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The Very Best Dog Harnesses

Photo-Illustration: Ruffwear

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Experienced dog owners know that sometimes the typical leash-and-collar combo isn’t enough when you’re walking with a zigzagging Chihuahua or a Great Dane that doesn’t want to wait for the streetlight to change. A proper dog harness can give you more confidence and control — but there’s plenty to consider before buying one. Every dog is different in terms of personality, body type, and specific walking routines, so each will need something different in a dog harness as well. What’s right for a French bulldog may not be right for a bullmastiff — and that doesn’t factor in owner preferences.

To find the best harnesses for every type of dog and dog owner, we interviewed to professional dog walkers, trainers, and more than one Labradoodle-owning veterinarian. If you more or less know what sort of dog harness you’re looking for, you can use the table of contents to skip ahead. If not, read on for 11 excellent options that come highly recommended by our experts and tested by the dog owners on our staff (myself included).

What we’re looking for

Material

Ideally, you’ll find a harness that your dog is comfortable wearing day in and day out. And if you’re successful in that effort, you will definitely want it to be made of durable and easy-to-clean materials. Thankfully, most brands design their harnesses with these factors in mind. Still, we have noted harnesses that are machine-washable or especially tough.

Fit

A harness that doesn’t fit well can quickly become a hazard to your dog’s safety. “If the harness is too loose, the dog can easily slip out of it and potentially injure themselves,” says Hadley Raysor of the Dandy Dogwalker. If the harness is too tight, especially around the neck, it can restrict the dog’s breathing and natural movement. Too-tight harnesses can cause skin irritation from constant rubbing.

To get the best fit, start by looking for a harness designed for your dog’s size, and in some cases for their specific body type, since even within the categories of small, medium, and large, canine body proportions vary greatly. According to Jason Kraut, owner of Jason the Dog Walker & Co, the best harnesses are adjustable in more than one spot to fit barrel-chested dogs just as well as more svelte ones. Some dogs, like flat-faced Boston Terriers who tend to have breathing problems, will need harnesses that cater to their specific needs. For this reason, it’s best to start your search by asking your veterinarian for recommendations.

Keep in mind that your dog should also get a say in the kind of harness they wear. Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo has a toy poodle, Uli, who is very sensitive to bulky material under her arms — so Corsillo found a harness with thin straps that Uli hardly feels. It took several trips to the pet store and trying on a few different styles before Corsillo landed on one that Uli would actually want to walk in. Lastly, for extra safety while training, Chowdhury recommends using a lightweight carabiner to connect your dog’s harness to a collar. “With skittish dogs or rescues who are scared of truck noises or things like that, we’ll actually use both a harness and a collar. We clip them both together, so if they come out of the harness, there’s a backup.”

Attachment points

Kraut suggests looking for harnesses with leash-attachment points in both the front (on the underside of the harness, nearer to the dog’s chest) and the back. “A front-clip harness is great for a big dog. However, for a small dog, a front-clip harness is a terrible idea because you’ll constantly get the leash tangled underneath them. So with a little dog, you want to have the leash clip on the back so that the leash is not dangling in front of it,” he says. No matter the size of your dog, Kraut would prioritize “a harness that can clip in the front and the back — that way you have options.” Harnesses with multiple spots to attach a leash will allow you to use a double-ended leash for more control. Not all of the harnesses on this list have both front and back leash rings or loops, but we have noted each one’s attachment points below.

Style

How you get your dog into a harness will vary greatly depending on its design. Some are pretty obvious, slipping over the dog’s head and clipping behind their back. Others are more complicated and can feel like solving an elaborate puzzle. However they function, the best harnesses should be easy for you to figure out and pleasant for your dog to get into. “A lot of times, people don’t consider socializing their dogs to a new piece of equipment like a harness,” says Ben Cawley, director of admissions and graduate relations at Guiding Eyes for the Blind who has been a trainer for more than 20 years and works with service dogs. “But there’s a lot you can do to make sure it’s a positive experience. I like to use food as a distraction for the dog at first, especially if they don’t like things going over their head. For those kinds of dogs, you can use a step-in harness, so they don’t get nervous when you put it on.” You can look for harnesses with clips that open and close around your dog’s neck.

