How to Fit a Dog Harness Correctly

A harness can keep your dog safe from choking when being playful during walks. They also work better when leash-training as they restrict pulling behavior without harming them. But it can sometimes be a struggle to find the right one with the number of choices out there.

The first step to picking the best harness? The size. We put together this comprehensive guide to finding the right size of harness for your dog and to show you how to fit a dog harness correctly. Read on to know more!

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Why Choose the Right Size Dog Harness

There are some issues when a dog’s harness does not fit correctly. Harnesses are meant to reduce pulling but a poorly fitting one may encourage them to pull against it to make themselves more comfortable.

It will make them feel awkward and it will feel like a punishment to them, meaning it is counterproductive and a huge safety hazard for your dog.

Your dog’s harness may be the wrong size if you see any of these signs:

  • Your dog is losing fur around the harness area.
  • Your dog’s skin is chafing around the harness area.
  • The back piece of the harness rotates to sides.
  • Your dog strongly resists the walking or pulls.

This means that the harness type is not the only factor you need to consider. Size can also get in the way of a harness’s real purpose. Just imagine trying to wear a bigger pair of shoes!

How to Choose the Right Size Harness for Your Dog

If you have decided to get a harness for your dog the first thing to figure out is how to get the right size for them. Here are a few different measurements you should take:

  • Chest. Try to measure around your dog’s body with a flexible cloth tape measure. Start at the bottom of the rib cage and go up and over the back and then back where you started.
  • Neck. Wrap the tape around the thick part of your dog’s neck like a necklace and then take that measurement. This should be closer to the top of their shoulders, and not where they would usually wear their collar.
  • Weight. Some harness companies also use your dog’s weight to guide the sizing. If you’re having trouble getting your dog on to the scales, weigh yourself first, then pick up your furry friend. Weigh the two of you together and subtract your weight to get their weight. 

For a more visual guide, refer to this video to find out how to measure your dog’s harness size. 

Once you have the measurements refer to the harness company’s size guide to get the correct one for your dog.

Sometimes the sizing ranges will overlap. If this is the case with your dog, we suggest you go for the larger size. 

How to Fit a Dog Harness Correctly

Once you have your harness the next challenge is to learn how to correctly fit it to your pup. Here are some tips for two different styles of dog harnesses.

How to Put on Step-In Dog Harness

First is the step-in harness. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to put one on your dog.

  1. Unbuckle the harness and lay it on the ground.
  2. Let your dog stand over the harness. You can do this by carrying them to the spot or letting them approach you on their own.
  3. Place one of your dog’s front paws in one of the loops and the other paw on the other loop. 
  4. Snap the strap buckles on your dog’s back.
  5. Attach the lead.

One of the best things about a step-in harness is, it does not stress the trachea of your dog and it avoids gagging. Because they are adjustable, they are great for puppies who are still growing.

Watch this video for more in-depth instruction for putting on step-in dog harnesses.

How to Put on Overhead Harness

For an overhead harnesses, here’s how to put one on your dog:

  1. Slip your dog’s head through the neckpiece.
  2. Pull the bottom straps down their belly and the top one across their back
  3. If your harness is connected on one side, have your dog step through the loop and then clasp the side ones together on the other side. If it is not connected on one side, clasp them on both sides.
  4. Attach the lead.

Watch this video for a visual guide:

How to Adjust Your Dog Harness

Before going out for a walk, double-check the straps to make sure the harness is secure but not too tight. The right fit that will give your dog comfort is when you can fit two fingers between your dog and the harness. 

A dog harness should prevent the pulling behavior but that doesn’t mean it should restrict your dog’s movement and rub against their skin.

Other Features to Consider when Buying a Dog Harness

Aside from the size and type, there are some other factors worth noting before deciding on the right dog harness.


Most harnesses are made of webbing, either nylon or polyester. Take note that polyester webbing doesn’t hold triglides and d-rings as well, and it’s easier to untie nylon webbing. Specifically, Nylon 66 is the most common type of nylon used for this webbing.

Points of adjustments.

Your dog’s harness should have several points of adjustments. Dogs come in different proportions so having 4 or 5 adjustment points on a harness will help to fit it to your dog correctly.

At the very least find a harness with neck and chest adjustments. Some that are made with a continuous loop or one piece of webbing which can also be a great choice.

Metal or plastic buckles.

Plastic buckles are suitable for walking and light duties with dogs since they are quick and easy to open and close. But if your dog is an energetic one, then get metal buckled-harnesses. 

Proper Dog Harness Fit is Everything!

Even if you get your dog the highest quality harness with luxurious fabrics and fancy buckle type, a poorly-fitted one will defeat the purpose of anti-pulling and comfort. With all the tricky options out there, don’t ever take size for granted!

Know your dog’s measurements, decide on whether to use a step-in or overhead style, and consider the other factors to select the best fit for your dog’s harness!