everything actually depends on the type of dog that you have. For best results, we strongly recommend taking your dog with you if you intend to purchase any one of these products so you can try them on your pet. Make sure to try each one and choose only that which can provide you exceptional control but without necessarily hurting your mutt.
- Tightening harness – Designed for jumpers and stubborn pullers, the tightening harness is just what the name implies. It is a body strap that tightens whenever your mutt pulls or jumps. The application of pressure strongly discourages the pulling and jumping behavior of dogs. Not to worry though as the pressure is just enough to cause a little discomfort for your pooch and not really intended to hurt it or even injure it.
However, don’t ever use a tightening harness on a dog that hasn’t really responded positively to corrective training. No amount of pressure application will ever correct its jumping and pulling behavior. A different approach must be considered altogether. Moreover, if you have a timid dog, this type of harness should also not be used for the simple fact that they will get the idea that they are being punished. Lastly, dogs that have history of abuse should not be put on a tightening harness as it can bring back memories of its past abused life and may react violently to it or regress.
- Head harness – You can think of the head harness as a horse’s bridle that’s designed especially for canines. Just like the tightening harness, the head harness is put on around your mutt’s head and muzzle to discourage negative or undesirable behaviors by correcting and controlling the movement and direction of the pooch’s head.
Unfortunately, there’s a big controversy regarding its use. Like dog muzzles, the use of this type of head strap may cause damage to the cervical spine of a pooch especially if used on a very powerful and aggressive mutt and the one handling it is not properly trained. That is why this type of harness should only be used by well-experienced dog trainers whose patience is endless.
In the hands of an experienced trainer, this strap is great for persistent but not aggressive pullers as well as pooches that get easily distracted. Sadly, it cannot be used on pooches with relatively short muzzles as well as those with problems with breathing. It should also not be used by dog owners or trainers who have a quick temper or are easily frustrated.
- Mobility harness – This type of dog harness is primarily intended for pooches with physical limitations or with limited mobility. It is often indicated or recommended for use on pooches with joint disorders or injuries, hip dysplasia, degenerative disorders of the joints, and even impaired or limited physical mobility. It can also be used on dogs that are still recovering from surgery.
This type of canine harness typically comes with a strap that runs the entire length of the back of the body strap. Some models can have a hip-lift handle, wraparound handle, or even a back handle, all of which serve to support the pooch’s weight especially around the joints.
The harness that has a strap that runs all the way from the neck to the back is perfect for smaller breeds of dogs while those with back or hip lift handles are ideal for medium- and large- sized canines especially those with injuries to the hind legs. It is also applicable to pooches that have stiffness in all of their joints. As for mobility harnesses that come with wraparound handles, these are perfect for female large mutts that have difficulty moving with or walking on all 4 legs or with a problem in the hind legs.
Check the Correct Fit For Your Dog
Aside from the type of dog harness that you need to consider for your pooch you will also need to decide on the design of the straps to determine the correct fit for your doggie. Two of the more common types of fit include the following.
- Step-in – This is a very common design in doggie harnesses. It comes in figure-8 styling and all the pooch needs to do is to step into the figure 8, bring the straps towards the back, and secure it with its clip. Unfortunately, these are only applicable to smaller canine breeds or even those that are lightweight. You can see some that are designed for larger breeds but these are usually very rare. The step-in harness is also perfect for elderly dog owners who may already have reduced manual dexterity.
- Roman – The Roman fit type includes a strap that goes around the dog’s shoulder blades and another one going around the pooch’s chest. These two straps are then joined under the chest and along the back and works exceptionally well with the back clip. This fit type is definitely for dog owners who have excellent fine motor skills. These are not intended for those who have arthritis or even cognitive problems.
Always Consider the Strength and Durability of the Material or Materials Used in a Dog Harness
The materials used in the construction of the doggie harness typically come in either single-ply or two-ply. For all intents and purposes, you’re better off with a 2-ply as these provide you with exceptional strength and durability especially if you’re working with larger dogs as well as canines that can really pull. However, if you’re talking about a puppy or a small breed, a single-ply should do.
