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Dog Harnesses - makes and models explained

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Hope Saidel is co-owner of Golly Gear, a bricks-and-mortar and online shop featuring fun, affordable and practical small dog products

ComfortFlex Sport Harness

ComfortFlex Sport Harness

Dogs need comfort - we want style!

Our dogs are members of our families. We want them to feel wonderful and look great - at home and out on the town.

Most veterinarians are now recommending harnesses, instead of collars, for small dogs. But there are a gazillion different kinds of harnesses - how do you know which is best for you and your pup?

Here's a look at the different styles of harnesses now available, how to use them, and what dogs would benefit.

So - what's the difference? - What kind of harness is right for my dog?

There are new designs and styles coming out all the time, but most harnesses can be described as one of the following types

  • Step-in Harnesses: A new classic - the Step-in is easy to use, comfortable, sturdy, and stylish.
  • Standard Harnesses: Tradition updated - Standard Harnesses are making a comeback with new styling and modern materials.
  • Vest Harnesses: Vest harnesses are surging in popularity. Adorable and perfect for pups that pull!
  • Easy-on Harnesses: Hook and Loop closures have brought great changes to harnesses.
  • Unique harnesses: Harnesses that meet a need, solve a problem - and look great doing it!

Getting the right fit for your dog

There are no size standards for dog harnesses. Each manufacturer has its own size chart. To find the right size for your dog, you must know his girth (chest) measurement.

Dogs come in all shapes, lengths, sizes, widths and weights; even within a single breed.

For a proper fit: Measure your dog's girth (all the way around) just behind his front legs. If you don't have a tape measure, use a piece of string or yarn and measure that length against a yardstick or retractable measure.

Step-in Harnesses

Step-in harnesses are rapidly becoming dog owners' favorites - for good reason. Step-ins are easy to use, choke-free, adjustable, comfortable and come in a variety of patterns and sizes.

Almost all Step-in Harnesses have two straps collected by a buckle at the ends, with a perpendicular strap between, forming the spaces for the dog's front legs. The dog steps into the harness (hence the name), the ends are brought up over the dog's back and the buckle is clasped. Easy!

Step-in Harnesses

Booker (Boston Terrier) in the Microfiber Step-in Harness

Booker (Boston Terrier) in the Microfiber Step-in Harness

Jack (Yorkshire Terrier) in the Plaid Step-in Harness

Jack (Yorkshire Terrier) in the Plaid Step-in Harness

Taffy (Shih Tzu) in the Shoulder Collar Harness

Taffy (Shih Tzu) in the Shoulder Collar Harness

Putting on a Step-in Style Harness

Standard Harnesses

Standard (or Roman) harnesses are the ones most people are familiar with. In the past, with straps going every-which-way, unclear back and front, etc. Standard Harnesses may have been difficult to use. Not anymore. The style has been updated by many manufacturers so these harnesses are comfortable for dogs to wear and easy to put on. The Standard Harness slips over the dog's head, one leg goes into the "armhole," the bottom strap is brought around and buckled. Straps can be adjusted for a custom fit. Most harnesses use a "parachute clasp" which snaps shut, so your dog won't have time to wiggle away. If you haven't tried a Roman harness in a while, it may be the time to revisit this old favorite with a modern twist!

Standard Harness styles

Dax (French Bulldog) in the ComfortFlex Sport Harness.

Dax (French Bulldog) in the ComfortFlex Sport Harness.

Booker (Boston Terrier) shows off the Padded Y-Harness from Hurtta.

Booker (Boston Terrier) shows off the Padded Y-Harness from Hurtta.

Teddy (French Bulldog) in the Spiked Leather Harness.

Teddy (French Bulldog) in the Spiked Leather Harness.

Scroll to Continue

Putting on a Standard Harnes

The Freedom Harness is a classic vest-type harness.

The Freedom Harness is a classic vest-type harness.

Vest Harnesses

The Vest-type Harness is exploding in popularity for good reason - no pressure on your dog's neck. The D-ring for the leash is on the dog's back, far away from the dog's vulnerable throat. There are a variety of styles to choose among; functional, sporty, trendy and fun.

