This is our review of the best harness for a nervous dog in 2022
Dogs can get anxious around other dogs, people or objects. This can lead to them pulling on the leash and becoming difficult to control.
Choosing the right harness can be a daunting task if you have a nervous dog. With so many options on the market, how do you know which one is right for your furry friend?
Fear not – we’re here to help. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the best harnesses for anxious dogs and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.
Our top pick is the NERVOUS (Give Me Space) Yellow Colour Coded Dog Harness. This bright yellow lets other dog owners know that your pooch is nervous, giving them a warning long before they come too close. This works incredibly well if Fido is anxious about meeting new dogs.
In this article, we’ll be reviewing:
Keep reading to see which harnesses can help your canine companion feel less nervous on their walks and some things you can do to calm a dog suffering from anxiety.
Our Best Harnesses for Nervous Dogs
We compiled a list of some of the best alternatives to a collar for stressed out pooches. Whether you prefer a back clip harness, an anti-pull option or one that stops Fido escaping on a walk, there’s something for everyone!
Perhaps the most classically recognised fearful dog harnesses available, we love the simplicity of this design and its emphasis on visibility at all times of the day. This vibrant yellow, colour-coded harness lets everybody know your pup is a little nervous when on a walk.
We found the durable embroidered stitching on the lettering to be super visible from afar, meaning other dog owners and members of the public can be prepared to give your pup a little space.
There are D-ring attachments to attach a lead for no-pull harness training, which is great for anxious dogs that tend to fight with the leash, and at a great price, we think this is a must-have for nervous dog owners.
If your easily scared dog pulls on its lead in crowded spaces, we believe this ThinkPet harness might be an excellent solution for you. We found its ergonomic design to provide superior protection over our dog’s neck and back by evenly distributing their weight over the sides of the dog harness.
Heavy-duty stitching and several strong buckles ensure that your pup won’t break free, should they find themselves in a bit of a panic in public, and we found that the comfortable and breathable mesh lining makes this a great choice for longer outings.
Our own dogs felt safe and content in this harness all day, and judging by the 6000+ 5-star reviews on Amazon, other dog owners seem to agree!
Large dogs that suffer from anxiety and nervous tendencies are often mistaken for aggressive pups, so finding a suitable and sufficiently strong harness is a must!
We found the Rabbitgoo escape-proof harness, specifically designed for large breeds, lives up to its name thanks to 5 fully adjustable, thick straps that make for a super snug fit around our larger dog.
Our favourite aspect of this harness is the incredibly robust, padded handle that makes controlling your dog super easy. Alternatively, you can use it in the car to attach the seatbelt.
The snug and comfortable design ensured that our pup didn’t feel any pain or discomfort but did not hinder our dog’s movement; instead, it allowed us to control the situation and calm them with ease.
A soft and supportive harness is always best for small dogs with anxiety issues. We were impressed with the breathable and comfortable inner lining of this step-in harness, which was incredibly easy to slip around our dog’s head and shoulders.
We think the reflective stitching and strips on the outside of this harness are great for nighttime walks and left us confident and content that our nervous little pup would be visible at all times in low light conditions.
We also found that the no-choke leash attachment on this back clip harness was handy at protecting our little buddy’s neck and spine from any pulling behaviours that they occasionally exhibit.
When experiencing a pang of anxiety, it’s not uncommon for our larger pup to wrestle their way out of just about any dog harness. We found the ICEFANG tactical harness to be the most reliable method of keeping our dog secure, no matter how hard they tried to wriggle free.
With metal buckles that have been load tested to bear up to 1000 lbs of weight, we felt confident that even giant breed dogs would find it difficult to break free from this anti-escape dog harness.
But, it’s not all Alcatraz with this product; we found the inner lining and trim around the belly strap to be comfortable and supportive. The multiple adjustment points made this an incredibly safe harness with a snug and secure fit.
Nervous puppies need a lot of care and attention; we absolutely loved how simple and quick it was to get our little pup in and out of this harness, which helped to minimise any feelings of stress or anxiety.
The quick-release clip worked like a dream, and the padded materials on the inside of the harness were a perfect fit for our puppy’s body type.
