How to Put on A Dog Harness

Putting a harness on a dog is challenging to say the least! It is often confusing or even frustrating, especially if you have a dog that won’t keep still. 

Learning how to put on a dog harness successfully starts with figuring out what kind of harness you have

So let's have a closer look at the different types of dog harnesses, along with a step by step guide on how to put them on.

Standard Dog Harness

a pitbull wearing a dog harness

Photo by Martijn Gons

The standard harness type suits most breeds, because it divides the pulling pressure between the chest and the torso.

Here are some step-by-step instructions to fit this type of harness:

Step 1 - Get the right orientation

Begin by figuring out which way the harness straps are supposed to fit on your dog before you even approach him, as this process is likely to just frustrate him and make this simple task an absolute nightmare.

Step 2 - Position your dog

You might choose to have your dog facing you or away from you. You might also feel more comfortable kneeling next to your dog.

Whatever your personal preference, approach your dog in a non-threatening and calm way, kneeling down to their height to make yourself seem less imposing.

Step 3 - Slip the dog harness over your dog's head

Holding the harness straps apart, slip the harness over your dog's head and position the D-ring on their back between their shoulders.

The location of the D-ring is important as this is the point of contact of your leash to your harness. So make sure that the leash will attach where it's most comfortable for your dog.

Step 4 - Strap your dog in

Your dog harness should have adjustable straps with buckles at the end. Loop the dog's chest strap around and tighten it to a point where you'll feel like your dog won't slip out while making sure that it's still comfortable.

Interestingly enough, the dachshund harness is a specialized version of the standard harness, because they are longer or have an additional loop around the torso. Nevertheless, you put them on the same way.

Step-In Dog Harness

a small dog in a step in harness


The step-in harness also suits a wide variety of breeds.

They're different from the standard dog harness in that they aren't fitted over your dog's head, but rather by having your dog stand over it and then stepping into the harness with it's two front paws.

But since most of the support it provides goes across the front, it is generally the best choice for wide-chested breeds.

In fact, this type makes for the best Frenchie harness and pug harness, especially when it’s padded and has an interior lining made of mesh. And, it’s pretty easy to put on.

Here's your step-by-step guide to fitting this type of harness:

Step 1 - Lay the harness flat on the ground

As we discussed with the first type of harness, you need to get the orientation right. Identify the side that your dog is supposed to step into and then lay the harness flat on the ground.

Remember that this type of dog harness is meant to form a Y or a T - shape across your dog's chest. Position this end to your dog's front.

If you see the straps form two small triangles where your dog can step through you're on the right track.

Step 2 - Allow your dog to step in

Coax your dog carefully over the harness.

If the idea of wearing a harness is new to him, he might resist. So be gentle and patient. Keep your dog relaxed and allow him to gently step into the two triangles that you made with the harness straps on the floor.

Make sure he's facing the right way before you move on to the next step.

Step 3 - Fit the harness on your dog

It's time to pull the step-in harness up onto your dogs chest.

Take hold of the harness on either side and simply pull it up toward your dog's chest. The harness should have a strap that you can loop around his back and clip in on the other side.

Again, adjust the harness to the right tension for the perfect fit.

Front-Clip Dog Harness

a pitbull wearing a dog harness

 The front-clip type is meant for heavy pullers. In fact, it is the best pitbull harness, and it is also an excellent choice for highly energetic, working breeds.

What makes these harnesses so good for these larger dogs is the fact that the leash attachment point sits on the front of the harness. 

Because of this, dogs are less likely to pull beyond what their owners are able to handle as it causes them discomfort.

Many front-clip harnesses are designed just like standard or step-in types. However, some specialized ones go around the chest and are secured with a strap that loops around the ribs and shoulders.

Here's how to put a front clip harness on your dog:

Step 1 - Get the right orientation

In order to fit a front clip harness on your dog, you need your dog to be facing you.

Your dog can be standing or sitting, as long as you have easy access to your dog's neck and chest area. This will help you to line the D-ring up to the center of your dog's chest.

Step 2 - Fit the dog harness

Your harness might have a short strap that needs to be looped around your dog's head. If so, gently and carefully slide it over your dog's head, careful not to hurt your dog's ears in the process.

