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How to Properly Put On and Wear a Dog Harness: The Ultimate Guide

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If you’re a proud dog owner, you know the importance of a well-fitted dog harness. Harnesses not only provide better control and security than collars but also ensure the comfort and safety of your furry friend during walks and other activities. However, putting on a dog harness correctly can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re a new pet parent. But fear not! In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of properly putting on and wearing a dog harness. So, let’s dive in and unleash the knowledge!

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1. The Importance of a Well-Fitted Dog Harness

A well-fitted dog harness is crucial for the comfort and safety of your canine companion. Unlike collars, harnesses distribute the force evenly across the chest and shoulders, reducing the risk of injury to the neck. They also provide better control, especially for dogs that tend to pull or have health issues like tracheal collapse. Additionally, a properly fitted harness prevents your dog from slipping out and getting loose during walks or other outdoor activities. It is essential to ensure that your dog’s harness fits correctly to avoid discomfort, chafing, or restricted movement.

2. Types of Dog Harnesses

When it comes to choosing a dog harness, there are several types to consider. Each type has its own unique features and benefits, catering to different dogs’ needs and walking styles. Let’s explore the most common types of dog harnesses:

Back-Clip Harness

The back-clip harness is a classic choice for dog owners. It features a D-ring attachment on the back, making it easy to attach a leash. This type of harness is ideal for dogs who are well-behaved on the leash and don’t pull excessively. Back-clip harnesses come in various colors and patterns, allowing you to add a touch of style to your dog’s walks.

Front-Clip Harness

If your dog tends to pull or has difficulty walking calmly on the leash, a front-clip harness may be the perfect solution. This type of harness has a D-ring attachment on the front, which helps redirect your dog’s pulling force towards you, encouraging better leash manners. Front-clip harnesses provide more control and can be a valuable training tool.

Dual-Clip Harness

For maximum versatility, consider a dual-clip harness. These harnesses feature both front and back D-ring attachments, allowing you to choose the most suitable attachment point based on your dog’s behavior or training needs. Dual-clip harnesses offer the best of both worlds, providing control and flexibility in various walking situations.

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Step-In Harness

Step-in harnesses are designed for dogs who may be uncomfortable with harnesses going over their heads. With a step-in harness, your dog can simply step into the openings, and the harness wraps around their body. This type of harness is easy to put on and offers a relaxed and comfortable fit. Step-in harnesses are particularly suitable for dogs with sensitive skin or those who prefer a more gentle approach.

Fashion Dog Harness

If you’re looking to combine style and functionality, fashion dog harnesses are a great choice. These harnesses come in a wide range of eye-catching designs, patterns, and materials, allowing your furry friend to make a fashion statement during walks. From glittering sequins to trendy patterns, there’s a fashion dog harness to suit every stylish pup.

Overhead Harness

Overhead harnesses are designed to slip over your dog’s head and rest on their shoulders and chest. They offer a secure and comfortable fit, with adjustable straps for a customized fit. Overhead harnesses are available in various designs, providing additional padding and grab handles for added convenience. They are an excellent choice for dogs of all sizes and shapes, ensuring security and comfort during walks and other activities.

3. How to Put On a Dog Harness: Step-by-Step Guide

Putting on a dog harness may seem daunting at first, but with a little practice, you’ll become a pro in no time. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to properly put on a dog harness:

Step 1: Let Your Dog Get Used to It

Before attempting to put on the harness, give your dog a chance to familiarize themselves with it. Show them the harness, let them sniff and inspect it, and allow them to get comfortable with its presence. This step is especially important for dogs who are wearing a harness for the first time. By letting your dog explore the harness, you can help alleviate any anxiety they may have.

Step 2: Calm Your Dog

It’s essential to have a calm and cooperative dog when putting on a harness. If your dog is excited or overly energetic, take a few moments to help them settle down. Use calming techniques or give them a command to sit and stay. The goal is to make the harnessing process easier and more enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Step 3: Put On the Harness

The process of putting on a dog harness may vary depending on the type you have. Let’s explore the steps for both overhead harnesses and step-in harnesses:

Overhead Harness

  1. Hold the harness by the handle or the back-clip attachment, ensuring that the straps are facing the ground.
  2. Take the smaller neck hole and slip it over your dog’s head. Make sure the interior of the harness is facing your dog’s skin and the exterior is facing outward.
  3. Slide the harness down so that the neck straps rest closer to your dog’s shoulders, not around their neck.
  4. Place your dog’s left leg through the first leg hole while the harness is around their body. Allow their paw to rest on the floor.
  5. Take the remaining strap from underneath and loop it around your dog’s other leg, creating a second leg loop.
  6. Connect this strap to the buckle on the back, ensuring that it clicks securely. If needed, adjust the strap for a comfortable fit.

