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Walking some dogs can turn into a full-body workout – for you. Strong, energetic dogs haul you down the street. If they catch a glimpse of a squirrel, you risk wrenching an arm out of the socket. Meanwhile, your dog is gasping against the collar’s pull on their neck. There MUST be a better way. Dog harnesses offer the perfect solution, allowing the daily walk to return to a calm, relaxing process once again.
You use your dog’s collar for more than just leash attachment. Often, the collar serves as the holder for their ID tag, rabies tag, and dog license. However, when it comes to walks, collars present a couple of problems.
Health Risks with Collars
If your dog walks calmly, never once jerking at anything that catches their attention, a collar works fine. But how often does that happen? Dogs get curious about their surroundings. If something pops up in their line of sight, they start in that direction, placing pressure on their neck. Have you heard your dog cough when this happens?
According to Dr. Katherine Houpt, Professor Emeritus at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, there’s a reason. The pulling of the collar creates pressure on the trachea, blood vessels, and nerves within the neck. Over time, this can lead to collapsing trachea, especially in tiny breed dogs that are already susceptible. You’ll often see vets recommend dog harnesses for these breeds.
If you have a brachycephalic breed, such as a Pug, increased pressure creates a secondary problem. The eyes of these breeds sit forward within the sockets. The elevated stress can lead to increased eye pressure or even a proptosed eye if your dog pulls hard enough! Short-faced breeds should only use dog harnesses to prevent this.
How often has your dog slipped out of their collar? Or have you found yourself needing to tighten that clasp after finding the collar in the middle of the living room? Collars have a single buckle, and dogs find ingenious ways to escape. It’s not a big deal in the house, but when they back out of their collar on a walk, the potential for accidents increases.
Dog harnesses make the Houdini act a little trickier. Multiple straps and buckles secure the harness in place around your dog’s chest. It provides a more secure fit your dog needs to work harder to back out of.
Advantages of Dog Harnesses
Using dog harnesses in place of collars on walks provides many benefits, especially if you have a young, exuberant dog:
- You’re able to maintain better control
- Since you can redirect your dog, you won’t deal with pulling
- If needed, some harnesses double as mobility aids
Double Leash Attachment
Some dogs live to pull. It may be a function of their breed (Huskies), or it may be due to their energy level. If you’re icing your shoulder after every walk, you need a dog harness in your life. However, you also need to look for a dog harness with a double leash attachment. This means a D-ring on the back and one at the front.
AVOID the D-ring on the back. While such dog harnesses work great for calmer dogs, you’ll play directly into your puller’s habit. (Actually, your dog may pull even HARDER as the harness distributes that weight across their chest and gives them more power) You want to use the D-ring in the front.
That front attachment curbs the pulling behavior by putting control back in YOUR hands. When your dog starts to pull, simply tug on the leash. Surprise! Your dog ends up facing you. Kind of hard to pull when they keep going in a half-circle. Enough times doing that, and the pulling habit will fade away.
Choosing a Dog Harness
Dog harnesses work beautifully for walking and hiking. You’ll keep control of the situation, even if a squirrel dances under your dog’s feet. At the same time, though, you’ll protect your dog’s trachea, neck, and eyes. Just keep the following in mind when you start shopping for your dog harness:
- Safety: You want to make sure you can adjust the fit. If the harness ends up too loose, your dog WILL get out.
- Durability: Can your dog scratch at the dog harness and still have it hold up? Flimsy materials won’t serve you well.
- Comfort: Unlike collars, dog harnesses strap around the legs, shoulders, and back. Make sure there’s padding to keep your dog as comfortable as possible. There shouldn’t be ANY pressure on the neck.
Dog Harness Styles
Dog harnesses come in several styles. The design you choose depends on the kind of dog you have and their personality. Consider their walking style (and how you feel afterward) as you look over the dog harnesses here. One of these options is sure to fit your needs.
- Bib Harness: Bib harnesses resemble a vest that slides over your dog’s chest. They’re often padded, and they tend to be the most comfortable option.
- Head Harness: Also known as halter harnesses, these dog harnesses resemble a horse’s bridle. You need training in the proper use of a head harness.
