For some, one of the best parts of having a dog — aside from puppy eyes and endless enthusiasm — is taking them for walks. It’s good for your body, too. According to a study from BioMedCentral’s Public Health Journal, dog owners walk on average 22 minutes longer each day than non-dog owners, logging nearly 2,800 more steps. If you’re using a traditional leash to walk your dog, you might want to reconsider. The pressure leashes exert on dog collars might be harmful for them. The most popular alternative — a harness — is much safer and has other benefits, to boot.
“I always prefer harnesses,” said Natalie Marks, DVM, the medical director at Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. She’s talking about full body carriages that fit dogs like a vest might, the leash then connecting to one point on them and reducing the harms of pulling back on it. “They limit pull and pressure on their windpipe, and disperse that pull across the front of their body in an even distribution.”
How to find the best dog harness for your doggo?
There are lots of options for dog harnesses out there, though there are two main styles to choose from:
- Back clip harnesses clip at the top, over your dog’s back.
- Front clip harnesses clip at the chest.
Depending on your dog’s size, training, and demeanor, one of the styles may be a better option than the other. For example, moving to a harness might change the way you walk your dog, so there may be an adjustment period — which is especially true for front-clip harnesses. The leash can get under your pooch’s paw, noted Khara Schuetzner, a member and board chairwoman of The Association of Professional Dog Trainers. “Some dogs are aggravated by that,” she added .
While harnesses are suitable for all sizes and breeds, Marks noted they can provide better control over larger dogs (or especially strong ones). When buying a harness, it is important to pick one that is proportionate to your dog’s size. “It’s not necessary to have a thick, heavy-duty harness for a chihuahua,” Schuetzner said, who believes a harness isn’t necessarily the best solution for everyone — the choice between a harness and collar-leash is a matter of personal preference and what works for your lifestyle.
Finally, ask your vet or trainer for a bit of help fitting your dog with the best harness for them (and for you). “A poorly fitted harness can only be painful, cause skin abrasions, and can create a negative association with the harness itself and walking in general,” Marks explained.
If your dog is still growing or if they fluctuate in weight continue to check that the harness fits properly. Here’s how: You should be able to get two of your fingers between your dog and the harness, said Schuetzner. Finally, Marks encourages dog owners to find a harness that’s machine-washable for better canine hygiene.
Best dog harnesses to shop
Marks encourages clients who are transitioning to a harness to choose one that locks in the front across the chest. These are better for dogs still leash-training or those that tend to pull, as the front clip allows owners to “steer” the dog, she explained.
The Rabitgoo harness boasts a 4.5-star average rating from over 77,400 reviewers on Amazon. It features a front clip for your leash to prevent pulling or choking when training your dog, as well as a back clip for more casual outings. With four adjusting straps you can easily find the right fit for your furry friend. It is padded with soft cushions to protect your dog’s skin, and sports a breathable mesh fabric designed to keep your pet cool on walks. Choose from 12 colors, including Baby Blue, Cherry Pink, Bright Pumpkin, Modern Violet and more.
The Chai’s Choice harness has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 6,500 Amazon reviewers. This harness sports both a front and back clip option for your leash. It has soft padding and high density nylon webbing, and equips reflective material for better visibility. Choose from 12 color options, including Chocolate, Lemon Lime, Tropic Aqua, Tropic Purple and more.
This harness allows you to adjust at both the chest and neck to fit most dogs, and three leash attachment points let you choose your preferred control style. It’s made with polyester and nylon and is designed with a stretchy and soft fit, according to the brand. You can choose from six colors: Black, Blush, Coral Red, Gray, Lilac, Navy and Tan
Look for a lightweight mesh or breathable harness if your dog is small, you have a puppy or they’ve suffered a previous neck injury, Marks suggested. This option is available in a range of smaller sizes and is made with soft mesh to keep your dog comfortable and includes reflective bands around the chest and sides. You can choose from four colors: Pink, Red, Blue and Black.
A harness that has a reflective strip offers good visibility for nighttime walks, Marks noted. Take it one step further with this LED illuminated harness, which makes them visible up to a quarter-mile away. The LEDs are rechargeable and can be removed when you toss the harness in the wash. Both the neck and chest are adjustable on this harness.
This Ruffwear harness is an adventure-ready, performance harness for the extra active dog. It comes with three leash attachment options, a reflective trim and a loop to attach a safety light to. The harness itself allows for six different points of adjustment and a padded handle is designed to make it easy for you to lift your dog over obstacles it can’t handle alone.
Have an especially calm and leash-trained dog? Go for a back-clip harness, which is more comfortable for dogs to wear, according to Marks. This style from Ruffwear goes on over their head, clips around the sides, and is designed for easy adjusting. A handy sewn-in ID pocket keeps their tag secure and it’s available in 14 colors, including Campfire Orange, Meadow Green, Red Sumac, Wild Berry and more. Keep in mind that if your dog’s a puller or tries to dart after squirrels on walks, a back-clip harness is not ideal for you.
If you’re in the thick of training, a no-pull harness will tighten around the dog’s chest to reduce tugging and dragging you around. This harness comes with a leash that clips to the front and to the back, allowing you to steer them as needed. It is designed with a Swiss velvet lining that will prevent the vest from chaffing your dog’s skin. You can choose from 19 colors, including Burgundy, Hot Pink, Navy, Rust and more. While no-pull harnesses have their place, Marks recommended using one for training and then transitioning out of it.