Most of the sportier vest harnesses, like the Puppia Soft Harness, do not adjust at the neck. Vest harnesses come in a wide range of sizes, so most dogs, especially those under 25 lbs., will find a good fit. Measure your dog's girth, just behind his front legs. To put it on your dog: Slip the harness over your dog's neck, draw one paw through the "armhole," bring the strap around under his tummy and clasp.

Vest Harness styles

Teddy (French Bulldog) in the Gooby Comfort Harness.

Teddy (French Bulldog) in the Gooby Comfort Harness.

Keesha (Pit Bull) in the Puppia Soft Harness

Keesha (Pit Bull) in the Puppia Soft Harness

Booker (Boston Terrier) in the Freedom Harness

Booker (Boston Terrier) in the Freedom Harness

The Wrap-n-Go Harness

The Wrap-n-Go Harness

Easy-on Harnesses

Industrial-strength Velcro (tm) is the key for these harnesses! Harnesses with hook-and-loop (Velcro (tm))closures are easy for everyone. Set the harness on the dog's back and just smooth it closed around his neck and tummy! A good fit is crucial, most do not adjust. Because they have fairly good coverage and a snug fit, these are excellent choices for "escape artists

Easy-on Harness Styles

Booker (Boston Terrier) in the Wrap-n-Go Harness

Booker (Boston Terrier) in the Wrap-n-Go Harness

Unique Harness styles

Unique Harnesses for the dog who won't be lost in a crowd, has particular medical or training issues, or just likes to be distinctive!

Harness Lead

The Harness Lead is a one-piece, three-in-one design that is escape proof and even helps address pulling problems.

The Harness Lead is a one-piece, three-in-one design that is escape proof and even helps address pulling problems.

Putting on the Harness Lead

We can help you choose the right harness for your dog!

Our experts at Golly Gear are happy to help! Just fill out and submit our Harness Picker Questionnaire. We'll send two or three suggestions via email within 48 hours.

Or - you can now figure it out for yourself! Our DIY Harness Selector is now live!

© 2008 Hope

What kind of harness does your dog wear?

kissmiss on March 26, 2014:

plan to buy one. my dog will never get lost when walking outside.

Tracy Arizmendi from Northern Virginia on March 26, 2014:

Using the Gentle Leader, which is not a harness. She is starting to pull with now and I had been thinking of trying out a harness but was confused by all the choices out there. Thanks for this great lens! It has some very useful information! Also well written!

jimconrad2 on November 29, 2013:

Sharing your love of dogs is a real gift to us all.

grrbtn on October 14, 2013:

Thanks for sharing the dog harness information with us, I found it very interesting as I am looking to purchase a harness for my dog. Some lovely pics on here and a very informative lens.

DebMartin on October 13, 2013:

I just bought a step-in harness for my Great Pyrenees. While I like it well enough, I wish I'd read this lens first. None of the harnesses you show have as much brand advertising as the Kong harness I bought. I don't think we and/or our dogs should have to walk around with so much advertising after spending so much money on a product.

Ruthi on October 13, 2013:

My dog has never worn a harness, just an old-fashioned collar and leash. However, I do plan to harness any future dog for walking, now that I am more aware of its benefits to my canine pals.

SteveKaye on October 13, 2013:

My "dog" is a cat. Or maybe I should say my cat is a cat. That is, I have a cat. When I showed her this wonderfully crafted article, she walked away without making even a faint meow. I suppose this could suggest that she wouldn't want to wear a dog harness.

TheMotionCrafters on June 08, 2013:

a fine read

BarbsSpot on April 20, 2013:

@Lensmaster...Harnesses are great...a vast improvement over just a leash on a collar (which is mostly a choking hazard). My little darlin' to the left, there, is wearing a pink vest harness. She''s a puller, and the vest keeps her from harming herself. Nice Lens!

mgs249 on April 03, 2013:

Purchased the first harness and couldn't figure how to put it on. Thanks for the info.

