The best dog harness in 2020, according to professional dog trainers

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best dog harnesses are ones that make walks and other adventures with your dog easy while keeping them comfortable, secure, and pain-free. 
  • As a professional dog trainer who has tested harnesses on hundreds of dogs, I’ve found different harnesses work best for dogs of different sizes, needs, and abilities.
  • For leash pulling, for example, a no-pull harness with a front clip is likely your best bet, whereas small dogs often benefit from a vest-style harness.
  • Our pick for the best dog harness overall is the Petsafe 3-in-1 Harness. It’s a versatile, affordable harness that fits well without restricting movement.

Of all the commitments you made to your dog when you agreed to be their guardian, daily walks are among the most important. Walks aren’t just essential to your dog’s physical and mental health; for most, it’s the only opportunity they have to explore their world.

For us humans, though, walks can be among the more complicated tasks our dogs require of us. Just figuring out what equipment to use is a challenge. Harnesses, as opposed to collars, are the best option for walking a dog safely and comfortably. Walking a dog on even the softest collar can cause choking and poses even greater risks.

“As a general rule, I don’t like anything that puts too much pressure on the neck,” Dr. Carlo Siracusa, DVM, associate professor of clinical animal behavior and welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, told Insider Picks. “Pressure to the neck can cause problems to the trachea and to the bone structure of the neck, itself.” Studies even suggest that too much pressure on the neck can cause eye problems, including glaucoma.

Selecting which harness to use isn’t simple, though. A style that works well on a 4-pound apple-headed Chihuahua may be a terrible fit for a long-legged, barrel-chested Great Dane. Nor does finding the right harness depend solely on fit. The best harness for your dog is the one that makes walks and other adventures easy while keeping them comfortable, secure, and pain-free. Dogs that pull on leash, for example, need something different than older or injured dogs with limited mobility. Dog harnesses generally fall into three major categories: front clip, back clip, and front and back clip. Read more about types of harnesses and what’s best for your dog at the end of this guide.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I have 10 years of experience testing harnesses on hundreds of dogs of all types – from tiny floofs to big bruisers, from the most reserved to the overly friendly. After consulting with other dog professionals, including Erika Slovikoski, a certified professional dog trainer with more than a decade of experience, and Michelle Sanchez, a pet care provider, rescue maven, and member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, I’ve narrowed down a crowded field of more than two dozen options to find the six best harnesses for dogs of different sizes, needs, and abilities.

Here are the best dog harnesses you can buy:

Prices and links are current as of 12/18/2020. We added a slide that explains how to select the best harness for your dog.

The best dog harness overall

Best dog harness in 2020 according to professional dog trainers

The affordable Petsafe 3-in-1 Harness fits dogs of all sizes well, and with two places to clip the leash, it functions as both a traditional and no-pull dog harness.

Pros: Affordable, easy to fit, works for dogs of all sizes, good for dogs that pull, good for dogs that walk well on leash, allows freedom of movement, accommodates double-ended leash, reflective stitching for use after dark

Cons: Only four sizes and three colors, can be confusing to put on correctly

For the cost, the Petsafe 3-in-1 is the most versatile harness out there, working well for both dogs that pull on leash and those that are confident loose-leash walkers. The additional strap on the back is made for car rides — most seatbelts will fit snugly through the loop, keeping your dog safely restrained.

In my decade as a professional dog trainer, I haven’t found a dog or human yet that the Petsafe 3-in-1 doesn’t have some positive function for. Dogs that pull on leash benefit from the V-strap design that doesn’t restrict the movement of the front legs when the leash is clipped to the D-ring at the chest. When the leash is attached to the D-ring on the back, the harness is great for walking or jogging with dogs that do not pull on leash. It’s also the ideal place to connect a long-line for safely teaching a dog recall. This harness serves those who prefer double-ended leashes as well.

Even if the only thing you ever use this harness for is car rides, it doesn’t require any additional equipment to ensure your dog’s safety as you drive (although it’s worth noting that these harnesses have not been crash-tested and traveling with your dog in a secured crate is always the safest option). With your dog in the backseat, just slip a seat belt through the strap on the back of the harness and buckle it.

Although the PetSafe only comes in four sizes (extra-small to large), it has five points of adjustment around the neck and chest. The martingale at the front D-ring also tightens slightly to keep the harness snug when walking a puller. Three buckles on the harness — one on the neck strap and two on the chest strap — mean you never have to slip a loop over your dog’s head or lift their feet to put it on, a welcome feature for those with shy or handling-sensitive pups. All those buckles, though, can also make the harness somewhat confusing. I’ve caught myself putting it on upside-down more than once.