The reinforced stitching around the D-ring leash clips provided a good deal of security on this back clip harness when walking our little pup. The breathable materials made for a comfortable experience for longer adventures and outings.
A strong and durable handle is always a big help on harnesses for anxiety-prone dogs and can help to provide some extra control.
Of all of the dog harnesses we’ve tested, we were most impressed with the security and control provided by the BELPRO support back clip harness.
The padded and reinforced handle is easy to grab and comfortable to hold, and the five adjustable straps on the harness ensure that your dog is always secure.
We were really impressed with the added visibility considerations, with reflective material and brightly coloured stitching all over, that help to make sure that your dog is highly visible both on a night walk and in gloomy conditions during the day.
Do Harnesses Help Dogs with Anxiety?
Anxiety is common in dogs and can be caused by all manner of things. Well known stimuli include loud noise, separation from their owners, crowded places and unknown visitors.
As with humans, anxiety is a fairly expected emotion if only felt every now and then, but if your dog exhibits anxiety symptoms regularly, a harness can be much more beneficial than a collar and leash in several ways.
Light pressure applied to your dog’s chest and back has been scientifically proven to provide a calming effect and release endorphins that promote a sense of well-being in your pup. This can be easily achieved when a good-quality harness fits your dog’s body snugly.
A comfortable and breathable harness can effectively work in the same way as a loving hug, providing your dog with a sense of safety and protection that alleviates any symptoms of anxiety. This method is also effective in humans and is often referred to as swaddling.
Connection to their owner
Your dog will always look to you for comfort and safety; that’s how our furry friends have been bred over 100’s of years.
Whenever a dog feels uncomfortable or scared, they expect their owner to protect them and resolve the situation. For this reason, your dog will feel a physical relief when attached to you via their harness and leash.
This is particularly useful in busy public spaces, where your dog may feel overwhelmed by the number of incoming stimuli like new smells, noises and movement. Feeling the extra security of a snug, anti-anxiety dog harness will teach your dog not to worry and reassure them that you’re in control of their safety.
A big way to help dog’s that suffer from anxiety is to make sure that other dogs and their owners know to give them a little space when walking. Dog harnesses with signs on both the front and the back that indicate your dog’s increased risk of anxiety are a great way to provide them with a little more comfort during their walk.
Many dogs only experience anxiety and worry around other dogs, so clearly signposting this consideration can help to teach your pup that walks won’t always mean having to navigate other dogs and scary situations.
It can be a long road to take when training your dog to manage their anxiety better, and sometimes it’s best to try to mitigate the risks rather than completely eliminate the causes.
Front clip harnesses are an excellent help for worried dogs as they prevent pulling behaviours and teach your pup that fighting with their leash won’t get them anywhere!
A no escape dog harness, with a customised fit and easy to grab handle, will allow you to quickly take control of any situation in which your dog becomes scared. It will provide you with an anchor point around their shoulders, preventing damage to the neck and helping you control their body and de-escalate the situation.
What Are The Different Types of Harnesses Available to Help Calm Dogs
Is a front clip harness better?
Front clip harnesses are generally preferred for training anxious dogs. Their leash clip placement around the chest will help stop pulling behaviours, which can be incredibly damaging to your dog’s neck and head.
The safest dog harness will allow for a good fit, with around two fingers of space between the harness and your dog’s neck. This will prevent any restrictions to your dog’s head movements and make sure that they can breathe safely when wearing the harness for extended periods.
Why you shouldn’t use a back clip harness
Owners of anxious dogs should avoid dog harnesses that only feature a back clip leash attachment. This design will allow for pulling behaviours that can damage your dog’s health and cause strain on the harness, which may lead to it breaking.
Back clip harnesses allow for a walking style in which your dog has great control over its direction. This isn’t advised for dogs that are easily spooked, as any loud sound or anxiety-inducing instance can cause your dog to pull free and for you to lose control of the situation.
Vest style harnesses – benefits
Vest harnesses are generally considered the most comfortable and supportive dog harnesses, thanks to their ability to distribute force over your dog’s whole body evenly.