Step-In Harness

  1. Lay the harness unbuckled on the ground, with the two triangles clearly visible.
  2. If the harness includes a vest or chest cover, make sure the exterior side faces the floor.
  3. Have your dog stand over the harness and place one leg in each triangle, one at a time.
  4. Pull the harness up over your dog’s body, ensuring that the loops settle at the top of their legs and against their belly.
  5. Bring the clips together and buckle them, ensuring a secure connection. Check for any additional buckles that need to be fastened.

Step 4: Adjust the Harness

After putting on the harness, it’s crucial to check and adjust the fit. The harness should be snug enough that it can’t slip over your dog’s head, but not so tight that it causes discomfort or restricts movement. Here are a few tips for adjusting the harness:

  • Pull on the straps and slide the adjusters to achieve a secure fit.
  • Ensure that you can fit two fingers underneath the straps for comfort.
  • Check for any rubbing or chafing after your dog has worn the harness for a walk. If you notice any redness or irritation, readjust the straps or consider trying a different harness style.

Step 5: Reward Your Dog

Rewarding your dog after putting on the harness is essential, especially if they are still getting used to wearing one. Offer praise, treats, or a favorite toy to create positive associations with the harness. This will help your dog view the harness as a positive and enjoyable part of their routine.

4. Attaching a Leash to a Dog Harness

Attaching a leash to a dog harness is a straightforward process. Most harnesses have a designated attachment point, usually a D-ring, where you can clip the leash. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find the leash attachment point on the harness. It is typically located on the back of the harness between the shoulder blades. However, some harnesses, particularly no-pull harnesses, may have a front attachment point on the chest.
  2. Open the clasp or buckle on the leash and secure it over the D-ring. Give it a gentle tug to ensure that it is securely attached.
  3. If your harness has both front and back attachment points, choose the one that best suits your dog’s walking style and needs.

Attaching the leash to a harness provides you with better control and reduces the strain on your dog’s neck. It allows for more comfortable and enjoyable walks for both you and your four-legged companion.

5. How Tight Should a Dog Harness Be?

A properly fitting dog harness is crucial for your dog’s comfort and safety. The harness should be snug enough to prevent your dog from easily slipping out of it but not so tight that it restricts movement or causes discomfort. Here’s what to consider when determining the right fit for your dog’s harness:


To ensure your dog’s comfort, follow the two-finger rule. After putting on the harness, you should be able to slide two fingers between the harness and your dog’s body comfortably. This ensures that the harness is snug but not overly tight. Check for any signs of rubbing, chafing, or irritation after your dog has worn the harness. If you notice any discomfort, readjust the straps or consider trying a different harness style.


A properly fitted harness is essential for your dog’s safety during walks. A loose harness can result in your dog slipping out and potentially getting lost or injured. To maintain a secure fit, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Regularly check and adjust the straps to accommodate any changes in your dog’s size or weight.
  • Inspect the harness for signs of wear, fraying, or damage. Replace the harness if it shows signs of weakness or no longer fits properly.
  • Choose a harness style that suits your dog’s size, breed, and walking habits. Some harnesses are designed specifically for dogs that tend to pull or have certain health conditions.

By ensuring a proper fit and regularly monitoring the harness, you can provide your dog with a comfortable and safe walking experience.

6. How to Measure for a Harness Correctly

To find the perfect fit for your dog’s harness, it’s essential to measure their body accurately. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to measure your dog for a harness:

Chest Measurement

The chest measurement is crucial for determining the correct harness size. It is the widest part of your dog’s chest, typically right behind their front legs. To measure your dog’s chest:

  1. Have your dog stand in a natural position.
  2. Wrap a soft measuring tape or a string around your dog’s chest, making sure it is snug but not tight.
  3. Take note of the measurement and compare it to the manufacturer’s sizing guidelines for the specific harness you’re considering.

Neck Measurement

In addition to the chest measurement, some harnesses may require a neck measurement. This measurement is taken around your dog’s neck, just above the breastbone. Follow the same steps as above to measure your dog’s neck and compare it to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Length Measurement

Some harnesses may also require a length measurement, which is the distance from the breastbone to the base of your dog’s tail. Measure this distance and compare it to the manufacturer’s guidelines if necessary.

