Skip to content
How to Determine the Right Harness for Your Dog

How to Determine the Right Harness for Your Dog

People love their furry friends, and it's frustrating and scary when these companions wander off or become unruly. The dog can dart into traffic, get into fights with other dogs, or even attack pedestrians during walks. That's why every dog needs a harness.on

A suitable harness, not just a harness, for that matter. A harness meant for a Newfoundland won't work on a Yorkshire Terrier. In the same way, a back-clip harness on an untrained Husky will just get you into a nasty tug-of-war. So, let's see how you can determine the right harness for your dog.  

How to Determine the Right Harness for Your Dog

Dogs are loyal and love their owners unconditionally. A study done on 975 dog owners showed that many people valued the friendship of dogs over the friendship of siblings, parents and human friends. The research also shows that dog companionship helps to improve energy, improve mood and lower the stress hormone cortisol.

As a result, losing your dog to things like theft, wandering off, or accidents causes the same level of grief as losing a beloved family member. The shocking news is that over 1.2 million dogs die out of road accidents in the United States, and over 1 million pets get lost in Canada, with seven out of 10 pets being dogs. 

Now, one of the best ways to protect your furry friend from these things is to keep him on a leash during walks, exercises, and hikes. The two things you can use are harnesses or collars.

Keeping in mind that the dog's neck is sensitive and contains veins and arteries, lymph nodes, esophagus, larynx and trachea, collars are not the best option for prolonged walks or heavy pullers. So, you're left with harnesses.

But again, harnesses come in a wide range of build qualities, designs, sizes and materials. Note that there's no one-fits-all solution to harnesses. The best one depends on your dog's temperament and physical attributes. Here are the considerations to determine whether the harness is a perfect match for your furry friend.


Dogs descended from wolves. They have the same desire to explore new environments and smell new scents, just like wolves. So, it goes without saying that the dog will be over-excited once you go out for walks and hikes. The result of the overexcitement is the dog pulling on the leash.

All that humans do is to try and train the dog from pulling on leash, but you can't remove this instinct altogether. Dog accessory manufacturers know this, and that is why they designed harnesses for different levels of pulling. Here are the harness designs to go for depending on your dog's pulling behavior.

Back-Clip for Leash-Trained Dogs

A back clip harness is a harness that has the leash attachment point at the back, near the dog's shoulder blades. This is the common type of harness, and some people just refer to it as standard, normal or traditional harness. Basically, these are the harnesses for trained dogs.

Most of these harnesses come in wrap around designs, figure 8 designs or the H design. The good thing with these harnesses is that no pressure is exerted around the neck area. Instead, the harness distributes pressure across the dog's chest and shoulders.

This makes back clip harnesses great for brachycephalic dog breeds and dogs with trachea problems. The main downside with back clip harnesses is that they encourage the dog to pull harder due to the dog's opposition reflex.

So, if you have large, untrained heavy pullers like the Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, and German Shepherds, this is not the best harness for you. It'll tap the dog's pulling power, and the dog can even drag you on the sidewalks.  

Front-Clip for Leash Training

Front-clip harnesses are just the opposite of back-clip harnesses. They have the leash attachment point at the chest area rather than the back. This leash attachment point acts like a pivot that redirects the dog's pulling force when the leash is taut.

Usually, the straps of front-clip harnesses sit low across the chest, reducing the chances of discomfort, coughing, or choking. These harnesses are a great option for loose leash training.  

Dual-Clip for Both Trained and Untrained Dogs

Remember, dogs are intelligent and tend to repeat behaviors that yield the desired results. For instance, if pulling on the leash yields freedom, they'll keep pulling harder. Even a well-trained dog can get overexcited and pull on the leash.

For example, imagine a dog with strong hunting instincts, such as the Irish Wolfhounds, seeing a squirrel scampering around. He'll definitely try to chase it. He'll take it as a reward if he manages to pull successfully, and pulling will become the new trend.

That's why you need a versatile harness that you can use normally when the dog behaves well and transform into a no-pull harness when the dog pulls. A dual-clip harness is all about this.

As the name suggests, dual clip harnesses have both back and front clips. You can use the harness as a traditional harness for normal walks and as a no-pull training harness when the dog pulls. A perfect example of versatile dual-clip harnesses is the Alpine Dog's HNTR Harnesses.