JimHofman on March 25, 2013:

The all-in-one harness and leash sets are a great idea. Interesting lens with great photos!

Michelllle on March 16, 2013:

Backpack harness for carrying water. Size xxl. ; }

kerrylea on March 12, 2013:

What a great selection of harnesses, no need to worry about a dog slipping out of a collar.

Hope (author) from Skokie, Illinois on February 25, 2013:

I'm so sorry about your dog. It's never long enough. Please don't make her passing the more important than the years of love and joy she brought to your life. Dogs bring unconditional love to our lives - do consider another, when you're ready. Perhaps you might consider saving a shelter dog?

RewardedBehavio on January 31, 2013:

Nice review! The tips and photos are particularly useful. I have a client looking for an extra small harness for her Yorkie pup. I will send her to your site.

puppyprints on January 26, 2013:

Lots of great harness choices - that pink rope looking one is very unique

anonymous on October 15, 2012:

good lens for the small-dog owner!

anonymous on March 17, 2012:

i am looking for a prepull harness for my bulldog

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on January 24, 2012:

Another very useful lens. Well done presentation. Thumbs up!

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on January 22, 2012:

My first sprinkling of angel dust on this lens has long worn off so I am back once again to scatter a little more. It is my quest this week to re-bless the lenses which I blessed in October of 2010. You are on this list.

agent009 on November 28, 2011:

I've seen the one that's like a vest and it gives better control than a regular leash.

marlene3 on November 20, 2011:

Excellent site! So much great information! Well done, Thanks!!!

ChihuahuaClothesInfo on October 01, 2011:

Beautiful post on these dog harnesses! I just wrote a little article on dog harnesses for small dogs, but I love the layout of your lens, here. Great job!

anonymous on September 25, 2011:

Beautifully presented!

anonymous on September 07, 2011:

Brilliant! Just brought a puppy and a harness but had no idea how to put it on ! thank-you!

cmvarner on May 19, 2011:

Matty my mini-doxie was so small when she first came home from the breeder, she had to have a ferret harness. Then she graduated to one that looked good but was to stiff. It was made of stuff that leashes are made of but never seemed to soften up. Luckily she doesn't need a leash very often, because we live in the country.

tssfacts on May 18, 2011:

Nice selection. I think my favorite are the vest type.

norma-holt on March 04, 2011:

Returned here with another blessing and to feature this on Angel blessings for Dogs on Squidoo

Eliza Rayner from Boulder, Colorado on November 30, 2010:

This is a beautiful lens, I love how you did all of the photos, great information too. I see so many dogs with a non proper fitting harness or dogs that could really benefit from one out there. Im going to lensroll it to my specialty dog collars page.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on October 15, 2010:

Very creatively displayed. Blessed by a squid angel this morning. Have an amazing day :)

VarietyWriter2 on June 30, 2010:

Congrats on LOTD!

lasertek lm on June 27, 2010:

The harnesses are really cute. Too bad I do not have a dog. But this is a good gift idea. I have so many friends who own dogs and will definitely be thrilled receiving an adorable gift.

BooJeeBeads on June 27, 2010:

I cannot see how some think these are mean to the dog. Choke collars are mean.

burgessvillian on June 25, 2010:

You sure did a great job with this lens. I like the different color modules and the pics. Congrats on LOTD.

playerarmory on June 25, 2010:

i like the way you talk about showing your business proudly. Besides! this IS a very well made Lens! I've never thought dog harnesses can be such an knowledge!

norma-holt on June 24, 2010:

Nicely presented lens on such an important issue for pets. *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust, Lenses that Shine and also on Pet Health. Congrats on LOTD

Lee Hansen from Vermont on June 24, 2010:

Dog harnesses are spiffy - much more comfortable and stylish than a neck collar. Love this doggie fashion LOTD!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on June 23, 2010:

Congratulations on Lens of the Day with this well deserved lens. I never knew there were so many different kids of harnesses for dogs and am glad to find out about Golly Gear. Lensrolled to my Pet Lenses.

