Features to Look For in the Best Dog Harness

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Whether you've just brought your new puppy home to train or you're a seasoned pet parent looking to make walks better, finding the best dog harness can be a bit puzzling.

First, do you need a harness? Any type of harness is preferable over a leash alone for training purposes. Harnesses avoid the abrupt and unfamiliar strain of a leash on your dog's neck while you're training them to walk with you. If your dog is already successfully leash trained and the leash is working for you and your dog, there's no need to add a harness. If you're unsure what's best for your dog, check with your trainer or veterinary care staff. They can walk you through the options and help you find the best fit.

If you decide to use a harness, start by focusing on these eight qualities and you can easily rein in the perfect harness for leading your pup to a better outing.

1. It Connects to the Leash Where You Want It to

Narrow down your dog harness choices by deciding where you plan to connect your leash to the harness. According to Vital Vet, there are three main types to keep in mind: front clip, back clip and multi-clip. Which one you use depends on your personal preference and your dog.

Front Clip

Though they're not always effective at controlling large or strong dogs with significant behavioral concerns, front-clip harnesses afford you the most control over common behaviors such as jumping and pulling. Since your dog's leash clips to their chest, however, it's prone to tangling underneath their front legs if given too much slack.

Back Clip

Back-clip harnesses are comfortable, easy to put on and protect your dog's neck. Unlike front clips, though, they offer limited control over your dog's trajectory, which you may find frustrating in the early phases of training.


While more costly, multi-clip harnesses are a combination of the two previous types, offering dual attachments to hook to. These typically include a front clip, a back clip and often a handle to hold your dog close as needed. Multi-clip harnesses are gaining popularity for their clear-cut versatility, and they're a great starter harness if you're unsure which type will best suit you and your pup. Multi-clip harnesses also offer the advantage of multiple leash training, which some trainers encourage.

Side Rings

Side attachments are a popular harness addition because they can keep your pup heading continuously in the right direction — and close to you — while walking. If you choose a harness with a side ring, make sure there are rings in other places as well. The side ring alone won't be an adequate training tool when teaching your dog to walk with a harness.

Wet dog running on beach with leash

2. It's Compatible With Your Leash

If you and your dog have a favorite leash, be sure the harness works well with your leash of choice. You may need to reassess your leash length based on how much control the harness affords you when they're clipped together.

3. It Fits Your Dog

Time to find the measuring tape! It's best not to guess how thick your dog's harness should be. If you're unsure where to measure, there's no shame in consulting a professional. Grab your pup and your favorite leash and head out the door to shop in person. Store personnel are a great resource and are usually happy to help size your dog for the perfect fit — which includes reasonable room for growth. At home, remember to check the fit continually as your dog grows, especially with young dogs who can grow out of a design that fit perfectly yesterday.

4. It Works for Your Dog

One of the best ways to find the right harness is to go to a pet store that allows you to try different fits on your dog before you buy. Most stores boast distractions that pique your dog's interest, such as treats and toys, so this is a perfect environment to test out which harness keeps them best behaved. If your dog is excited when trying on different harnesses, you'll also be able to gauge the ease of getting the harness on and off.

5. It's Durable

A durable harness is flexible, adjustable and well made. Assess how well the harness accommodates your dog as they move. Once you get the harness on, make some adjustments and pay close attention to your dog's reactions as you walk them around. Also, look at the material the harness is made of. If it seems flimsy, there's a good chance it will start to wear and deteriorate quickly.

6. It's the Right Material

Although harnesses lead to more controlled walks, which means your dog may get into fewer messes, they still need to be cleaned — especially cloth ones with padding. Breeds with short hair often benefit from padding in their harnesses to avoid rubbing and skin irritation. Some dog parents prefer leather for its feeling after being polished or the patina it develops; leather is also less likely to cause skin irritation. Other dog parents prefer nylon for quick and easy washing. Your dog's size, allergies, coat and your own personal preference can help you decide which material is best.

7. It's Reflective

If you and your dog take walks late in the evening or early in the morning, a harness with reflective material may be worth the extra cost to ensure you're visible to traffic. This can help keep you and your dog safe.

dog running

8. It Meets Your Needs

If you walk multiple dogs, you may want to choose harnesses that work with a split leash. Some pet parents, for example, will purchase one harness with a clip on the left and another harness with a clip on the right. Then, they'll walk two dogs of similar sizes with the same Y-shaped leash. If you have a small dog and a large dog, you might choose two different harnesses and leashes depending on their individual walking habits.

Consider Your Team of Two

After you've assessed all of these values in a dog harness, consider your style. Do you want something bright and colorful? Perhaps you want a practical option that matches your dog or that won't get dirty easily. Whichever harness you select, remember that it's a training tool. It should never replace adequate training. Once you find the best dog harness for your pup, give them the proper nutrition to keep up with an active lifestyle. As your dog ages, be sure their joints are healthy and strong to avoid injuries on longer treks. While a short acclimation period is normal with a new harness, schedule a visit with your veterinarian if you notice your seasoned harness-wearing pup is slowing down. This may be a sign of a health concern. By keeping these key factors in mind and paying close attention to your dog's needs, you can find a harness that makes walking together a sheer delight.

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