Dog Harnesses and Why They Work

If you have a dog or have been considering getting one, you have probably seen a variety of dog harnesses. You’ve probably even had owners share information with you about their favorites and what works well for their dog. 

One of the reasons for a dog harness is that you can walk your dog safely, discourage them from pulling as you walk, and control them without choking from a regular or “pinch” collar that can sometimes cause them harm and at worse permanently damage their throat. 

But different dog harnesses work for different dogs, and there are other factors to consider. For instance, if you walk your dog at night, you might want a reflective harness along with the other features you are looking for. 

Here are some things to look for.

Adjustability for Your Dog

There are different harnesses that fit different sized gods. Thick chested dogs, like my German Shepherd, need a variety of adjustments to make a harness work for them. These include side and top adjustments, and a couple of D-ring leash attachment options.

WonderWalker, RuffWear, and others make some sturdy and strong harnesses for these dogs, and even offer accessories like reflective straps and handles. 

For smaller dogs, the tiny adjustments may not be necessary, but you might want to look at padding and comfort. Also, handles can be extremely helpful for loading your dog in and out of your car, placing them in a crate or kennel, and more. 

Speaking of Your Car

When you are driving, if possible it is a good idea to secure your dog. There are a variety of harnesses and attachments that allow you to ensure the safety of your dog by working with your seat belts. These harnesses have weight ratings, so be sure to get one that works best with your dog’s weight and breed. 

These harnesses are available for dogs both large and small and in between. If you train your dog with these harnesses early, they will respond well to them when riding in the car. It’s one of the best things you can do for you and your dog. 


You want your dog to be comfortable with the harness you choose. This means having padding in the right places, especially under their legs, across the chest, and in some cases over their back. The comfort your dog needs will vary with their size and build. 

Another factor to consider is the length of your dog’s hair. The longer it is, the more likely a harness with thinner straps will “pull” it, making them uncomfortable. This is another reason fit is so important. For larger dogs with shorter hair, thin straps often work well and may be even more comfortable for your pup. 

The key is to try different types of harnesses if you can. Visit your local pet store ad ask to try them on. You may be tempted to order online, but this can result in a variety of harnesses that you can’t or won’t use. NOTE: if you do end up with some extra leashes or harnesses, consider donating them to a dog rescue or your local humane society. 

No Pull Dog Harness Features

One of the main reasons you may want to get a dog harness is to help keep your dog from pulling. There are several methods for this, but the best will either pull on your dog’s chest in a way that makes them not want to pull, or they will have an attachment for their leash under the chest area, so when they pull, they are thrown off balance. 

This makes it easier for you to control them, and also thwarts certain breeds of dogs, like Huskies, from following their natural instinct to pull harder when you pull against them, as this is a sled dog instinct. 

For other dogs, leads that attach to their muzzle or other locations will keep them from pulling. Talk to your dog trainer about what they recommend, and get the harness that works best for you. Remember, these are just a tool to train your dog not to pull, not a substitute for training them to heel. Good training will make your walks with your dog more pleasant for both of you. 

Durability and Washability

One of the primary things you should be looking for in a harness is one that will last, and one that is easily washable. Your dog will naturally sweat when they walk, and a smelly harness is no good for anyone. Be sure you look for materials like nylon and look at the washing instructions on padded harnesses before you buy them. 

Also, look at online reviews. Cheap fasteners can not only make it easy for the harness to break, but it can put your dog in danger. One of the keys to your dog’s safety is control, and while the best training and increasing their focus on you is ideal, there are always unique situations that may test that training. You don’t want your dog to escape into traffic or some other danger because of a poorly made harness. 

Test materials in the store. Pull on them, open and close fasteners multiple times, and look at weight ratings. Be sure the harness you are buying is strong and built for your dog. 

The right harness will help both you and your dog to feel secure. Choose carefully, from fit to durability, from washable to comfort and anti-pulling features. You’ll be glad you did, and your daily walks will be much better for you and your dog.