- Mobility Harness: If you have an older dog or a dog that’s undergone surgery, an extra handle in the back of the harness can help you aid them to their feet.
- No-Pull Harness: No-pull dog harnesses exert pressure under your dog’s armpits if they try to haul you down the street. It’s a step up from the standard harness.
- Standard Harness: These are also known as “dual strap harnesses.” They feature a basic design that gets the job done. Standard dog harnesses are NOT good choices for aggressive pullers or larger dogs.
- Tightening Harness: As you might guess, these dog harnesses compress each time your dog pulls against them. The gentle pressure curbs excessive pullers or jumpers. Your dog needs corrective training for this dog harness to work best.
Best Dog Harnesses
If you’re ready to put away the stash of ice packs and the heating pad but keep your daily walk routine, a dog harness provides the answer. Your dog won’t lose their boundless energy, but they won’t drag you down the street, either. Best of all, you’ll protect their health from damaging consequences.
Best Bib Dog Harnesses
Bib dog harnesses are the most popular with small breed dogs. They cover most of your dog’s chest and attach over the back, making it easy to pop on. The weight distributes evenly over the entire dog’s body, protecting the trachea from pressure. However, if your dog overheats easily, you may want to skip this one. All of that material can result in your dog getting too warm too fast.
Puppia’s comfy bib dog harness wraps your dog in breathable polyester. The array of colors are stretchy, durable, and completely washable. Where other fabrics may rub and cause irritation, this soft bib promises not to chafe against your dog’s skin. Best of all, it suits dogs with low-slung chests – something that often proves tricky.
Downsides? The sizing on this harness runs small. Make sure you keep that in mind. Also, the neck isn’t adjustable, so double-check your measurements. And while you CAN go up to 60 pounds, this harness isn’t suited to larger dogs – they’ll wear out the material too fast.
Do you hate struggling with a lot of buckles? Voyager solves that problem with a single Velcro and buckle. Just plop your dog into the leg holes, and you’re ready to go! The breathable mesh keeps your dog from overheating, and it comes in a variety of colors. You also get two reflective bands along each side to keep your dog visible in darker weather.
The downsides? This dog harness only works for dogs less than 30 pounds. There’s only the single D-ring on the back, so it’s not great for pullers.
Best Mobility Dog Harnesses
Sometimes our dogs need a little extra help. The handle included on mobility dog harnesses allow us to gently aid our dogs to their feet. These harnesses work perfectly for seniors or dogs recovering from orthopedic procedures. If needed, you can also use that handle as an extra point of control, hanging on when your dog’s determined to chase the neighbor’s cat.
PoyPet’s dog harness comes in a vast array of colors, sure to appeal to your sense of fun. The straps are padded with a soft mesh liner for breathability. Reflective piping keeps your dog visible in low-light levels. Two simple buckles make it easy to get on and off, and the handle’s soft and comfortable for you to grip.
Downsides? The locking mechanism on the buckles tends to stick now and then. Keep an eye on it. Also, the front “bib” section may slide. Be careful in your measurements and adjustments.
Larger dogs don’t always get included in the fun. EXPAWLORER chose to fix that with their dog harness designed for deep-chested dogs. The sturdy nylon straps are all padded for your dog’s comfort, and there’s a wide reflective band for safety. You get a comfortable rubber handle to ease your dog to their feet, as well as a giant buckle for attachment and removal.
The downsides? There’s no front attachment on this harness, making it a poor choice for pullers. Also, as there’s only one band around the chest, escape artists can easily back out of this particular option.
Copatchy’s dog harness uses a combination of mesh and a spongy liner to keep your dog as comfortable as possible. Two adjustable straps ensure your dog stays in the harness, wrapping around the belly and chest. You get a nylon handle to help your canine companion with standing, or just to get that extra bit of control.
So what are the downsides? Once again, there isn’t a front leash attachment so skip this one if your dog’s a puller. Also, the sizing runs small, so keep that in mind when ordering.