While it may not be as comfortable as a vest-style harness, the straps of the harness are lined with a light neoprene padding for extra comfort, and the whole thing is stitched together with reflective thread for better visibility at night.

The Petsafe 3-in-1 Harness is only available in three colors — black, teal, and plum — but for the price, this versatile harness is a steal.

The best harness for small dogs

Puppia RiteFit Harness

The soft, flexible, and easy-to-fit Puppia Rite Fit Harness is an ultra-affordable option for small dogs.

Pros: Soft, breathable, flexible, affordable, easy to adjust for size, easy to clean, comes in nine colors

Cons: Only four sizes, dogs may be able to wiggle out of the harness

For small dogs that don’t pull on leash, I like to use a soft vest-style harness. Puppia harnesses have been a comfortable, affordable option for years, and now the company has improved on its original design with the RiteFit, a more adjustable model that makes it easier to get an appropriate fit.

Puppia’s Rite Fit is made from cushiony polyester covered in tiny pinholes for breathability. It’s a handsome harness that comes in nine different colors, and while it’s only offered in four sizes, it has three points of adjustment, two around the neck and one around the chest. The leash clips two metal D-rings together at the back for added peace of mind. The whole thing washes easily in the laundry if your dog, like many I know, thinks rolling in stinky stuff is the best thing in the world.

Although I’ve never seen it happen, students in my dog training classes have occasionally reported their dog slipping out of a Puppia RiteFit Harness. Whether these outliers can be chalked up to human error or design failure is hard to say. Either way, it suggests that the harness isn’t 100% secure. If you have a dog that tends to dart on leash or is a known escape artist, you would do better with the more secure Gooby Escape Free Sport Harness, included in the list of other harnesses we considered.

For most small dogs, though, the Puppia Rite Fit Harness is a secure, comfortable, budget-friendly solution for walks.

The best harness for large dogs

Kurgo Tru Fit Smart Dog

The high-quality padded Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Dog Harness has both front and back leash clips for effortless walks with large dogs of all breeds.

Pros: High-quality materials, four points of adjustability, two places to connect the leash, comes with a seatbelt for car travel, padded, five sizes, fits dogs up to 110 pounds

Cons: Only four colors, no reflective accents, vest may ride up when leashing to front D-ring

My biggest concern when it comes to choosing a harness for a large breed dog is whether I can trust its strength and durability. Lightweight harnesses that work well for 10-pound dogs could prove dangerous when an 80-pounder gets to pulling. The last thing I want to worry about on a walk is whether my harness will withstand the journey.

Kurgo approaches this problem right, constructing their Tru-Fit Smart Dog Harness with ripstop fabric, heavy-duty stitching, and strong D-rings at the chest and back for connecting the leash. It even comes with a lifetime warranty.

This vest-style harness has a padded chest plate that can be fit snugly using four points of adjustment, two at the neck and two at the chest. Kurgo also added a loop at the spine for connecting a seatbelt. The harness even comes with its own 10-inch strap with a carabiner at one end and a loop to slip over a backseat belt on the other.

The Kurgo Tru-Fit is easy to put on and requires only slipping the front loop over the head then clipping either side of the chest loop to the strap along the spine. No leg-lifting needed (though pulling material over the head may be frightening for shy or handling-sensitive dogs). It’s offered in five sizes and four basic colors. Unfortunately, neither reflective patterns nor stitching is included.

Although the Kurgo Tru-Fit Harness has the front leash clip, this isn’t my first choice as an anti-pull harness, as the vest is prone to shifting and riding up on some dogs. If you’re looking for an anti-pull harness for a large breed, stick with the Blue-9 Balance Harness or the Petsafe 3-in-1 recommended in our best no-pull harness and best overall harness categories. But if your dog already walks on a loose leash and you’ll be using the back D-ring, the Kurgo Tru-Fit is a comfortable, reliable harness for everyday walks with big dogs.

The best harness for dogs that pull

Blue 9 Pet Products Balance Harness for leash-pulling

The well-designed Blue-9 Pet Products Balance Harness drastically reduces pulling without restricting a dog’s natural movement.

Pros: Curbs pulling in most dogs, available in five sizes and eight colors, accommodates double-ended leash, sturdy hardware, easy to fit to a wide variety of body shapes, allows freedom of movement

Cons: Not padded, may ride up on very small dogs

The new generation of no-pull harnesses has evolved beyond the standard three-strap style to include more comfortable, secure versions that don’t restrict a dog’s movement. There are several good options (including our pick for best overall harness, the Petsafe 3-in-1), but the Blue-9 Pet Products Balance Harness is my favorite, and I’m not alone: Whole Dog Journal voted the Balance Harness the best front-clip harness on the market.

