Fitting a Harness on a Dog Safely - Top Tips

Scratching your head wondering how the harness is supposed to go on?

Don't worry, I had the exact same problem with my golden retriever!

Luckily, we have put together an in depth guide to show you step by step the easiest way to put a harness on your dog.

A dog harness gives you a lot more control over your pet than a traditional collar and lead and helps keep them safer when you take them for a walk. For some of the best harnesses for strong pullers its here.

The thing is; it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to wrangle them into one, especially with all the clasps and straps to navigate

That’s why we have put together this article which tells you all you need to know about the different kinds and how to fit correctly.

Lets jump in...

Our guide on how to fit a dog harness correctly -step by step:

Step-In Harness

  • 1
    Unbuckle the harness and lay it in front of your dog on the floor.
  • 2
    Place his front paws in the loops (check instructions in case they indicate which is the left and right)
  • 3
    Gather the harness around the body and snap clasps, they may be on the back or side depending on the brand
  • 4
    Adjust the straps accordingly

Overhead Harness

  • 1
    Stand behind your dog, whilst he is sitting or standing. Make sure he is calm it will be much more difficult if your pooch is jumping around in excitement.
  • 2
    Slip the harness gently over your dog’s head, the first time you do this it is a good idea to hold a treat in front of the loop. Ensure the harness is positioned correctly so the D-ring goes in the right place.
  • 3
    Some harnesses then wrap round your dog while others require the legs to go through the front loops
  • 4
    Buckle the harness, this is usually on the strap around the belly
  • 5
    Adjust; so, it fits properly. You should always be able to slip two fingers between the straps and skin. Finally attempt to pull the harness off over your dog’s head to ensure it is secure and they can’t escape.

Front Clip Harness

  • 1
    Kneel on the right side of your dog while he is sitting or standing calmly.
  • 2
    Put the large loop over your dog’s head. The Easy Walk harness has a belly strap which is a different colour, so you can see easily if it’s on the right way. The label should be on the left shoulder, and the D-ring should rest in the middle of the chest.
  • 3
    Fasten the belly strap and adjust so you can just get fingers underneath.
  • 4
    Make sure any other adjustable straps are fitted correctly and again ensure your four-legged friend can’t escape by trying to pull the harness over his head.

Harness Vs Collar

How would you like being dragged around by the neck? Not much we’re guessing! Using a collar can cause serious health and safety issues for your dog. If Fido is a puller it can seriously damage his neck, especially in the brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs, boxers, pugs, chihuahuas and bullmastiffs. These dogs have restricted airways and a collar combined with tugging can significantly reduce the amount of oxygen they receive, causing them to pant heavily, overheat and in some instances collapse.

Even if you have a non-brachycephalic breed constant pulling can cause damage to the tissues in the neck and serious health issues such as


The position of the collar is normally in the area of the thyroid gland, which can be severely compromised if your four-legged friend is a puller, it can become inflamed and the destruction of thyroid cells is directly linked to hypothyroidism because the thyroid gland in the metabolism of all the cells in the body this can result in.

  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Skin problems
  • Ear infections
  • Dull coat and hair loss
  • Organ failure

Ear & Eye Issues

These can also sometimes be attributed to pulling on a collar too. According to Dr Peter Tobias  This is because “pulling decreases the energy and lymphatic flow to the head”  This is especially relevant to dogs which suffer from glaucoma and thin corneas including many of the hound group such as Afghans and Dachshunds.

Spinal Cord & Nerve Damage

Tension brought on by a tight collar can put pressure on the delicate vertebrae of the spinal column which can result in serious health problems for your pooch. The nerves which run between these vertebrae send impulses to the brain and damage can result in chronic pain.

Here’s the deal; It only takes one severe jerk of a collar to cause permanent injury to your beloved pet.

Damage To The Larynx

A dog who yanks while wearing a collar runs the risk of damaging the nerves, muscles and cartilage that control the larynx. The larynx can be found at the back of the throat and it has several important functions; It protects the lungs when your pooch swallow’s food or vomits, it allows vocalisation and also allows oxygen to reach the lungs. Damage in this area can cause respiratory problems and difficulty when eating.

Collapsed Trachea

Most common in small breed dogs such as

  • Lhasa Apso’s
  • Chihuahuas
  • Pomeranians
  • Pugs
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Check

One of the symptoms this condition is dry coughing which sounds similar to a goose honking and this can be often be caused by pressure on the neck from pulling on a collar. This will result in breathing difficulties, exercise intolerance and difficulty drinking and eating.

You have to ask yourself is wearing a collar the best option for your dog?

What's the safest type of dog harness?

We’ve all experienced the heart-stopping moment when a clip snaps or your dog sees something he wants to chase and slips his head out of his collar. That’s why harnesses are a godsend especially in busy traffic or somewhere your pet may become spooked.

They also have a D-ring on the back or front of the chest meaning it is much easier to keep your dog closer giving you more control in general. Some even have a handle, meaning you can help them out water or grab them if a fight with another dog is imminent.

Why it's important you should know how to put a dog harness on

It’s all very well extoling the virtues of a harness but if you don’t put it on correctly, it can cause a host of problems. For example; your dog may fidget and pull trying to make himself more comfortable or refuse to go to the toilet and one thing you don’t want to do is make him uncomfortable when he should be enjoying a walk

Of course, as with a collar, the biggest issue to worry about a harness not been fastened properly or the straps not being adjusted would be that the dog can slip out and either injure himself or cause an accident.  

Large pet stores such as Pets at Home and Jollyes stock a wide range of harnesses for dogs and in most cases, you can try them on instore. If, however, your pooch has never worn a harness before trying one for the first time in a busy pet store is probably not the best idea.

Of, course you can take it home and try it but check the stores return policy as most will not issue refunds for the wrong fit.

It Pays To Get It Right

The harness should be fit for purpose and not be damaged in any way, if it is faulty you have the right to get a full refund from the retailer within 30 days.  

Most independent pet shops also stock harnesses but you are unlikely to get the choice of larger stores and may have to wait while they order the correct size.

If you're buying online you will have greater choice, but you will need to know your dog's measurements. Some websites have a size guide but while writing this article, we have found these to vary greatly, so do your research.

(Top Tip – Social Media is a wonderful platform for recommendations from dog-owners and advice on what sizes to purchase)  

When you buy any goods online, the Consumer Contracts Regulations give you the right to cancel up to 14 days after purchase. You then have to return the goods, within a further 2 weeks. Most online retailers will not cover the cost of return postage so check and get proof of postage.


Q: Where to put tags on dog harness?

A: You can attach id tags to the D-rings either on the back or chest, alternatively you could still let your pooch wear a soft collar purely for decoration and tags.

Q: How to put a harness on an excitable dog?

A: A dog doesn’t start spinning and jumping up and down without reason you give him hints you are going on a walk from the not so subtle shouting “Walkies” to simply putting your shoes on. A good idea is to mix up your routine and train him to sit with a reward once you have put the harness on.

Q: Where on a seat belt do you put a dog harness?

A: Some harnesses come with a loop or handle which the seat belt goes through whilst others require a doggie seat belt attachment which clips to the D-ring and the seat belt then loops through the handle.

John Devlin

Husband, father and avid dog lover. Currently the proud owner of George a pedigree Golden Retriever that barely leaves my side. However, cute this sounds a little break from the dog hairs every now and then would be nice!

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