Updated November 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best front clip dog harnesses

A harness is a popular choice for controlling your furry friend on walks or trips, offering you more control than a collar and increased comfort for your dog. While a collar might be easy for a dog to slip out of, a harness wraps around the chest and back and makes it harder for your pet to escape.

Harnesses are ideal for training and controlling dogs that are more impulsive, distracted, or difficult on a leash. Of the two main points of connection on a  harness, the front and the back, front clip harnesses are best for dogs that need to learn to heel, particularly if they like to lead the way.

Similar to other types of harnesses, front clip harnesses come in a few different styles to fit dogs of all sizes and shapes. Some are made for particular types of excursions or weather, while others are simpler and more budget-friendly. Because the harness is a mechanism that can keep your dog safe, it’s vital to find one that fits properly and suits your dog’s lifestyle. Our buying guide has the information you need, including a few that we think stand out from the rest.

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Dogs can be impressive escape artists, especially when frightened, which can lead to dangerous situations. While a harness offers more security than a leash, it’s still possible for a dog to get free if the harness doesn’t fit correctly.

Key considerations

Collar vs. harness

Collar: While collars might be convenient for some dog owners, they can choke and hurt a dog that pulls. Particularly when it comes to smaller dogs that have more delicate throats, pulling on a leash can be incredibly dangerous. Dogs that are easily scared or have a high prey drive can often escape from collars.

Harness: Any dog that pulls while on walks or reacts to other animals, sounds, or people is better off wearing a harness. A harness fastens around the dog’s torso, with straps around the neck and the chest just behind the front legs. This distributes the tension more evenly when the dog pulls, not just on the neck alone. 

Your dog might not be prone to pulling, but there can be situations in which you need to quickly pull your dog away from danger, and doing so with a harness is safer and easier than with a collar. What’s more, a harness is more useful for training, allowing you to turn, guide, or redirect your dog more easily than if it’s wearing a collar. 

Size 

Size is a vital aspect of these products. It should fit your dog snugly but comfortably. Generally, a snug fit is defined as the ability to fit two fingers between your dog’s body and the harness (though this can vary depending on the size of your fingers relative to the dog). Check the fit all over the harness, not just in one area.

Harnesses include a fitting guide, and you’ll need to measure around your dog’s neck and chest to get the right size.  Note that the part of the neck that a harness goes around isn’t the same part that a collar typically encircles. When measuring your dog’s neck, wrap the measuring tape around the thickest part just above the shoulder. 

For some harnesses, to find the most accurate fit you might also have to measure the length of your dog from the neck to the base of the tail and check its weight.

Components

Chest piece: Most front clip harnesses have a chest piece rather than a strap, which gives you increased control and the dog increased protection. It is also the place where the leash is attached. Look for a harness with a chest piece made of mesh to allow for breathability and ventilation, especially if you live in a warmer climate. The chest piece should also be padded for your dog’s comfort.

Back clip: While some front clip harnesses only have one point of attachment for the leash, most provide one more on the back. This clip can be used for walks with well-trained dogs and is a bit more comfortable. A front clip should not be used to secure your dog in a vehicle when traveling, so a harness with a back clip provides more versatility and value. You can also vary your walks using the front and back clips, rewarding your dog using the back clip or reinforcing the training using the front clip.

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Did You Know?
Some harnesses the dog steps into, while others go on over the head. Either way, be patient with your dog when first introducing the harness, and reward your pet when it successfully wears it.
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Features

Safety

Some harnesses have reflective material on the straps and chest piece to provide better visibility when you’re walking your dog at night. While it’s a welcome safety feature, it won’t help guide your way in the dark or help find a lost dog. 

Handle

Some front clip dog harnesses have a durable handle on the back to help you control and even carry your dog if necessary. It’s useful for lifting a small dog into a car, for example. Typically, only harnesses with a chest piece have a handle, so that holding back or lifting the dog doesn’t cause it discomfort. 

Weather features

Some front clip harnesses are designed to keep the dog comfortable outdoors. While most that have a chest piece are designed with breathability in mind, some are also water-resistant or help to keep your dog cool. Some also have a rugged design that resists dirt, which is ideal if you like to take your dog on hikes and other outdoor adventures.

Colors and design

Front clip dog harnesses come in a variety of colors, patterns, and fun designs. While you first and foremost want to find a harness that fits correctly and enables you to comfortably control your dog, you can still find a harness in a color or pattern you like. Most are offered in a few common colors like black and brown, while others come in an assortment of colors like pink, turquoise, purple, and green. You can find some with patterns like plaids, stars, flowers, or fruits, and a few feature characters from pop culture.

When choosing a harness size, keep in mind any raincoats or sweaters your dog might wear either under or over the harness.

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Accessories

Dog leash: Frisco Solid Nylon Dog Leash
Solid and effective, this durable dog leash by a trusted brand is an ideal option for walks and hikes. It comes in a few different color options and six different combinations of length and width.

Dog collar: Blueberry Pet Adjustable Dog Collar
You’ll also want a durable collar to hold your dog's ID tags, and this nylon option from Blueberry Pets is comfortable, inexpensive, and offered in 25 colors. It can be personalized with your pet’s name too.

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Did You Know?
For training, some owners use a leash that connects to the harness front and back. This gives you more control and better distributes the pressure.
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Pricing

Inexpensive: You can find basic front clip harnesses with straps but without a chest piece to fit most dogs for around $15 or less. There are also some in this range with a chest piece that fit small dogs.

Mid-range: Most front clip dog harnesses cost between $15 and $35, with the price depending on the size of the dog. These come in various colors and feature a second back clip.

Expensive: The priciest front clip dog harnesses are for large dogs and cost $35 and up. Some include features for added comfort or weather resistance.

Tips

  • Inspect the harness before every walk. Take a moment to check the fit of the harness before heading out with your dog. There’s always a chance it has loosened, especially if your dog pulls. Examine the buckles too.
  • Check the fit. The more adjustment points on the harness the better. A certain size harness may not fit your dog perfectly, so it’s important that you can adjust the straps.
  • Avoid retractable leashes. These leashes are not suited for controlling dogs, especially when they’re attached to the front of a harness. Many communities ban them because of their lack of control.
  • Opt for a harness with wide straps. Thin straps increase the likelihood of causing discomfort. They can twist and more easily chafe the skin under the legs. Wider straps distribute the pressure more evenly.
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If your pet grows out of its harness, consider donating the harness to a local shelter that rescues dogs.

FAQ

Q. Will a front clip harness keep my dog from pulling on walks?

A. These harnesses are designed to deter pulling, but that doesn’t mean they can stop it completely. A harness is a tool used to train your dog, not a solution, which means that if your dog is scared, reactive, or hyper on walks, it could still find a way to fight the harness and reinforce its undesirable, potentially harmful behavior.

Q.How do I know if the harness fits properly?

A. There are some clear signs that a harness doesn’t fit well, including your dog’s ability to wiggle out of it. If your dog is pulling or not walking properly, it can also be an indication that the harness isn’t secure. Your dog might resist walking at all if a tight harness causes too much discomfort. A harness that is too tight can result in hair loss or chafing over time.

Q. How do I train my dog to walk better on a leash?

A. The foundation of successful training is creating good associations with the proper behavior while eliminating negative associations. This requires patience and determination on your part, because instilling proper walking techniques can take weeks or even months. Putting on the harness and going for walks should be fun and rewarding for your dog, so make sure to offer plenty of praise, petting, and treats when your dog behaves well. Above all, never get mad or yell at your dog. This will simply cause it to associate walks with unpleasant interactions with you.
 

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