How to Fit a Dog Harness

People always ask us how to find and fit the perfect harness for their dog.

We know it can be tricky with all of the options out there, so we’ve written this short guide to help you through the process.

Why a Harness?

There are a variety of reasons why you’d choose a harness over a collar, but the big ones are choking, running and lifting. Traditional collars tend to choke when a dog pulls, but harnesses distribute the weight. Harnesses also give you multiple points of attachment so you can keep the leash from getting tangled in your dog’s legs when you go running. Finally, harnesses give you extra places to grab when you’re trying to lift and move older or ill dogs.

How to Choose the Right Size Harness for Your Dog?

Once you’ve decided to get a harness, the next thing to figure out is how do you get the right size for you dog.

To start, there are a few different measurements you should get:

Weight: This is the most important one, and how most harness companies determine sizing. If you’re having trouble getting your furry friend on the scale, weigh yourself first, then pick up your pooch and weigh the two of you together. The difference will be the weight of your dog.

Chest: Measure around the body of the dog with a flexible cloth tape measure. You should be starting at the bottom of the ribcage and going up and over the back and then back down to where you started.

Neck: Wrap the tape around the thickest part of your dog’s neck and take that measurement.

Once you have your measurements, you are ready to shop online or head to the store.

On the back of the box for nearly any harness or in the online product description, you’ll find the suggested sizing. In most cases, it will just list weight range, because weight is normally the most accurate sizing measurement. Often, you’ll find that the ranges will overlap. The medium may go from 25-50lbs and the large may go from 45-80lbs. If your dog falls into the overlap of two ranges, get the larger of the two sizes.

Once you have your size, there are a few more things to consider:

Metal or Plastic Buckles: If you’re looking to use your harness primarily for light duty with easy dogs, then plastic buckles are the way to go. They are quick and easy to open and close. If you want your harness for energetic dogs or dog safety in the car, you should get metal buckles. An added benefit of metal buckles is that they don’t catch and pinch fur like plastic buckles tend to do.

Over-Head or Step-in Harness: Over-head harnesses are the kind that slide over the head of your dog and then secure around the back. Step-in harnesses are shaped like a figure 8 and require your dog to literally step into them. Step-in harnesses are easier to put on for some dogs but are less secure. Generally, over-head harnesses are nicer overall as they provide more padding, more points of adjustment, and can be put on old, disabled and difficult dogs.

Adjustments: It’s important that the harness you select has many points of adjustment. Even though the harness is based on your dog’s weight, the chest size of a 65-pound Lab is different than that of a 65-pound Weimaraner. The step-in variety are usually limited when it comes to adjustment, so we recommend you go with the over-head harnesses, as they generally offer four or even five points of adjustment. You should definitely look for adjustment around the chest and waist.

How to Set-up an Over-Head Harness (One Time)

To put on a harness properly, you should make sure it starts fairly loose so it’s easy to slip on your dog. You can tighten it once it’s on. You should also note that a proper snug fit means you can fit two (and only two) fingers between your dog and the harness at any point.

1. Slide the harness over the head of your dog. Do not tighten anything at this point.
2. Swing the chest piece up so that it’s touching your dog’s chest and belly.
3. On the chest piece, you’ll find two buckles, swing these up (one on either side of your dog, behind the front legs) and fasten them to the back of the harness.
4. Adjust the sides of your harness to fit snuggly.
5. Adjust the belly (if applicable) of your harness to fit snugly
6. Adjust the neck of your harness to fit snugly

Only some harnesses, such as the Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness, include the adjustment point on the stomach.

How to Put on an Over-Head Harness

Once you have your harness set-up, putting it on should be a breeze.

1. Slide the harness over the head of your dog.
2. Swing the chest piece up so that it’s touching your dog’s chest and belly.
3. On the chest piece, you’ll find two buckles, swing these up (one on either side of your dog, behind the front legs) and fasten them to the back of the harness.

Signs of a Poor Fit

Your harness may be the improper size or improperly applied if you see any of the following:

➢ Loosing fur around harness area
➢ Chafing around harness area
➢ Dog wiggling free
➢ Back piece of harness rotating to sides
➢ Dog strongly resisting walking

This is a special guest blog post from our friends at Kurgo

Meet the Author: Lucy Postins

Lucy Postins is founder of The Honest Kitchen as well as its Mother Hen and CEO. She is a companion animal nutritionist who started The Honest Kitchen in her kitchen in 2002. She is passionate about advanced nutrition and holistic health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. Considered an expert in her field, Lucy frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. She also recently authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love.

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