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How to Properly Fit a Dog Harness: Step-by-Step Instructions

By Canada Pooch on Sep 25, 2023

Are you searching for constructive advice on how to perfectly fit a harness on your dog? Do you worry that an ill-fitted harness could pose hazards or discomfort to your pooch? Dive into our guide to learn everything you need to know about fitting a harness for your furry friend. 

Understanding the Importance of a Properly Fitted Dog Harness 

As a dog owner, one of your foremost responsibilities is to ensure the safety and comfort of your pet. To do this effectively, it is paramount to understand how to properly fit a dog harness. 

Safety Concerns with Incorrectly Fitted Harnesses 

An ill-fitting dog harness can pose several health risks for your pet. It's not only a pet care concern but a dog owner's nightmare. It could pinch and rub against the skin causing sores or hair loss, leading to extreme discomfort or even injury on a dog's chest or legs. 

Comfort and Mobility: Why Fit Matters 

Dog breeds vary significantly in size and anatomy, and so does their need for a special fit dog harness. An ideally fitted harness offers the pets the freedom of movement essential for dog sports, dog shows, or everyday activities. 

Prolonged Harness Life through Proper Fit 

Properly fitted dog gear not only benefits your pet but also extends the life of the harness. A loose pull dog harness might wear out quickly due to excessive strain, while a tight one might tear under pressure. Thus, a perfect fit promises durability. 

Types of Dog Harnesses and Their Specific Fitting Requirements 

Harnesses come in various styles and designs—standard, no-pull dog harness, overhead harness, back clip harness, and step-in types. Each requires careful attention for a perfect fit. 

Standard Dog Harness: What to Look For 

A standard dog harness usually features a leash attachment around the dog's shoulders and lower neck. Its correct size could be identified using a soft measuring tape around the widest part of the dog's chest. It would be best if you aimed at a snug fit that doesn't restrict motion. 

No Pull Dog Harness: Achieving the Perfect Fit 

A popular choice amongst dog owners, the no-pull dog harness discourages pulling by providing chest-led guidance. It requires measurement of the dog's chest and lower neck for an ideal fit. Buckles secure the harness around the front legs, ensuring it's not too loose or too tight. 

Step-In Dog Harness: How to Attain Ideal Snugness 

The step-in harness, as the name indicates, requires the dog to step into it with their front legs. It typically fastens at the dog's back ensuring their neck and throat are pressure-free. Measuring the front legs and the chest would ensure the perfect fit. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Fitting Your Dog's Harness 

Whether you're preparing for a dog show, a routine walk, or looking to prevent your dog from pulling, here is a clear, step-by-step guide to help you get that perfect fit. 

Step 1: Measuring Your Dog 

The first step is to take accurate measurements of your dog. All you'll need is a soft measuring tape. Start by measuring around your dog's chest, just behind the front legs. Next, measure around your dog’s neck, where the neck hole of the harness will sit. Don't forget to allow for comfortable movement. Additionally, do not forget to weight your dog, this is important for getting a safe harness for them.

Step 2: Selecting the Right Harness Size 

Dog harness sizes are determined by the dogs’ chest, neck measurements, and their weight. Pay attention to the product description which usually includes a sizing chart. Remember that different dog breeds may require different harness types. Make sure that the weight of your dog corresponds with the weight of the harness based on the size chart provided.

Step 3: Adjusting the Harness for Perfect Fit 

Once you've selected the right size, it's time to adjust the harness for a perfect fit. This often involves adjusting the straps around the dog’s chest and neck. For a back clip harness, the leash attachment should rest comfortably on your dog's back. On the other hand, for a front clip or overhead harness, the leash attachment should rest on the dog’s chest. 

Step 4: The Two-Finger Test – Checking the Fit 

The two-finger test is a classic method to check if the harness fits right. Simply slide two fingers under each strap of the harness. If there is room for more than two fingers, the harness is too loose. If two fingers do not fit in, the harness is too tight. Repeat this test for different positions like the neck hole and around the dogs’ legs to make sure the harness is not causing any discomfort. 

Common Mistakes in Fitting a Dog Harness and How to Avoid Them 

As many dog owners have discovered, certain pitfalls can make fitting a dog harness less than straightforward. Familiarizing yourself with these common mistakes can help you avoid them and thus ensure the best home care for your dog.

Mistake 1: Incorrect Measurement 

Incorrect measurement is one of the biggest mistakes dog owners make when fitting a dog harness. Always use a soft measuring tape and take your time for accurate measurements. Remember to measure the widest part of your dog’s chest and the base of the neck. Dogs should be standing when measured to ensure accuracy. Also remember, weight plays a large role in making sure you have a properly fitted and safe harness for your pup.

Mistake 2: Ignoring Adjustable Features 

Ignoring the adjustable features of a dog harness is another mistake to avoid. Most dog harnesses are adjustable, allowing for a custom fit. They come with clips and buckles that you can adjust to fit your dog's body shape and breed size perfectly. 

Mistake 3: Overlooking Signs of Discomfort in Your Dog 

Lastly, it's important to observe your dog's behavior when they’re wearing the harness. Signs of discomfort, like excessive panting, scratching at the harness, anxiety, or an abnormal gait, may indicate that the harness is not fitted correctly. Always prioritize your dog's comfort and safety when wearing a dog harness. 

Maintaining and Cleaning Your Dog’s Harness 

Whether your pup participates in dog sports or enjoys frequent walks in the neighborhood, keeping the harness in good shape not only ensures your dog's comfort but also their safety. Prolonging the life of your dog’s harness begins with maintaining its perfect fit and ends with regular cleaning. 

Routine Checkups: Ensuring Ongoing Perfect Fit for Your Dog's Harness 

Regardless of the dog's breed, a crucial step for any dog owner is ensuring the harness fits properly around the dog's neck hole and front legs. Like a fashion dog harness or a GPS collar, a dog harness has to be tailored to your dog's size. 

Every 6 months or so, use a soft measuring tape to measure your dog’s chest and dog's leg circumference. If your dog has grown, it may be time to size up or down on their harness or adjust the straps. 

In addition, keep an eye on the leash attachment and hardware. A worn-out attachment can cause discomfort or even injuries, which no dog owner would want. Therefore, inspect and make sure all clips and attachments are in good condition. 

Prolonging the Life of Your Dog's Harness 

In addition to ensuring a perfect fit, keeping your dog's harness clean is an important aspect of pet home care. It not only prolongs the life of the harness but also prevents skin irritations on your dog caused by dirt or microbes trapped in the harness. 

All dog gear, including harnesses, should be cleaned regularly. Depending on the material, most harnesses are suitable for machine washing. Ensure to put the harness in a laundry bag to prevent it from getting tangled with other clothes. Allow it to air dry after washing for optimal results. 

For harnesses not suitable for machine washing, they can be cleaned using mild soap and water. Always make sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid any soap residues that may irritate your dog's skin. Allow to air dry after for optimal results.

A well-maintained and clean dog harness keeps your pet comfortable and safe so you can focus on enjoying your outdoor adventures. 


Correctly fitting your dog's harness is imperative for their comfort, safety, and enjoyment on walks. Take accurate chest and neck measurements and consult sizing guides to find the right harness match. Make use of all adjustable straps and test the fit by sliding two fingers under each area. Check for any signs of discomfort like panting or scratching. Perform regular fit checks as your dog grows and keep the harness clean. While it may take some initial trial and error, a properly fitted harness allows your dog to move freely and securely for countless adventures together.

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