Harness Your Dog in 3 Easy Steps. A Step-by-Step Diagram


Dog harnesses have become increasingly popular in recent years as an alternative to traditional collars. Unlike collars, which put pressure on a dog’s neck and throat area when pulled, harnesses evenly distribute pressure across the chest and shoulder area. This can help reduce the risk of neck and trachea injuries in dogs that tend to pull on their leashes (source: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/dog-harness-vs-collar/).

Harnesses are especially recommended for small and toy breed dogs that have delicate throats. They can also be useful for puppies still learning to walk on a leash without pulling. Certain types of harnesses are designed to deter pulling by making it uncomfortable for the dog when they lunge forward (source: https://www.progressive.com/lifelanes/turning-points/dog-harness-vs-collar-which-is-better-for-your-pup/).

This guide will provide an overview of the different types of dog harnesses available, tips for fitting and putting them on your dog, and general harness care and troubleshooting advice.

Choosing the Right Harness

Choosing the right harness for your dog is very important, as an improperly fitted harness can cause discomfort or even injury. The main factors to consider when selecting a harness are size, type, fit and adjustability.

measuring a dog's chest for a harness

First, make sure to get an accurate measurement of your dog’s girth (the widest part of their chest). Refer to a sizing chart to determine what size to buy based on your dog’s breed and weight. A properly fitted harness should be snug but not constricting (WebMD).

Consider the type of harness based on your dog’s needs – step-in, overhead, or no-pull. Step-in harnesses are easy to put on, overhead go over the head, and no-pull harnesses discourage pulling on the leash (PetSmart).

Check that the harness has adjustable straps so you can customize the fit as needed. Make sure to get the right combination of comfort, control, and durability for your dog’s size and temperament.

Fitting the Harness

For a dog harness to fit properly, it’s important to adjust the straps correctly and get the right positioning on your dog. Start by loosening all the straps so you can easily slip the harness over your dog’s head. Once on, securely fasten and tighten the belly strap first so it’s snug but not restricting. Allow just enough room so you can slide two fingers between the strap and your dog. According to 2houndsdesign.com, “The belly strap needs to be tight enough that your dog can’t wiggle out of the harness.”

Next, adjust the chest strap so it sits just behind your dog’s armpits. As 2houndsdesign.com notes, “The chest strap should be loose enough for your dog to comfortably move their front legs back and forth.” It should not dig into the dog’s shoulders or rub under their arms. Get a helper to hold your dog and ensure the harness is centered while you check strap tightness and positioning.

The overall fit should be snug but comfortable. Your dog should be able to walk, run, and lie down without any pinching or chafing from the harness straps. Neewadogs.com says, “The harness should move with your dog so there is no excessive slipping or loose areas.” Double check that your dog can’t slip out of the harness once the straps are properly fitted and fastened.

Slip Harness

putting a slip harness onto a dog

A slip harness is one of the easiest types of harnesses to put on your dog. Here is a step-by-step guide:

1. Make sure the harness is laid out flat with the leash clip on top. The straps should not be twisted.

2. Unfasten all the buckles and clips so you can easily slip the harness over your dog’s head.

3. Have your dog stand still. Hold the harness with the leash clip facing up and slip it over your dog’s head so the neck strap sits right behind the ears.

4. Pull one front leg through the corresponding front leg hole so the strap sits across the front chest.

5. Do the same with the other front leg.

6. Pull the belly strap with the buckle under the belly so both sides meet under the belly. Fasten the belly buckle so it’s snug but not too tight.

7. Fasten the upper chest clip so the harness fits securely over the shoulders and around the chest.

8. Double check that all buckles and clips are fastened and do a quick check that you can slip two fingers between the harness straps and dog. Adjust as needed.

9. Attach the leash and you’re ready to go!

Step-in Harness

fitting a step-in harness onto a dog
A step-in dog harness is a popular style that’s easy to put on your dog. Here are the steps for properly fitting a step-in harness:

1. Unfasten all straps and buckles on the harness so it is laying flat and open. This allows your dog to easily step into the harness.

2. Have your dog stand and hold the harness open on the ground in front of them. Slide their head through the neck opening.

3. Pick up one front leg and insert it through the appropriate arm hole. Do the same for the other front leg.

4. Pull the harness up over your dog’s back and shoulders. Make sure it is centered and not twisted.

5. Fasten the belly strap first, tightening it so the harness is snug around the chest. Then connect the top strap over the back.

6. Check the fit. You should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and your dog. Adjust the straps as needed.

Be sure to praise your dog and give treats during the process so they associate the harness with positive experiences!

