Dogs choose the best dog harness

Published on January 5th, 2018 | by Debbie Martin


How to choose the best dog harness for your pet

Increasingly owners are becoming aware of the dangers posed by the traditional collar and lead and are using harnesses when walking their dogs. Ill-fitting harnesses can cause their own problems however so we’ve put together a little guide to help you choose the best dog harness.

Why not a collar?

A collar and lead is a simple way of ensuring your dog doesn’t run off but if he starts pulling – because he can see another dog or has got excited on the way to the park – it can put pressure on his windpipe. This can lead to choking as he struggles to breath – and could damage his neck if allowed to continue.

A harness spreads the pressure across your dog’s chest, shoulders and back – keeping well away from delicate areas. It allows you to maintain a greater level of control too as your dog will find it harder to simply wriggle out of it.

A further benefit of some harnesses is that they can be used with an adaptor to clip to a car seat belt. Just like you are far safer in an accident if you are wearing a seat belt so will your dog be if they are belted in.

Types of harness

Overhead Dog Harness

Overhead Dog Harness

  • Overhead – this slips over the dog’s head and clips round his tummy
  • Step-in – this has two holes for the forelegs and buckles across his back

Which type you, and your dog, prefer is to some extent a matter of personal preference. If your dog is of a type that gets extremely excited when getting ready for a walk you may find one with fewer buckles easier to fit – or you may find it’s easier to fit one that comes apart and can be buckled round as and when you get a chance!

How to measure for a harness

Different brands have different sizing so you will need to take some measurements from your dog and compare them with the measurements given by the manufacturers. Even if your dog is a “medium” in one harness they may be a “small” or “large” in another.

Ideally take your dog to a pet shop where you can try some on and have a demonstration of how to fit them. If that’s not possible you will have to measure for the harness yourself.

Using a tape measure; measure round your dog’s neck just above his shoulders starting at the breastbone (the widest part). This is his neck measurement.

Step In Dog Harness

Step In Dog Harness

You can also ask your vet to weigh your dog at your next appointment if you are unable to do it yourself.

Adjusting the harness

A poorly fitting harness could cause sores and rubs. If it is too loose your dog could find a way to escape from it and if it is too tight it could compress your dog’s ribcage and cause discomfort when he is breathing heavily. As the adjustment buckles can slide when not in use it is good practice to quickly check the fit as you buckle it up.

Each harness has it’s own way of being fitted – whether of the over-head or step-in category – so it is important to read the manufacturers instructions before you start trying to fasten it round your dog. If you were able to have a demonstration in the pet shop you will have a better idea of what to do when you get home.

Once the harness is on your dog you can use the sliding buckles to adjust the length of the straps so that it fits snugly, but not tightly. You should be able to fit two fingers between your dog and the strap across his chest and round his neck. Make sure that the straps run behind his legs without rubbing the delicate skin at the top. Make sure that the straps are not twisted as they will cut into your dog’s skin where the twist rubs. And if any run through padded tubes you will need to ensure that they are lying flat against your dog’s coat too.

Remember, if you fit a harness to a puppy you will must check the fit of it every time you use it and be sure to move up to the next size before it gets too tight.

Using a harness for the first time

If your dog is unused to wearing a harness he may dislike it at first simply because he is unaccustomed to using one. Try making him sit while you put it on, then reward him with a small treat. Consider allowing him to wear the harness for a few minutes in the house until he is happy with it.

Other features

We mentioned above that some harnesses can be used in the car. There are a few other features that you may wish to look out for.

  • Padded harnesses are made of wide mesh straps which spread the weight across more of your dog’s body.
  • Training harnesses are designed to combat pulling by controlling the shoulders and chest. Ideally they should be used with a special double-ended training lead.
  • Reflective straps are ideal if you need to walk your dog at night or in urban surroundings. Some of them come in fluorescent colours to improve visibility on dull days.
  • Puppy harnesses are made of extra soft nylon to protect your growing puppy. They are also suitable for small breeds.

With all the relevant information above, you should be in the best place to find the perfect harness for your dog.

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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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