How Tight Should a Harness Be on a Dog? (Solved & Explained!)

Simply put, you want the harness to be snugly fit to the point where your dog cannot simply back out of it (which is the first thing that they will try to do!). If you are using a front clip harness, make sure that the clip is at the top center of the chest and that it is snug, not loose.

With a back clip, the back section should be snug against the coat and should not move easily, but you should be able to move it a little. As with a collar, you can test proper tightness by pressing together your index and middle fingers and pushing them in between the harness and your dog’s coat.

If you can easily push these through, but it still feels snug, then the fit is perfect. If it’s TOO easy to push through, it’s too loose, and if it’s hard to push your fingers through, then it’s on too tight.

In this article we’ll cover the questions that everyone is asking about harnesses and their proper use. Can your dog wear a harness all of the time? Is a back clip or a front clip the better harness? Find out the answers to these questions and more in the sections to follow!

Can a harness hurt your dog?

If improperly fitted or worn too long, a harness can actually hurt a dog. First off, only put it on when taking your dog out for a walk and then take it off immediately when you get them home. A tight harness, even well-fitted, puts pressure on your dog’s shoulders that can cause pain and joint issues over time.

Also, make sure that it is fitted properly. An improperly fitted harness can press hard on areas that it’s not supposed to, which can lead to aches and even soft tissue damage. Practice with the harness a few times by showing a treat, putting it on, and taking it off until you learn how to put it on right with ease.

Is it OK to leave a harness on a dog all the time?

No, it’s not a good idea to leave a dog harness on all of the time. While it’s less of a problem with padded harnesses, which distribute the pressure more effectively, wearing the harness all of time can lead to stiff, sore shoulders and even soft tissue damage.

It is best to only have your dog wear the harness when they need it for walking or when you have guests and may need to hold your dog during introductions.

Where should a dog harness sit?

With most harnesses, there will be a loop that goes over your dog’s head, while the label will be present on your dog’s left shoulder, and the metal ring will be present on the center of the back or will clip in the front on the top center of the chest.

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The secondary strap should be snug and secure behind your dog’s front legs but not loose enough that they can slip it, nor tight enough to be constricting.

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

A harness is the better choice for walking your dog. While the collar is the ‘old school’ traditional method, it puts too much pressure on your dog’s neck – especially when they bolt away to look at something or when you need to tug it to restrain them.

Use the collar for tags only and the harness for walking and you have a much safer scenario. The harness distributes the pressure to your dog’s chest or back and you’ll have much better control of your dog!

Can dog sleep with harness on?

This is not a good idea. A harness can easily catch on something, which can lead to painful positions or even end up as a choking hazard. Furthermore, wearing the harness for prolonged periods will rub at the skin and eventual skin infection could occur.

Beyond this, it’s also constant pressure on your dog’s shoulders – it’s better to only put the harness on when needed and to remove it immediately when it’s not.

Do harnesses calm dogs down?

Harnesses can make walking a much more relaxed experience – although you will need to get used to your dog being able to pull harder. The reason it’s more peaceful is that your dog isn’t getting pulled around and steered by their neck.

This neck pressure makes your dog nervous, so switching to a harness allows them to relax more and to focus on enjoying their time outside.

When should you put a dog harness on?

A harness is especially important to use instead of a collar with brachycephalic dogs, such as Pugs and Bulldogs. Brachycephalic dogs have flat faces and often have problems breathing from time to time, and collars can make this much worse.

These breeds aside, a harness is still a better choice, as it won’t pull or constrict your dog’s neck when you are walking, making it a more pleasant experience for both human and dog alike.

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How do I know if my harness is too small?

If you think that the harness might be too small, there is an easy telltale sign that you can look for to help to confirm if this is the case. Look for abrasion of the skin under your dog’s legs.

This or simply patchy fur there can indicate a harness that is too small and rubbing too much against these areas. If you see this, it’s time to get a larger harness!

How is a back harness correctly fitted?

The harness should fit snugly behind the legs and against the chest. You don’t want it to be loose enough that they can wiggle out, so make sure that it is tightened enough that it lays flat against the coat, but is not so restrictive that you can’t easily push 2 fingers through it.

The section on the back should be securely in place, so that it doesn’t move around easily, and if that is not the case then it needs to be tightened to avoid your dog wiggling out of the harness and potentially putting themselves in harms way.

Is a back clip or chest clip harness better?

That really depends, but trainers tend to prefer the front clip because they have more control and the dog is less likely to pull strongly at the leash. With a back clip, your dog has more freedom of movement, but you do have to get used to that extra pull so that it won’t affect your control of the dog.

Both are great options, but if your dog tends to try to ‘bully’ you on walks then the front clip will give you more control over this behavior.