How Do Dog Harnesses Work? (Solved & Explained!)

Are you considering adding a harness to your beloved pet’s collar and leash setup, but you aren’t sure how harnesses work? Keep reading and you can consider yourself informed about not only how they can be utilized, but how to best incorporate one into your pet’s routine and lifestyle.

How Do Dog Harnesses Work?

Dog harnesses work by wrapping around your pet’s chest and ribcage, spreading pressure across a larger area so that they can’t hurt themselves by pulling during a walk. For dogs that tend to slip out of a collar, a harness can also be a lifesaver for them and create less stress for you.

Different varieties of harnesses have to be put on your dog in different ways, as well. It may take some consideration to figure out which fits both your and your dog’s situation.

Adding a Harness to a Collar

While a collar is handy for attaching ID and vaccination tags, they are generally not the best bet when it comes to walking your dog. Adding a harness can keep your pet from hurting their neck by pulling as well as from slipping out, making them safer all around.

If you decide to use solely a harness on your pet and dispense with using a collar, it is important to attach their identification and vaccination tags to the harness in a visible area. The ideal is, of course, to never lose track of your pet, but having their tags attached means you’ll get your dog back ASAP in the event of a slip-up.

Can Any Size Dog Wear a Harness?

Any shape and size dog can successfully wear a harness for walks, as long as your pet is amenable to a harness in the first place. You can find harnesses that will fit your pet both in physical size and that are made of materials suitable to their stature.

Miniature and teacup breeds, for instance, will typically need thinner straps to fit better around more delicate bodies and keep them safely harnessed. Large and massive dog breeds usually require heavy-duty materials and thicker straps to ensure that they can’t break the harness or get loose.

Choosing a Harness for Your Dog

Depending on your dog’s needs, there is a wide array of harnesses you can choose from. Regular over-the-head harnesses are great for dogs that don’t have a pulling problem, while no-pull varieties are better for more energetic dogs.

You might consider a step-in or vest harness for elderly or very small dogs. If your pet tends to need help in the car because of age or injury, you can find harnesses that provide you with the ability to lift your dog.

How to Fit a Harness

Whether the harnesses you’re considering feature measurements or sizes on the label, it’s important to know how they might fit your dog before choosing. Using a soft tape measure, take measurements around your pet’s neck, the widest part of their chest, and just below their ribcage, and use these as a guide when looking at labels.

Does My Dog Need a No-Pull Harness?

It can be terrifying to take your pet outside and end up forced to decide between letting go of the leash to keep them from hurting themselves or holding on until they stop. If your pet is particularly excitable during walks and they pull, even occasionally, you might consider choosing a no-pull harness.

No-pull harnesses can be found in varieties that tighten when your pet pulls, encourages them to stop, or connects at the front, turning your dog around to face you when they attempt to pull. Depending on your dog’s personality, you might decide that one or the other is more suitable for your needs.

At What Age Can a Dog Start Wearing a Harness?

Most pets will take to a harness quickly, and puppies can be guided into wearing a harness from about eight weeks old. As long as your puppy is walking well and you select a harness that fits its size and strength, your puppy shouldn’t have any trouble at all being trained to walk with one.

You might consider trying a harness for the first time on your puppy by having them wear it a few minutes a day, adding time as they grow. This will help them become accustomed to the harness without placing stress on them by leaving it on all day long from the start.

Harnesses for Elderly Dogs

Lift harnesses are excellent for elderly and/or injured dogs who have trouble getting around as well as they used to. They can be found in forms that either allow for a small amount of help for a dog jumping into a car or as a handled harness around both front and back legs that allows you to lift even a larger dog completely.


Is it better to walk a dog with a harness or collar?

Collars can pose a high risk of neck, throat, and thyroid injury for dogs that pull hard when being walked. A harness can be the best option for your pet in these cases to keep them safe and free from harm.

Do I need to take my dog’s harness off between walks?

In general, a dog can wear a harness 24/7 – unless your pet has long hair. Dogs with longer hair can become caught in the harness or have their hair mat around it, so you must remove the harness between walks and take care of their grooming needs.

Do harnesses hurt dogs?

A properly fitted harness will not harm your dog. Make certain that your pet’s harness fits properly, meaning that it isn’t adjusted too tightly and doesn’t rub against their body, but also that it isn’t so loose that the dog could slip out entirely.