Having your dog wear a harness has many added benefits over using a simple leash and collar. If your dog tends to pull while on walks, a harness can help train your pup not to pull without hurting him or her. A harness evenly distributes weight across a dog’s chest, whereas a collar does not.
Another added benefit is that most harnesses have a handle on the back, allowing owners to assist dogs over barriers while on adventures or helping an older dog into the car.
Once you decide that a harness is right for you and your dog, here are some tips for getting your dog comfortable in one.
Choosing the Right Harness
Before putting your dog in a harness, explore the different kinds of dog harnesses on the market. There are two main categories: over-head and step-in harnesses.
Step-in harnesses are easier to put on a dog, as the dog only needs to step into it. Adjustments typically only need to be done once, as you can remove the harness without readjusting it.
An over-head harness is just as it sounds – the harness is placed over the dog’s head and then adjusted for fit. This harness typically provides more padding, and can be put on elderly or disabled dogs with ease.
Harnesses can look difficult to put on your pup for the first time, but you’ll get the hang of it. Follow the links for infographics with step-by-step instructions for putting on an over-head and a step-in harness.
Make Sure You Get the Right Fit
An ill-fitting harness will not only make your dog very uncomfortable, but it will also make training more difficult.
It’s no secret that dogs come in many different shapes and sizes. A harness that fits a Great Dane will not fit a Corgi. However, what many people don’t know is that you can’t rely on weight for the sizing of a harness. A 40-pound bulldog will wear a different size than a 40-pound greyhound.
Check out this harness sizing chart to help ensure you buy the right-sized harness.
Signs of a poor fitting harness include:
- Fur loss or chafing around the harness area
- Dog is able to wriggle free
- Dog is strongly resisting walking
- Back piece of the harness is rotating side-to-side
Getting Your Dog Used to The Harness
A harness, to dog owners, can seem overwhelming, but to dogs it can seem downright scary at first!
Before putting the harness on your dog, here are some tips for making your pup comfortable.
- Start by allowing your dog to smell the harness.
- Put a treat on the harness, allowing him/her to eat the treat off it.
- Touch your dog with the harness, praising each time it makes contact.
- If the harness has a buckle, you can open and close the buckle, giving the dog a treat when it clicks.
Most dogs who don’t like wearing a harness typically have sensitivity to certain areas being touched. To help combat this, pet and stroke your pup on the areas that the harness will be touching.
For some dogs, it can take a few weeks for it to begin feeling comfortable. If your dog backs away or nips at you, it’s a sign you’re moving too fast and need to slow down.
Putting the Harness On Your Dog
First, fasten the chest straps to ensure your dog is comfortable.
- Allow the dog to wear the harness inside the house. Once this is comfortable, attach a leash to the harness, letting them drag it behind them.
- Take your dog outside in the attached harness. Since most dogs love going outside, this is a treat in itself!
- If your dog is not food-oriented, associate the harness with positive experiences such as affection, praise, or a favorite toy.
The goal is to break up the process of adjusting to the harness, giving rewards as your dog progresses and becomes comfortable. You always want to go at their speed.
Choosing a harness will give you security in knowing that your dog is comfortable and properly restrained while outdoors. It will also reduce stress to your pup’s trachea and sternum. Talk about a win-win!
Kaitlyn Manktelow is a writer and videographer for Kurgo, a dog travel and outdoor products company. She enjoys filming, traveling, and singing way too loud with her rescue dog Samuel Jackson.