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Dog Harnesses - makes and models explained

Updated on October 13, 2014
GollyGearHope profile image

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 | Source
Jack (Yorkshire Terrier) in the Plaid Step-in Harness
Jack (Yorkshire Terrier) in the Plaid Step-in Harness | Source
Taffy (Shih Tzu) in the Shoulder Collar Harness
Taffy (Shih Tzu) in the Shoulder Collar Harness | Source

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. | Source
Booker (Boston Terrier) shows off the Padded Y-Harness from Hurtta.
Booker (Boston Terrier) shows off the Padded Y-Harness from Hurtta. | Source
Teddy (French Bulldog) in the Spiked Leather Harness.
Teddy (French Bulldog) in the Spiked Leather Harness. | Source

Putting on a Standard Harnes

The Freedom Harness is a classic vest-type harness.
The Freedom Harness is a classic vest-type harness. | Source

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. | Source
Keesha (Pit Bull) in the Puppia Soft Harness
Keesha (Pit Bull) in the Puppia Soft Harness | Source
Booker (Boston Terrier) in the Freedom Harness
Booker (Boston Terrier) in the Freedom Harness | Source
The Wrap-n-Go Harness
The Wrap-n-Go Harness | Source

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 | Source

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. | Source

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?

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    • kissmiss profile image

      kissmiss 3 years ago

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

    • tracy-arizmendi profile image

      Tracy Arizmendi 3 years ago from Northern Virginia

      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 profile image

      jimconrad2 4 years ago

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

    • grrbtn profile image

      grrbtn 4 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      TheMotionCrafters 4 years ago

      a fine read

    • profile image

      BarbsSpot 4 years ago

      @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 profile image

      mgs249 4 years ago

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

    • JimHofman profile image

      JimHofman 4 years ago

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

    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 4 years ago

      Backpack harness for carrying water. Size xxl. ; }

    • kerrylea profile image

      kerrylea 4 years ago

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

    • GollyGearHope profile image

      Hope 4 years ago from Skokie, Illinois

      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 profile image

      RewardedBehavio 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      puppyprints 4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      good lens for the small-dog owner!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i am looking for a prepull harness for my bulldog

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

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

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      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.

    • profile image

      agent009 6 years ago

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

    • marlene3 profile image

      marlene3 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      ChihuahuaClothesInfo 6 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Beautifully presented!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      cmvarner 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      tssfacts 6 years ago

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

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 6 years ago

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

    • ElizaRayner profile image

      Eliza Rayner 7 years ago from Boulder, Colorado

      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.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 7 years ago from Canada

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

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 7 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      BooJeeBeads 7 years ago

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

    • burgessvillian profile image

      burgessvillian 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      playerarmory 7 years ago

      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 profile image

      norma-holt 7 years ago

      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 profile image

      Lee Hansen 7 years ago from Vermont

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

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      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 profile image

      Kiosks4business 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

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

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      congrats on LOTD! lensrolling to my dog lenses.

    • profile image

      Andy_2010 7 years ago

      congrats for you on LOTD, keep up the great lens

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 7 years ago

      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 profile image

      Faye Rutledge 7 years ago from Concord VA

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

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 7 years ago

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

      Congratulations on LOTD!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      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-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! great lens and information

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image

      RaintreeAnnie 7 years ago from UK

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

    • Jmel37 profile image

      Jmel37 7 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD! and well written lens!

    • callinsky lm profile image

      callinsky lm 7 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD.(O;

    • Airinka profile image

      Airinka 7 years ago

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

    • one dental profile image

      one dental 7 years ago

      What a great lens! Congrats on LOTD :D

    • modz profile image

      modz 7 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD!!! :)

    • stacy mcdaniel profile image

      stacy mcdaniel 7 years ago

      Congratulations on lens of the day:-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      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

    • GollyGearHope profile image

      Hope 7 years ago from Skokie, Illinois

      @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

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      great thanks for your help

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      JKNavyWife 9 years ago

      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