If your dog requires an unusual fit, RUFFWEAR has the perfect solution. With FIVE different adjustment points, this dog harness snugs your dog into padded comfort. You also get a padded grip on the handle, keeping you just as comfortable. Two leash attachment points come in on either side of the handle.
Downsides? Unhappily, that second leash attachment isn’t in the front, so pullers are still out of the equation. And the sizing doesn’t cover the smallest dogs, unhappily.
Best No-Pull Dog Harnesses
We’ve covered plenty of dog harnesses that AREN’T great for pullers. But your poor arms are exhausted. Your doctor’s tired of reattaching your shoulder. You love your dog, but they could haul wagons around. Good thing no-pull harnesses exist to save you. With tightening around the armpits, your dog learns to ease off. You need to take accurate measurements, though. Too tight, and your dog’s going to get chafing. (No one wants that)
Kurgo combines the no-pull comfort you want with a lightweight design your dog will love. Five adjustment points ensure a proper fit, and you can even integrate the harness into a car seatbelt. Two leash attachment points give you the firm control you need for your hefty puller. Best of all, Kurgo offers a lifetime warranty against any material defects. (If your dog chews through it, there’s a small replacement feet)
The downside? This dog harness only fits dogs weighing between 5-110 pounds.
This is RUFFWEAR’s second appearance on the list. The Front Range provides an entirely padded dog harness, similar to the Web Master. However, you get those critical double attachment points you need for pulling dogs. Four adjustment points allow you to fit the harness precisely to your dog, and the durable materials hold up through all kinds of weather.
So what are the downsides? The sizing runs to the small side, so keep that in mind in your ordering. It’s also not a great design for dogs with deep chests or narrow waists, even with the extra adjustment straps.
Rabbitgoo’s comfortable dog harness provides crucial visibility in low-light conditions. You get two attachment points, as well as a mesh handle for a little more control. The chest and back padding feature breathable mesh to keep your dog comfortable at all times. And with four straps for adjustment, your dog won’t shrug or fight against pinching sides.
Downsides? This harness was designed for medium-sized dogs ONLY. It’s also not the most durable – people found it tearing within a few months of heavy use. Just keep an eye on things.
If you’d like a little versatility, Eagloo’s dog harness comes with a bonus back strap to allow you to clip your dog into the car. A variety of bright, reflective colors keeps your dog safely visible in poor weather conditions. Meanwhile, the slip-resistant straps ensure a proper fit. You get two leash attachments, as well as a comfortable nylon handle.
The downsides? Some people noted problems with the straps rubbing against their dog’s armpits. Make sure you’re doing your measurements correctly. Also, there are some questions about the durability of the buckles. Check them each time you use them.
Best Standard Dog Harnesses
Sometimes, simple works best. If your dog isn’t a strong puller, a standard dog harness is the best solution. The basic configuration of straps is easy to manage, and they don’t hinder your dog’s mobility in the slightest.
If you want to give your dog a little extra comfort on their walks, Sporn provides just the thing. Sherpa padding covers the mesh, so they don’t get any irritation. You get a simple step-in design that’s easy to get on and off. As your dog walks, the elastic mesh stretches with their movements, allowing for a pleasant trip through the park.
Downsides? Navigating your dog’s legs through the opening can get tricky, so take your time. Also, the leash attachment is a cinch-down mechanism, and it can come loose during walks, requiring an adjustment. Make sure you keep an eye on things.
PetSafe’s design features a single front-leash attachment. You get four straps for adjustment, keeping your dog nice and comfortable. Two quick buckles get your dog in and out of the harness in a few seconds. No frills, but no complications, either.
The downsides? Figuring out the adjustments gets complicated. There’s a video included to help, so watch it carefully. And while there IS a front attachment, this harness isn’t good for strong pullers. Some people also noted irritation of the straps against their dog’s skin, as there’s no padding.
No More Pulling
You don’t want to end up exhausted or in pain following your dog’s walk. Dog harnesses make the process much more enjoyable. Your dog learns not to pull, you regain control over the process, and your dog doesn’t risk potential health complications. It’s a win for everyone!
So toss those stockpiled ice packs. You’re not going to need them anymore!