How To Tighten and Adjust Your Dog Harness ** 5 Common Misconceptions About It

Are you excited to try out a harness for your pet, but don’t know how to tighten it properly?

The good news is, you are far from alone. There are plenty of people out there who are worried that they are not fitting their dogs properly for harnesses. The best way to make sure that both you and your canine best friend are happy is to learn what to do and what not to do when fitting your dog for a harness.

How To Tighten A Dog Harness

You need to make sure that the straps are flush against your dog’s skin without pinching them. Do this by gently pulling up the belly strap and tightening the straps around your dog’s two front paws. The harness should be secure, but not cutting into the skin of your dog.

Step 1 – Understand How Your Harness Fits

Most dog harnesses fit over the head or under the front two legs. They also usually have a quick buckle and adjusters.

It’s the adjusters that you’ll use to tighten the dog harness.

Step 2 – Place the Main Loop Over the Head or Under the Front Paws

Over-the-head harnesses also tend to go over the two front legs after you put them over the head.

Leg harnesses, usually vest harnesses, just go under the two front legs.

Step 3 – Place Your Dog’s Legs Through the Remaining Hoops

As stated.

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Step 4 – Clip the Connectors

This is the final step to putting on the harness. Then you can test for tightness. You want to put on the harness first. If it’s too loose this is no problem. If it’s too tight do not clip the connectors. Loosen it first.

Step 5 – Check the Fit Using the Two Fingers Rule

A properly fitted harness should fit two fingers between the harness and your dog’s body. If you can fit more it’s too loose.

If you can’t fit two fingers it’s too tight.

Step 6 – Take the Harness Off to Tighten or Loosen

Next, take off the harness to adjust the tightness.

You can do this while the harness is on but it’s more difficult.

Step 7 – Adjust the Tightness of The belly Straps

Adjust the belly straps first. Strap adjusters are a bit tricky. They usually don’t slide easily and you want them to do that so the harness doesn’t change its tightness during use.

The easiest way to adjust them is to manually push the strap up and into the adjustor till there’s a little loop sticking up the middle. Then pull it down the other side.

You can use that method for tightening or loosening.

Repeat the same method for the neck tightener, if one exists for your harness.

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Step 8 – Put the Harness On Again and Test the Fitness

Put the harness back on your dog, clip all the clips, and check using the two fingers rule for the harness around the neck and again around the belly.

For vest harnesses, you’ll just check the belly.

Step 9 – Repeat With Small Tightenings Or Loosenings Until It Passes the Two Finger Test

Take the harness off as needed and repeat until you have the proper fit.

Watch the video below to see a few different dog harnesses in action.

5 Common Misconceptions About How To Tighten Dog Harnesses

There are plenty of misconceptions swirling around how to use a dog harness effectively. If you can separate fact from fiction, you’ll have a happier, healthier dog.

1. Dogs Pull More When They Wear Harnesses

Actually, the opposite is true! Dogs pull less when they wear harnesses because their weight is more evenly distributed and the owner has more control.

2. There’s No Wrong Way To Tighten A Harness

Although you want the harness to be snug, you should make sure that it’s not too tight. Improperly tightened harnesses can pinch and hurt your dog.

3. Dogs Are More Likely To Escape From Harnesses

Dogs are less likely to escape from securely tightened and properly used harnesses.

4. You Can Leave Your Harness On The Dog All Of The Time

Although most harnesses are comfortable, you should take the harness off at night to let your dog’s skin breathe. Some dogs will tear their harnesses if they are left on for too long.

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5. Harnesses Are Difficult To Get On Dogs

Harnesses are just as easy to get on dogs as collars are. The trick is keeping your pet calm and positioning them properly over the harness before trying to get it onto their bodies.

If My Dog Has A Collar Do They Need A Harness?

Ideally, your dog should have both a collar and a harness. The harness allows you to have more control over them while walking, and a collar is an identification tool in case they get lost.

Can I Keep The Harness On My Dog While We Rough Play?

When rough-housing with your dog, remove their harness. Harnesses can easily get snagged or caught on things and could injure you or your dog. Harnesses are meant to be placed securely in one spot and used for walking, not rolling around in the grass or playing tug-of-war.

Is It Okay To Put My Puppy Into A Harness?

Not only is it okay to put your puppy into a harness, but it’s also actually better for them. Harnesses are excellent tools for training and getting your puppy used to a harness at a young age is a great way to make sure that they’re well-behaved in the future.

Will The Harness Help My Dog Stay Focused On His Or Her Walk?

Harnesses help guide your dog and set up boundaries, so they are very useful when it comes to focusing attention where it needs to be on walks. Harnesses are actually great for easily distracted or excited dogs specifically because they keep the dog focused on the task at hand.

How Do I Know That The Harness Isn’t Too Tight?

The harness should stay flat on the skin but not dig into the dog’s flesh. Too-tight harnesses will pinch under the armpits and can cause pain or even chronic problems over time. Too-loose harnesses will be easy to slip out of. See if you can put a finger underneath the strap. If you can easily fit one under, the harness is too loose. If you can’t even get the tip of your finger under, the harness is too tight.

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Uncomfortable In Their Harness?

If your dog is uncomfortable in their harness they will tell you by whining or attempting to break out of the harness. Alternately, if they get uncomfortable on their walk, you’ll know because they will wince or exhibit tentative behavior when walking.

Can I Take My Dog Out For Walks In The Woods With Their Harness?

Harnesses are great for outdoor exploring because they keep your dog focused on the walk, as opposed to all of the great stuff that’s in the woods. Harnesses can also protect against fleas and ticks, although you should still check your pet when they come back from their hike.


If you have questions about the best harness practices for you and your dog, we have answers!

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How Do I Prevent My Dog From Getting Out Of Their Harness?

Even if your dog is a little escape artist, putting the harness on properly will keep them securely fastened. Always check to make sure that your canine best friend is locked in before you head out with them.

What Do I Do If My Dog Escapes?

You should always use a collar and harness at the same time, just in case your dog slips out of their harness and runs away. Collars generally have identification information on them, as well as a way to reach you. Additionally, all dogs should be microchipped for their own protection.

There is plenty of misinformation out there when it comes to harnesses, but knowing the facts will keep both you and your dog happier in the long run. A securely placed harness can give you peace of mind and ease joint pain for your dog at the same time. Invest in one today, and you’ll see the difference immediately.

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