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You want the best for your four-legged friend. Buying him a harness is a definite step in the right direction.
While collars might be the de facto choice for walking a dog, a harness is superior — unless your canine companion always walks perfectly on his leash, that is. In most scenarios, a harness delivers more control. And when your dog pulls on his leash, the harness distributes the force across his chest so he’s not vulnerable to pain or injury.
You might think buying a dog harness is as simple as walking into a pet store and picking up whatever they have in stock. But it's more complex than that. A variety of factors, including your dog's size, shape, strength, and activity level, should play a crucial role in your decision.
We can help you find the perfect harness to suit you and your dog. At BestReviews, our mission is to provide you with honest, unbiased reviews of the products you need. We never accept free manufacturer samples. Instead, we buy test products off of store shelves, experiment with them in our labs, and analyze customer feedback.
Please see our product matrix, above, for the best dog harnesses available on today’s market. If you’d like to learn more about dog harnesses, read on!
Nicole has been training animals for over 15 years, from bears and tigers to household dogs. A member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, she has been certified by the American Kennel Club as a Canine Good Citizen evaluator and she focuses on positive reinforcement methods so that training is always fun. Every year, Nicole attends SuperZoo, the largest pet product showcase, to research new pet products from cat litter to electric dog toys and she loves sharing what she finds with other pet parents.
Is your dog an avid puller? Does he have an unusual shape that might affect the fit of his harness? Do you go on long walks together? Keep the answers to these questions in mind as you explore the different types of dog harnesses available to you.
This is perhaps the most common type of harness available. It features a single D-ring at the back of the harness, between the dog's shoulders.
A back clip harness is best for small dogs and those who walk with a loose leash. If you have a strong dog who doesn't walk nicely on a leash, this type of harness may not be for you, as it basically allows him to drag you around with the full force of his weight.
A front clip harness features a D-ring in the middle of the dog’s chest.
This type of harness gives you more control and prevents your dog from pulling you. It’s not uncomfortable for him, either — even if he tries to yank. A front clip harness is perfect for training your dog to walk with a loose leash. It’s also appropriate for anyone who needs to walk a strong dog safely.
Some harnesses have clips on both the front and back. This is ideal if you occasionally need extra control but are typically fine with just a back clip. The Ruffwear Front Range Harness in our product matrix, above, features this type of design.
Dog harnesses need to be regularly washed, just like your clothes. Check whether the product you are buying is machine or hand washable.
A bib harness, also known as a vest harness, sports a large front piece that covers almost all of the dog's chest. It may include a front clip, a back clip, or a combination of the two.
This type of harness is usually padded for comfort. That’s a plus for people who take their dogs on long hikes, as it could help prevent uncomfortable rubbing and chafing.
All dogs are beautiful, no matter what their size or shape. But some are harder to fit into a harness than others. If your dog has a barrel chest or disproportionately wide shoulders, he may be able to wriggle out of an average harness. You need something that fits him better than that.
Mix-and-match harnesses are sold as separate “segments” that clip together. The advantage: you can tailor a harness to fit your unique dog. For instance, you could order a small chest piece, a medium back piece, and a large girth piece to achieve the correct fit.
Give your dog lots of treats and praise when introducing a new harness. This is give rise to a positive association with harness wearing.
Not all harnesses are the same; features vary from product to product. Some designs will naturally suit your four-legged friend better than others.
Here’s a look at some common dog harness features:
We recommend that you choose a well-padded harness. Non-padded harnesses made strictly of webbing, leather, or mesh have a tendency to rub, especially if your dog doesn’t walk perfectly on his leash. A good dog harness could be padded with neoprene, fleece, or another material.
It's always wise to inspect the clips and D-rings on your dog harness to make sure they're secure enough — especially if you have a large, strong dog. As explained above, it's best to choose a harness that has a D-ring on the front if your dog tends to pull on his leash.
If a clip or D-ring breaks at the wrong time, your dog could run into a dangerous area or get lost. It's not worth going for a flimsy model with plastic leash clips just to save a few bucks.