Evaluate the Different Features of a Typical Harness
Different harnesses often come in various styles and designs. Some may have added reflective bands to increase safety and visibility especially in conditions where the lighting is poor. Some may also come in various colors and adornments to reflect the kind of persona human masters want for their pooches. While they may vary in these aspects, they all share the following components or key features. As such, it is imperative to carefully analyze and evaluate these features so you’ll be able to identify the best one for your dog.
- Fabric – Consider a dog harness as a vest that you put over your torso to protect you. Now imagine if your so-called vest is made of flimsy fabric material, will you feel more confident about your safety? For many folks, they won’t really feel safe; not one bit. The same is true with your pet.
Since harnesses are supposed to support and protect your pet’s body from incessant pulling and all that stuff, if it is made of flimsy material, then there is a very strong chance that your pet will break loose simply because the fabric was torn apart. This is an issue with very strong, large dogs. But if you have a smaller breed or perhaps a puppy, then using such flimsy and thin fabric materials will be quite safe; although, we’d still recommend going for sturdier materials. Going for thick fabrics, those with robust materials should be an excellent choice if the body strap is for a large breed. But if you’re going to put this on small pooches, they’ll feel very stiff and might not be able to move as independently as they would like.
Another consideration is the way the different panels of fabric have been joined together. Ideally, a unitary fabric material is preferred over those that come with different panels or sections that are sewn together. Given that a one-piece fabric material is very rare, you will have to examine the way in which the different components were put together. As much as possible, get a product with panels that are first fused together before they are top-stitched. One way to check if the product has excellent panel fusing is if shows a biased strip. These are visible strip that often fall around the edges of the canine body strap. These biased strips are what enclose the edges of the fabrics that have been fused together. As for the top-stitching, make sure that it goes throughout the whole body strap and not only on the opening.
- D-ring and strap – The next feature that you need to carefully evaluate is the D-ring and its accompanying strap. This is what essentially connects the canine body strap to the other important tool in the handling system – the leash. What you need is a D-ring that is well-centered so that the leash will be properly attached. Additionally, it should be of good quality construction.
As for the strap, make sure that it runs the entire length of the back of the doggie body strap. Additionally, it should also be properly stitched under the harness’ neckline with the correct level of reinforcement. Its construction should allow you to hold your pooch really steady while walking. The placement of the strap together with the D-ring should help distribute the pulling force of the leash right from the center of the harness and not solely on the neck portion. Otherwise, you risk hurting your doggie.
- Length – The length of the harness is also critical when choosing the best and most appropriate one for your dog. As a general rule, the length of the body strap should cover no more than half of your dog’s back. To give you an idea where the length of the body strap should end, try to feel for your pet’s ribs. The location where the ribs end is exactly where the outermost edge of the harness should be. Of course, there are longer or larger harnesses. These typically come with additional straps that allow it to be secured properly around the hind legs of your dog.
- Corners – This is one element that many dog owners fail to consider in their choice of a dog harness. Evaluating the sections of a dog harness where they go around joints such as your pooch’s front legs should be second nature. Always go for rounded corners as these provide for better mobility and greater range of motion at the joints. If you get a usual 90-degree corner lying over a joint, this can severely restrict the freedom of movement of such joints. So, watch for the corners in the sections of the arms and neck as well as the areas of the straps.
Benefits of a Harness
There are many reasons why people would rather use a dog harness on their pooches rather than a traditional collar. Many of these reasons are largely attributed to the following benefits of a dog harness.
- Reduces pressure or stress on the dog’s neck
Without a doubt this is the most important benefit of using a dog harness. The pressure is equally distributed along the length of the entire back or even at a section on the chest but never on the neck.
- Allows for better control of the mutt’s movement
Because the harness actually covers about half the dog’s body length and often comes in 2 leash attachment points, harnesses provide better control of a dog’s movements and directions while walking with their masters. At any rate, you can easily make corrections.
