How Does A Dog or Puppy Harness Go On? (Standard, Step-in, and 5 Other Types)

Have you ever wondered just what a harness could do for your dog? Dog harnesses are a perfect way to keep your canine companion in line when you’re walking them, but also can protect your precious pooch from hurting themselves.

If you’ve been on the fence about getting a dog harness for your pup, read on! By the end of this article, we’re sure that you’ll be a convert.

Standard (over the head) Dog Harness

There are strap-based over-the-head dog harnesses and padded vests. Both work the same way in that you slide the head opening over your dog’s head first then put the legs through, then buckle it.

  1. Kneel behind your dog.
  2. Place the harness over your dog’s head. The D ring should be on your dog’s back. This is where you’ll connect the leash later.
  3. There’s an underbelly strap that needs to go through a loop hanging down from your dog’s chest. For some harnesses, this will be sewn and you can skip this step. Either way, you’ll end up with a loop on the left side and an open area on the right.
  4. Slip your dog’s left leg through the loop on the left.
  5. Then pull the underbelly strap with the buckle under and behind the right leg.
  6. Buckle the underbelly strap to the side buckle.
  7. Adjust the tightness so you can fit two fingers between the harness and your dog’s body. There is often a tightener on the underbelly strap as well as on the neck loop. Adjust both to the perfect fit.
  8. Attach the leash to the D-ring on the back (or the one on the front to use it as a no-pull harness).

Step-in Dog Harness

Step-in dog harnesses come in two types – strap-based or padded vest-based. They both work the same way – your dog’s front legs go in first.

  1. Have your dog step into the harness and then maneuver their paws, so the harness fits snugly on their body.
  2. Buckle the harness.
  3. You want the harness to be tight, but not pinching your pup. You should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and their body snugly.
  4. If your harness has different back straps, make sure that they are correctly secured so your dog can’t wiggle out of their harness.
  5. Connect the leash to the D ring on the front (if available) to activate it as a no-pull harness or the back for use as a standard harness.

It should only take a few minutes to get your dog properly secured in its harness. If you do it properly, both you and your dog will be much more comfortable.

How To Put On Other Types of Dog Harnesses

There are many other types of dog harnesses. The two above are the most common. Have a different harness?

Watch the video below to see how to put on other types of dog harnesses.

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Which Way Does A Dog Harness Go?

Dog harnesses either go over the head or over the front legs.

  1. Standard and vest harnesses start by going over the head then buckle over the back or on the side.
  2. Step in harnesses start going on the front legs then buckle on the back or on the side.

How Does a Puppy Harness Go On?

Puppy harnesses go on the same way adult harness go on. Standard and vest harnesses start by going over the head and buckle on the side. Step-in puppy harnesses start by sliding your puppy’s front legs through the loops then buckl over the back.

Do All Types Of Dogs Need A Harness?

All dogs can benefit from using a harness, but the benefits are different depending on what kind of pump you have.

Smaller dogs wear harnesses because their bodies are a lot smaller and can be prone to injuries if they wear traditional collars. Using a harness spreads out the pressure over their bodies, instead of just localizing it on their necks. Harnesses protect their little frames and keep them more comfortable.

Larger or very strong dogs need harnesses because they can break through collars easily. Harnesses keep them under control and don’t allow them to pull as much, which can be unpleasant or even painful for their owners.

Overly excited dogs also need harnesses because they tend to react impulsively to stimuli. Any pet owner who has ever seen their dog break their collar to chase a squirrel knows how important it is to keep excitable dogs under control.

What Kind Of Injuries Do Harnesses Prevent?

If your dog is always trying to outrun his or her collar, they are at great risk for hurting their neck. Some dogs even get sprains or serious injuries in their excitement to pull away from their owners.

Harnesses take the pressure off your dog’s neck and spread it throughout his or her body, making them an ideal way to prevent your pup from succumbing to easily avoidable injuries.

Can Harnesses Help You Train Your Dog?

Harnesses can absolutely help you train your dog! They are most appropriate for dogs that are learning how to go for walks properly. A harness prevents pulling and lets your dog know what his or her specific boundaries are, forcing them to walk alongside or directly in front of you, as opposed to feet ahead.

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If you are adopting a dog or working with a puppy to help them walk right away, a good harness is worth its weight in gold. You’ll be able to exercise mastery over your dog without pulling on them too hard and risking an injury.

How Does A No-Pull Harness Work?

No-pull harnesses are perfect for training dogs or correcting unwanted behavior because they give your pup a prompt when they start to pull or get too excited. The harness tightens up a little bit when the pulling starts, not hard enough to hurt the dog, but enough to provide them with a bit of discomfort.

Most dogs respond to the stimuli by falling back into line, and it’s an effective and humane way to train your pet.

Can My Dog Escape Out Of Their Harness?

Dogs can and do, slip out of their harnesses if they’re not properly secured. This is why it’s essential to make sure that you take the time to properly secure your dog’s harness before you take him or her outside.

Most of the time, dogs will squeeze their shoulders out of a harness, but they can also back out of a loose harness.

Will A Harness Hurt My Dog?

If your harness is secured correctly, it will not hurt your dogs. Harnesses that are too tight can pinch or squeeze your dog under their front paws, so make sure you don’t bind your dog too tightly into the harness. The best rule is to keep it snug but not super tight.

Can My Dog Wear Their Harness All Of The Time?

Your dog can absolutely wear their harness most of the time. You should take it off once in a while to give your pup’s skin a chance to breathe properly. You also have to take off the harness when you’re bathing your dog. If you see your dog exhibiting any signs of pain or discomfort, take off the harness, and assess the situation. It might be too tight, or your dog might have developed a rash beneath the harness.


It’s only natural that responsible pet owners will have some questions about properly using a harness.

What Is The Most Common Type Of Harness?

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Vest harnesses are the most common type of harness. These types of harnesses usually cover the chest of the dog and are secured in the back. Your dog’s back legs are free, but their front legs are secured by straps, which help keep the harness on.

Can My Puppy Wear A Harness?

Your puppy can wear a harness, but make sure that it fits them properly and won’t slip off. With many harnesses, it’s important to ensure that they are not too tight, but often the opposite is true with puppies. These tiny dogs are notorious for being escape artists and will often slip out of their pet harnesses. Also, puppies should always have a collar ID in addition to any type of harness.

Harnesses are a humane and effective way to manage your dog. There’s a good one out there for every canine companion.