How to Choose a Dog Harness

westie wearing a dog harness

When you decide to add a dog to your family, you’re also adding a lot of walks and activity to your life. Having a good dog harness is essential for leash training, safer walks, and other types of outdoor activity. Here’s how to choose a dog harness:

1. Consider Which Type is the Best Harness for Your Dog

There are several types of dog harnesses available. It’s important to consider which type is the best harness for your dog. Here are 3 common types of dog harnesses to help you narrow it down for your dog:

3 Common Types of Dog Harnesses

1. Front-Clip Harness

With these harnesses, the attachment ring for the leash is located in the front of the harness, which sits in front of your dog’s chest. These also tend to be comfortable for your dog to wear and can be easy for a dog to get used to. They are a great choice as a training harness, especially for a dog that still pulls on their leash.

A front-clip harness gives you more control over your dog during a walk and helps you safely correct undesirable pulling behavior. If a dog pulls during a walk with this type of harness, they are redirected back to face you, which hinders their progress and does not reward pulling behavior. It also does not put any pressure on their neck and throat like a dog collar would. Because the leash attaches in front of your dog, you will need to be careful not to leave too much slack in the leash as it can become tangled with your dog’s front legs.

2. Back-Clip Harness

With these harnesses, the attachment ring for the leash is located in the back of the harness, which sits on top of your dog’s back. Because the leash attaches to the back, there is less of a chance your dog’s front legs will get tangled in the leash. They also tend to be comfortable to wear, which makes them easy for a dog to get used to.

A back-clip harness is a great choice for dogs who are already leash-trained and calm while walking on a lead. They’re also a good option if you enjoy biking with your dog. These types of harnesses tend not to be the best choice for dogs that still pull on the leash.

They are a better choice for dogs that pull than dog collars, but they won’t help you train your dog not to pull because they don’t redirect the motion. Due to this lack of redirection, a back-clip harness is generally not a good choice for use as a training harness or for correcting behavioral issues.

3. Tightening Harness

A tightening harness is like a dog collar and harness combination. There are different variations of this type of harness. The main characteristic is that it tightens and adds pressure when your dog pulls while on a leash. A tightening harness can be a good fit for dog’s that are persistent in pulling.

Because the added pressure while pulling is uncomfortable for your dog, it can help lessen and stop pulling behavior. However, you do need to be careful with these harnesses. Your tightening harness should add just enough pressure to be uncomfortable, but it should not cause pain.

2. Choose a Fabric Type

Another consideration for your dog harness is the fabric type. Most dog harnesses are made out of nylon, another synthetic fabric, or padded leather. You can also opt for light padding on a harness, which will be more expensive, but will also be more comfortable for your dog.

Dog harnesses made from nylon or other synthetic fabrics work well in humid areas or areas with a lot of wet weather. They also work well in dry weather and tend to be easier to adjust on your dog. Leather tends to be a better fit for dry weather and dryer areas.

3. Get the Right-Sized Harness for Your Dog

Regardless of the type of harness you get for your dog, it’s important that it fits well and is the right size for them. Poorly-fitted harnesses can be too tight or too big for your dog. Harnesses that are too tight are uncomfortable for your dog to wear, can inhibit movement, make breathing difficult, and can irritate the skin as it digs in and rubs. Harnesses that are too big can also be uncomfortable for your dog to wear as they can shift around, get caught in their legs, or get caught on other things.

How to Measure Your Dog for a Harness

When determining the right-sized harness for your dog, it’s important to start with the right measurements. The weight of your dog is important as that’s how a lot of dog harnesses are sold, but you’ll get a much better fit if you get your dog’s actual body measurements too. Make sure you write it down in both inches and centimeters, so you’ll have both available no matter which one the dog harnesses you’re considering are using.

You’ll need a measuring tape and potentially an extra pair of hands if your dog is particularly wiggly. You’ll want to measure the broadest part of your dog’s chest and stomach, which is normally right behind their shoulder blades. This ensures the harness will fit comfortably around their ribs and stomach. You’ll also want a measurement for the thinnest part of your dog’s neck.

With these measurements in hand, you’re set to find a dog harness that will fit your dog well. Your dog may end up being between sizes. If that happens, choose an adjustable harness in the larger size and adjust down to your dog.

4. Think About Additional Features

Another consideration to think about when choosing a dog harness is additional features. You may want your dog’s harness to look pretty, but function and comfort should be the priority. Consider your dog, climate, and harness usage to determine what other features may be beneficial.


If you live in a climate with wet weather or your dog enjoys swimming, a water-resistant harness is a good choice. They also are easy to clean.

Reflective Trim

If you go out for walks with your dog at night, consider finding a dog harness that also has reflective trim. This is a good safety tip for walking your dog in the dark and ensures your dog is highly visible to you and to others.

Built-in Handle

Another good feature is a dog harness with a built-in handle on the back. This is a great option for dogs with mobility issues, for use as a training tool, or for dogs that enjoy hiking with you. A handle gives you more control over your dog and also gives you an easy way to help them up and over obstacles.

Getting the right harness for your dog makes a big difference. With these tips on how to choose a dog harness, you can make sure you get one that fits your dog well and suits your needs.