two australian terriers in harnesses and leads

What is the best harness for my dog?


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons) and last updated by Dr Gillian Hill, BVSc (Hons)

Choosing the right harness for your dog seems like a straightforward task that can make a world of difference in your daily walks together. However, with so many options available, all the unfamiliar names and designs can start to resemble medieval contraptions, and it can be overwhelming to find the best harness that suits your dog's needs. Every breed is unique in their size, shape, temperament and behaviour which means each pet will have different requirements for their exercise equipment.

In this article, we'll explore the different types of harnesses, their features, and how to choose the perfect one for your furry friend. Whether you have a small, medium, or large dog, we'll help you navigate the world of harnesses to find the ideal fit for your canine companion.

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Back-attaching harnesses

Front-attaching harnesses

Gentle leader headcollars

How to fit a dog harness

Additional Walking Aids
- Glow or Light-Up Harnesses
- Double-ended leads
- Martingale collars

Back-attaching Harnesses

dog wearing back attaching harness


  • Comfortable for dogs to wear
  • Allow freedom of movement
  • Distribute pressure evenly across chest and shoulders
  • Ideal for dogs with weak necks, or neck problems
  • Helps to avoid the leash becoming tangled under the front legs
  • Versatile - can be used for various activities including for car safety, during walking, hiking or running.
  • Suitable for dogs of all sizes and breeds


  • Back attaching harnesses are generally ineffective in preventing pulling on the lead, and may even encourage pulling in some dogs, as they do not provide as much control over the front of the dog's body where most of the pulling power comes from
  • Offer minimal control if a dog has behavioural issues

Back-attaching harnesses are a traditional design, suitable for gentler dogs who do not pull excessively. Back-attaching dog harnesses are designed with a D-ring on the back, usually between the shoulder blades, where you can attach the lead.

The back attachment point allows for more natural movement and can help distribute the pressure evenly across the chest and shoulders, reducing the risk of strain or injury. For this reason, back-attaching harnesses are ideal for small and toy dogs or those with weak necks as any impact is dispersed when compared to a standard collar.

The ring for lead attachment can often be safely attached to seatbelts, making them ideal for road trips.

Recommended Back-attaching Harnesses

Front-attaching Harnesses

dog wearing front attaching harness


  • Gives handler increased control on the dog's movements, especially useful in preventing lunging or pulling towards distractions
  • Gently forces dogs to turn their body towards the handler when tension is applied on the front lead anchor, helping to prevent the dog pulling on the lead with their full weight
  • Most also include a back attachment, allowing a double ended lead to be used for better control
  • Excellent as a training aid to teach good behaviours on the lead


  • May restrict movement, particularly around the shoulders, depending on design
  • Larger or stronger dogs may still be able to pull on the lead despite the front attachment
  • Front-attaching harnesses are not a one-stop-shop to fix lead pulling and lunging - behavioural training and rewards are still important to instill repeat good behaviours
  • Can be very uncomfortable for the dog if not fitted correctly
  • Lead can be more prone to get tangled under the front legs due to the front anchor point
  • May not be suitable for brachcephalic (flat-faced), small breeds and dogs with tracheal collapse, due to the extra pressure placed on the throat and neck compared to back-attaching harnesses
  • May not be suitable for dogs who have shoulder or neck injuries, due to the extra pressure placed on the shoulders and neck

Front-attaching harnesses are a popular choice for dog owners looking to reduce pulling and improve control during walks. These harnesses feature a front attachment point, typically located on the dog's chest, which helps to redirect the dog's forward motion when they pull. This design encourages dogs to walk beside their owners and discourages pulling behaviour.

Front-attaching harnesses are particularly useful for dogs who are strong pullers or who are learning leash manners. They can also be beneficial for dogs with neck or respiratory issues, as they distribute pressure more evenly across the chest and shoulders. Overall, front-attaching harnesses can provide a comfortable and effective way to manage your dog's behaviour during walks.

