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How To Put On A Dog Harness?4 Easy Steps to Follow

At A Glance

There are different types of dog harnesses you can use to ensure your pooch is secure and comfortable on walks. Before putting one on your pet for the first time, it’s important to introduce the item and allow them to be comfortable with it..

  • Step-in and vest harnesses are the easiest to wear. They typically have two holes for the front legs and a clasp or Velcro closure on top, towards the back.
  • Adjustable harnesses with padded straps, such as H-type and over-the-head, are more difficult to put on than conventional ones. These are preferred by small dog owners as they may be tailored to smaller necks. They also prevent large dogs from accidentally slipping out.

Last Updated on: Oct 12, 2022

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Love walking, running, and hiking with your pet?

Getting a harness for dogs might be a good idea.

Harnesses provide extra support and security. They also distribute leash pressure more evenly across your dog’s body and give you better overall control over it.

Dog owner Lissa Bryan of Ohio shares: “My little guy wears a harness because he can slip out of a collar easily. His head is smaller than his neck and so all he has to do is brace his feet and the collar slides right over his ears and he’s loose”, she says.

While harnesses are generally easy to put on, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it correctly.

Below are 4 easy steps on how to put on a dog harness, and some tips on the features you should look for when shopping for one.

Step 1: Have Your Dog Smell The Harness

The first step in my dog harness instructions is to allow your pet to smell it and get used to the idea of wearing it. This is especially important if they exhibit resistance to slipping into it.

Let them sniff and explore it with their nose and mouth. You may give them a treat while they’re doing this to help create a positive association.

If you have a big dog, getting them acquainted with their harness will make things easier for you and less stressful for them. It’s hard enough to put a harness on a small dog that’s wiggling around, you don’t want to have to fight with a large dog who doesn’t want to wear it.

infographic image of dog harness

Step 2: Make Your Dog Stand Calmly Next To You

Once your pet is comfortable with their harness, coax them to stand calmly beside you before proceeding to put it on.

If you try slipping it on when they’re sitting or lying down, they may try to get up and run away as soon as you start. Caressing them gently to keep them in a standing position will make the process much easier.

You also don’t want to force your dog to stand if they’re not comfortable doing so as it will result in more resistance to the harness. If they won’t get up, lead them with a treat in your hand.

Never pull or yank your dog’s limbs away from their body if they’re resisting. This will only make them more anxious and stressed, and can result in injuries or bruises.

brown dog with a harness

Step 3: Put The Harness On

Once you’ve succeeded in having your dog stand calmly next to you, it’s time to start putting on the harness.

If possible, have someone familiar to your pet help you hold it still while you slip the device on for the first time.

The specifics of how to put on a harness will depend on the type you’re using.

Step In Harness

This is one of the easiest to put on, though it can be a little difficult if your dog is resistant. That’s why full acceptance on your pet’s part is critical.

A step-in harness holds your dog’s body securely through two loops that go around their chest and stomach. You can attach a leash to the D-ring on top.

The process is as simple as having your dog step into the middle of the harness, then lifting it up so that the loops are positioned around their chest and stomach. Once in place, fasten the buckles or clips to secure the device.

Overhead Harness

An over-the-head harness is another common type that’s easy to put on. But again, keep in mind that resistance can make the procedure difficult.

This contraption goes over your dog’s head and often comes with a strap that runs under their stomach and across their body. As with the step-in type, a D-ring is positioned at the top for attaching a leash.

To wear the harness on your pet, simply slip it over their head and thread one arm into the armhole. Once in place, fasten the buckles or clips to secure it.

Zee Dog – Overhead Dog Harness

A durable and lightweight harness for your pet

The perfect ‘on the move’ dog harness that is not just lightweight, but built for the ultimate comfort- for both you and your dog. The harness also sports a reflective binding and straps to make walking safe day or night. Adjustable and available in 5 sizes.

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zee dog harness

Zee Dog – Overhead Dog Harness

A durable and lightweight harness for your pet.

The perfect ‘on the move’ dog harness that is not just lightweight, but built for the ultimate comfort- for both you and your dog. The harness also sports a reflective binding and straps to make walking safe day or night. Adjustable and available in 5 sizes.

  • Pey

    Pit-bulls can be great dogs, but once it attacked my corgi. Thank God my baby had this harness on because instead of sinking his teeth into his neck, he latched right onto the harness. I will never buy another company’s harness.

  • Mannoo

    The size 2 is Perfect for my 5 month old 18lb French bulldog. Since both straps are adjustable I won’t have to buy another harness for him once he’s fully grown which I was looking for in a harness. It’s super easy to put on and off.

  • Steven

    My husky HATES harnesses and throws a fit whenever we have her wear one. This is the first harness that she allowed us to use on her and she was calmer during walks!! I am thinking of getting a new one in another color.

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Vest Harness

Similar in structure to an over-the-head harness, a vest harness opens at the back and can be clipped on or secured with a Velcro strip. It’s also one of the easiest types to put on, as it often comes in one solid piece.

