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So you’ve decided to adopt a dog from your local animal shelter. Congratulations! Besides smothering your new furry friend with all the kisses imaginable, there are a few items that you’ll need to purchase to ensure your new companion’s happiness. One of the biggest ones: a harness!

Having control of your dog while on a walk or a run will ensure your dog’s safety and comfort, as well as your own. But what kind of harness to choose? There are hundreds of harnesses available, differing in style and function, so it can be hard to figure out which one is right for your four-legged friend.

Here’s a breakdown of the top types of harnesses and the uses they are best for, such as reducing pulling or providing safety for smaller dogs.

Back-Clip Harness



On a back clip harness, the ring that the leash clips into is located on the tops of the dog’s back. Back-clip harnesses are especially good for small dogs since they have sensitive throats that can be damaged by collars. And having your pup choke while on a walk is no fun! Vet Street breaks down the pros and cons of a back clip harness. 


  • Easy to put on and comfortable for a dog to wear.
  • The leash doesn’t tangle under the front legs as often as with collars or front-clip harnesses (see below).
  • Protects the fragile neck area.


  • Little control offered if a dog has behavior issues, such as pulling on the leash, jumping up or displaying aggression.

Front-Clip Harness



You guessed it, with a front-clip harness the leash is attached to the center of the dog’s chest. Front clip harnesses are the top pick for dog trainers because this type of harness lessens the dog pulling on the leash. With a front-clip harness, the dog feels the pull of the harness on his chest and will stop pulling when he feels the pressure. 


  • More control over pulling on the leash, jumping up or other poor leash manners
  • Provide directional steering, allowing for the dog to be turned around when needed


  • The leash on the front of the chest can tangle under the dog’s front legs if too much slack is given.

Tightening Harness



Does your dog pull? Looking into a tightening harness might be a good idea. The harness will tighten and add pressure if the dog pulls, which causes the dog to lessen or stop pulling. But please check on the type of tightening the harness causes! Some variations can cause sharp pain when the dog pulls, which could increase aggression.

The Gentle Leader head collar, for instance, is gentle and doesn’t induce pain. The head collar fits securely over the dog’s nose, so when the dog pulls, the harness redirects the dogs head towards you, preventing pulling.

No Shock Collars, Please



One dog gear item to steer clear of are shock collars. According to the Humane Society of the United States, shock collars use electric current passing through metal contact points on the collar to give your dog a signal, which can range from a mild tickling sensation to a painful shock. Often used to stop unwanted behaviors, such as excessive barking or making sure a dog stays close while off leash, shock collars are seen as a training tool.

In reality, one study showed that shock collars can cause symptoms of distress in dogs, with the effects only worsening as the level of shock increases. For small to medium-sized dogs, a shock can be painful on their sensitive necks. Shock collars use negative reinforcement, making the dog live in fear of being electrocuted for normal behaviors, such as crossing invisible lines or barking. Instead, using positive training methods for what the dogs do right are much kinder and effective.

Find What Works Best For Your Dog


Every dog is different. My two dogs both use back clip non-pull harnesses, but it took several tries to find what worked best for them. And while outdoors, they both have on their collars with proper identification! Make sure your dog’s ID is up-to-date, with your full name and cell phone number.

If your dog has behavior problems, be sure to talk to a dog behavior expert for more tips and recommendations on which type of harness is right for your dog. Finding the right gear will ensure both you and your canine friend have a safe and fun time exploring the outdoors.

Lead image source: RSPCANSW/Flickr

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0 comments on “How to Determine What Kind of Harness or Leash is Right For Your Dog”

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Ing Reilly
1 Years Ago

Wow, what a surprise - scrolling through "One Green Planet" and find an article featuring MY DOG ! That\'s my little black eyed patch, Garp, in the feature photo with the purple harness (-:

Patricia Ulin
1 Years Ago

When I saw the headline I hoped you would be addressing how dangerous retractable leashes are but you didn\'t actually get into leashes ... so as President of Friends of the Bristol CT Animal Shelter and as a rescuer for over 10 years, please advise everyone to never use a retractable leash. They are dangerous to your dog and to other dogs you might meet while out walking. They offer zero control. Always use a normal single leash of an strength suitable for your dog. Thanks


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