Chewing Behavior

It's normal for dogs to chew. In fact, according to Applied Animal Behavior Science, 83% of people provide their dogs with inedible chew toys, while 94% provide them with edible chewing things. In most cases, dogs chew during their adolescent age as they try to explore new things.

However, there is what is considered abnormal chewing behavior. It can result from things like separation anxiety and attention-seeking. But if the dog chews on harnesses, that is a different problem, such as fabric sucking resulting from the dog being weaned too early.  

That's a problem that requires specialized training. But that doesn't mean you'll not be taking your dog for walks, hikes and adventures. The point is, if your dog has a destructive chewing behavior, then you need a chew resistant harness.  The two materials that can withstand heavy chewing are heavy-duty nylon and leather.

The problem with leather is that it's a natural material made of cattle hide, and the smell is pleasing to dogs. The texture and taste also feels good to the dog's sensitive gums, and encourages chewing. So, harnesses made of heavy-duty nylon, such as the Terrain Dog Harnesses, are the best choice if your dog is a heavy chewer.

Size of the Dog

Dog sizes vary insanely, from the tiny teacup Chihuahuas that weigh 4 pounds to the giant Great Danes that weigh up to 230 pounds. Dogs also vary in head shape, body shape, and proportions. As you can tell, the harness that fits a Chihuahua can't fit a Great Dane.

The good thing is that harness manufacturers will always indicate the target size of the harness. The common sizes are Extra Small (XS), Small (S), Medium (M), Large  (L) and Extra Large (XL). If your dog weighs 0 to 10 pounds, that's extra small. If it weighs 10 to 25 pounds, that's small. If it weighs 25 to 70 pounds, that's medium.

If it weighs 70 to 100 pounds, that's large and if it weighs over 100 pounds, that's a giant breed and needs an extra large harness. If you're still unsure of your dog's size, you can check the size guide here.


Dogs lose and gain weight just like humans. If you overfeed your furry friend or you don't exercise him enough, it's possible for him to add around 2.5 pounds of weight per week. That means a 50-pound dog will be around 65 pounds after six weeks.

Keeping in mind that a dog is considered obese after gaining more than 30% of its ideal body weight, it means your furry friend will be obese. This results in a sizing problem. For instance, if your dog's weight is 68 pounds, gaining weight means it breaches the mark from medium harnesses to large harnesses.

Your 6-week old harness will not be fitting anymore. That's why we recommend harnesses with adjustable straps like the HNTR 3.0 Harnesses. All the four sides of these harnesses are adjustable. No worries if your furry friend gains or loses weight.  

Skin Sensitivity

Dogs can have sensitive, dry, and itchy skin due to reasons such as allergies, genetics, or an underlying health condition. For instance, Shar Peis, Boxers, and Bulldogs are prone to skin sensitivity right from birth. Some signs that your dog has a sensitive skin include:

  • Bumps and scabs
  • Red and itchy skin
  • The skin looks scaly, dry and flaky
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Excessive licking, headshaking, scratching, and rubbing against furniture

If your dog has sensitive skin, we recommend harnesses with neoprene lining. Neoprene is the material used to make swimsuits. It's hypoallergenic, sweat-resistant, comfortable, and odorless. So, you can be sure these neoprene-lined harnesses won't cause skin irritation or chafing.


Ultimately, the right harness for your dog depends on your lifestyle. For example, if you love swimming, or your dog loves water such as the Newfoundlands, a leather harness is a no go zone. It'll soak water, become heavy and uncomfortable. 

Damp leather is also a breeding ground for bacteria and, of course, bad smells. In such cases, you still need a neoprene-lined harness. On the other hand, if much of your walks are around busy streets, early mornings, or late evenings, you need a harness with large reflective stripes.

That way, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians can easily spot your dog and avoid accidents. If you're on tight schedules, and you only take your dog for around 10 minute walk in the morning and 10 minute walk in the evening, you need a harness that's easy to wear and remove.

In such cases, a slip-over harness is the best bet. The design distributes pressure across the chest and shoulders, similar to a back-clip harness, but with the added advantage of getting ready for walks quicker and less stressful. 

Final Thoughts

The most straightforward way to choose the right harness for your dog is to start with the size. Make sure the harness has adjustable straps and the size falls in your breed's category. We recommend dual-clip harnesses made of sturdy nylon webbing and lined with neoprene. They are versatile and work for almost all dog breeds.