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The Best Dog Harnesses for Any Dog
Harnesses are safer and more secure than simple collars, reduce choking and give you, the owner, more control.
According to the American Kennel Club, using a collar alone to walk your dog could end up resulting in "back pain, throat damage, and other discomfort[s]." By contrast, harnesses tend to be more comfortable, offer more security and control and (in conjunction with proper training) can even help curb leash-reactive behaviors, like pulling. If you have adopted a furry, four-legged friend and you're still using a collar alone to walk them, it might be time for a change.
Unfortunately, the market is awash with seemingly hundreds of dog harness options, and it can be extremely difficult to tell which ones are worth your money and the cheap, rip-off imposters. However, since we know you love your pup(s) just as we do, we've done the digging and a good deal of firsthand testing to help pare down the many, many options out there. And we've narrowed them down to the following collection of the best dog harnesses for any dog. Big or small, old or still a puppy, city-bound or trail-ready, you'll find the perfect harness for your dog right here.
Best for Small DogsVoyager Step-In Air Harness Read More
Best for Everyday UseRuffwear Hi and Light Read More
Best High-End HarnessRuffwear Front Range Read More
Best for HikingWilderdog Lightweight Dog Harness Read More
Best Luxury Dog HarnessWild One Dog Harness Read More
What to Look For
Materials: Nowadays, most dog harnesses are made from various types of nylon, a relatively high-tensile synthetic that is naturally weatherproof, scratch- and tear-resistant, lightweight and fairly inexpensive. Some come with alternative material accents, but even this is increasingly rare (and really doesn't change the overall quality). You can probably find alternative material harnesses, but you're going to have to hunt for them; nylon really is the standard. One thing to note, however, is that there are grades of nylon — high "denier" nylon tends to be tougher overall and if you see the word "ballistic" attached to it, it means it's a similar construction to the kinds of gear used by the military, law enforcement and the like. Truth be told, most harnesses are going to be pretty tough overall — that's just the nature of the material. But if you really want to make sure you're getting the best of the best, look out for specificity in the types of nylon. If a brand doesn't outline what kind of nylon they use, it's probably safe to assume that it is lower-grade.
Step-In vs. Slip-On: Generally speaking, there are two types of harnesses — ones that you can slip on over your dog's head and ones that your dog steps into that are then clipped around them. Overall, they function pretty similarly, but there are benefits and drawbacks to both. Step-in harnesses are usually pretty sturdy and are better for dogs that might pull, as they have a greater surface area around your dog's chest region, which lessens the chance that your dog might choke itself. However, these harnesses can get pretty grimy, especially for outdoor usage because of how you put them onto your dog (usually, by setting them on the ground and having your dog step into them). Slip-on harnesses can more easily be kept clean but they don't always have the same broad surface area over your dog's chest and might not be as well suited to leash-reactive or high-energy dogs.
Clips: You might think that more clips equal more security, right? Well, that's sort of true. But it also depends on what your dog's harness's clips are constructed from — metal is usually more study and long-lasting than plastic — and their format. Most harnesses feature traditional squeeze clips, but some have proprietary designs and others still use belt buckle-style clips (which are probably the most secure but also the least convenient). Ultimately, you'll have to decide what kind of clip and material matters to you and fits your budget. Just remember to keep an eye on it, as it could affect the overall value (and even the weight) of your dog's harness.
A Note on Training
As is the case with every activity you do with your dog, using a harness is likely going to require some training (for both of you). And the reason for this is twofold. First, it will take some time for your dog to get used to being in a harness — probably not as much time as, say, booties, but time nonetheless. Second, you and your dog will both have to learn how the harness affects your interaction — your dog might be more aggressive in a harness or may need to build their confidence (it all depends on your unique animal). Either way, this is a chance for you and your pet to build on your existing bond, but we urge patience, as this is probably going to be a new experience for you both.
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Thankfully, our testers are also largely dog owners — with a multitude of canines of varying sizes, shapes, ages, activity and energy levels, etc. So, over the course of several months, we had them utilize these harnesses — some for daily walks, others for outdoor adventure and a few for both — to see if they could stand up to regular and, in some cases, heavy usage. We've also taken into account the dogs' comfort levels, the durability of the fabrics, the ease of use (especially regarding putting them on and taking them off, as well as adjustments) and more.
Give your furry four-legged friend(s) a proper place to rest, just like you would any other family member.