Dog Harnesses

Many owners have begun using harnesses as a way to safely walk their dogs. While they are not collars, they can still be a useful tool for working with your dog. All collars put at least some pressure on the dog’s neck and trachea. Harnesses on the other hand, only put pressure on the dog’s torso and back which reduces some of the problems found with collars.

The Basics

Harnesses are made of four pieces of nylon, two circles and two straight pieces which hold the harness together. One circle wraps around the front part of the dog’s torso and the other wraps around the back behind the dog’s legs. The leash attaches to a tab at the back of the harness and so any pressure is instead applied to the back and shoulders.

There are two types of harnesses, standard use and training harnesses. Standard use harnesses are designed to attach to a leash without any additional control. They are simply used as a safe tool for walking a dog. Training harnesses on the other hand have straps designed to restrain the front part of the dog’s torso and chest, which stops him or her from pulling.

While the harnesses are designed to stop a dog from pulling, some trainers have found that harnesses encourage dogs to pull when they are no longer wearing the harness. Standard use harnesses force a dog to walk in front of you and this can increase the likelihood of pulling because your dog will not be used to walking along side of you.


– Helps stop dog from pulling and jumping

– Do not require a lot of experience to use


– Difficult to put on

– Can encourage pulling when the harness is not in use

– Need to be removed after training

Fitting the Harness

In order to reduce a risk of potential injury, it is important to measure the dog and fit the harness properly. Trainers recommend actually measuring the distance around your dog’s chest and neck to size the harness correctly. For the best fit, you should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and your dog’s fur on the neck and chest area.

To put on the harness, kneel behind your dog with the harness in your lap. Position your hands so that the closed circle is near your knees and the circle with the buckle is closer to your chest. Make sure the metal ring is visible on top.

While putting on the harness, your dog may struggle. This often happens the first couple times you put on a harness. When this happens, gently place him between your legs and apply a small amount of pressure to keep him in one place. Place the small closed circle over the dog’s head and move the metal ring to the middle of your dog’s back.

Now lift up your dog’s right leg and move it through the large hold. Reach under the dog’s left leg and pull the two sides of the buckle together and close the buckle to the back of the left leg. Attach the leash to the metal ring on the dog’s back.

Never use a harness that does not fit properly. Improperly fitting harnesses can injure your dog or puppy. If a harness is too tight, the dog can choke. If a harness is too lose, it can get caught and lead to other injuries.

How to Use

Standard use harnesses are used to walk a dog. They will not teach a dog how to walk properly, they simply allow you to walk your without applying any pressure to their neck.

Training Harnesses are used to help teach a dog how to walk properly. They have additional straps which wrap around the front of a dog’s torso and chest and discourage a dog from pulling. These harnesses can also be used to stop dogs from jumping.

When to Use

For owners of some small dogs, harnesses are  a necessity due to a sensitive or collapsing trachea. All collars put some strain on the neck, and so harnesses are recommended for any dog that has had a neck injury. Harnesses are also recommended for dogs that have an upper respiratory infection or bronchitis. Harnesses won’t put any pressure on the windpipe and not restrict a dog’s breathing.

For owners of strong, large breeds, harnesses can help provide additional control. Harnesses are sometimes made with additional straps to restrict a dog’s ability to run and jump. The design of the harness allows weaker owners to exert control over a dog with minimal effort.

Harnesses are also recommended for breeds with thick necks and small heads. Greyhounds and other breeds are notorious for escaping from collars because of the size of their necks. Because harnesses attach around the torso and the neck, they are more difficult for dogs to escape from.



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