Harness or Har-mess?: A Guide to Putting on a Dog Harness

A dog harness is a pretty common accessory used by all dog owners. Be it for your every day walk around town or to keep them secure while traveling, you’re bound to need one at some point. The harnesses, however, can sometimes look a little daunting.

With so many options and variations, it can be difficult to pick the right one, and to add to the confusion there’s always the question of how to put on a dog harness.

How to put on a Dog Harness: Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Measurements

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. A harness needs to fit well around your pup to be effective, which means that the first thing on the agenda is to take the necessary measurements.

To do this, measure your dog around their middle, that is, their girth. To be clear, this is the widest portion of your dog’s chest, just behind their front legs. Once this is done, take measurements of your dog’s chest and neck. 

With these numbers in place, you will be able to find a nicely fitting harness for your dog. Manufacturers tend to have their own size guides based on the breed. However, it is quite possible that your dog will not fit into those prescribed guidelines. So, measuring is a great way to be sure of what you need.

Check outHarness for Small Dogs

Step 2: Determine the Type of Harness

Before getting to how to put a dog harness on, the second step is to pick the type of harness you want. And a little research will tell you that it is a little more complex than you’d think. From the standard harness to the front clip one, there are quite a few types.

The choice of a harness could be based on various factors such as your dog’s temperament, health and on. For instance, dogs who are more nervous may not take to an overhead harness, while step-in harnesses are better for dogs who have neck problems.

The standard dog harness has a simple design, usually with a D ring, that sits on the back, attached to the lead. These harnesses are often fitted like an overhead harness. All you have to do is slip the neck hole of the harness over your dog’s head and fix the straps under the chest.

Overhead harnesses tend to have more padding across the body and are thus a preferred choice in terms of comfort. Step-in harnesses, on the other hand, have two holes for the dog’s front paws. The harness has adjustable straps that fasten over the shoulders and body of the dog and can be a little confusing to figure out at first.

Back clip harnesses have a ring or multiple rings that the leash clips onto at the dog’s back. For many dogs, this is the easiest type of harness to get accustomed to. It is a good option for dogs that may like to pull on the leash but have easily damaged necks and throats.

Front clip harnesses have clips on the front of the dog’s chest and can help you to maintain more control during walks. It is also great for fearful or reactive dogs as you can easily redirect their attention by turning them around to face away from the stimulus that caused the reaction. 

Step 3: Training

Once you’ve picked your harness of choice, it is time to fit it around your dog. Though most dogs adjust easily to a harness once it has been fitted, there are some that can take a bit of time to get used to the idea of having something being strapped on to their body.

Some dogs may even be afraid of having a harness being clipped on or put over their head. Not to mention, knowing how to put a harness on a dog can be a bit tricky. If this is the case with your dog, you should take it one step at a time while introducing a harness.

You should first allow your dog to explore and sniff the harness a bit before attempting to put it on them. Once they’re done poking and prodding at the harness, ask them to sit or stay so that they settle down. Try getting your dog to voluntarily put their head through the harness by luring them in with treats. Using treats can help you guide your dog so that they naturally move their head through the harness. 

For a step in harness, use the food lure to make them walk over to the harness a few times. Once they get used to this, secure the straps and clips and give them the treat to distract them from the harness. 

Once you are able to get the harness on, take your dog for a test run around the house to get used to the feel. As they get more and more used to it, you can start taking them outside as well. 

For dogs who may be a little hesitant, you may want to consider using what is called a predictability cue. For instance, say the word ‘harness’ before slipping it over their heads and then hand them a treat. In this way, they will start associating the word with the action so that they are ready for it, and the action with the tasty treat that they receive after.

You can do the same thing while clipping the harness, in the event your dog is afraid of the clipping sound. Being able to predict what’s going to happen after you say that word will significantly reduce the anxiety that your dog feels.

Remember to give them a ton of pets, praise and lots of treats for every little thing that they accomplish. It will help them get used to the harness and is a great excuse to give your dog all the love that they deserve.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

With the harness properly strapped on, make sure that it fits well. A harness that’s too tight can cause pain to your dog and limit their movement. A simple trick that you can use is to slip two fingers in between your dog and their harness to make sure that the harness is on properly. If your fingers slip through, it means that they have enough wiggle room while still keeping the harness in place. 

Before setting out on your walk, make sure that all the straps are properly aligned and that they aren’t twisted at any point. Fasten all the clips, double-check them to ensure that they are secure and you should be good to go!

Remember that every dog learns at their own pace. So be patient and don’t hold back on the praise.

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