Best dog harness overall

PetSafe 3-in-1 Harness
$30
$30

Material: Nylon with neoprene padding | Fit: Five adjustment points | Attachment points: Front and back leash attachments | Style: Around the neck with side closures

Kraut says the right harness makes his job as a dog walker a lot easier. “It’s a big deal for us. We’re hustling around picking up dogs all day, so if you make a mistake and get your dog the wrong one, we suffer.” If you can’t take your pet to try one on or if you’re buying it online, your best bet is to go for one that’s fully adjustable like this one he recommends from Pet Safe. It comes in four sizes and has five adjustable buckles to tighten or loosen it at different points. It has a top-mounted handle for extra control, front and back metal rings for leash hookup, and reflective stitching for safety, and it comes with an adjustable car-control strap to keep your pup seated when you’re driving.

Best dog harness for training

Material: Velvet-lined chest strap | Fit: Three adjustment points | Attachment points: Front and back leash attachment | Style: Step-in with side closure

If it’s your first time using a dog harness, Royah Nuñez, a dog trainer and the founder of Quing Canine, prefers the double-attachment design of this harness, because it works like a “steering wheel” for your dog. “The top leash attachment is more for brake control, like, ‘Easy, slow down.’ And the front is more for guiding the dog,” Nuñez says. It comes with a double-ended leash, which is how you can simultaneously clip on to both attachment points. Once an owner and their dog are more experienced with the harness, it can be used traditionally with just the back attachment. Nuñez likes the size range and has used this harness to train dogs of every size — from tiny breeds like Maltipoos to much wider-chested dogs like American Bulldogs and Tibetan Mastiffs. As a bonus, 2 Hounds offers a chewing warranty, so customers can ship their used harnesses back to the brand in exchange for replacements.

Best harness for small dogs

Material: Polyester mesh | Fit: Not adjustable | Attachment points: Back leash attachment | Style: Step-in with back closure

Both Stephanie Liff, a co-owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care, and Nelli Chowdhury, the founder and owner of Brooklyn Tails & Trails, recommend this Puppia harness for little dogs. “We love the Puppia brand. It’s soft, mesh, lightweight, and very comfortable for small dogs,” says Chowdhury. “They’re easy to clean for dogs who are very low to the ground and get dirty easily. If you’re having a muddy winter or whatever it is, you can just pop it in the laundry.” The Puppia’s polyester mesh is breathable and padded, and it’s a step-in design that closes with Velcro and a heavy-duty clip around the dog’s back. It’s available in 13 solid colors and multiple patterns.

Best harness for big dogs

Material: Nylon with neoprene chest pad | Fit: Three adjustment points | Attachment points: Back leash attachment | Style: Step-in with back closure

“For big dogs in particular, we like to use something that has a little bit of reflective detailing,” says Chowdhury, who recommends the K9 Explorer dog harness with reflective stitching on the straps. “They’re good for German shepherds or boxers, that type of dog. It’s padded and reflective just in case you’re in low light or walking your dog at night. It has really thick straps because these dogs have lots of muscle and are pretty big.” The cushioned chest pad is particularly handy for preventing sore spots or harness burn on strong dogs that tend to pull really hard.

Best harness for flat-faced dogs

Material: Polyester mesh | Fit: Four adjustment points | Attachment points: Back leash attachment | Style: Step-in with back closure

Kraut, Chowdhury, and Liff stressed the importance of a harness that doesn’t restrict the neck and chest in flat-faced dogs, whose uniquely shaped faces often make it difficult to breathe. “Pugs and Boston terriers have flat faces, so they need a harness that will protect their necks from pressure.” This one, with its X-shaped front, is made specifically for that purpose, and its breathable and padded mesh material is both comfortable and machine washable. It’s another step-in design, and it closes with a heavy-duty clip around the dog’s back. It’s available in four sizes and eight color combinations.

Best harness for long-backed dogs

Material: Nylon | Fit: Five adjustment points | Attachment points: Back leash attachment | Style: Over-the-head with side closures

Elisabeth Weiss, a dog trainer and the owner of Dog Relations NYC, prefers the Y-shaped harnesses from Italian brand Haqihana for long-backed dogs like whippets, dachshunds, and German shepherds, noting that it’s also ideal for breeds that are long-backed as well as deep-chested, like Great Danes. “This harness works really well because the back strap and the belly strap are adjustable and longer for those types of dogs,” says Weiss. Available in 11 sizes including four long-specific models, extended straps ensure the leash-attachment point is positioned more naturally on your pet’s spine to avoid putting harmful pressure on the sternum. “Because the leash is not in play, it actually reduces leash aggression in my experience,” adds Weiss. With five adjustment points, the over-the-head harness style also promotes freer movement and is less constricting than a step-in harness, which Weiss says “cuts across the forearm and the shoulders to prevent them from actually striving out completely.” The harness comes in 14 colors, including one with reflective stitching.