Harnesses with multiple straps have a tendency to apply pressure on specific points around your dog’s belly and neck, which can cause pain in a dog that often pulls or spooks easily.
It’s also much easier to achieve a snug fit with a vest harness. The constant, calming pressure around your dog’s chest area can release positive endorphins associated with mental well-being. This can be a great help for anxious or worried pups.
Features to Look For in a Harness if You Have an Anxious Dog
Front clip leash attachment
As previously mentioned, a product with a front clip leash attachment will make the best anxious dog harness. Anxious dogs will often pull on their leash when scared, which can cause serious harm to their chest and neck.
Front clip harnesses take the control away from your dog during their walk and help prevent them from running off or breaking free from their leash should they become scared.
The right harness for an anxious dog will provide a large amount of control over how the product fits. To ensure that your dog is safe and comfortable, their harness should be tight enough to keep them secure but not so tight that their movement is restricted.
The perfect fit harness will produce about two fingers of room around their neck and chest to prevent chaffing or restrictions on their head movements and breathing. Harnesses with multiple adjustment points are best for this, as they’ll allow you to decide how snug the harness fits.
Anxious dogs are prone to bolting off when exposed to anxiety-inducing stimuli like loud noises or other animals. Because of this, it’s recommended that you look for dog harnesses that include reflective materials and brightly coloured designs, which will help them remain visible even when walking at night.
A brightly coloured front clip harness, with lettering that indicates that your dog is “nervous” or “anxious”, will allow other dog owners and members of the public to give you and your pet a little extra space during your walk.
Comfortable and breathable
As a well-fitting harness can provide anxiety-reducing effects by applying a little pressure to your dog’s chest, many dogs will feel the benefits of their harness when simply relaxing at home.
To allow your dog to enjoy their harness for extended periods of time, we recommend looking for a harness with comfortable and breathable materials included in the lining.
If a scared dog wants to run away from a situation, it will find every way possible to do so. Front clip harnesses and no pull training can significantly reduce the risk of this behaviour. Still, it’s always useful to have a last resort method of controlling your pet should they find themselves spooked.
A good quality harness will have a tough and reliable handle situated on the back that can be used to rear your dog if they’re attempting to run. Look for durable stitching and a large, comfortable grip; an anti-slip dog harness will be best with multiple adjustment points to keep your pet secure.
How to Make a Dog Feel Safe and Comfortable When Wearing Their New Harness
Allow your dog to step into the harness.
If your pup suffers from dog harness anxiety, you should first try to allow them to step into the harness themselves. Forcing your dog into the harness can increase their stress and teach them to associate it with negative feelings.
Try holding the harness out in front of them and coaxing them to step into it with a treat or toy. This will make your dog feel more comfortable with the situation and help to reduce their anxiety.
Ensure a good fit
All dogs will become frustrated and irritable in an ill-fitting and uncomfortable harness. If your dog doesn’t enjoy their time spent in a harness, try looking for a non-slip dog harness that can provide a high level of adjustment.
Most manufacturers will produce their harnesses based on generalised dog size rather than specific breeds. When buying online, you should check the manufacturer’s size chart and accurately measure your pet. This way, you can find a harness that will fit snugly and be far more comfortable for your dog.
Use positive reinforcement
The best incentive for all dogs is their favourite treats and a little affection. If your dog is having difficulty getting used to their harness, try rewarding them with toys and treats when they spend increasingly large amounts of time in the harness.
Begin by coaxing them to step into the harness, as covered in our previous step, then reward them for wearing it without trying to break free. If they struggle or try to wriggle free, take the harness off and try again later.
Some dog owners find that a wide martingale collar is preferable to a standard collar if Fido gets particularly stressed putting a harness over their head.
This video has some great tips on how to get your dog to like his harness putting on
3 Tips for Walking with a Nervous Dog
Time your walks
The easiest way to alleviate some of your dog’s anxiety around walking is to time your walks for the quieter parts of the day.
Most dog owners will take their pups for daily outings in the early morning, at noon and in the early evening. Deduce when the busiest times for walking are in your local area, and plan your pup’s walks to avoid the busy periods.
