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How to Put a Harness on a Dog: Your Comprehensive Guide

How to Put a Harness on a Dog: Your Comprehensive Guide

Using the right approach, putting on a dog harness can be smooth and stress-free. Begin by ensuring you have a comfortable fit for your furry companion. Lay the step-in harnesses flat on the ground and gently guide your dog’s feet into the openings. For overhead styles, slip the harness over your dog’s head and adjust the straps for a snug yet comfortable fit. It’s all about patience and gentle encouragement, ensuring that your dog feels safe throughout the process.

Once the harness is on, it’s crucial to adjust the straps to avoid any slipping or rubbing that could cause discomfort. With step-in harnesses, ensure the harness is flat against your dog’s back and secure any buckles or fasteners. Always double-check that the fit is snug but not tight, as a comfortable fit is vital to a happy and cooperative dog. Remember, the goal is to make your dog feel secure and comfortable, not restricted.

Understanding the Basics of Dog Harnesses

Before you clip the leash and head out for a walk, familiarize yourself with the basics of dog harnesses. Ensure your dog is calm and ready for the harness. Gently pull the harness over your dog’s head or have them step into it, ensuring the loop around the ribs does not twist. 

Follow the steps for putting on the harness carefully, and once the harness is positioned correctly, you should be able to slip two fingers under any strap. If the harness has one loop, it typically goes over the head, with your dog either standing or sitting.

What Is a Dog Harness?

A dog harness is more than just a tool for walks; it’s a bridge to better communication with your furry friend. Unlike traditional collars, harnesses distribute pressure more evenly around your dog’s body, reducing strain on their neck and providing increased control for you. With a harness, your dog can move freely and comfortably, making walks more enjoyable for both of you.

Furthermore, harnesses can serve as an excellent training aid, reinforcing good walking habits while protecting your dog from potential injuries associated with pulling. They offer a safer alternative for dogs prone to slipping out of collars and can be especially beneficial for breeds with respiratory issues. Embrace the power of a harness to enhance your adventures with your canine companion.

how to put a harness on a dog

Different Types of Dog Harnesses

Dog harnesses come in various shapes and sizes, each designed to cater to the unique needs of your furry friend. Whether you’re looking for a basic fashion dog harness to make a statement on your walks or a robust training tool to assist with behavior management, there’s a harness to fit every purpose. Adjust the straps for a custom fit, ensuring your dog’s comfort and security with every use.

1. Back Clip Harness

These harnesses feature a metal ring on the back where you attach the ring for the leash. They are particularly suited for small to medium-sized breeds. The design allows easy attachment and can discourage pulling by distributing pressure across your dog’s chest and back. When wearing this harness, ensure the straps are not twisted around your dog’s legs or belly.

It’s crucial to ensure the harness is snug but not too tight; a belly strap that is safe and secure will provide comfort without restricting movement. Always check the fit by slipping two fingers under any strap. However, if your furry friend is a puller, consider other types of harnesses designed to discourage pulling more effectively.

2. Front Clip Harness

The metal ring for attaching the leash is located on the chest area, which can help discourage pulling by redirecting your dog’s attention toward you. Correctly fitting the harness is essential, ensuring the straps are comfortably wrapped around your dog’s legs and belly without causing chafing.

The belly strap should be secure, and the harness should be snug but not restricting. This type of harness can be beneficial for training and managing large dogs with strong pulling tendencies. As you guide your dog on walks, the front clip allows for better control and can help teach your furry friend to walk by your side quickly.

3. Step-In Harness

Step-in harnesses are designed for ease of use, making putting on a step-in harness straightforward. Begin by laying the harness flat on the ground, and lead your dog to step their legs into the provided openings. Lift the ends of the harness and clip them together on your dog’s back, ensuring a secure fit. The steps for putting on this harness style are simple and can be less intimidating for dogs who dislike things going over their head.

When the harness is on, ensure it comfortably contours to your dog’s legs and body without being too tight or loose. This type of harness is beneficial for dogs that prefer not to have harnesses slipped over their heads, and it can be a quick and stress-free option for dogs of all sizes.

4. Dual Clip Harness

Dual-clip harnesses provide versatility, featuring two attachment points for the leash—one on the back and one on the chest. This design allows for multiple training techniques and can help manage dogs with pulling behaviors. When fitting a dual-clip harness, ensure the neck hole is comfortably positioned over your dog’s head without causing restriction or discomfort.

The critical advantage of dual-clip harnesses is the ability to switch between leash attachment points as needed. This can be particularly beneficial for training sessions, allowing you to alternate between control and freedom of movement. Check the fit around your dog’s neck and body, ensuring a secure yet comfortable experience for your four-legged partner.

