A Complete Guide to Harnesses for Dogs

As a new dog owner, learning the ropes and the dos and don'ts of looking after your new pet can feel overwhelming at times. With so many factors to consider, it can be hard to know where to begin.

If there’s one thing that’s for sure, dogs will always need to go out on walks. So, a good starting point can be to ensure that you’re geared up for walkies from the get-go!

If you’re struggling to decide between collars and harnesses for dogs, don’t worry. We’ve created this guide to cover everything you need to know about dog harnesses, to help you find the perfect lead attachment for your pup.

  • In this guide you'll discover:

    In this guide you'll discover:

    • What dog harnesses are used for
    • The different types of dog harnesses
    • How to put on a dog harness in 3 steps
    • Pros of dog harnesses vs. collars
    • Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of a dog harness?

The purpose of a dog harness is to guide dogs during walks, reducing tension on the neck when they pull. Dog harnesses are made of straps that wrap around a dog’s torso, and similar to a dog collar, they have clips to attach to a lead.

There are lots of different types of dog harnesses available, each with their own purpose. On the whole, dog harnesses are helpful training tools for lead walking as they allow for greater control.

What are the main types of harnesses for dogs?

There are four main types of dog harnesses that can be used for walks and lead training. The different types include:

1. Back clip harnesses

2. Front clip harnesses

3. Dual clip harnesses

4. Step in harnesses

Though similar, each of these dog harnesses has their own pros and cons, and you’ll need to work out which type is best suited to your dog’s breed, size and temperament during walks. 

Types of Dog Harnesses

Back Clip Dog Harness:

Back clip harnesses are the most common harness that you’ll find when shopping around, and these are the type of dog harnesses that we currently sell. With a similar design to the front clip harness, back clip harness D rings are on the dog’s back. 

Back clip harnesses are by far the simplest and easiest harnesses to use, and can be used with a variety of dog leads, including retractable ones. We recommend these harnesses for dogs that tend to be quite calm on dog walks, as they are less effective at discouraging pulling.

Front Clip Dog Harness:

Commonly referred to as ‘anti-pull harnesses’, front clip harnesses feature D-rings for the leash attachment that are positioned on a dog’s chest (as opposed to the back). 

Front clip harnesses change the point of leverage, so they are best suited to dogs that pull during walks. They are helpful for training purposes, as when a dog pulls, the leash moves to the side and shortens, guiding the dog back towards its owner. 

Dual Clip Dog Harness:

Dual clip harnesses allow leads to be attached to a back clip or front clip. So, they are a versatile option that can be used in both ways - on normal dog walks and when greater control is needed. 

They are helpful in preventing injury as the pressure is distributed evenly across a dog’s body. However, be advised that these types of harnesses can take a while to get used to, they tend to be a bulkier option that should be kept for training purposes. 

Step In Dog Harness:

With a step in harness, a dog steps into the straps with both front paws, and then the harness is fastened at the back. Some dogs dislike having harnesses put over their heads, so in this instance, a step in dog harness is the ideal solution. 

  • Step 1:

    Step 1:

    To measure your dog for a harness, you can either use a soft measuring tape or a piece of string / ribbon. If you don't have a flexible tape to hand, you'll also need a ruler to calculate accurate measurements.

  • Step 2:

    Step 2:

    First, wrap the measuring tape around your dog's lower neck. The lower neck is situated below where your dog's collar will normally sit. If you're struggling to find the correct position, run your hands along the front of your dog's body to locate their shoulder joints (the lower neck is above this).

  • Step 3:

    Step 3:

    Once you've written down your dog's neck measurements, you need to measure their chest. To do so, wrap the tape around the widest part of their torso, which is usually located just behind the front legs. If your dog's harness measurements are between sizes, we recommend going up a size.

How to put a harness on a dog:

Now that you know the different types of dog harnesses, it's important to understand how to put them on your dog correctly. Many people are put off using harnesses because they feel they’re too complicated and fiddly, but this simply isn’t the case! They just take some getting used to.

Before choosing a harness for your dog, you’ll need to use a tape measure to measure your dog’s lower neck and the thickest part of its chest. This will help to make sure you’ve got the correct harness size, which is crucial to avoiding injuries. 

  • Back Clip Harness:

    For a black clip harness, lay the harness out so that you can see clearly see the two loops. The smaller loop is the front one which will go over your dog’s head first.

     

    1. Crouch or kneel behind your dog or to its side and gently slide the small loop over its head.
    2. After that, help your dog lift its front left paw and slide the harness strap through the foreleg.
    3. You can then guide the strap underneath your dog's belly area and clip in the buckle near the right leg. Adjust accordingly for comfort.

     

      Tip: When fitted correctly, the D ring will sit on the top at the back, between your dog’s shoulder blades.