Front-clip, anti-pull harnesses like the Balance Harness work because they put your leash ahead of your dog instead of at the strongest part of their body. When your dog tries to pull ahead, the tension on the leash causes them to turn. In order to continue straight, your dog has to slow down.

The magic of the Balance Harness, specifically, comes down to fit. Straps around the neck and chest are connected by straight straps that run along the spine and chest. With five sizes and six places to adjust the length of the straps, I’ve had no trouble getting the fit right on everything from a Boston Terrier to a Boxer — although the webbing might ride up on the smallest of dogs. Thanks to a buckle on the strap that encircles the neck, the harness doesn’t need to be pulled over the head, a feature that shy or handling-sensitive dogs will appreciate.

One of the reasons the Balance Harness is my favorite is its contrasting colors. I frequently field complaints about how webbed harnesses like this one can be confusing to put on. But with the Balance, the spine strap is always a different color than the others, making it easy to figure out which side is up with just a quick glance.

The Balance Harness is well-made and durable with sturdy rings at both the chest and the spine to accommodate a double-ended leash. Because it has no padding, however, it’s always best to remove this harness when your walk is over.

Read our full review of the Balance Harness.

The best harness for active dogs

Hurtta Weekend Warrior Harness

The padded Hurtta Weekend Warrior Harness holds up beautifully no matter how big (and dirty) the adventure.

Pros: Ultra-durable, padded, five sizes, eight colors and eco-friendly versions available, strong hardware, easy to clean, good for intensive activity, reflective material

Cons: Pricey

If you’re doing a lot of strenuous outdoor activities with your pup, you need a harness that won’t fall apart with repeated rock scrambling and ocean swims. But a strong harness made of resilient material is only half the battle. An active dog also requires a harness that fits comfortably on all-day adventures without restricting their movement at high speeds or on uneven terrain.

Enter the Hurtta Weekend Warrior, an extremely durable harness that is also built for comfort. Unlike most harnesses which are sized with the subjective terms “small,” “medium,” and “large,” the Finnish team behind the Hurtta measured the chest circumference of more than 200 dogs to inform this product’s five sizes — from a tiny 16 to 18 inches to a hefty 39 to 47 inches. 

The soft, padded straps have four points of adjustment, two on the neck strap and two on the chest strap, to help you get a snug fit on a wide range of body types. Two buckles on the chest strap mean that you don’t have to lift your dog’s legs to get them into the harness. It is necessary, though, to slip the Hurtta over your dog’s head, which can be a challenge for shy or handling-sensitive dogs.

The brand is a favorite of certified professional dog trainer Erika Slovikoski, owner of Stardog in San Francisco, California. “I like Hurtta harnesses because they are extremely well made [with] durable material and buckles that look like new for years,” she said. The design “allows for full range of motion of forelimbs, too, which is so important to me.”

Made for dogs that can’t get enough of the outdoors, the Hurtta Weekend Warrior is fashioned out of soft, lightweight polyester and covered with a weatherproof material sturdy enough to keep the harness from soaking through in low to moderate rain. Each of the harness’s eight colors, including two “ECO” versions made from 100% recycled polyester, is accented with reflective prints and piping for safety in low light. At the back, a sturdy stainless steel ring connects to the leash and a handle allows people to lend their dog a hand on steep trails without compromising their own balance.

The Hurtta Weekend Warrior is pricier than your average harness, but your money is well spent on both quality and design. Plus, the harness will last for years without looking shabby. “Even if dogs roll in mud and swim in saltwater, these materials just rinse and dry and look like new again,” Slovikoski said.

The best harness for injured or senior dogs

Hurtta Weekend Warrior Harness

The durable, comfortable Ruffwear Web Master Harness has a padded handle for easy lifting when your dog needs extra support.

Pros: Padded handle for easy lifting, comfortable, fits well and comes in five sizes, durable material and hardware, reflective trim

Cons: Only comes in three colors, pricey

It’s never more obvious that not all dog harnesses are created equal than when you have an injured or aging pet. Regular activities like going up the stairs or climbing into the car may require an enormous effort. If your dog needs a little extra support to live their best life, Ruffwear’s Web Master Harness can make all the difference.

The Ruffwear Web Master is made for comfortable everyday wear for dogs of all abilities with foam padding sewn into the panel that rests on your dog’s spine, as well as on two of the three adjustable straps. Reflective material lines the edges of the harness, and the leash clips to a sturdy aluminum ring on top.