5. No-Pull Harness

No-pull harnesses are designed with the specific goal of discouraging pulling behaviors during walks. These harnesses often have a front leash attachment point that gently steers your dog to the side when they pull, redirecting their momentum and encouraging them to focus on you. When your dog walks without pulling, reward your dog with treats or praise, reinforcing the positive behavior.

Ensuring that the no-pull harness fits appropriately is essential, providing your dog with a secure but comfortable experience. A well-fitted no-pull harness can transform your walks into enjoyable outings, helping establish good walking habits and reducing stress for you and your dog.

6. Comfort Control Harness

A comfort control harness is an excellent choice for those seeking a gentle experience for their dogs. These harnesses are designed for a comfortable fit, often featuring soft materials and padding to prevent rubbing and discomfort. The goal is to provide a snug fit that offers control without compromising your dog’s comfort during walks and activities.

When selecting a comfort control harness, look for adjustable straps to fit your dog’s unique body shape. The right harness will allow for freedom of movement while still offering the support and control necessary for safe and enjoyable walks. Always remember your dog’s comfort is paramount to a positive harness-wearing experience.

How to Put On an Overhead Harness

To put on an overhead harness, begin by slipping the harness over your dog’s head, ensuring that the straps are not twisted and that the D-ring for leash attachment is positioned on your dog’s back. Next, secure any buckles around the torso, making adjustments so the harness fits snugly but still allows for a full range of motion.

Step 1 – Orient the Harness

Before putting on an overhead harness, familiarize yourself with its design. Identify the neck opening and straps around the chest and under the belly. Some overhead harnesses may have distinct markings or tags indicating which part goes where. If necessary, lay the harness out on the ground to better visualize how it should sit on your dog. This will help prevent confusion during the actual fitting process and ensure the harness is ready to be put on smoothly.

It’s also an excellent time to make preliminary strap adjustments based on your measurements. Lengthening or shortening the straps can be done more efficiently when the harness isn’t on your dog, saving both of you from unnecessary stress during the fitting process. Remember to leave room for final adjustments once the harness is on your dog.

Step 2 – Position Your Dog

Encouraging your dog to stand still is the next step in putting on an overhead harness. Use treats or gentle guidance to keep your dog calm and standing, as movement can complicate the process. Stand over your dog, gently slipping the harness over their head, ensuring the D-ring is on top and the harness isn’t twisted. This is a good opportunity to give your dog positive reinforcement for cooperation.

Ensure your dog’s legs are in the correct position, not caught in the straps. If your dog is nervous or uncooperative, take a break and try again later. Forcing the harness on can create a negative association and make future attempts even harder. Patience and gradual acclimatization to the harness can significantly affect how your dog responds to the process.

Step 3 – Secure the Harness

Once the harness is correctly positioned over your dog’s head, it’s time to secure it. This often involves fastening a buckle or a strap under the belly for overhead harnesses. Ensure the harness is even on both sides and that straps lie flat against your dog’s body. If you’re using back-clip harnesses, confirm that the clip is positioned on the dog’s back, not under their belly or chest, to avoid discomfort and ensure proper leash attachment.

After securing the harness, it’s crucial to check the fit. You should be able to fit two fingers comfortably under any strap. If the harness is too loose, it may slip off or allow your dog to escape. If it’s too tight, it could cause chafing or restrict your dog’s movement. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure the harness is snug but not restrictive, and always double-check the fit in different areas, especially after your dog moves around a bit.

How to Put On a Step-In Harness

Step-in harnesses require your dog to place their front feet into two loops before the harness is pulled up and secured. This design is ideal for dogs who dislike having harnesses slipped over their heads.

Step 1 – Lay the Harness Flat

Begin by laying the step-in harness flat on the ground, ensuring each strap is untangled and properly aligned. The buckles should be unfastened and ready to be clicked into place once your dog steps into the harness. The layout should resemble an ‘H’ or a butterfly, which makes it easier to identify the left and right loops where your dog’s feet will go.

Position the harness near your dog’s feet, and if needed, use a treat to lure them into the correct position for stepping in. It’s helpful to practice this step without the intention of going for a walk so your dog becomes comfortable with the process. Reward them for showing interest or stepping closer to the harness, building a positive association.

Step 2 – Guide Your Dog’s Feet

Once the harness is laid out, gently guide your dog’s front feet into the respective loops. This may take some coaxing, especially if your dog is not used to wearing step-in harnesses. Be patient and offer treats and encouragement as your dog lifts each paw into place. If your dog resists, don’t force their paws through the loops; instead, take a short break and try again, ensuring the experience remains positive.

It’s important to keep the atmosphere calm and reassuring during this process. Dogs can pick up on their owner’s frustration, making them more anxious or reluctant to cooperate. Consistent practice will help your dog understand what’s expected of them and make the process smoother.

