What is the best harness for my dog?

LAST UPDATED 14 February 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons)

Choosing a harness for your dog seems like a straightforward task but with so many options available, all the unfamiliar names and designs start to resemble medieval contraptions. Every breed is unique in their size, shape, temperament and behaviour which means each pet will have different requirements for their exercise equipment.

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Back-attaching harnesses

Front-attaching harnesses

Glow or Light-Up Harnesses

Gentle leader headcollars

Double-ended leads

Martingale collars

How to fit a dog harness

Back-attaching Harnesses

Back-attaching harnesses are a more traditional design, suitable for gentler dogs who do not pull excessively. Back-attaching harnesses are also ideal for small and toy dogs or those with weak necks as any impact is dispersed over their chest and shoulders as opposed to a standard collar.

The ring for lead attachment is located at the back of the harness and these can often be safely attached to seatbelts, making them ideal for road trips.

Front-attaching Harnesses

Designed for heavy pullers, front-attaching harnesses prevent your dog from pulling with their full weight. The front anchoring of this harness means your dog is forced to to face you when tension is applied.

Reflective Dog Harnesses

Reflective harnesses are perfect for walking your dog at night. If you have a busy schedule and need to walk your dog before or after work, this might be perfect for you. It's also great for winter time, when the days are shorter, to help keep your dog visible in the dark.

Gentle Leader Headcollars

The headcollar, also known as a 'gentle leader headcollar' or 'halti' is a great training aide for dogs who lunge or pull excessively. This halter is designed to give you more control to prevent these behaviours from escalating.

This design has two loops, one which goes over the bridge of the nose resting below the eyes and the other which loops around the neck. The leash is attached under the jaw where the two loops meet.

Head halters are not recommended for small dogs under 5kg or for dogs with pushed in faces as they will not fit correctly.

How to Put on a Dog Harness

Harnesses compared

Type of Harness Level of control with walking* Best Suited For The Details Most Popular

Back Attaching Harnesses

Low Small dogs, well-behaved dogs, car travel Ring for lead attachment located at the back of the harness and these can often be safely attached to seatbelts, making them ideal for road trips. Fuzzyard Go Nuts Harness

Fuzzyard Go Nuts Harness

Front Attaching Harnesses

High Heavy pullers, dogs in training, large dogs Ring for lead attachment located at the front, which means dog is forced to face you when tension is applied. Company of Animals Halti Front Control Harness

Company of Animals Halti Front Control Harness

Gentle Leader Headcollars

High Heavy pullers, dogs in training, large dogs Designed with one loop over the bridge of the nose and another loop around the neck. Forces the dog's nose downwards when they pull. Company of Animals Halti Headcollar

Company of Animals Halti Headcollar

Light Up Dog Collars

Light Up Dog Collars

Low Walking at night These collars are either made from glow in the dark material, or have LED lighting inbuilt into the collar. Nitedog LED Collar

Nitedog LED Collar

Other great walking aids

Double-ended Leads

Double-ended leads are a great accessory for any dog owner but are particularly useful for behavioural training. Double ended leads like the Pupstyle Dual Lead Splitter can used as an adjustable lead, to temporarily tether your pet or to walk multiple dogs.

During behavioural training, some dogs may benefit from using multiple harnesses. For example a dog who is a heavy puller with lunging tendencies would require both a headcollar and a front-attaching harness which can be attached to your double-ended lead.

Martingale Collars

Martingale collars are designed for light to moderate pullers but more importantly this style is ideal for greyhounds and similarly figured dogs.

This design is a blend of the traditional collar and the chain collar. When tension is applied, the chain component slides through the D rings to tighten the collar. This style is essential for Greyhound style breeds; as their heads are smaller than their necks, they can easily slip out of conventional collars.

The bottom line

Finding the right equipment from the start will save you time, money and not to mention your sanity! For light pullers standard, back-attaching harnesses are most suitable and available in a large array of styles. Moderate to heavy pullers would benefit most from a front-attaching harnesses while lunge or aggression prone dogs may require a gentle leader headcollar. If you need to use two different styles, connect these safely by using a double-ended lead.

Further Reading

New puppy guide

Teach your puppy to walk on a lead

Boredom busters for dogs

Your guide to fleas, ticks and worms

Best Puppy Toys

Best Puppy Treats

How To Feed A Fussy Dog

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