[Editors’ note: Haqihana lists its prices in euros, so we’ve listed an approximation in U.S. dollars.]

Best harness for toy- and teacup-breed dogs

Material: Nylon | Fit: Four adjustment points | Attachment points: Back leash attachment | Style: Over the head with side closures

If your dog is in the toy or teacup category, this harness, which is actually designed for cats, is a good option. The straps are soft and thin so they don’t feel bulky or pinch tender armpits. There are three sizes with multiple points of adjustment on each side for torso girth as well as sliding adjustments around the neck and chest, which makes for a more customized fit. The harness tightens slightly if the dog (or cat) pulls, which adds a layer of security and helps with training. Plus it comes with a bungee-style leash that absorbs any shock caused when your pup suddenly decides to bark at other dogs in the park.

Best harness for hiking and off-leash training

Material: Nylon with foam padding | Fit: Four adjustment points | Attachment points: Front and back leash attachments | Style: Over-the-head with side closures

“I really like the Ruffwear Front Range harness for hiking-type activities,” says Cawley, noting that it’s what trainers use “to teach dogs about off-leash manners.” The different connection points on the front and the back of the harness let you choose whether to have your dog drag their leash as an extra precaution while training or to clip it to the front to discourage pulling on walks. The harness is designed for extra comfort — wide straps with soft foam padding mean it won’t irritate a dog’s skin no matter how hard it pulls. Available in five sizes and ten colors, it has reflective trim and a pocket to store tags that would normally be worn on a collar.

Best cooling harness

Material: Water-activated cooling fabric paired with breathable mesh | Fit: Not adjustable | Attachment points: Back leash attachment | Style: Step-in with back velcro and buckle closure

For dogs that tend to overheat, especially during long, hot summers, a cooling vest may be a worthwhile investment. Rachel Bowers, the owner of Brooklyn Bark Dog Walking and Pet Sitting, recommends this one for when it’s hot but not blistering (and thus still safe for a quick walk). On those days, after soaking the vest in water and ringing it out, she throws it into the fridge or freezer to get it even colder. This harness is available in four sizes, and Bowers says that vests like this one are best for short-haired dogs.

Best harness for dogs who pull

$23

Material: Nylon | Fit: Four adjustment points | Attachment points: Front leash attachment | Style: Around-the-neck with side closures

PetSafe’s Easy Walk harness is popular among our experts — it was name-checked by several, including Satchu, Raysor, and Bowers. Chowdhury is a fan and uses it on all four of her dogs. “It’s pretty affordable, it’s on Amazon Prime, and it’s good because my dogs pull a lot. They’re very curious, and they want to eat and smell a lot of things,” says Chowdhury. But it’s a favorite among dog walkers because “it’s super-easy to put on, and no matter which way you attach it, it works,” says Kraut. The different-colored straps help distinguish the top from the bottom, and multiple clips let you put it on over your dog’s head or clip it around their neck depending on their preference. Available in eight sizes and colors, this harness was recommended by Mika Ito, the director of animal care at New York–based shelter Animal Haven in our article about adopting a rescue dog.

Best head collar

From $20

Material: Nylon | Fit: Adjustable nose loop | Attachment points: Under-the-muzzle leash attachment | Style: Over the nose with behind the neck closure

Kraut, Cawley, and veterinarian Jeff Weber suggest considering a head collar, often called a gentle leader. “We get a lot of dogs who need a gentle leader,” says Kraut. “I mean, it kind of looks like you’re walking a horse, but some of the dogs we walk will straight-up lunge at kids or a skateboarder coming by or a bicycle or a runner. You really need to have control of that dog at a moment’s notice, and if you have control of their head, then you pretty much have control of everything. It’s really good for dogs who eat everything off the street, which is a problem in Brooklyn.”

Some more dog harnesses we’ve written about

Our experts

• Rachel Bowers, owner of Brooklyn Bark Dog Walking and Pet Sitting
• Ben Cawley, director of admissions and graduate relations at Guiding Eyes for the Blind
• Nelli Chowdhury, founder and owner of Brooklyn Tails & Trails
• Mika Ito, the director of animal care at New York–based shelter Animal Haven
• Jason Kraut, owner of Jason the Dog Walker & Co
• Stephanie Liff, co-owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care
• Royah Nuñez, dog trainer and founder of Quing Canine
• Hadley Raysor of the Dandy Dogwalker
• Dr. Zay Satchu, chief veterinary officer and co-founder of Bond Vet
• Dr. Jeff Weber, veterinarian
Elisabeth Weiss, dog trainer and owner of Dog Relations NYC

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The Very Best Dog Harnesses