The downside to vest-type harnesses is they’re typically not adjustable, so you have to ensure the correct size for your dog before buying one.

Put the harness on by laying it on the floor and having your dog step into its middle part. Then, help them put their front legs through the corresponding holes. When done, secure the apparatus with the buckles or clips at the back.

If the harness has a Velcro closure, make sure it’s secure and not likely to come undone.

H-Style Harness

One of the most common types used by dog owners, the H-style harness is very secure and can be easily adjusted to fit dogs with smaller heads. It looks similar to a step-in harness, but with an additional strap that goes across your dog’s neck.

The mechanism involves two loops that go around the neck and upper chest, as well as a strap that goes across the body. A D-ring is fastened on top for the leash.

To put it on, start by slipping the harness over your dog’s head and threading one arm into the armhole. Next, position the other loop around their chest. Then, fasten the buckles or clips to secure the harness.

Whenever necessary, adjust the straps to ensure a snug but comfortable fit.

No-Pull Harness

Designed to keep your dog beside you while you walk together, the no-pull harness cleverly discourages them from pulling away. It’s equipped with straps crossing over their shoulders and fasteners on the chest and behind the front legs.

In this type, the leash is clipped to a ring in front. If your pet strays, the leash slides to their side and leads them back to you.

Here’s how to put on a no-pull dog harness: Place the device on your pet’s back, cross each strap over one shoulder, and lock the fasteners. That’s it!

owner adjusting dog's harness

Step 4: Adjust The Straps

Depending on the type of your dog’s harness, there may be a few different straps you need to adjust. Make sure each one is snugly fit so they can’t wiggle out, but not too tight that it’s uncomfortable.

Some harnesses have a chest strap that goes across the front of your dog’s chest. It should be adjusted in such a way that you can insert two fingers under it. This ensures your pet won’t be constricted.

You’ll also want to double check the strap around your dog’s neck. You should be able to fit one or two fingers under it as well.

Finally, take a look at the strap that goes across your dog’s back. This must be snug against their body, but not uncomfortably tight.

two dogs sitting in the grass

Standard Measurements For Dog Harness

“When picking a harness and trying it on your dog, you want to make sure that it is snug and the clip hangs higher up on your dog’s chest”, advises Ashley Atkinson, CPDT-KA, of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Choose a harness that best fits your dog’s breed, size, and weight. For example, a chihuahua will need a much smaller harness than a great dane. And a harness for a puppy will be different from an adult dog’s.

In any case, measure for girth (the widest part of the chest) with a tape measure.

Here are some standard measurement guidelines to help you choose the right sized harness for your dog:

Extra small: 8 to 14 inches

Dogs that weigh between 3 to 10 lbs. can use extra small-sized collars that can be adjusted from 8 to 14 inches. Chihuahua, miniature dachshund, toy poodle, pomeranian, Yorkshire terrier, and Maltese are some breeds under this category.

Small: 10 to 20 inches

Small-sized harnesses are for dogs weighing 10 to 25 lbs. They have an adjustable girth of 10 to 20 inches and can be used by breeds such as Scottish terrier, Pekingese, pug, miniature Schnauzer, and cavalier King Charles.

Medium: 16 to 28 inches

For dogs 25 to 50 lbs., medium-sized harnesses offer an adjustable girth of 16 to 28 inches. These are best for the border collie, beagle, Boston terrier, English bulldog, and French bulldog.

Large: 26 to 40 inches

The large size is ideal for dogs that weigh from 50 to 80 lbs. It has an adjustable girth of 26 to 40 inches. Breeds such as dalmatian, boxer, golden retriever, labrador retriever, and weimaraner can use these harnesses.

Extra large: 40+ inches

Dogs weighing more than 80 lbs. need an extra large harness with an adjustable girth of 40+ inches. Great danes, mastiffs, Saint Bernards, Bernese mountain dogs, rottweilers, and Irish wolfhounds belong to this group.

how to put on a dog harness - tweet 2

Frequently Asked Questions

How Should A Dog Harness Fit?

Snugly but not too tight. You should be able to fit one or two fingers under the straps. Before going on a long walk, test out the harness by having your dog walk, run, and jump in it around the house or yard to make sure they are comfortable.

Which Type Of Harness Is Best For My Dog?

That will depend on your pet’s breed, size, and weight. The guide above covers typical measurements per breed, but for best results, you should always measure your dog before purchasing a harness.

Is A Dog Harness Better Than A Collar?

For some dogs, a harness may be a better option than a collar. If your dog pulls on the leash or suffers from neck issues, a harness can help distribute the pressure more evenly across their body. However, it is ultimately up to you and your veterinarian to decide what is best for your dog as both of you know them best.

Are Harnesses Good For Dogs?

Yes! They provide an extra layer of security and an even distribution of pressure. They are also helpful during training by giving you more control over your dog. The key is to know how to put on a dog harness the right way so that they don’t resist it.


General dog harness how to put on a dog harness

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Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.