Overhead Harness

An overhead harness is probably the easiest type to put on your dog. This style of harness has a large neck opening that you slip over your dog’s head.

putting an overhead harness onto a dog

To put on an overhead harness:

  1. Unclip all the straps so the harness is completely opened up. The neck opening should be large enough for your dog’s head to fit through.
  2. Hold the harness upside down by the shoulder straps so the neck opening is facing the ground. Slip the opening over your dog’s head.
  3. Make sure the harness is centered on your dog’s back. The center chest strap should sit right behind their front legs.
  4. One by one, clip up each strap under your dog’s belly, around their chest, and at the top near their shoulders. Make sure the straps are snug but not too tight.
  5. Check that you can slide two fingers between the harness straps and your dog’s body. Adjust accordingly.

With a little practice, an overhead harness takes just a few seconds to put on correctly. The key is holding it upside down and open before slipping it over your dog’s head. This style works well for dogs who don’t like stepping into leg holes.

Source: https://www.wikihow.com/Put-on-a-Dog-Harness

No Pull Harness

A no pull harness is designed to stop a dog from pulling during walks by redirecting them when they pull. According to this source, the harness has a front ring on the chest so that when the dog pulls, it turns their body around instead of letting them move forward.

There are some special considerations for the front clip on a no pull harness:

  • The front clip sits across the dog’s chest, which can put pressure on this area when the dog pulls. Make sure to monitor for any chafing.
  • The front clip harness works best for dogs under 30 lbs. Larger dogs may be able to overpower the front clip.
  • Introduce the harness slowly and use positive reinforcement training to teach your dog not to pull while wearing it.
  • Never leave a front clip harness on an unattended dog since it can get caught on objects.

With proper use, a no pull harness with a front clip can be an effective training tool to stop pulling and make walks more enjoyable.

Taking the Harness On and Off

Taking your dog’s harness on and off should be an easy, stress-free process for both you and your pup. The key is to make it a positive experience and give your dog lots of praise and treats.

Start by showing your dog the harness and letting them sniff it. Give them a treat just for looking at it so they start to associate the harness with good things. Slip a few treats into the harness pockets so your dog gets rewarded as you put it on.

To get the harness on, have your dog sit or stand. Unclip the straps and gently drape the neck loop over their head. If needed, lift each paw to slide them through the arm holes one at a time. Make sure to go slow and give treats during the process.

For step-in harnesses, hold the harness open on the ground and encourage your dog to step into it with both front legs. Then bring the harness up their body and fasten the clips. Reward them again once it’s fully on.

To take the harness off, unclip the straps and gently lift it over their head. If your dog is wiggly, you can clip the leash on first for extra control. Always end with praise and a treat.

With patience and positive reinforcement, your dog will look forward to gearing up for their next adventure. For more tips, check out this step-by-step guide from Canada Pooch: https://canadapooch.com/blogs/news/step-by-step-guide-putting-on-and-taking-off-a-dog-harness.

Caring for the Harness

Properly caring for your dog’s harness will help extend its life and ensure it stays clean, functional and comfortable for your dog. Here are some tips for caring for a dog harness:

Washing: Periodically wash your dog’s harness to remove dirt, odors and shed fur. Most harnesses can be washed in the washing machine – check the tag or instructions. Use a gentle cycle and cold water. Air dry the harness before putting it back on your dog. You can also hand wash in warm water and mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly. Avoid using bleach or fabric softener (Source).

Storage: Store the harness in a cool, dry place when not in use. Hang or lay flat to maintain the harness’s shape. Keeping it in a bag can cause the straps to become misshapen. Store away from direct sunlight to prevent fading.

Inspection: Regularly inspect the harness for wear and tear. Check for ripped seams, damaged hardware, loose straps etc. Replace the harness if it shows signs of excessive wear. Also ensure the harness still fits your dog well and is properly adjusted.


Putting on a harness incorrectly or using the wrong size can lead to some issues. Here are some common harness problems and how to fix them:

Rubbing and Chafing

If the harness straps are rubbing or chafing your dog’s skin, the harness may be too loose or the wrong size. Make sure to get an accurate chest measurement and try a size smaller. You can also try a different style with wider straps or padding to prevent rubbing [1].

Restricted Range of Motion

Some front-clip harnesses can restrict shoulder movement if they are not fitted properly. Make sure the chest strap sits low behind the front legs. You may need to size up or try a different style like an H-harness to avoid shoulder issues [2].

Pulling and Resistance

For dogs that pull, some harnesses like head halters can cause resistance. Using treats, start loose leash training to address pulling behavior. Switching to a front-clip harness can help redirect your dog more gently.

Limping or Lameness

If your dog starts limping or shows signs of pain when wearing their harness, it may be putting pressure on their joints or muscles. Consult your vet and take a break from the harness until the limping subsides. When you reintroduce it, monitor for signs of discomfort.

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