How To Put On a Dog Harness: A Complete Guide

How to put on a dog harness; step-in harness, walk training, no-pull dog harness, benefits of dog harnesses, best dog harness, harness chafing

Dog harnesses are invaluable tools for pet parents. Collars can work in a pinch, but dog harnesses provide a more stable and secure means for you to attach a leash when you take your dog on a walk or to the park. Even better, harnesses don’t put too much strain on your dog’s neck.

But getting your dog to wear a harness—and knowing how to put on a dog harness in the first place—can be easier said than done if you don’t know what you’re doing. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place.

The below guide will break down how to put on a dog harness step-by-step, so let’s get started.

Putting on a “Standard” Dog Harness

Since there are different types of dog harnesses, there are also different methods of getting your dog to slip into one. A standard dog harness is the most common, featuring a single loop around the ribs and another loop around your dog’s neck. Most standard dog harnesses have a thick D-ring on the back where you can attach your leash.

Step-By-Step To Success

Thanks to this harness design’s simplicity, putting it on is relatively straightforward:

  • First, stand or squat behind your dog when they are in a standing or sitting position. Of course, your dog will need to be calm when you put the harness on. Check out the tips below for more info about how to make this happen.
  • Then take the harness and slip the neck loop over your dog's head. The harness should ideally be positioned so that the D-ring is positioned right over your dog's back. When you attach the leash, most of the leash tension will be centered between their shoulders. This allows you to have a good grip on your dog at all times without straining or hurting their neck.
  • Next, place your dog’s legs through the leg holes of the harness one at a time. When finished, your dog’s legs should be in between the loop that rests around their ribs and the loop that rests around their neck.
  • Buckle the harness securely. Depending on your exact harness type, you may need to put one leg through, buckle the harness, then do the other leg, so adjust this process as necessary.
  • Be sure to adjust the harness so that it fits securely without being too snug for your pup. How snug is too snug? Ideally, you’ll want to be able to put two fingers underneath the harness’s straps at all times. Keep in mind that if it’s your first time fitting your dog for a harness, you may need to put the harness on multiple times to check the fit.
  • Once you are done putting the harness on, try to pull it over your dog’s head. If you can’t do it, it is secure enough and ready for walking or playing.

Putting On a Front-Clip Dog Harness

The next common type of dog harness is the front clip harness. Front clip harnesses, as their name suggests, have an extra leash clip at the front of the dog’s chest. They may also have the standard D-ring attachment at the back, which provides additional flexibility.

Regardless, the front clip position is excellent if you are training your dog to walk nicely and not pull when they are on the leash. Front clip dog harnesses may have different designs, so the below process may not be exactly perfect for your unique harness. Adjust it as necessary.

  • First, kneel at the side of your dog (usually the right side) when they are sitting or standing. Then put the neck loop of the harness over your dog’s head. The harness should be positioned so its label is on the left shoulder. The metal rings should be near the center of your dog’s chest.
  • Next, reach for the belly strap at your dog’s belly and tighten it or fasten it, based on the harness model you have.
  • Be sure to adjust the harness so that it fits snugly and securely without being too tight for your pup. Again, you should be able to fit two fingers under any strap of your dog’s harness, but you should also not be able to pull the harness over their head.

The front clip harness type is the best for puppies learning how to walk nicely, but it may also be necessary for adult dogs who are simply too energetic to walk politely by your side when outdoors.

Putting On a Step-In Dog Harness

Lastly, you might also have a step-in harness, which has a triangular shape around your dog’s legs (a regular harness forms a rectangular shape around the legs instead). This type of harness is ideal for dogs that are well trained. They can “step in” to the harness when you are ready to take them on a walk.

  • Place the harness flat on the ground. The leg loops should form two triangles on either side. The buckle should rest on top of the D-rings where you will attach your leash.
  • Call or guide your dog to the harness and indicate where you want them to put their paws. If they are not trained to do this, stand behind your dog and place their front feet inside the triangular loops.
  • Next, pick up both ends of the harness and click the ends together over your dog’s spine. Make sure not to do this too tightly, as it may be uncomfortable for your pup.
  • Once more, adjust the harness so that it is secure without being too tight all around. Pull on the harness near your dog’s head to make sure they can’t be pulled out or slip away accidentally. 

What If Your Dog Doesn’t Like the Harness?

Even well-trained or adult dogs may simply dislike harnesses from the get-go. For many dogs, it feels too much like a tight shirt being placed over their chest and back. We can’t fault dogs for feeling this way, even if you get them a highly comfortable harness.

If your dog doesn’t like wearing a harness no matter what you do, you can train them to obey you when you put the harness on, sit down nicely while you fix it for them, or even look forward to harness time through positive reinforcement and treat training.

Key Points On Your Check List

Specifically, you’ll want to do the following steps:

  • When introducing your dog to the harness, let them sniff and inspect the harness without any pressure or force.
  • When it’s time for them to put the harness on, provide them with a treat while they sniff the harness so they associate the harness with getting a tasty snack.
  • Next, tell your dog to sit and reward them with another delicious treat.
  • Then, fit them with a harness and give them a treat when it is snug and secure.
  • If you have to mess with the buckles or straps of the harness, give your dog another treat when you are done with the entire process.

If you do this each time you harness your dog, they will eventually become perfect angels when it’s time for a walk, even if they would prefer to walk without the harness overall. This trick works with both new puppies and adult dogs alike, although it may take a little longer for adult dogs to get the program since they may be set in their ways regarding harnesses. 

One more tip: don’t try to force your dog to get into the harness or wrestle with them. Always be gentle when fitting them with a harness since you don’t want to associate bad vibes or negative feelings with the harness at any point.

Harness Your Power

In the end, putting on a dog harness is pretty straightforward, and you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of tries. It may take a little longer to perfect the fit for your pup’s harness, but you’ll also master that sooner than you think.

While knowing how to fit a harness in the first place is important, you should also make sure you get the best harness possible for your canine companion. Harness quality can affect how long the harness lasts, how safe it is, and how comfortable it is for your dog.

That’s why Wild One’s Harness is made with premium, comfortable materials, is easy to adjust, and goes perfectly with our equally-well-made leash. Pick up everything you need to take your dog on the best walks of your lives or see what else our online store can offer today.


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