A Complete Guide To Dog Harnesses

A dog harness will be one of the most important items you buy for your dog. It will keep them secure when on a walk, and can also help them to walk properly without pulling or injuring themselves.

But, which dog harness is right for your dog? This will depend on how they walk, how large or small they are, and your preferred method of control too.

When finding a new harness, you will see that there are different shapes available, as well as plenty of additional extras. The clip for their lead can be in different places, and some may have handles. Then you have to measure your dog and match their measurements up to the size guide your chosen harness goes by.

The different types of dog harness

Below is a guide on all of the different variations of dog harnesses available. You will hopefully be able to narrow down the features you need to look for after some reading and research.

Harness shapes

There are four types of dog harness: vest harness, strap harness, chest harness and step-in harness.

A vest harness is pretty self-explanatory. It is a vest shape on your dog, making it really secure around the chest and arms. It goes a long way down their body too. This means they’re hard to wriggle out of. Most will have a back D-ring clip for their lead. There are also commonly two points of alteration so you can get the perfect fit. One example is the WOOF INC range.

Woof Inc Black Tartan Harness

A strap harness is two thinner straps around your dog’s body. Many training harnesses, such as the Halti Harness below, come as strap harnesses. They put pressure on your dog’s body if they pull, without chafing and making them too hot in summer. They’re still usually padded but avoid large padded areas. They are also usually highly adjustable, with several buckles for a perfect fit as well as a handle.

Halti Walking Harness


A chest harness is mainly focused around your dog’s chest. This makes it good for any pullers who can’t really wear a full-length harness because the measurements are a little bit off. A good example of a chest harness is the Julius K9 Harness, which mostly fits around a dog’s shoulder area.

A step-in harness is a style that simply means your dog can ‘step in’ to the harness rather than you placing it over their head. They are great for nervous dogs who may be frightened by the motion of something going over their head. Aside from the way you put it on, step-in harnesses actually come in all of the styles above. They simply just buckle at the back rather than the sides. The True Love harness below is a step-in style with a buckle at the back, but in a vest style too.

True Love Step In Harness

Lead clips

By this, we mean the ‘ring’ which your dog’s lead clips on to. Placement can either be on the front or the back.

The most common design is a clip on the back of the harness. It is usually around the spine somewhere but may also be closer to the neck.


  • Reduces pressure on the trachea (dog’s neck)
  • Easy to take the lead on and off
  • Your dog likely won’t trip over their lead or become tangled


  • Doesn’t always prevent pulling. Your dog can just pull you along if they are strong
Dog harness with a back chest clip
Dog harness with a back chest clip

Harnesses are also available with a clip on the front, at your dog’s chest. This solves the issue of pulling. They are often referred to as no-pull harnesses.


  • If your dog pulls, it will be pivoted around towards you, rather than moving forwards
  • They will quickly learn that pulling is of no benefit to them


  • Dog’s legs can become tangled with longer leads
  • Can take a while for you to get used to controlling them
Dog harness with front chest clip
Dog harness with front chest clip

Many harnesses with a front clip will actually be dual-clip harnesses. With a clip at both the front and the back, you can allow normal walking but then pull them into a pivot motion if they start to pull. These harnesses are also better for both use with short leads when walking, and longer leads when running.

Speciality harness use

Dog car harness

Dog harnesses are also available for use in the car if you tether your dog to the back seat using a car clip. A dog car harness will often have a lot more padding and security versus one for walking. This means that if you have to brake suddenly, or your pup is a bit fidgety, they will be safe from the shock of the seatbelt pulling back.

Car harnesses also may have a few D-rings so you can choose the one which is best for your car set-up. A dog needs to be able to lie down and sit when in a moving vehicle, so it is no good having a clip in the wrong place.

Running harness

Harnesses are also available for any runners out there. A dog running harness will usually be flexible, so you can run and walk with your pooch – it is likely you will have to stop at some point. Many also have handles in case you need to pull your dog into the side of the road when a car is passing.

Your dog is able to run without obstruction but will feel a tug if they are going too fast for your pace. You will also be able to clip both a handheld lead and a waist lead to the harness, depending on your preferred method.

Head halters

Some professionals class a head halter as a form of a harness. They are also referred to as headcollars. A head halter is a device that fits over a dog’s muzzle and neck. At first look, it could be confused for a muzzle.

But a head halter is seen to do a similar job to a front clip style, in that if your dog pulls, they are pulled to the side to pivot towards you as opposed to being pulled backwards. Dogs are meant to react more to this motion, as they can’t fight it by just being really strong and going against you pulling on the lead.

The basic premise is that the head is the most frustrating part of a dog’s body to be controlled. Where the head goes, the body will follow. So if their head is being moved, they will learn to stop this ASAP.

They are great for minimising forward motion and pulling as the head is pulled upwards. But there is a chance for misuse, if the dog’s head is snapped back too quickly, so not all dogs are suitable.