Kiosks4business on June 23, 2010:

Great lens with lots of fantastic information. You Deserve the LOTD!

anonymous on June 22, 2010:

I used to have a labrador when I was small and was very attached to it. This article reminds me of her. In those days, we managed with a dog collar around its neck. Good to see that more products for dogs are coming now. Good information in the lens for dog lovers.

anonymous on June 22, 2010:

My dog wears a standard harness but I've always wanted a backpack harness so he can carry his own snacks around!

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on June 22, 2010:

congrats on LOTD! lensrolling to my dog lenses.

Andy_2010 on June 22, 2010:

congrats for you on LOTD, keep up the great lens

happynutritionist on June 22, 2010:

What a wonderful lens, Aspen, my Yorkie, who does some lenses with my help has asked me to lenroll your lens into her lenses. I'll "tweet" for you on twitter, too. Congrats on LOTD:-) ~claudia

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on June 22, 2010:

Congratulations on Lens of the Day! Great information and lens. :)

jlshernandez on June 22, 2010:

My cat uses the letter 8 harness, but when she is spooked, she manages to wiggle out of it.

Congratulations on LOTD!

anonymous on June 22, 2010:

I love dogs, this lens is excellent!!! I would like to learn more about small dogs, I have a little rascal Yorkie Terrier Dog and is doing things that is driving me crazy!! help me please!! LOL ;)

Delia on June 22, 2010:

Congratulations on LOTD! great lens and information

RaintreeAnnie from UK on June 22, 2010:

Wonderful dog harnesses - I didn't know there is so much variety. Congratulations on LOTD!

Jmel37 on June 22, 2010:

Congrats on LOTD! and well written lens!

callinsky lm on June 22, 2010:

Congrats on LOTD.(O;

Airinka on June 22, 2010:

I love dogs and this lens is great :). I love it.

one dental on June 22, 2010:

What a great lens! Congrats on LOTD :D

modz on June 22, 2010:

Congrats on LOTD!!! :)

stacy mcdaniel on June 22, 2010:

Congratulations on lens of the day:-)

anonymous on June 22, 2010:

Congrats on LOTD! What a fun way to showcase your products. And of course, there's so much cuteness-factor to share. :)

anonymous on May 17, 2010:

I have a step into harness for my dog, it has leather pads on the inside. However the pads are different sizes one small and one large. Im not sure if the large goes under the belly or around her chest? Can someone advise me please. Many thanks Sarah

Hope (author) from Skokie, Illinois on February 21, 2010:

@anonymous: My first thought is that you may have the harness too loose - if your pup can get her mouth around it to tighten - it's probably not fitting well. Generally speaking, you should only be able to get a finger or two between the harness and the dog.

At this point, I wouldn't recommend spending a lot on a harness she'll only wear for a few weeks. She's still growing rapidly and even after she reaches her full height and length (about 8 months) she'll still fill out. I would highly recommend the Plaid Step-in Harness by Daba Doo - it's one of our very favorites. You can see it above, or here: . Thank you! - Hope

anonymous on February 19, 2010:

Our pup is 4.5 months old and already has four different types of collars/harnesses and none seem to fit the bill.... I saw some in a pet shop called Buddy Belts and wonder how these work on a 30 lb (so far) dog.....

the latest one goes on fine but she plays with it on her, and the neck tightens!

Thanks, good info.

anonymous on November 30, 2009:

great thanks for your help

anonymous on November 21, 2009:

OMG this is great!!! we were trying to get the harness on in so many different ways thanks so much squidoo!!!

JKNavyWife on August 08, 2008:

This is the most helpful useful information on puppy & dog harness's I found, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for helping me out!! I didn't know the differences between harness's and couldn't figure out which one was best to use on for my 2 puppies, *Emma* & *Dixie*, they are 13wk old "Cockalier"s" and the most spoiled, beautiful puppies I have ever seen. {you can check them out on "Dogster"..}

Thanks again so much for the helpful information!!

Respectably, Joy Klepper

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