A dog harness is a safer alternative to a collar if your dog is a puller. They also provide more control when walking. But which is the best dog harness? And which should you avoid? Richard Cross investigates...
My top recommendation for a dog harness is the Ruffwear Front Range. It's built to the high-standards you expect from a Ruffwear product, with plenty of padding, durable construction and easily adjustable design. There are also both front and back leash attachment points. It's expensive - but worth the money.
If your dog pulls on the leash, a harness could be a good solution - at least while you work on his training. A high-quality harness can provide a comfortable walk for your dog, while allowing you greater control than a regular collar. They can also protect your dog's trachea if he pulls.
Not all dog harnesses are equal though. In fact, there are many harnesses that simply aren't up to the job - either in terms of durability, comfort or value for money.
For this reason, I've put together a list of the best dog harnesses. While the harnesses on this page vary in design and price, I believe each provides great value for money. Before we get to my top picks though, do you really need a harness in the first place?
One of the biggest debates in the dog owner world is whether to buy a harness or a collar.
The obvious answer is that you often need both - the collar for ID information and the harness for walking. But do you really need a harness when leashes can be attached to the collar?
As with many things, the answer isn't a simple yes or no.
The best collars are convenient and comfortable for a dog to wear. They combine a leash attachment with identification - and many owners leave their dogs in them all the time so they are convenient (although this can be dangerous).
But the main problem with a flat collar is that it can cause neck injuries - especially for small dogs. If your dog tends to pull on walks, the continuous pressure on the neck can cause damage. It can even lead to back problems or hypothyroidism (due to trauma to the thyroid gland in the neck).
For dogs that are calm in all situations, this might not be a problem. But for excitable canines or those that pull, a collar (such as the popular leather collar style) can be an injury waiting to happen.
Harnesses, on the other hand, spread the force of pulling across your dog's chest and shoulders rather than concentrating it on the neck. This can prevent back injuries and stop your dog choking himself on a walk.
A harness can also give you more control over your dog's behavior without worrying about hurting your dog's neck. This is especially true of front-clip harnesses.
It's important to point out that harnesses can be dangerous too. If a harness isn't fitted correctly, they can restrict movement. This can lead to long-term injuries and pain. The chances of this happening are reduced if the harness is the right size and not over-tightened.
Some owners also find their dog starts to pull more on a harness. This is because the lack of pressure on the neck makes it more comfortable to do so. I don't think this counteracts the injury-preventing benefits of a harness, but it's another reason why it's a good idea to continue leash training.
When buying a harness, the most important considerations are comfort and durability. Your dog shouldn't be restricted or uncomfortable when wearing it, and the harness needs to withstand outdoor weather conditions. Here's an overview of the most important considerations.
There are two main types of harness - front and back-clip. The right option depends what you want from a harness and the behavior of your pet.
The Dog Clinic supports positive dog training. While I don't believe a dog should never be told off (like some positive reinforcement proponents), I'm against scaring or physically hurting a dog for any reason. For this reason, I haven't included choke chains, shock collars or prong collars on any of my "best of" lists. I'm also not including tightening harnesses. I've included "No Pull" collars though, which use a front leash attachment to turn the dog round when they pull, as these don't cause pain.
Aside from the type of harness, here are some of the main considerations when choosing:
Plenty of harnesses are advertised as being suitable for cars - but many of them won't provide much protection for your dog in a crash. If you're buying a car harness, make sure you choose one that's strong enough to handle a high-impact collision (you can view a list of the Center for Pet Safety Crash Tested Harnesses here).
Hopefully the section above has helped you decide what you're looking for in a harness. Once you've made a list of criteria, read the dog harness reviews below to find the option that suits your requirements. Please note that these recommendations are mainly for full-grown dogs - a puppy harness may have different criteria.
Note: I've listed the range of girth sizes available for each harness. These ranges combine the available sizes into a single measurement so you can see whether the harness is suitable for you dog. Make sure you choose the right size when you buy though.
|Image||Name||Leash Attachment||Breast Girth Range||Price||View Price|
|#1||Ruffwear Front Range Harness||Front & Back||13" - 42"||$$$||View Price|
|#2||Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness||Front & Back||12" - 44"||$$||View Price|
|#3||Unho Dog Body Harness||Back||19.7" - 43.3"||$$||View Price|
|#4||Expawlorer Big Dog Harness||Back||20" - 46"||$$||View Price|
|#5||Sleepypod Clickit Sport Utility Harness||Back||16.5" - 40"||$$$$||View Price|
|#6||Chai's Choice Best Outdoor Harness||Front & Back||13" - 42"||$$$||View Price|
|#7||Puppia Soft Dog Harness||Back||10" - 41"||$||View Price|
My top recommendation for a dog harness is the outstanding Ruffwear Front Range. It has both front and back leash attachments, with strategically placed padding and a sturdy design. The harness is also available in five sizes, so it's suitable for almost any breed.
