Why Does My Dog Hate Putting his Harness On?

There are many reasons to use harnesses rather than collars, they give you more control over your dog, are difficult to escape from and the main reason is that they’re more comfortable for dogs.

While the traditional collar presses into a dog’s neck and can cause discomfort, choking or chronic health conditions like a collapsed trachea, an appropriately sized and fitted harness doesn’t put any pressure on a dog’s neck at all.

But what if every time you pick up the harness, your puppy or dog runs and hides; or worse they bite when trying to put on the harness. you may be asking yourself -Why does my dog hate putting his harness on?

After all, it means they’re going on a walk and all dogs love walks, right?

Well, there could be several reasons your dog hates a harness and below, we’ll look further into some of them!

7 Reasons Your Dog May Hate his Harness.


He’s scared of it or any part of it. If your puppy doesn’t understand that the harness isn’t going to hurt him and is afraid of it, then he’ll need time to get used to the feeling before he can benefit from it. If you have rescued a dog, they may never have worn a harness before and let’s be honest, someone coming towards your head with a strange contraption could be scary for them and they’re going to move in the opposite direction.

The fit isn’t right

There are many harnesses available, they can come in various styles and sizes and the fit needs to be just right. If it’s too loose, it may slip and rub them, causing sore spots and if it’s too tight, the same can occur, plus it may hurt when they move or trap their fur in the straps.

It’s an overhead option.

Many dogs don’t like people putting things over their heads because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Some dogs prefer a front-attaching harness that goes around the body and you can adjust around the chest and belly. Of course, you won’t know this until you buy the harness, so you may have to try and encourage them to put their head through the hole with the help of some treats.

Previous negative association with dog harnesses

If your dog has ever had a bad experience wearing his harness, he may have developed an association with it that’s anything but positive. Dogs don’t have the cognitive ability that we do. Still, they remember things in their own way, so if puppies have been startled when wearing the harness, had a stressful visit to the vets or been attacked by another dog, they may associate the harness with these events and refuse to let you put the harness on.

They don’t want to go for a walk.

Some dogs may not want to go out for a walk if they dislike the rain or have medical conditions. We naturally think walks are a treat for our canine companions, but some dogs absolutely detest walking in the rain. On the other hand, walks are not always fun for older dogs or ones that have stiff joints and you may have a struggle getting them to wear a harness.

They don’t like their front legs lifted.

If you have the type of harness which requires your pooch to put their feet through loops, they may not like their feet been touched; it can be challenging to get these harnesses on an excitable puppy and trying to force their legs through the holes can be a bit of a fight. You can solve this by getting them used to you picking up their feet and handling the dog’s body from a young age with the bribery of treats and eventually, they should be fine.

This short video shows how to put on a step-in harness

They don’t like feeling constrained.

Some puppies just don’t like the feel of a dog’s harness, as it makes them feel constrained; this can cause some dogs to feel more secure, but in many, it creates an association with something they don’t like, especially if the harness is heavy. They have all this pent up energy and no way of releasing it. If your dog backs away when you bring out the strange foreign object, it may be they just don’t like wearing it.

Dog Walking with a Harness – The Benefits

As we mentioned at the start of this article, there are many benefits to using a harness, including:

Better Control – A dog harness gives you added control over your dog as you are much closer to their centre of gravity than trying to pull them into line with a leash attached to their neck.

It May help prevent pulling – wearing a no-pull harness with a front leash attachment can be an excellent tool to stop your dog from pulling and dragging you around the dog park.

Handle – A popular feature on a harness is the top handle; this is very useful for rugged terrain or lifting your pooch in and out of the car, especially if you have an elderly dog or one with health issues

No pressure – As we’ve already covered, a harness doesn’t put pressure on your pup’s neck if they lunge forward after a squirrel or get into an altercation with another dog; this is essential for small breeds who can be prone to tracheal collapse and brachycephalic breeds like Pugs and Frenchies

Your dog can carry his own gear – If you enjoy long hikes with your pup, a harness is convenient as some have panniers or loops to attach travelling essentials like poop bags and water bottles; these can also be used if your pooch is overweight to give them more of a workout on walks.

Can be used in the car – Some dog harnesses for car travel can also be used as a restraint. You just need to slip the handle through the seat belt straps to keep your pet safe when travelling.

Training – When you put a harness on, some dogs go into work mode, making training easier; you can also use the rear and front attachment with a double-ended lead for training purposes.

How to Get Your Pup to Love his Dog Harness

If your dog runs away from his harness, you may be tempted to let him wear a collar instead. However, it is possible to overcome the problem with positive reinforcement training. Most dogs are quick to learn, but you will need some patience. First of all, you need to get the right harness that fits correctly. To do this, you need to measure their chest and neck and their weight with some harnesses.

Let your dog get used to the harness by laying it on the floor so they can sniff it and receive a treat for not reacting badly. You could then try to get them to put their head through the hole with the encouragement of a treat.

What you are doing is teaching your best pal that wearing a harness isn’t a bad thing, don’t take them for a walk immediately let them play with their favourite toy or get lots of cuddles when wearing a harness indoors first and they will soon forget the reason they hated it.

How to Put on a Dog Harness

The only way a dog becomes familiar with something is by scent so let them sniff the harness first at their leisure. It can be a struggle to get a collar and lead on an excitable dog and that applies doubly for a harness that goes over your dog’s head. Wait until your dog is calm and is not jumping or wriggling about before attempting to put it on.

Check out our guide on correctly putting on a no pull dog harness.

Putting a harness on a puppy

Learning how to put a puppy harness on is essentially the same process; however, you will need patience as it can take a few sessions before they realise that this strange contraption and lead is nothing to be frightened of.


Why does my dog run away when I try to put his harness on?

It could be any one of the reasons we’ve mentioned above. If you can establish why your dog runs away from his harness, it’s a lot easier to address the issue.

Is it better to use a collar or harness?

The question of harness or collar has been asked for years. In most cases, a harness is better as it doesn’t put any stress on the delicate throat area; however, if your dog doesn’t pull and he really hates a harness, a flat collar may be the only solution.

Is it OK to leave a harness on a dog all the time?

Not really; check out our article Can I leave a harness on my dog 24/7 for more info

Will a harness hurt my dog’s chest?

Not if it’s properly fitted, there may be a slight chance of chest injury if a harness isn’t fitted correctly and your dog pulls, especially for breeds like Bulldogs who are prone to respiratory problems.

Final Thoughts

A harness is definitely the way to go when walking your dog; it’s safer than using a collar and gives you more control of your pet. However, if your four-legged friend hates things going over the head, is not used to wearing a harness or has a previous negative experience, it can be frustrating trying to get them to accept it.

The good news: it can usually be overcome with some patience and treats

Always make sure to measure your dog correctly; you will need the chest circumference, throat measurement and, in some cases, their weight. This will ensure that your puppy is comfortable when wearing it. We hope this article has helped if your dog hates harnesses and you can get ready for your next outdoor adventure together.

John Devlin

Hi, my name is John, and I am the founder of Dogsbarn – a UK-based website dedicated to helping the owners of furry friends enjoy life with their four-legged companion. We currently own two golden retrievers, George and Henry, who love running around in the park together. We are thinking about adding a third – called Frank! Our mission is to provide excellent guides and introduce great products we’ve bought or come across online.