By accurately measuring your dog’s chest, neck, and length, you can ensure a proper fit for their harness, providing them with maximum comfort and safety during walks.

7. Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Harnesses

Q: Are dog harnesses better than collars?

A: Dog harnesses offer several advantages over collars. They provide better control, distribute force more evenly, and reduce the risk of neck injuries. Harnesses are especially beneficial for dogs with health issues like tracheal collapse or those prone to pulling on the leash.

Q: How do I know if my dog’s harness is too tight?

A: A harness should be snug but not overly tight. You should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and your dog’s body comfortably. Check for any signs of discomfort, chafing, or restricted movement. If you notice any issues, readjust the straps for a better fit.

Q: Can my dog wear a harness all day?

A: While most dogs can wear a harness for extended periods, it’s essential to give them regular breaks to ensure their comfort. Avoid leaving the harness on overnight or for extended periods without supervision. Always monitor your dog for any signs of discomfort or irritation.

Q: Can I use a harness for training my dog?

A: Yes, harnesses can be valuable training tools, especially for dogs that tend to pull on the leash. Front-clip harnesses, in particular, can help redirect pulling behavior and encourage better leash manners. Consult with a professional dog trainer for guidance on using a harness for training purposes.

Q: Can I wash my dog’s harness?

A: Most harnesses are machine washable or can be hand-washed. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific care guidelines. Regularly cleaning your dog’s harness helps maintain hygiene and prevent odors.

Q: Can I use a harness for a puppy?

A: Yes, harnesses are suitable for puppies. However, it’s important to choose a harness that is appropriately sized for your puppy’s current measurements. Puppies grow quickly, so it’s essential to regularly check and adjust the harness as they grow.

8. Tips for Choosing the Right Harness for Your Dog

When selecting a harness for your dog, it’s essential to consider their specific needs and walking habits. Here are some tips to help you choose the right harness:

  1. Consider Your Dog’s Size and Breed: Different harness styles are designed for various sizes and breeds. Ensure that the harness you choose is suitable for your dog’s proportions and body type.
  2. Assess Your Dog’s Walking Habits: If your dog tends to pull on the leash, a front-clip harness may be more effective in redirecting their pulling force. For well-behaved dogs, a back-clip harness may provide sufficient control.
  3. Evaluate the Leash Attachment Point: Determine whether a front-clip, back-clip, or dual-clip harness would be most suitable for your dog’s behavior and training needs. Consider any additional features, such as multiple attachment points or reflective elements for added visibility during nighttime walks.
  4. Prioritize Comfort and Safety: Look for harnesses made from durable, breathable materials that won’t cause discomfort or irritation. Adjustable straps and padding can enhance your dog’s comfort and prevent chafing.

By considering these factors, you can select a harness that meets your dog’s specific requirements, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable walking experience.

9. Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Dog Harness

While using a dog harness offers numerous benefits, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes that can compromise your dog’s comfort and safety. Here are some mistakes to avoid when using a dog harness:

  1. Choosing the Wrong Size: Using a harness that is too small or too large can cause discomfort or hinder your dog’s movement. Always measure your dog accurately and follow the manufacturer’s sizing guidelines.
  2. Improper Fitting: Ensure that the harness is snug but not overly tight. Regularly check the fit and adjust the straps as needed. Remember the two-finger rule for comfort.
  3. Neglecting Regular Inspections: Regularly inspect the harness for signs of wear, fraying, or damage. Replace the harness if it shows any signs of weakness or no longer fits properly.
  4. Using a Damaged Harness: Using a damaged harness can compromise your dog’s safety. If you notice any signs of wear or damage, replace the harness immediately.
  5. Leaving the Harness on Unattended: While harnesses are designed to be safe, it’s best to remove them when your dog is unattended or during times of rest. This reduces the risk of entanglement or discomfort.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your dog’s harness provides maximum comfort, safety, and enjoyment during walks and other activities.

How to properly wear a dog harness

10. Conclusion

Properly putting on and wearing a dog harness is essential for the comfort, safety, and overall wellbeing of your furry friend. By following the step-by-step guide in this ultimate harnessing guide, you can ensure a secure and comfortable fit for your dog’s harness. Remember to choose the right harness style based on your dog’s size, breed, and walking habits. Regularly inspect and adjust the harness to maintain a proper fit. With the right harness and proper fitting, you and your dog can enjoy many happy and adventurous walks together. So, gear up, put on that harness, and embark on exciting and enjoyable journeys with your canine companion!

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