The head strap might also have a clip and buckle configuration. If that's the case, fasten it around your dog's neck and tighten it to the right tension.

There will be a second chest strap that you'll need to loop around your dog's body and also tighten to the perfect fit.

Front clip harnesses have a D-ring on the front of the harness where the leash attaches or name tag placement is located.

So be sure to line the D-ring up with the center of your dog's chest before pulling it tight.

Finding the Perfect Fit

a pitbull wearing a harness


It doesn't really matter what type of dog harness you have, you want to make sure that it fits correctly.

The better the fit, the more comfortable the harness will be for your dog to wear. And the more comfortable they are, the less likely they are to resist wearing it during walks.

A good idea is to follow the sizing guide that most suppliers have. You can then adjust the harness on your dog accordingly.

It's also wise to check for enough space between your dog's body and the harness before leaving for your walk. If you can comfortably slide two fingers underneath the harness without much effort, your dog should be quite comfortable.

Also, keep in mind that dogs grow bigger. A growing puppy will fit into its harness one day but feel too restricted the next, so check their fitment regularly.

Your dog's girth will change as it gets older, so make sure that your dog's belly strap isn't too tight.

Things to keep in mind with dog harnesses

If your dog pulls on its leash during walks, you might want to consider switching from a collar to a harness.

Dog harnesses displace the tension better and are much safer for dogs known for pulling heavily.

Another thing to keep in mind is that harnesses are exposed to the elements and will over time start to unravel or show weathering.

So get a harness made of premium material that won't wear out easily. Neoprene is a material that can withstand most weather conditions, stainless steel buckles and d-rings simply last longer, and double (or triple stitching) is much stronger than standard stitching.

Other types of harnesses

Here are a few other harnesses that you might be interested in for your furry friend. Their fitment is more or less the same as the three types we've already discussed.

Back clip harness

Back clip harnesses are perfect for small dogs. Because some breeds are small to the ground, you want the leash completely out of their way when you're out on a walk, and the back clip harness does just that.

Comfort control harness

a pitbull wearing a comfortable dog harness

Comfort control harnesses are made with large dog breeds with broad chests in mind. Their wide, soft padding on the front makes for a comfortable fit, while the extra padding on the inside offers great support to the dog.

Stainless steel D-rings won't break when your dog pulls on the leash and the triple stitching will last an eternity.

Special Fit dog harness

A special fit dog harness is a harness that has been created and designed specifically for dogs with odd sizes and shapes. They often adopt a modular design and can be made from luxurious materials.

Overhead harness

Overhead harnesses are harnesses that fit over your dog's head. You'll need to lift your dog's legs up and into the loops individually with this one.

We'd recommend you stay clear of this one and stick to the more practical step in harness type.

Dual clip harness

Dual clip harnesses are simply harnesses that have two leash attachment points. These attachment points can be a combination of back clip location, front clip location or perhaps neck hole location.

Dual clip harnesses are good because they allow you to choose which location is best for leash attachment.

No pull harness

No-pull harnesses are basically the same as front clip harnesses as they become increasingly uncomfortable when your dog pulls on the harness during walks.

If you're thinking of getting a no-pull harness, we recommend you rather opt for an anti-pulling harness as this harness is made with strong dogs in mind and will always be comfortable and supportive to your dog.

Fashion harnesses

Fashion harnesses are made for dogs and dog owners who'd rather strut their stuff and look good while doing it, as opposed to focusing on the practicality of an anti-pulling harness.

As you'd expect, the fashion dog harness is made from premium quality materials that feel good on a dog's fur.

A good alternative for these harnesses is an active-wear harness. They're also made for large and small dogs, super stylish and extremely practical, all in one.

a poodle wearing a dog harness


Perfect for the pet parent that likes to go for walks in the park, do pilates or practice their yoga poses.

A Final Thought

Some harnesses are more difficult to put on than others. Don't get frustrated if you don't get it right the first time. Go through it one step at a time, and you'll surely get the hang of it soon enough.

But if you're ever tempted to stick with a collar just because they're much easier to put on, make sure you choose the right one for the safety and comfort of your pup.