Step 3 – Buckle and Adjust

With your dog’s feet in the loops, gently pull the harness up and secure the buckles on the back. Ensure the harness straps are not twisted and the buckles click securely. A correct initial placement will make this step much easier, so take the time to position the harness correctly from the start.

Once buckled, it’s time to adjust the fit. The harness should be snug enough to fit two fingers underneath the straps. This allows for some breathing room without being too loose. The harness should be snug but not too tight, ensuring your dog’s comfort and security. If the harness has multiple points of adjustment, tweak each one to provide an even fit, keeping the harness centered and stable on your dog’s body.

How to Put On a Front-Clip Harness

Front-clip harnesses are designed to discourage pulling and offer better control during walks. They’re similar to putting on a dog harness, typically involving a loop over the head and a strap that fastens around the chest.

Step 1 – Prepare the Harness

To prepare a front-clip harness, first ensure all straps are loosened to make entering easier for your dog. Identify and differentiate the clip resting on your dog’s chest from the standard harnesses’ back clip. Lay the harness on the ground or hold it open so your dog can step one leg through the designated loop, making sure not to twist the straps for a comfortable fit.

As with other dog harnesses, performing these steps in a quiet environment where your dog feels at ease is helpful. Use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog as they put on a dog harness, and reward their cooperation with treats or affection, reinforcing a positive experience with the harness.

Step 2 – Placement and Fitting

Once you’ve prepared the front-clip harness, it’s time for placement. Guide your dog’s head gently through the neck opening, ensuring that the harness sits comfortably around the neck and that the straps lay flat against your dog’s body without twisting. The correct placement is crucial for the harness to function when wearing a harness, so take a moment to double-check that everything looks aligned and sits where it should.

Fitting the harness is just as important as the initial placement. Adjust the straps to accommodate your dog’s unique size and shape. You should aim for a snug fit without gaps that could lead to slipping out. Remember, a well-fitted harness ensures your dog’s comfort and safety during walks and adventures.

Step 3 – Adjust for Comfort

Adjusting the harness for comfort is crucial in ensuring your dog is happy wearing a harness. Start by checking the fit around your dog’s chest. You should be able to fit two fingers underneath the harness straps at any point. This ensures the harness is snug but not too tight, allowing your dog to breathe and move freely without discomfort.

Once the chest is adjusted, move on to the other straps. The harness should be snug around the body but not constricting. Pay special attention to areas behind the front legs and around the belly, as these are common spots for chafing. A well-adjusted harness will stay in place without shifting, providing security and ease for your dog’s daily excursions.

how to put a harness on a dog

Key Considerations for a Perfect Harness Fit

Finding the perfect harness fit for your dog goes beyond simple measurements; it involves paying attention to your dog’s unique shape and comfort. Consider the breed-specific traits, such as a deep chest or a broad back, which can influence the harness style you choose. Additionally, think about your dog’s coat type. Dogs with thicker fur may need a slightly larger size to accommodate their fur, while dogs with short hair benefit from a closer fit to prevent slipping.

Observe your dog’s behavior when trying on different harnesses. A well-fitted harness should allow natural movement without pinching or restricting your dog’s stride. Pay attention to any signs of irritation or discomfort, such as persistent scratching or trying to bite at the harness. These could indicate that the harness is either too tight or is uncomfortably rubbing against their skin.

Finally, consider the harness’s purpose. If you’re using the harness for training or sports, you might prefer one with specific features like handle grips or attachment points for gear. A simple, comfortable harness that’s easy to put on and take off may be more appropriate for everyday walks. Always prioritize your dog’s safety by ensuring the harness does not impede their breathing or cause undue stress on their neck or spine.

Ensuring Comfort and Safety in Harness Selection

Comfort and safety should be at the forefront of your mind when selecting a harness for your dog. The harness should fit snugly without digging into your dog’s skin or causing chafing, especially in areas where movement is constant, like the armpits and chest. 

Look for harnesses with padded straps or soft lining to provide extra comfort, especially if your dog has short hair or sensitive skin. The material of the harness should be durable and breathable to prevent overheating and ensure it withstands the test of time and activity.

Safety is equally essential, as a harness that’s too loose can be a safety hazard, allowing your dog to wiggle free during a walk. Conversely, a harness that’s too tight can cause discomfort, restrict breathing, or lead to injuries. 

Always double-check the fit after putting on the harness, ensuring you can fit two fingers under the straps, and observe your dog’s behavior for discomfort or difficulty breathing. A secure, comfortable harness will make walks enjoyable for you and your canine companion.

Ensuring the Correct Harness Fit and Adjustment

Ensuring a comfortable and secure fit is vital for your dog’s well-being. A harness that’s too loose can lead to escape, while one that’s too tight may cause discomfort or injury. Regularly check the fit and adjust as needed to maintain the perfect balance of security and comfort for your dog’s activities.

