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8 Best Dog Harnesses For When Collars Don’t Cut It

Experts pick the best harnesses for every kind of dog — from flat-faced breeds to tiny teacups to escape artists.

by Avery Felman
September 23, 2022
Woman with neck-length black hair wearing all black leather and black converse walking her brown dog on a black and white harness against a yellow tin background
Courtesy of By Scout

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As all dog parents know — or quickly find out — there are certain life hacks that become essential to raising your pup. Sometimes, those life hacks are simple products that become so important to you and your pet that you latch on to them like a toddler with a stuffed animal.

This is especially true when you’re on a walk together and exposed to all of the dangers of the outside world: loud noises and other stimuli, cars zooming past, and — our personal favorite — passersby who don’t respect your pup’s boundaries. That’s where a harness comes in handy; it can give you more control over your pup’s behavior while releasing them from the restriction of many traditional collars.

There’s a lot to consider before investing in one, though. Veterinarian and The Wildest Collective member Dr. John Iovino advises looking for a first-time harness by “paying attention to size — with younger dogs especially, getting something adjustable, something they can grow into. From there, getting something that’s durable and sturdy.” 

In terms of material, Annie Grossman, owner and co-founder of School For The Dogs, recommends a harness with “velvet-lined underarm straps, which can reduce chafing.”

With size, material, and security all at the top of the priority list, finding a solid harness is rapidly becoming a bit more of a Goldilocks scenario. Thankfully, we’ve asked the professionals what every dog owner should be looking for in a harness. Below, the eight harnesses that made the cut — broken down by our experts’ criteria.

Safety and Fit

While it goes without saying that the best harness for a five-pound Terrier is likely not the best one for their Great Pyrenees counterpart, that doesn’t mean that the way you fit a harness to your pup isn’t worth examining. Just as you wouldn’t buy yourself a pair of shoes two sizes too big, you wouldn’t buy your dog a harness that hangs off them like a poorly tailored jacket (your veterinarian will also tell you about the dangers of that).

Taking into account your dog’s potential for growth (are they in puppyhood or adulthood?), their temperament (are they anxious for attention or aloof?), and their nature (are they skittish or calm?) is the most foolproof way to ensure that their harness is correctly fitted.

Dr. Iovino recommends that “making sure that [the harness] is pretty snug. If it’s too loose, dogs can get spooked, and then they’re out of their collar or their harness, so it’s really important to make sure that it’s not too loose.”

Alternatively, he shares that many dogs have been using the same harness or collar since they were first brought home. “I’ve had a few dogs grow into their harnesses, or even their collars, and clients don’t realize, and you go to feel it, and it’s so tight. They grow fast, so it’s something to be aware of.” 

Finding a happy medium between the control of a harness that fits snuggly and the comfort of a looser fit is something that can easily be established by the good old-fashioned two-finger test. Dr. Iovino instructs: “You still want to be able to fit two fingers between all the areas that the harness is contacting.”

Meanwhile, Grossman warns against using harnesses that aren’t fitted properly: “A harness should be snug but not tight. You want to be able to comfortable put a couple fingers between the harness and your dog when it’s on.” Having a properly fitted harness will help prevent dogs from injury and removes the potential of escape.

Durability

Regardless of your and your pup’s levels of activity, having a harness that your dog can wear without wearing it down is paramount. A harness that’s machine washable or particularly sturdy — holding up to tugging, biting, and handling — is a major plus. Considering that this harness will get as much, if not more, use than that old toy at the bottom of your dog’s bin, it’s not one to scrimp on.

Through her experience as a trainer, Vera Murri of physical and virtual training schools DogLife Hoboken and Dogs Life Inc, has learned that not every harness can be used for every occasion.

“Honestly, there is no size that fits all. It all depends on the dog or the puppy. It all depends on the size and the breed and if they're pulling on a harness or the leash or if they’re walking nicely,” she says.

Front vs. Back Leash Attachment

Where your dog’s leash clips on their harness is mostly a matter of personal preference, but the options each have distinct advantages and disadvantages. For example, a front clip effectively allows you to lead stubborn, walk-resistant dogs forward, but it’s notably a terrible idea for small dogs who are lower to the ground and will cause the leash to drag.

Dr. Iovino recommends looking for a harness with a back attachment. “It’s just more practical when they walk and sniff, especially if you have a short dog. It’s a lot easier to keep the leash above ground and just a little bit of tension when it’s hooked on the back than the front,” he says.

Murri also makes a case for when a dual-clip harness may be beneficial: “My favorite harness, and the one that I use with my dog, is the Freedom harness. I like the harness because it has two points of attachment. It has one on the chest and one in the back. The one in the back has a martingale on it, which has a little loop that gets tighter every time the dog pulls so it makes it harder for the dog to slip out of it.”

Over the Head vs. Step-In

Getting your dog in their harness shouldn’t be complicated, and if it feels like you’re untangling a necklace, there’s a good chance it’s not the most streamlined design. While the choice is entirely yours, many veterinarians recommend introducing your dog to the concept of a harness before you begin your hunt for the one.

“I would just expose the dog to a normal basic harness at first,” advises Dr. Iovino. “My dog just kind of knows now. She feels the collar part go over her head and instantly lifts her leg. If you just do that repetition on a basic harness, getting it on and off should be just as easy.” 

From there, you can choose the harness to your and your pup’s liking — whether that be one that is placed over their head, clips on after being slipped on the legs, or snapped and Velcroed on the chest.

