Whether it’s the first time you put your dog in a harness or you’re simply upgrading them to a different piece of gear, there are definitely some steps you need to take to get it right.
We spoke to Joseph Ryan, a general manager of enrichment and training at Patrick’s Pet Care in Washington, DC, to find out how to put on a dog harness.
Types of dog harnesses
There are a few common types of dog harnesses, all with similar – but slightly different – methods of donning:
- Standard: This harness has a loop around the ribs and another around the base of the neck that connect together and has a D-ring at the back for you to attach a leash.
- Step-in: This harness has two connected loops for your pup to step into that fasten around the back and similar to the standard harness has a D-ring at the back.
- Front Clip: Can be either a standard or step-in harness, but the D-ring is on the pup’s chest to provide more leash control.
How to put on a dog harness step by step
Here are a few steps to put your dog’s harness on.
1. Make sure your dog’s harness is the right size
Before you buy a dog harness, it’s a good idea to take your pup’s measurements so you know the harnesses aren’t too tight or loose.
To do this, you will need to take your dog’s chest and neck measurements using a soft tape measure that you can easily shape around his body. (Sometimes you may need his weight as well, but physical measurements are the most useful for finding the right size.)
“We want to make sure the harness is tight enough that the dog can’t slip out, but also loose enough that it’s free to move around,” Ryan told The Dodo. “It’s important to be the right size for safety reasons.”
Finding the perfect fit may take some trial and error, so please be patient.
2. Have your dog sit or stand still
When you’re ready to actually put your dog’s harness on, make sure your BFF is nice and calm (like after a nap time). If he isn’t, it might be difficult to put it on properly and you don’t want all the fuss to stress him out.
3. Place the harness around your dog’s chest
There are different ways to do this depending on what type of dog harness you are using.
Slip a standard harness over your pup’s head, making sure the D-ring (the metal ring that attaches to his leash) is in the correct position. On standard harnesses, this is on your dog’s back. For harnesses with a front clip, this is at the front.
For an entry-level harness, lay it flat on the ground in front of your dog. Put his paws in the holes and lift the harness to his chest.
4. Fasten the strap
When fastening the straps on your dog’s harness, make sure his front legs are in the correct holes to ensure the harness is properly fitted.
5. Adjust the straps
Once you’ve put your dog’s harness on, it’s important to adjust the harnesses so they fit properly. That means not too tight and not too loose.
“Two fingers should fit under each strap,” Ryan said.
How to get your dog to like his harness
To make your dog feel comfortable about his harness (instead of being scared of it!), consider a combination of desensitization (getting him used to something new gradually and gradually) and counterconditioning (using rewards like treats to build positive associations).
“[Introduce] the harness to the dog by holding the harness and letting him sniff it,” Ryan said. “Give a treat immediately when they do.”
Once your dog is comfortable examining his harness, let the harness touch him while you shower him with treats. If your pup remains calm, you can proceed to actually dressing him.
“When the dog starts to get excited about the approaching harness, you can put it around his neck,” Ryan said. “Give them a treat and then remove the dishes.”
After your pup has mastered wearing the harness around his neck, the final stage of counter-conditioning is to actually fasten the buckles. And as with every other step, make sure to give your dog plenty of treats until he’s fully accustomed to it.
What not to do when putting a harness on a dog
The one thing you should never do when putting a harness on your dog is force him in.
“Any negative interaction can be viewed as punishment and hurt the dog’s association with the harness even more,” Ryan said. “If the dog is unsure of the harness, use counterconditioning to create a positive association with the harness.”
When you figure out how to put on a dog harness, the actual process of putting it on is fairly simple. But getting your pup used to and comfortable with the new equipment will take a little more time and patience. But with either, you’ll soon be harnessing your pup with ease!