Recommended Front-attaching Harnesses


dog wearing head collar


  • Gives handler increased control on the dog's head, especially useful in preventing lunging or pulling
  • Gently forces dogs to turn their heads towards the handler when tension is applied on the lead, helping to prevent behaviours like lunging and pulling from escalating
  • Forces dogs to redirect their attention to the handler when tension is applied to the lead
  • Most are adjustable and padded to allow a comfortable fit


  • Head collars/halters are not recommended for small dogs under 5kg or for dogs with pushed in faces as they will not fit correctly
  • Can cause injury if the lead is tightened suddenly and the dog's head jerked to the side
  • Can take quite some time for dogs to become accustomed to wearing them
  • Should not be used with a retractable lead, as they can cause injury if the dog runs to the end of the leash and is abruptly stopped

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.

These collars consist of two loops - one that goes over the bridge of the nose resting below the eyes and the other which loops around the neck, with the leash attaching under the chin where the 2 loops meet. The design of a head collar allows owners to gently steer their dogs in the desired direction by controlling their head movements. This can be particularly useful for dogs that tend to pull on the leash or exhibit other behaviours that make walking difficult, like lunging or jumping up.

While head collars can be a great aid for some dogs, it's important to introduce them gradually and ensure a proper fit to prevent discomfort or resistance from the dog.

Recommended Head Collars

How to Put on a Dog Harness

Putting on a dog harness is a straightforward process once you know how, but it's important to do it correctly to ensure your dog's comfort and safety. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose the Right Size: Ensure you have the correct size harness for your dog. Refer to the manufacturer's sizing guide to select the appropriate size based on your dog's measurements. This will usually correspond to measurements around the widest part of your dog's neck and chest. The manufacturer will also usually provide instructions on how to put the harness on.
  2. Locate the buckle/clip where the leash attaches: this will help you to orientate the harness. For back-attaching harnesses, the clip will be at the top and sit between the shoulder blades or thereabouts. For front attaching harnesses, there will usually be one clip that sits between shoulder blades and one that sits at the front of the chest. For head collars, the attachment anchor will sit below the chin.
  3. Unbuckle the Harness: Lay the harness flat on the ground and unbuckle any straps that may be attached.
  4. Position the Harness: For back attaching harnesses, this may involve slipping it over your dog's head for over-the-head harnesses, or assisting them to step into the harness with one leg in each opening for step-in harnesses. For front-attaching harnesses, this may involve securing one loop around the chest, and one around the front of the shoulders.
  5. Secure the Harness: Fasten the buckles or clips on the harness. Ensure they are snug but not too tight. You should be able to fit one or two fingers between the harness and your dog's body.
  6. Adjust the Fit: Adjust the straps as needed to ensure a comfortable and secure fit. The harness should be snug enough that your dog cannot slip out of it but not so tight that it restricts their movement or causes discomfort.
  7. Attach the Lead: Once the harness is securely on your dog, attach the leash to the D-ring on the back or chest of the harness, or under the chin, depending on the design.
  8. Check the Fit: Double-check the fit of the harness. Ensure that all straps are secure and that there are no twisted or tangled straps.
  9. Practice Walking: Before heading out on a walk, allow your dog to move around in the harness to ensure they are comfortable and that the harness does not restrict their movement.

A note about head-collars: For head-collars, we recommend fitting the collar, rewarding your dog with treats, and taking the head-collar straight back off again. Repeat this process, gradually increasing the amount of time you leave the head-collar on each time, in order to gently get your dog used to it, and make wearing it a positive experience. Once your dog is completely comfortable wearing the head-collar, only then would we recommend taking them out for a walk whilst wearing it.

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

Reflective Dog Harnesses

Reflective harnesses and glow and light up collars and leads 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.

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 greyhounds, whippets and similarly figured dogs as their heads are smaller than their necks, they can easily slip out of conventional collars.

The bottom line

In conclusion, choosing the best harness for your dog depends on various factors, including your dog's size, breed, and behaviour. Front-attaching harnesses are ideal for dogs that pull, while back-attaching harnesses offer more freedom for well-behaved dogs. Head collars can be effective for strong pullers but require training for proper use. Ultimately, the best harness is one that fits your dog comfortably, allows for proper movement, and helps you maintain control during walks. Consider your dog's specific needs and consult with our in-house Vets, your veterinarian or professional trainer if you're unsure which harness is right for your furry friend.

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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