- Provides support for injured pooches
Using a collar on an injured pooch, say a dog that has dysplasia or even leg injuries, will have the pooch still using these injured limbs to move. With a dog harness, the pressure and strain on the affected limbs can be effectively reduced while also supporting the rest of the body. Just look at it like a cast or splint that you use if ever you have injuries and you want your limb to be immobilized to allow for healing.
- Fosters better communication between master and pet
Many canine harnesses come with dual connections. These give you the chance to provide the necessary feedback to your pooch if it is doing the right thing or not. Rather than providing feedback on only a certain section of its body, you are communicating with it on two points.
How to Properly Use a Dog Harness
How to properly put on a doggie harness actually depends on the type of body strap that you have. Typically, however, you will have to have your dog stand and assist it in stepping into the loop formed by the straps. In some instances, you may have to slip the straps over its head and assist it into stepping through the harness’ arm holes. Consistency is very important here. How you put on the body strap the first time should be repeated through the succeeding sessions. This is to make sure that your canine friend gets used to it.
In using a dog harness, it is important to ensure that all the different straps are free of kinks and twists. This will help eliminate pinching of the skin or the application of unnecessary pressure on certain parts of its body. If your pooch is a little bit skittish whenever you put on its harness, use a treat to keep it preoccupied while you get it all harnessed up.
Dog harnesses are important tools in making our dog training and doggie walks a lot safer and more manageable. In choosing the right dog harness it is important to look at several things including the positioning of the clip, the type of the harness, its fit, and the different features you need to look for. It is equally important to learn how get the correct measurement of your pooch as well as how to put the harness into your pet. These should help you achieve the different benefits of using a harness on your dog.
Dog Harness FAQ
Q: Will a Dog Harness Stop My Pet Pulling?
A: The short answer to this question is “yes”. This is especially true if you get a no pull dog harness as this takes the pressure off your pooch’s neck. Having a dog harness also allows you to position your mutt to stay at your heel. It also allows for the establishment of two connections – one in front and one at the back – to help prevent the triggering of the opposition reflex. Getting a no pull dog harness also strongly encourages your pooch to walk with you in a calmer manner. Of course, all of these things don’t happen overnight. Just because you put the harness today they will no longer be pulling tomorrow. It takes time, patience, and plenty of practice to help teach your mutt not to pull.
Q: Can You Keep a Dog Harness on Your Pet All the Time?
A: It should be made clear that a dog harness is primarily intended to exert some form of control over your dog’s movements whenever you’re outside the home. Whether it is a casual walk or undergoing obedience training, it is important that they be on a harness. However, once you are already home and your dog is safe in the confines of it’s crate or kennel, then you have to remove the harness. This is especially true for puppies. Some would actually say that it is perfectly alright to leave it on. We do strongly suggest asking yourself if wearing a thick vest all day and all night long will make you comfortable.
Q: How Do You Measure for a Dog Harness?
A: The correct fit of a dog harness is crucial to ensuring its optimum function. Dog harnesses that are too loose provide little control over the mutt and may also allow it to escape. Harnesses that are super tight will bring discomfort and pain. That is why it is important to establish the right fit. The only way you can establish this is by measuring the circumference of both the chest and lower neck of your pooch. Here’s how.
- To measure the circumference of your dog’s neck, place a cloth tape measure at the level of its breastbone and wrap it around its back until it meets the other end of the tape measure in front.
- To measure the chest circumference of your dog, place the cloth tape measure at the widest part of its chest, typically at the level just behind its front legs. Wrap the tape measure all the way around its back, meeting the opposite end of the tape at the chest.
Some products use the term “girth” to describe the circumference of a dog’s chest. So you might want to keep this in mind. Additionally, it is always best to get a size that is about an inch or two larger than the actual circumference to help prevent pinching and chafing. If you can easily slip 2 fingers between the straps and your dog, then that should be a great harness. Also, skip those products that go by a dog’s weight. Weight has nothing to do with body size which is a reflection of chest circumference.
Q: Is my dog harness machine-washable?
