How To Choose A Harness For Your Dog

There are lots of reasons to invest in a harness for your dog.

They give you much greater control when you’re walking on a leash. If your dog pulls, a harness will prevent the throat or neck damage that can be caused by a tight collar. Harnesses make it easier to prevent jumping up.

Front or Back Clip?

When you’re buying your harness, the first decision is whether to buy a front-clip or back-clip model. On the front-clip versions, the leash attachment is in the center of your dog’s chest, whereas the back-clip models attach on top of a dog’s back or shoulders. Front clip models are often better for big dogs or pups who pull, since they give owners much more directional control. Back-clip harnesses may be more comfortable, come in a larger variety of patterns and styles, and tend to be better suited to small, calm dogs who are already trained not to pull or jump. Be careful about using back-clip harnesses on larger dogs, as the design can actually create a sled-dog effect that can encourage your dog’s natural instincts to pull harder.

Constricting or Not?

In addition to the front—and back-clip models, there are also harnesses that constrict—like a choke collar—when your dog pulls. While they can be effective, it’s highly recommended to speak to your vet before using a constricting harness on your dog, because they can cause damage to ribs, chest, and internal organs.

Kind of Material?

Next, think about material. Harnesses are available in leather, plastic, nylon, and many different kinds of fabric. Consider whether your dog is prone to chewing (get something sturdy), how much time your dog spends in the rain and/or playing in the water (get something that dries quickly), and how often your dog gets dirty (get something easy to clean).

Do You Need Extra Visibility?

Consider visibility, too. If you and your dog like to go hiking or exploring in wooded areas, it’s worth looking for a high-visibility harness. Some even include reflective material or tiny LED lights to draw attention to active pups.

Will a Collar Be Necessary?

Finally, assess whether your chosen harness will work in conjunction with your dog’s collar. Make sure your dog is always wearing tags—both with your contact information and proof of city registration—at all times. If you alternate between using a collar and a harness, invest in a tiny carabineer or dog tag clip to make switching easy.

Meet the Author: Charlotte Austin

Charlotte Austin is a Seattle-based writer and mountain guide. She has climbed, explored, and led expeditions in North and South America, Nepal, Europe, Alaska, and Patagonia. Her writing has been featured in Women's Adventure, Alpinist, Stay Wild, and other national and international publications. When she's not guiding in the Himalayas, she's exploring her hometown (Seattle, Washington), trying new recipes, and hanging out with Huckleberry, her giant black Great Dane-Lab mix. Read more about their adventures at www.charlotteaustin.com.

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