    1. Front Clip Harness:

      A front clip harness works similarly to a back clip one, but with this type of harness, the D ring should be positioned at the centre of your dog's chest.

       

      1. To fit, crouch or kneel behind your dog or to its side and unclip the belly strap buckle.
      2. Gently slide the main loop over your dog’s head first, making sure the D ring is aligned.
      3. After that, you can fasten the belly strap behind your dog’s legs using the buckles provided and adjust for comfort.

       

        Tip: When fitted correctly, the chest strap will fit horizontally over your dog's chest bone.

      1. Dual Clip Harness:

        If you've never put a harness on a dog before, the dual clip harness can be a bit more tricky to navigate because they feature multiple D rings. 

         

        1. First, find the loose D ring, as this will be the one that sits at the top of the dog’s back.
        2. Once you've found the back D ring, calmly kneel or crouch down either behind your dog or to its side, and slide the harness gently over its head.
        3. Then, pull each loop under your dog's left and right forelegs and clip the harness straps together using the buckles provided.
      2. Step In Harness:

        A step in harness is one of the easiest harnesses to put on a dog, particularly useful for dogs that aren't comfortable with straps going over their head. 

         

        1. Unbuckle the harness and lay it flat on the ground.
        2. Gently place your dog's front paws into each loop of the harness.
        3. Pull the straps over and clip the harness buckle on your dog's back. The lead then gets attached to the two D rings placed on each side of the back buckle.

      How is a back clip harness correctly fitted?

      A back clip harness is fitted securely around a dog's shoulders and chest, with the D rings positioned at the centre of their back between the shoulder blades. When correctly fitted, the harness will be snug enough not to slide up, but not too tight that the straps cut into their armpits.

      • Dog Harness:

        Dog Harness:

        • Good for lead training
        • Fastens securely around a dog's torso
        • Helps to avoid injury for dogs that pull
        • Distributes weight across the chest
        • Provides more comfort for some dogs
        • Less chance of lead getting tangled
      • Dog Collars:

        Dog Collars:

        • Good for lead trained dogs
        • Easier and more convenient to fit
        • Provides more freedom for movement
        • Displays a dog's identification tag
        • Quicker to put on when in a hurry
        • Suited to dogs that don't pull on walks
      Dog Harness Displayed On Blankets

      Barc London's dog harness range:

      Think a dog harness is right for your pup? Discover our premium fabric harnesses in a range of colourful striped designs.

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      Dog Harness FAQs

      Get answers to common questions about dog harnesses:

      How does a harness work for dogs?

      A dog harness works by utilising a dog’s pulling power to allow for more control during dog walks. By distributing weight to the shoulders, chest and back area, harnesses reduce pressure on dogs’ collars and necks. Because of this, dog harnesses help to provide greater comfort to dogs whilst reducing risks of injuries like neck strain or choking.

      What are the benefits of using a dog harness?

      Dog harnesses offer a number of benefits for both pups and their owners. The main pros of using harnesses for dogs include: 

      Reduce pulling on walks:

      When wearing a harness, dogs are forced to slow down when they pull. The tension from the leash forces them to turn back and walk towards their owner, helping to teach them how to walk properly. 

      Less neck pressure:

      Due to the fact dog harnesses fasten over the chest area, the neck is protected from pressure and issues like restricted airways. 

      Ensure security and safety:

      Generally speaking, harnesses do a good job at preventing accidents from occurring. As they are fastened around dogs’ bodies, there is less chance of them slipping off and allowing your dog to run away. 

      Is it easier to control a dog with a harness or a collar?

      Generally speaking, harnesses tend to be more secure and provide more control than collars. This is because harnesses have been specifically designed to discourage pulling, so you may find it easier to control your dog and improve its lead skills with this option. 

      Dog harnesses are useful tools for training dogs during walks. They tend to be better at preventing accidents because they fasten securely around a dog's body. With a harness, you can also discourage your dog from jumping up at strangers, without worrying about potential injury from strain.

      Note: the best dog harness for dogs that pull are called front clip / anti-pull harnesses.

      Are dog harnesses safe for puppies?

      Yes! Puppies can safely start wearing harnesses at just 8 weeks old. A puppy harness is advisable when out on walks, because young puppies have not yet learnt how to walk properly on a lead. With a harness, you don't have to worry as much about neck injuries that can be caused by pulling.

      A harness is a popular puppy accessory. When introducing your puppy to its harness, it's recommended that you give it a few days to let it settle in and get familiar with the harness before starting any training. 

      By training your puppy lead skills from a young age, you will help it to quickly develop good walking habits and ensure optimal control when out on walkies.

      What is the best dog harness for pulling?

      When it comes to finding the best dog harness for pulling, the most useful type tends to be a front clip dog harness. Also referred to as an anti-pull or no pull dog harness, these products help to move the lead to a dog's side, guiding the dog back towards you when it walks too far ahead.