Ruffwear are a popular company in the dog world and they have a reputation for producing high-quality and durable products. The Front Range harness is no exception, with double stitching and tough hardware to ensure it lasts a long time. It's also simple to put on.
One of the great things about the Front Range is how easy it is to adjust. There are four adjustment points, so you can get a comfortable fit around both the belly and neck. The comfort is further increased by the padding on the belly and chest panels.
There are also two leash attachment points. The metal D-Ring on the dog's back is great for dogs that don't pull or for more relaxed walks, while the front attachment is made from a reinforced webbing and provides more control. I would have preferred the front attachment to be made of metal though - I'm not sure it'll withstand pulling from the strongest dogs (at least with repeated use).
A bonus is that the harness comes with an ID tag pocket. There's also a reflective trim, which makes your dog easier to see in low-light conditions.
Overall, the Ruffwear Front Range is one of the best dog harnesses for walking or hiking - and it's even suitable for running. It's more expensive than most harnesses, but the excellent durability and comfortable design mean it's worth the extra money.
Quick Summary: The Ruffwear Front Range is an excellent harness. The padding makes it comfortable for your dog to wear - even if he pulls. It's also durable and has four points of adjustment.
If you don't want to pay the relatively high cost of the Ruffwear harness, the Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness is a great alternative. Like the Ruffwear, it's a dual point attachment harness with chest padding and an adjustable design. It's also available in five sizes - although there doesn't seem to be any color options.
What makes the Kurgo worthy of the #2 spot on this list though?
Firstly, the Tru-Fit is a highly adjustable harness. There are five adjustment points, so you can get a snug fit without it being too tight. The Kurgo also has a wide padded chest plate and it can be machine washed.
One of the advantages of the Kurgo over the Ruffwear is that it has a stronger front leash attachment. Unlike the Ruffwear, which uses reinforced mesh, the Kurgo has a proper clip. If your dog is a strong puller, the Kurgo is probably the better option.
The Kurgo also comes with a lifetime warranty for manufacturer defects. This shows the company has a lot of faith in the durability of their products. Be aware this warranty is only available when buying from an authorized dealer though.
A downside to the Kurgo is that it doesn't have padding in the "underarms" area. This means it could potentially cause chafing - especially if it's too tight or on long walks.
Despite having less padding, the Kurgo gives the more expensive Ruffwear a run for its money when it comes to durability, comfort and design. If you don't want to pay extra for the Ruffwear, it's one of the best dog harnesses. It's also suitable for slightly smaller dogs, as the X-Small fits a 12" chest girth.
Quick Summary: The Kurgo is an excellent dual-attachment dog harness that's available for a great price. It has a little less padding than the Ruffwear, but is still comfortable and is highly adjustable.
The Unho is a back-clip harness that's durable, weather-proof and available for a great price. The lack of a front-clip means it doesn't provide the same level of control as other harnesses - especially for dogs that pull - but it's a comfortable option for bigger breeds.
While the Unho is a robust harness, it's also been designed with comfort in mind. It's made from elastic webbing, which stretches as your dog moves. This helps to prevent the harness altering the dog's gait in a way that could cause injury. The chest and back straps also have soft padding.
One thing to note about the Unho is that it isn't designed for small dogs. It's too big and tough for the smallest breeds, which is why the "X-Small" version is only suitable for dogs with a minimum of 19.7" chest girth. There are also complaints that the sizes run large, so make sure you measure properly when you order.
Other features include reflective threading for greater visibility at night, a handle for when you need to gently correct your dog, and an adjustable chest strap.
The Unho is one of the best harnesses for large dogs. The combination of durable design and comfortable padding mean it's great for bigger breeds - and it's available for a very reasonable price. I don't recommend it for small dogs though.
Quick Summary: If you have a large dog, the Unho Body Harness could be a great choice. It's a well-made product that provides more control than a flat collar. The padded and stretchable design also makes it a comfortable harness.
Another excellent choice if you need a harness for a large dog is the Expawlorer Big Dog Soft Harness. It's suitable for dogs with a chest girth of 20-46 inches, so it's perfect for breeds such as German Shepherds or Siberian Huskies. Plus there are six colors available, ranging from plain black to bright pink.
As you would expect from a harness for big dogs, the Expawlorer is built to be durable. The metal welded D-Ring provides a secure back attachment for the leash, while the breathable fabric helps to keep your dog cool. There are several adjustable clasps so you can get a good fit.
The harness also has a reflective strap to help keep your dog visible in low-light conditions, along with a padded handle for manual corrections.
A downside to this harness is that the chest strap doesn't have any padding. For this reason, I don't think it's as good as the Unho if your dog pulls a lot. For the occasional puller or short walks, however, it shouldn't cause discomfort.
Quick Summary: For large dogs with reasonable leash obedience, the Expawlorer is a great choice. It's durable, has a handy reflective strip and is easy to adjust. If your dog pulls a lot, however, then it's probably not the best choice, as it lacks padding on the chest strap and doesn't have a front leash attachment.