Flexible and lightweight, the harness can be easily adjusted in five places to accommodate all ranges of mobility. But it’s the reinforced, padded handle at the top that really makes a difference for pups with special needs. “It’s an excellent harness for rehab from injuries,” according to Slovikoski. “It fits so well and has that great support handle on the back.”

Comfort and fit also make this harness an ideal one for dogs that, due to pain or handling sensitivity, can’t tolerate being touched frequently to put on and remove a harness. With five sizes (xx-small to large/x-large), the harness fits a wide range of bodies and can be worn throughout the day without chafing or shifting around. “I love these harnesses for shy dogs, especially my sighthounds,” said Michelle Sanchez, who is a key volunteer in rescuing the endangered sighthound known as the Spanish Galgo.

While this is the most expensive harness on our list and the color options are limited to red, blue, and grey, the Ruffwear Web Master can help you maintain your dog’s quality of life, no matter what stage they are in.

What else we considered

Gooby Escape Free Sport Harness
  • 2 Hounds Design Freedom Harness: This anti-pull harness connects to a single-ended leash at the chest or a double-ended leash at the chest and back. It also comes in a whopping 19 colors, more than any of the harnesses that made our list. The absence of a full neck strap and a connection along the spine, however, makes this product a little less sturdy than the Balance Harness. The Freedom also has fewer places to adjust fit and does not have a buckle on the neck strap.
  • Ruffwear Front Range: This is another good harness for active dogs at a slightly lower price point. The Ruffwear Front Range is padded, reflective, and easy to adjust on most dogs. On small, thin-bodied dogs, though, I’ve had trouble getting a snug fit from the Front Range. It’s also missing the handle for helping a dog over obstacles. The Ruffwear Front Range is durable and comfy, but not quite as secure as the superior Hurtta.
  • Gooby Escape Free Sport Harness: This is a good option for little dogs that have the tendency to slip out of their harness. Made specifically for small pups, it is a padded neoprene harness with four points of adjustability and a martingale at the back where the leash connects, which tightens up if your dog tries to back out of the vest. The Gooby Escape Free comes in three small-dog sizes and five vivid colors plus black.

What style of harness is best for your dog?

Not all dog harnesses are created equal. While a traditional harness that clips to a leash at the spine is a great option for dogs who stick close when they walk, it’ll make your job harder if you’ve got a dog who pulls. And if you’ve got a dog that already walks nicely on leash, a harness that clips at the chest may not be the ideal fit for your outdoor adventures. Choosing the right harness can make life a whole lot easier for both you and your dog.

Dog harnesses generally fall into three major categories:

Front-clip harness

Harnesses that clip to a leash at the front of the chest are best for dogs that pull. Unlike a traditional harness that attaches to a leash at a dog’s powerful back, a front-clip harness puts the walker ahead of the dog. When the dog tries to pull, they feel the pressure from the leash leading them in a different direction. In order to continue forward, they must slow down. While some dogs are still able to pull through a front-clip harness, it should, at the very least, decrease their force, making walks more enjoyable for you both. And while this harness can vastly improve your everyday walks with almost no effort, it’s not actually teaching your dog what you want. For that, you’ll need to use tried-and-tested positive reinforcement training methods rooted in science.

Back-clip harness

These harnesses traditionally clip at the back, either close to the shoulders or farther down the spine, and this is what you’ll find with the majority of harnesses on the market. Walking a dog in a back-clip harness doesn’t just remove pressure from around the neck, it distributes it more evenly around the dog’s body for a more comfortable walk. If you have a dog that pulls, though, you want to avoid using a back-clip harness. It’s likely to cause discomfort for both you and your dog because the pressure on the leash activates their opposition reflex, causing them to pull harder instead of slow down.

Harnesses in the back-clip category come in a wider variety of design options than front-clip harnesses. What works best for your dog will depend on their individual body type and the adventures they prefer. A dog that participates in a lot of hiking and backpacking, for example, will appreciate a comfortable, padded harness that doesn’t chafe whereas a slow-moving senior may do better in a lightweight vest that’s easy to slip on and off.

Front-and-back-clip harness

In recent years, manufacturers have begun offering more versatile harnesses that can clip to a leash at both the chest and the back. These dual-option harnesses are ideal for guardians who may need more control in some environments or who are actively training their dog to walk without pulling on leash. A high-quality front-and-back clip harness should be able to keep up with your dog from adolescence through old age without skipping a beat.

Read the original article on Business Insider