You might wonder why you would need a handle on your dog's harness. If you occasionally need to pull your dog out of trouble or remove him from the water, a handle can be very helpful. It gives you more “close control” than a harness without a handle.
Some harnesses are made from water-resistant or quick-dry materials. In many situations, this type of material might be unnecessary. But if your dog is an avid swimmer, a quick-dry harness can be a godsend.
Make sure that the harness fits your dog since a harness that does not fit properly will be easy for your dog to escape. Dogs with broader shoulders may need a specialty harness.
Crossing the road at night, when you and your dog aren’t clearly visible, can be dangerous. A product like the Expawlorer Big Dog No Pull Harness addresses this risk with reflective strips that allow drivers to spot you after the sun goes down. If you walk your dog at night or in the early morning, a harness with reflective strips is definitely a good call.
It might only be aesthetic, but there's no reason why you shouldn't care about the color of your dog's harness. Most of our top picks come in a variety of colors. For instance, the Ruffwear Front Range Harness is available in campfire orange, alpenglow pink, twilight gray, and pacific blue. However, some more utilitarian products may only come in black.
If your dog outgrows its harness, or the harness becomes too old, consider donating it to your nearest pet care facility.
Some owners might wonder why they should buy their dog a harness if he already has a collar. In truth, there are several reasons why a collar isn't the best choice for walking your dog:
That said, all dogs should wear a collar with ID tags, even if they're microchipped and harnessed. Wearing collar with tags increases your dog’s chance of coming home safely and quickly should he ever get lost.
If your dog has a collapsing trachea or other throat ailment, consider using a harness. The tug and pull of a collar may cause more harm.
You'll find harnesses to fit dogs of all shapes and sizes, and most are adjustable so you can fine-tune the fit. But learning a little more about how to fit your dog for a harness will help you get the right size first time around.
With most harnesses, you only need to take one measurement to find the correct size for your dog. Often called the "girth" measurement, this is the circumference of your dog around his ribcage. To get this measurement, you'll need a soft cloth measuring tape. Wrap it around your dog just behind his front legs, at the widest part of his ribcage, and take note of the measurement. Then check the product (or the manufacturer's website) to see what size your dog's measurement equates to.
Although the harness should be fairly snug to prevent slippage, it shouldn't be too tight, especially around the ribcage. A too-tight harness could restrict your dog's breathing. It’s also really uncomfortable.
It might surprise you what a difference a good no-pull harness can make. Not only will your walk be more enjoyable for both of you, but you will also be able to walk longer. More exercise can fix many other issues – a dog with more exercise is less destructive in the home.
A basic harness could cost you less than $10. A top-of-the-line harness could cost you up to $100. What’s a good price for a dog harness, and does a higher price guarantee higher quality?
We offer the following shopping tips:
Please see the five choices in our product matrix, above, for the best choices in dog harnesses today.
At this point, you hopefully have a good idea what kind of harness to buy for your dog. Before making your final selection, we can suggest you ask yourself the following questions.
Q: Will I be using it every day?
A: Hopefully the answer to this is “yes,” as all dogs need daily walks for optimum physical and mental health. If your harness will get daily use, it's definitely wise to go for at least a mid-range product to ensure it lasts a good long time.
Q: Does my dog pull on the lead?
A: Some dogs are too excited by the mere concept of going for a walk to ever consider walking with a loose leash. If your pup's a puller, pick a front clip harness to make your life easier and give your arm a rest.
Q: Is it machine washable?
A: We all know that a dog can appear “spotless” one moment and drenched in mud the next. Check that your harness of choice is machine washable. Most dog owners consider this to be a huge advantage, if not a necessity.
Q: Will I being going on long walks with my dog?
A: If you intend to hike with your four-legged friend for hours on end, make sure you choose an extremely well-padded harness.
Many harnesses advertised for cars are NOT suitable for a car at all – and many of these are from very reputable companies that I would buy other products from. Check out the Center For Pet Safety’s Crash tests if you are planning on using a harness as a car restraint.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.