A: Depending on the material that was used in the construction of the harness, you may or may not be able to put the dog restraint in your washing machine. While most fabric materials are machine-washable, your main issue is the hardware such as the D-rings and buckles. For the most part you are not supposed to put anything metallic inside your washing machine as this can damage the drum. While some manufacturers will say that you can throw their harnesses into your washing machine, hand-washing is still the preferred method primarily because of the hardware that’s embedded into these products. Some may actually wrap the harness in a lingerie bag before putting it in the washing machine.
Q: Harness vs. collar: what’s the difference?
A: Collars are like belts that are wrapped around your dog’s neck. There are many different kinds of collars and some of these are actually designed to inflict pain on the animal if it pulls on its leash. Collars are effective if you have a dog that will not pull or tug against its leash or if you have already trained it to walk at your heel. Collars are excellent for daily walks as long as your pet doesn’t have any respiratory problems or issues with its trachea. The sad thing about collars is that if your dog pulls or tugs against the collar, there is a chance that it might hurt itself. As such, collars are best reserved for pets that have already been trained never to pull on their leash.
On the other hand, harnesses are more like vests which your pet gets to wear wrapped around its chest and torso. There are straps to secure the opposing body panels. These also have leash attachments. Some designs come with dual leash attachment points while some come with only one. The harness panels on the chest and body of the dog are wider and come with padded material to help provide comfort for your dog. Your pet may still pull on its leash, but the force will be substantially less than that of a collar, depending on the location of the leash attachment point.
Harnesses are perfect for dogs that pull, tug, and lunge excessively. These are also the best option for pets with relatively short muzzles since these breeds are more prone to tracheal collapse and breathing complications. That’s why collars are not really ideal for short-muzzled pooches. Toy breeds can also benefit from harnesses because of the rather delicate nature of their necks.
Q: Can a dog harness be used on a cat?
A: If you have a cat that has the same physical dimensions as your cat, then you can use a dog harness on your kitty, too. However, given that cats are generally smaller than dogs, the closest size of dog harness you can perhaps use will be those intended for small breeds of dogs.
Q: Is it safe to make a harness out of rope?
A: Some societies actually make dog harnesses out of rope. Looking in the Internet, there are also a lot of instructional videos and learning materials on how to make a dog harness out of rope. In all of these resources, one thing always crops up – the construction of the rope dog harness should be done strictly as per instructions to help ensure that it is safe for your dog. The major safety implication is related to the choice of rope material. The rope should be appropriate for the size of your pet and only soft and smooth cotton rope or some other similar material should be used. You should never use a fibrous rope as this can seriously irritate your pet’s skin.
Our Top Pick
We considered three harnesses for the top spot in this list considering the various points needed for good-quality harness. However, we also took into consideration the experiences of pet parents as well as any price advantages that these products can provide.
We chose Ruffwear’s Front Range All-Day Adventure Harness primarily for its exceptional durability especially when it comes to canines that have the tendency to pull. It has safety reflective trims, fully padded panels, and adjustable straps, among others. Unfortunately, we find the price to be quite stiff for a dog harness. Second on the list was Chai’s Choice Best Outdoor Adventure Dog Harness. It is essentially similar to Ruffwear’s Front Range except that it only costs two-thirds the price of Ruffwear. The third was Puppia Dog Harness and is definitely the least expensive in our top 3. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a neck section adjustment mechanism nor are there safety reflective strips.
It’s a really close call between Ruffwear and Chai’s Choice. Both have essentially the same features and the same level of craftsmanship. However, if one has to look at pet owner experiences, Ruffwear has a very slight advantage when it comes to comfort for the dog. However, the advantage is almost negligible. Perhaps the real deal-breaker will be the price. If you’re on a rather tight budget but would like a good quality product for your pet, then Chai’s is a great choice. If you don’t mind paying more, then Ruffwear is clearly for you.
- Collar vs. Harness: Which is Best for Your Dog?, DogTime
- Harnessing the Walk: Choosing the Right Harness for Your Dog, VetStreet
- The Four Main Benefits of Using a Dog Harness, Paddington Pups