How Tight Should a Dog Harness Be?

The harness should be tight enough to prevent escape but not so tight that it compromises your dog’s comfort and safety. It’s essential to strike a balance where the harness is secure without causing any restriction of movement or breathing, minimizing the risk of injury or discomfort.

Assessing Comfort Levels

Take the time to assess your dog’s comfort levels while the harness is secure. Observe your dog’s behavior: signs of discomfort may include scratching at the harness or reluctance to move. Ensure there’s no rubbing or chafing, especially in sensitive areas like under the legs, where the skin is thinner and more prone to irritation.

After confirming the secure harness, encourage your dog to walk, run, and play. This will help you see if the harness stays in place during different activities. Check for any shifting or twisting of the harness that could lead to discomfort. A comfortable dog is a happy companion on your shared adventures.

Checking for Safety and Security

While assessing different harness styles, checking for safety and security is imperative. Inspect the harness before each use, looking for signs of wear and tear that could compromise its integrity. Strong, durable materials and well-constructed buckles are crucial when selecting a harness that will last.

Furthermore, ensuring the harness is essential to your dog’s safety during walks. A secure harness will not only prevent your dog from slipping out but also help to evenly distribute force across the body, reducing strain on the neck and back. Take a moment to ensure all straps and buckles are fastened correctly before heading out.

Advanced Harness Features and Usage

As you become more experienced with harnesses, you may discover advanced features that enhance your dog’s safety and comfort. Reflective strips for nighttime visibility, padding for additional comfort, and attachments for gear are just a few options available to suit your lifestyle and your dog’s needs.

Using a GPS Collar in Conjunction With a Harness

Combining a GPS collar with a harness offers extra security for your adventurous pup. The GPS collar can track your dog’s location, providing peace of mind during off-leash activities or in case they get lost. When fitting a GPS collar, ensure it doesn’t interfere with the harness’s fit or your dog’s comfort.

Place the GPS collar on your dog first, ensuring it’s snug but not too tight, then put the harness over it, making adjustments to accommodate the collar. This setup allows you to utilize the tracking benefits of the collar without sacrificing the control and comfort provided by the harness.

Special Fit Harnesses for Unique Needs

Some dogs have unique body shapes or health concerns that require special fit harnesses. These harnesses are designed to accommodate the needs of breeds with broader chests, long torsos, or medical conditions that affect mobility. They often feature customizable straps, additional support, and specialized materials to ensure a good fit and added comfort.

When selecting a special fit harness, consult a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer to ensure you choose the right style for your dog’s needs. Proper fitting is essential to prevent injury and ensure your dog benefits from the specialized design, allowing them to move freely and safely.

The Impact of Harness Training on Dog Behavior

Effective harness training can have a profound impact on dog behavior. It provides pet parents with better control during walks and reduces strain on the dog’s neck and shoulders, leading to a more enjoyable experience. A step-by-step guide to harness training ensures your dog is comfortable and the harness fits securely, setting the stage for successful dog training and socialization.

How Harness Training Can Improve Walks

Harness training can transform your walks into pleasurable outings. A well-fitted harness discourages pulling and allows gentler guidance by distributing pressure evenly across the dog’s chest. This can result in a calmer, more focused dog that is easier to manage, making walks more enjoyable for both of you.

Additionally, harness training provides an opportunity to reinforce commands and improve your dog’s overall behavior. With the correct harness and consistent training, you can look forward to peaceful walks where your dog is attentive and responsive to your cues, enhancing the bond between you and your furry companion.

how to put a harness on a dog

Final Words

As you embark on the path of canine companionship, remember that patience and consistency are key. A harness is more than just a tool; it’s an extension of your care and commitment to your dog’s well-being and development. Embrace each step, and cherish your journey with your four-legged companion.

When you’re ready to put on a dog harness, ensure it’s not loose. Lay it out, guide your dog calmly into position, secure the adjustable straps for a snug fit, and then give your pup a treat to associate the harness with positive feelings. These simple steps will keep both you and your dog happy and comfortable.

Consistent use of a suitably sized harness supports your dog’s body, promoting better health and comfort. Over time, your dog will move quickly and confidently, enjoying walks and activities with reduced risk of injury. This foundation of trust and security fosters a deeper bond and a happier, healthier life together.


  • Becca Hartmann

    • Age: 47
    • Lives In: Portland, Oregon
    • Interests: Botanical gardening, craft brewing, and collecting vintage dog posters
    • Favorite Dog: Border Collie, because their intelligence and energy keep me on my toes.
    What I Enjoy About Writing: "Sharing knowledge about our furry companions while promoting responsible dog ownership is my jam. Off the clock, I'm either tending to my garden with my Border Collie, Zoe, or sipping on a homebrew and admiring my dog poster collection."