One of the most interesting harnesses on this list is the Sleepypod Clickit. It's the only harness I've included that's certified by the Center for Pet Safety, which means it provides good protection in a car should there be a crash. The Sleepypod isn't cheap - but if you need a car harness for dogs then it's probably the best option.
As you would expect from such an expensive harness, it's built to a high standard. The harness itself is made from ballistic nylon for excellent durability. There's a leash D-Ring on the back that's also strong and durable, so it's unlikely to break, while the vest has plenty of padding for comfort and to absorb energy in a crash.
It's not just a car harness though. The wide vest provides excellent comfort - especially for dogs that pull. The strong webbing also means you don't need to worry about it breaking, even if you have a large dog.
Along with its crash-safety features, the Sleepypod Clickit comes with reflector strips for night time visibility. It's not machine washable though - so keep this in mind if you're planning to regularly walk your dog in muddy environments.
One thing to note is that the thick padded vest may get hot during warm weather. Some buyers also find it runs big when choosing a size, which might be worth keeping in mind if your dog is on the threshold between two sizes.
I also don't recommend it for long walks. For car safety and short walks, the Sleepypod is a fantastic option. It is more restrictive than other harnesses though - so for long walks, hiking or if you don't need a car harness, choose one of the other options.
Note: The Sleepypod isn't suitable for breeds with small necks, such as Salukis, Borzos, Greyhounds, Whippets and Afghan Hounds. You can view videos of the crash test here. We also have a page about dog car seats which you might find helpful.
Quick Summary: If you're looking for the best dog harness for car travel, the Sleepypod Clickit is an obvious choice. It's crash-test certified by the CPS, and is made with strong materials and extra vest padding to improve your dog's chances in a crash. It's too restrictive for anything other than short walks though.
If you're looking for a cheaper version of the Ruffwear with more padding than the Kurgo, the Chai's Choice is an excellent option. It's a stylish dual-attachment harness that's available in five sizes and six colors - plus it's considerably less expensive than the Ruffwear.
The first thing to note about the Chai's Choice is that it's an attractive harness. All the available colors look fantastic, while the reflective strips help to improve visibility in low-light conditions.
It's not just built for appearances though - this is a durable and tough harness. The wide chest and stomach padding help prevent rubbing and soreness, while the strong zinc-alloy D-Rings provide secure leash attachment points. Additionally, the outer layer is made from durable and scratch-resistant material, so the harness is likely to last a long time.
A downside of the Chai's Choice is that it doesn't have a proper handle like many of the harnesses on this list. This might not be a problem for smaller dogs, but a rubber grip can make quick corrections much easier with larger breeds. It's also listed as being suitable for car travel - but it's nowhere near as safe as crash-tested options such as the Sleepypod.
Even so, the Chai's Choice is one of the best dog harnesses for hiking or walking. The padded design makes it a comfortable option that your dog probably won't mind wearing. It's also available for a great price.
Quick Summary: The Chai's Choice is great for walking or hiking. It's comfortable, durable and has both front and back leash attachments. It doesn't have a handle though, which many owners find helpful.
If you're looking for a relatively cheap dog harness that's still durable and comfortable, then the Puppia is one of the best options. It's a simple harness without the advanced features found on other products - but it's also considerably cheaper and available in a wide range of colors.
The Puppia is made from 100% polyester. This provides a soft feel that most dogs won't mind wearing. It also comes with an adjustable chest belt, plastic quick-release buckle and padding around the neck opening.
It's not the most padded harness I've reviewed, but it provides reasonable comfort even on longer walks (although it might not be strong enough for big dogs that pull). A bonus is that it's machine washable - although the company recommend hand washing if possible.
One of the great things about the Puppia is the range of sizes available. The smallest is suitable for dogs with a chest girth of just 10", which is less than any other harness on this list. This makes it one of the best harnesses for small dogs - especially as these breeds tend to not need a high level of durability.
A downside is that it isn't as adjustable as some of the best dog harnesses on this list. While the chest belt can be adjusted, the neck is a fixed size. For this reason, make sure you check your dog's measurements carefully before buying. It's also not the most durable harness - although you wouldn't expect it to be considering the low price.
Quick Summary: The Puppia is one of the best cheap dog harnesses available at the moment. It's not the most padded, durable or versatile harness. But for walking and hiking - especially as a small dog harness - it's a comfortable option.
If your dog pulls on the lead, a flat collar can cause pain and even injury to the neck and back. For this reason, a harness is often a better choice. Front-attaching harnesses can also provide greater control over your dog without causing discomfort.
My top recommendation for a dog harness is the Ruffwear Front Range. It's a highly durable and well-padded harness, with easily adjustable buckles and dual-attachment points. If you're looking for a slightly cheaper option with many of the same features, the Kurgo Tru-Fit is a great alternative.
Do you have any questions about choosing the best dog harness for your pet? Let me know in the comments - I'll do my best to help!