While Murri doesn’t have a preference toward any particular method, she advises us on the dangers of step-in harnesses. “I mean the easiest one obviously is the step-in harness, but the problem with that is if you get a fearful dog and the dog gets scared of something they start pulling away, they can slip out of that harness really easily,” she warns. ”Before you even realize, the dog is going to be gone.”

Best Harnesses

Best Colorways

Wild One Harness in butter

While Wild One’s cult status among millennial pet parents is well established; their ever-popular harness sets are up to snuff when it comes to our rigorous requirements (we only want the best for our children).

Using a trusted back-clip leash attachment and secure under-the-arm-attachment style, the harness not only meets our safety standards, but it’s also available in a number of colorways that are eye candy for pet parents. It also might be time to look into their matching leash and poop back set — whether or not you want to mix and match colors is up you and your pup’s discretion.

$29 at Wild One

Best Escape-Proof Option

ruffwear harness in red

A huge part of your harness selection has to do with your lifestyle and your pup’s behavior. Do they come when you call their name? Do they tend to leap and lunge unexpectedly? Are you planning to trek the Appalachian trail together? All of this will play a role in your decision-making and, as always, safety should be the main thing informing your choice. Whether your foster puppy tends to wiggle their way out of their current harness, or your Great Dane forces all of their body weight against theirs, there’s an escape-proof alternative to the run-of-the mill offerings that keeps your pup’s security in mind.

$70 at Ruffwear

Best No-Pull Design

the color blocked harness

Who doesn’t love a good colorblock? Featuring both front and back leash attachments, this harness is scoring major points for diversity. Available in a variety of sizes, it’s understood that the one-size-fits-all rule doesn’t apply when it comes to harnesses. As Grossman’s go-to harness for training, she shares what she finds most valuable about the Freedom harness.

I really like that it has the option of both a front and a back clip,” she says. The front clip can help reduce pulling as when the dog does pull, it exerts pressure on the chest, which will result in the dog pushing against the pressure, moving backwards rather than forwards. The fact that it attaches in the front also means that the dog is likely to turn towards you when pulling, giving you a chance to reward a quick check-in.”

The harnesses’s sizing extends up to XXL, but it’s also available in a ⅝ inch width for smaller pups.

$34 at 2 Hounds Design

Best Comfort Fit

white harness

Made with a breathable mesh lining and flexible straps, Maxbone’s easy-fit harness is made with comfort in mind. Ideal for small pups or dogs with flat faces, the harness is a welcome alternative to collars that can restrict the airways of pups that are already working overtime. As Dr. Iovino puts it: “Their throats can be quite sensitive, and there’s different conditions that can make them cough more, so I think medically we can definitely recommend a harness over a collar.”

Along with being a lightweight, flexible, high-performing harness, it’s also as stylish, sturdy, and sleek as they come.

$45 at Maxbone

Best Personalized Harness

black leather harness with gold hardware

This alternative leather all-weather harness is perfect for the pet parent who is all about monograms. Available for customized embroidery, there’s no better way to ensure that your pup’s harness is 100 percent suited to them. Plus, it’s super durable, which is ideal if your pup is a tugger.

While she emphasizes the pros and cons of all harnesses, Murri shares a key tenant of leather and alternative leather harnesses: “The harness is not going to be as rough, especially under the armpit, with most dogs.” So, if you have a pup that puts their whole body weight into their chest, this may prevent them from chaffing.

$68 at Found My Animal

Best Calming Harness

tan harness with crystal

Ensuring your pup’s physical and emotional comfort is the most important aspect of harness training. That’s why we couldn’t miss the opportunity to sneak some woo-woo healing crystals into the mix. The good vibrations harness comes in five different crystal options: Sodalite, Rose Quartz, Black Obsidian, Chevron Amethyst, and Howlite — all of which provide different benefits.

Aside from being a unique alternative to the classic leather harness (it’s made of eco-friendly genuine vegan cactus leather), it also features a dual leash attachment, adjustable shoulder straps, and an elevated peek-a-boo grommet.

$135 at Merci Collective

Best Fashion-Forward Harness

emerald green harness with leather

Handwoven from a single piece of padded interwoven synthetic silk fiber rope and a series of Buttero leather features, Boo Oh’s Ray Harness is simplistic, chic, and no-nonsense.

Celebrated for her bespoke furniture that has been featured in Architectural Digest, founder Jay Sae Jung Oh set out to create elevated pet products that fit her lifestyle — with her Frenchie, Boo, in mind, of course. The self-proclaimed “animal lover” definitely hit the mark when it comes to practicality and products that fashionable people actually want to be seen with.

$115 at Boo Oh

Best Sustainable Choice

white harness with black chevron detail

The 70s are back in a major way, and chevron-esque prints are no exception. This no-pull harness’s dual functionality of a multi-clip option is just one reason why the parents of overzealous dogs are flocking to By Scout. Another is their commitment to sustainability. Made with organic hemp webbing, solid brass hardware with a low zinc count, and recycled polyester patterned ribbon, the brand takes their environmental footprint seriously. By ensuring their products are cruelty-free and sourcing sustainable materials, By Scout is as much for the planet as they are for your pup.

$65 at By Scout

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Avery, editor at The Wildest, and her cat, Chicken

Avery Felman

Avery is an editor at The Wildest. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her fiancé and cat, Chicken, and has high hopes that one of them will let her adopt a dog.