Create positive associations
Work out what your dog’s triggers are and what things tend to scare them on a daily basis. The most common stimuli, like unfamiliar dogs, loud noises and small animals, can’t effectively be avoided for their entire lives.
Building positive associations by rewarding your pet for putting up with these triggers can help them understand that there is a benefit to experiencing some of the stimuli that scares them.
Recognise the signs of stress
Understanding the signs of stress that your dog may exhibit will help you avoid overexposing them to any uncomfortable experiences they may run into on their walks.
Praising your dog for withstanding their triggers is very useful, but only if they were below their stress threshold when you began your walk.
Other Products That May Help Calm Anxious Dogs
Anxious dog collar
A nervous dog collar is a great tool for relieving stress in anxious pups, as it will steadily release a unique pheromone to calm and soothe your dog throughout the day. These products can be found at most pet stores and are scientifically proven to alleviate anxiety in dogs.
If your anxious pup doesn’t do well with a collar, a plug-in pheromone diffuser can be a great alternative to soothe your cat or dog at home.
These handy devices will slowly release a calming solution into the air that is proven to reduce your dog’s anxiety and promote their mental well-being.
There are several varieties of calming treats available for dogs that use natural and herbal ingredients to relieve the symptoms of anxiety.
Look for products that contain ginger root, valerian root, passionflower and melatonin, as these ingredients are proven to soothe pups and promote better sleep.
Anti-anxiety dog beds
Much like weighted blankets for humans that suffer from anxiety, special dog beds are available that allow your pup to sink into a safe and protected space to relieve their stress.
Essential oil plush toys
Soft and soothing plush toys, infused with calming essential oils like lavender and chamomile, are a great tool for relieving anxiety and will help your dog remain occupied when they’re feeling stressed out.
Combining playtime with aromatherapy will train your dog to positively identify their toys with a feeling of security.
Specially formulated dog food
For dogs that experience anxiety on a daily basis, introducing specially formulated dog food into their diet can be a great way to relieve stress in the long term. Probiotic formulas and naturally soothing ingredients will build up over time and provide your dog with a great defence against feelings of anxiety.
Vets recommend products like the ThunderShirt to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety in dogs.
The feelings of constant, gentle pressure on your dog’s chest and back will release dopamine throughout the day and promote feelings of well-being and safety in dogs. Your pup can wear this shirt under products like the easy walk harness with no problems.
How do you put a harness on a nervous dog?
The best way to put a harness on an anxious dog is to allow them to gradually step into the harness themselves. Hold the clip harness open in front of your dog, and coax them to step in with a treat.
Reward them for placing themselves in the harness, and repeat this process a few times before fully securing them. Try using a martingale collar until they get used to a harness, as this does less damage than a traditional collar.
How long does it take for a dog to get used to a harness?
Most dogs will get used to their harness within a couple of walks, but anxious dogs may take a little more time to feel entirely comfortable.
Provided that the straps offer enough support and your dog’s head and neck have a good range of motion, they should be comfortable with their new harness within 1-2 weeks. Any longer, and you may want to look into a different harness style.
Can you put a harness over a Thundershirt?
It’s not recommended to place a harness over your dog’s ThunderShirt; the multiple layers of material are likely to irritate and may even result in your dog overheating.
If your dog receives great benefits from their ThunderShirt, we recommend looking into an easy walk harness or vest style device that can be adjusted to provide a supportive fit that will work in much the same way as a ThunderShirt at home.
If you have a nervous dog, it’s essential to find the best harness for them, as using a collar and leash could be dangerous. There are many different types of harnesses on the market, and not all of them will be effective in making your dog feel less anxious.
Make sure to look for a harness that is comfortable and easy to put on. You may also need to get your dog used to the harness before using it in public.
Our number #1 choice is the NERVOUS (Give Me Space) Yellow Colour Coded Dog Harness. It warns other dog owners not to come too close; the vest style gives your pooch a sense of security and the no-pull front D-ring prevents Fido from bolting ahead.
You can do other things to help calm down an anxious dog, including providing plenty of exercise and positive reinforcement.
We hope the information in this article is valuable and your new harness helps makes walks less stressful for both you and your best friend!