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How to Fit a Dog Harness

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How to measure your dog for a harness

People always ask us how to find and fit the perfect harness for their dog. We know it can be tricky with all of the options out there, so we’ve written this short guide to help you through the process.

Why a Harness?

There are a variety of reasons why you’d choose a harness over a collar, but the big ones are choking, training and lifting. Traditional collars tend to choke when a dog pulls, but harnesses distribute the weight across the chest. Harnesses also give you multiple points of attachment so you can keep the leash from getting tangled in your dog’s legs as well as use these alternate leash attachments for training. For example, attaching the leash to the chest area D-ring of a harness, will make it impossible for a dog to pull. If they try to pull, this configuration will result in the dog being turned around every time he pulls, getting him nowhere. Finally, harnesses give you extra places to grab when you’re trying to lift older dogs or give your adventure dog a hand over some rocks while hiking or extract them from water while boating.

How to Choose the Right Size Harness for Your Dog?

Once you’ve decided to get a harness, the next thing to figure out is how to get the right size for you dog.

To start, there are a few different measurements you should get:

  1. Chest: Measure around the body of the dog with a flexible cloth tape measure. You should be starting at the bottom of the rib cage and going up and over the back and then back down to where you started.
  2. Neck: Wrap the tape around the thickest part of your dog’s neck and take that measurement. The part right on top of his shoulders, not where he would normally wear his collar which is narrower.
  3. Weight: While chest and neck measurements are the most accurate ways to fit a dog, many harness companies use weight to guide sizing. If you’re having trouble getting your furry friend on the scale, weigh yourself first, then pick up your pooch and weigh the two of you together. The difference will be the weight of your dog.

We have created a handy How to Measure Your Dog Infographic and How to Measure Your Dog Video to help you with these measurements.

Once you have your measurements, you are ready to shop online or head to the store.

On the back of the box for nearly any harness or in the online product description, you’ll find the suggested sizing. In most cases, the sizing ranges will overlap. For example, the neck size of a medium harness might be 16-25" while the large is 18"-30". If your dog falls within the range for both sizes on both the neck and chest, we suggest you go to the larger size.

Other Feature to Consider When Selecting a Harness

  1. Metal or Plastic Buckles: If you’re looking to use your harness primarily for walking and light duty with easy dogs, then plastic buckles are the way to go. They are quick and easy to open and close. If you want your harness for energetic dogs or dog safety in the car, then you should get metal buckles. An added benefit of metal buckles is that they don’t catch and pinch fur like plastic buckles tend to do.
  2. Over-Head or Step-in harness: Over-head harnesses are the kind that slide over the head of your dog and then secure around the back. Step-in harnesses are shaped like a figure 8 and require your dog to literally step into them. Step-in harnesses are easier to put on for some dogs but are less secure. Generally, over-head harnesses are nicer overall as they provide more padding, more points of adjustment, and can be put on old, disabled and difficult dogs.
  3. Adjustments: It’s important that the harness you select has many points of adjustment, because dogs come in different proportions. We recommend a harness with at least 4-5 adjustment points to make the harness fit the best. The minimum you need is an ability to adjust around the neck and chest. There are some harnesses that are designed with a continuous loop or one piece of webbing so you can adjust the harness to fit nearly any dog.

How to Set-up an Over-Head Harness (One Time)

To put on a harness properly, you should make sure it starts fairly loose so it’s easy to slip on your dog. You can tighten it once it’s on. You should also note that a proper snug fit means you can fit two (and only two) fingers between your dog and the harness at any point.

  1. Slide the harness over the head of your dog. Do not tighten anything at this point.
  2. Swing the chest piece up so that it’s touching your dog’s chest and belly.
  3. On the chest piece, you’ll find two buckles, swing these up (one on either side of your dog, behind the front legs) and fasten them to the back of the harness.
  4. Adjust the sides of your harness to fit snugly.
  5. Adjust the belly (if applicable) of your harness to fit snugly
  6. Adjust the neck of your harness to fit snugly

Only some harnesses, such as the Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness, include the adjustment point on the stomach.

How to Put on an Over-Head Harness

Once you have your harness set-up, putting it on should be a breeze. Follow the directions below or use our How to Put on an Over-Head Harness Infographic.

  1. Slide the harness over the head of your dog.
  2. Swing the chest piece up so that it’s touching your dog’s chest and belly.
  3. On the chest piece, you’ll find two buckles, swing these up (one on either side of your dog, behind the front legs) and fasten them to the back of the harness.

Signs of a Poor Fit

Your harness may be the improper size or improperly fitted if you see any of the following:

  1. Losing fur around harness area
  2. Chafing around harness area
  3. Dog wiggling free
  4. Back piece of harness rotating to sides
  5. Dog strongly resisting walking

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