Dog wearing a harness

The right harness for your dog

Criteria for a good fit and comfort


A dog harness is preferable to a collar. When your dog pulls on the leash, a harness will distribute the pressure over a much larger area than a collar and will thus reduce the strain on your dog’s neck and back. This is especially important in puppies and dogs that have not learned to walk on a loose leash yet. A harness also protects the dog’s cervical spine, thyroid, and trachea (windpipe). Protecting the windpipe is particularly important for dogs that have a collapsing trachea. In general, it is crucial that the harness properly fits the dog and facilitates freedom of movement, e.g., not blocking the shoulder or hindering the shoulder blade while walking, in an ergonomic way. Due to their various possibilities to adjust the size of the harness to the dog’s size and body and the freedom of the dog’s shoulder, the classical so-called Y- or H-harness are highly recommended. 

For more comfort and less risk of injury all metal rings, plastic clips etc. should be lined with padding, e.g. neoprene, fleece, or any other skin-friendly and breathable material. But it should not chafe or create pressure points. Overall, the harnesses should consist of soft, light but resistant material and be firmly sewn to avoid breaking when walking the dog. It should be able to withstand a high load when the dog is pulling and should therefore also be suitable for large and heavy dogs. The width of the straps should relate to the dog’s body size and weight. Being able to open both sides of the straps makes putting the harness on easier and feels more comfortable for the dog due to less restrictions, holding him, lifting the dog’s leg etc.

Advantages of the dog harness

  • When pulling on the leash, the pressure is equally distributed over the body
  • It helps to train to walk on a loose leash due to several leash attachment points
  • It provides more stability and feeling of safety to a dog (and human)
  • In case of danger or emergency the dog can be grabbed/caught more easily if wearing a harness
  • Woven-in reflective material as well as an attached light can increase the dog's visibility in the dark
  • It provides a more supportive way to help elderly, injured or sick dogs to walk, e.g., by keeping/holding them up or stabilizing them with the harness

How to find the right harness size for your dog

To determine the size of your dog’s harness, you will need to measure the neck circumference and the chest girth and then consult the “size guide” for the harness concerned. The latter is often provided by the manufacturer. If your dog’s measurements fall between two harness sizes, we recommend you always go for the larger size to avoid uncomfortable feelings or physical restrictions for the dog.

Your dog must be able to move without difficulty in and with the harness and there must be enough space between your dog’s armpit and the chest, e.g., one’s hand’s breadth for a middle-sized dog, to avoid injuries and pressure sores. Between all straps of the harness and the dog should be room to insert two of your fingers to ensure enough space for movements. The back stirrup should be firmly sewn and long enough to prevent the torso strap from cutting into your dog’s armpits.

Note, that there are also harnesses designed for different dog body shapes – for example, for dogs with short legs or for very thickset dogs.

Special harnesses

There are also special harnesses designed for dogs with particular needs, for example, escape-proof harnesses, so called safety harnesses, e.g., for fearful dogs, dogs from a shelter etc. or harnesses made for disabled dogs. These special harnesses are characterised by a second belly strap which prevents dogs from escaping or slipping out of the harness. Moreover, the second strap, together with the first strap and the extended back and chest stirrup, provide additional support for three-legged dogs or for those that have difficulty standing up or lying down. In that case, the human can support the dog by gently lifting him up with the harness. These kinds of harnesses can also be helpful when going hiking with a dog to hold, lift or carry him in mountainous regions.

Dog in home

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