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Considering a dog harness? Bring our guide to the store with you

Here’s how to put on a dog harness.

A harness really should be at the top of your new-puppy shopping list. This accessory allows you to take your dog on adventures and activities while ensuring they’re comfortable. If you’re a first-time pet parent or new to harnesses, it’s OK if the harness aisle brings up more questions than answers. 

That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to picking out the best harness for your dog — it's full of tips on how to put it on securely, too.

Does my dog need a harness? 

Both your dog and you can benefit from your pet having a harness. “The major advantage of a dog harness is that when used for leash walking, it keeps the pressure off a dog’s neck,” Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. “Front-clip harnesses can allow for better control of larger dogs or dogs that pull. Certain harnesses can prevent dogs from backing out of them and getting loose.”

And while it’s good to know the general benefits of harnesses for dogs, it’s also important to consider your individual pup. Some dogs' build, personality traits or behaviors make them a prime candidate for a harness, including: 

Best dog harnesses

Finding the best dog harness for your pet depends on your pup and lifestyle. For example, if your dog pulls on the many walks you take, look for a no-pull harness for better control — those usually clip in the front and the back. If your pup isn’t a puller, a standard harness will work just fine.

When you pick out your pup’s harness, you may also want to bring them along for the shopping trip. “The most important aspect of a harness is a proper fit,” she adds. “Be sure to take accurate measurements of your dog as directed by the manufacturer’s size chart. Try on a few different types before you settle on a harness.” 

And if you’re wondering whether to use a collar instead of a harness for things like controlling them on a walk, the answer is likely no. Collars are great for holding your pup’s identification tags, but they can cause injury to your dog by putting pressure on their neck (especially prong, choke or slip collars). 

RELATED: Collar or harness: which is best for your dog?

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How to put on a dog's harness

You’ll want to introduce your pup to a harness slowly, and it may help to use positive reinforcement (like treats or praise!) while you’re getting them used to it. Every harness is different, so utilize the instructions for directions on how to put the accessory on your pup safely. 

However, Dr. McCullough has some tips on what not to do after putting your pup’s harness on, including:

  • If your dog’s harness is on for a long time, check to make sure there isn’t any skin irritation, hair loss or discomfort from rubbing.
  • Avoid entirely relying on the harness to control your pup on a walk (it takes training!).

Suppose your dog is biting, chewing or scratching at their harness, refusing to walk with it on or running away when you pull it out — they’re likely not enjoying it. If that’s the case, Dr. McCullough suggests talking to your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist to figure out another harness alternative. 

How tight should a dog harness be?

Similar to when you put your dog’s harness on, review the harness instructions to see how tight it should be. However, usually, you should be able to fit two fingers between your pup’s skin and the harness, Dr. McCullough shares.

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo. 

Photo by Aaron Clinard on Unsplash

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