How to Choose the Best Harnesses for Your Dog

Whether you want a dog harness for walking or riding in the car, check out these must-have tips for getting the perfect fit.

As dog owners became more aware of the risks of trachea damage from collars, they started moving toward harnesses. Naturally, this meant that the number of harnesses on the market skyrocketed. Today, you can buy harnesses with bling, Mickey Mouse, or camo. You can get harnesses that clip on the font, back, and even sides. The manufacturers’ will tell you their harnesses are the most comfortable, safest, prettiest, etc. But which harnesses really are the best for what you and your dog do?


Dog in Harness


Don’t Choose on Looks Alone

Many of us may be tempted to pick a harness solely on how cute it looks on Princess, but like collars, harness can cause damage if the fit is wrong or the harness is not made for the activity you and your dog are involved in.

According to Dr. Julia Georgesen, co-owner and practicing veterinarian at Blum Animal Hospital, in Chicago, “harnesses that don’t fit properly can either cause discomfort if they are too tight or rubbing if they are too loose.”

In addition, a harness that doesn’t fit correctly may be squirmed out of or can cause damage if your dog’s natural movement is restricted.

Bobbie Lyons, Cert. C.F. (Canine Fitness), has been teaching K9 Condition since 2006. She uses harness on all of her dogs, and recommends them to her clients as well. However, she cautions that if you can’t find one that fits well on your particular dog, don’t use one.

Fitting the Harness

Lyons has several tips for those looking for a harness.

“If the harness you choose has a straight strap that lays across the shoulder blades it can impede your dog’s forward stride,” she explains. “Instead, pick a harness where the straps are made to go around the shoulder or where the strap is above the shoulder.”

What can happen if you impede that forward stride?

  1. Stress to the spine and neck
  2. Poor weight distribution
  3. Shoulder injury

Also, be sure to test it out and make sure the harness is not too tight or too loose. It’s best to have your dog wear it a bit in the house and see:

  1. Can they wiggle out?
  2. Is it rubbing anywhere that is going to cause discomfort?
  3. Can my dog move naturally and freely in it?

Harness Types

As mentioned above, there are thousands of types of harnesses, so knowing which type to buy can be a frustrating experience. Personally, Lyon’s uses different harness depending on the activity.

“For everyday walking, hiking, biking, I would always use a ‘Y’ [shaped harness] to protect the dogs shoulders and allow freedom of movement,” Lyons explains.

Here are her top 4 picks:

1. The Hurtta

This harness allows for natural movement and comes with reflectors for night visibility. $28, Amazon


Hurtta Harness



2. Alpine Outfitters Flyball Harness.

This is a great option for those with hard to fit dogs, as each harness is made custom to your dog’s measurements. $41, AlpineOutfitters


Alpine Outfiters Flyball Harness



3. Pacific Easy-Walk “Choke Free” Dog Harness. This one comes in fun collars like pink and baby blue. $39.95 and up, AllPetNaturals


Pacific Easy Walk Harness



4. The Gold Paw Series’ Cloud Harness is another great Y Harness. Made from a proprietary American-made 3-D textile, it is soft and stretchy, allowing for movement, without compromising safety. Unlike most fabric harnesses, it comes in sizes up to X-Large. $30 and up, GoldPawSeries.


Gold Paw Harness



If your dog participates in K9 Conditioning, where they are doing stationary strength exercises, Lyon’s recommends those sold by FitPAWS or the Julius K9.

Car Safety

Another use for a harness is car safety. As our dogs travel more and more with us on a daily basis, it’s only natural to worry what will happen to them in the event of an accident.

Dog Car Safety Gets an Overhaul>>

Beware, most car harnesses are really just a harness with a strap that attaches to your car in some fashion – some buckle into the seat, others just loop around or through the locked seat belt. Will these really do anything to protect your dog?

I have tried numerous car harnesses and have never been impressed with any; until now. SleepyPod is changing the criteria for car safety with their Sleepypod ClickIt Utility 3 Point Safety Harness. It is the only harness that has actually been crash-safety tested.


Sleepypod Harness



It was named the 2013 Top Performing Pet Safety Harness in a Subaru of America, Inc and Center for Pet Safety (CPS) collaborative study. 

The Safest Car Harness for Your Dog>>

On October First, Sleepypod is introducing their new Clickit Sport, with the same safety features as the Clickit Utility, but lighter and able to accommodate a larger range of sizes and can also be used on walks. And, if you are like me and still want your cute, trendy colors, they are introducing a new Robin’s Egg Blue Limited Edition color, available October First.

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