Best Harnesses For Small Dogs

A dog harness is one of the items that every owner of the small dog breed (or a puppy) should and must have. Especially if your dog has the strength and energy of  Chewbacca trapped in a miniature dog’s body.

Small dogs can have an incredible amount of energy and detaining them and keeping them from trouble sometimes can be an issue. That’s where the best dog harness for small dogs comes, to save the day.

What is a Dog Harness for Small Dogs and Why Do I Need One?

Dog harness, by definition, is a standard part of your dog’s equipment. The harness is made usually, from straps of fabric, connected with safety fasteners and its main purpose is the safety of the dog during walks, training or service.

Other purposes vary, depending on the size, breed, habits and profession of the dog. Through history, a harness was used to help dogs pulling a sleight or heavy cargo, but I seriously doubt your pug or chihuahua will be thrilled with that idea.

They are more fond of an evening spent chewing a piece of steak and occasionally slurping from their great indoor water dispensers.

How Does It Work

How does dog harness work

How does a dog harness for small dogs work?

Try to imagine it as a vest for your petite pup. You just wrap the harness around your dog’s torso and secure it with buckles. The surface of the harness distributes the pressure evenly on the dog’s body, precisely on the strongest part, chest and shoulders, unlike the collar, which applies pressure only to the neck, which can be rather unpleasant and risky.

Just secure the leash on the clip of the harness and you are ready to go on an adventure with your best friend. The harness keeps your dog safe from injuries caused by his sudden moves and prevents him to break away by using his own weight against him.

All Types of Dog Harnesses

Step-in harness – may be the best dog harness for small dogs

Simple and easy to use. As the name proclaims, your dog just needs to step in this harness. It is shaped like number 8, (or infinity symbol) for the ease of use and it can be front-clip or back-clip.

Put the harness on the ground, persuade your dog to step in the loops, pull the harness up and close it with a buckle on the dog’s back. Not suitable if your dog is a strong puller as it might slip.

Over-the-head harness for small dogs

It goes, surprisingly, over the head of your dog, securing it on the back. Carefully put the loosened harness over the head of your dog. On the chest part, secure the straps with the buckles on the back of the dog and you are ready to go. Not suitable for nervous dogs because of that over-the-head part.

Choke free harness for small dogs

A small type of harness specifically for small breeds of dogs. Even the standard harness can be dangerous for the extra small breeds of dogs. Made with maximum care and protection of the dog’s neck, this harness goes over the torso of the dog, barely even touching the neck.

Nylon harness for small dogs

Made with strong material, resistant to almost everything your dog can think of. Lightweight and firm, with padding added for the comfort of your toy dog. Very easy to use, affordable and durable. It often comes in bright colors and can also be reflective for extra protection.

Sling harness for small dogs

Also known as lift harness, a harness used to help your sick, injured, old or overweight dog. It wraps around the dog’s body, like most of the other harnesses, but this one comes with a handle on the back.

By carefully lifting the handle, you can help your little best friend, by relieving him some of his weight. Incredibly useful when it comes to stairs, getting in the car or any other obstacle that your movement impaired buddy has to face.

Fashionable harness for small dogs

There is almost nothing sweeter in the world as seeing a small breed dog dressed to the latest fashion. The variety of designs and materials is almost endless, and there are even special designers just for dogs. Make yourself and your puppy shine with the harness that best suits your style.

No-pull harness for small dogs

Simple yet effective solution if you got yourself a little puller. This type of harness comes with a clip for the leash located on the front of the dog’s body, frequently on the chest.

The position secures that the dog has to walk beside you. Even if it tries to pull you, the leash will pull him back to you. Ideal for getting used to longer walks.

Car harness for small dogs

Did you know it is illegal to keep your dog unrestrained in the car? Car harness for small dogs serves the purpose of safety for both the dog and the driver. Imagine the chaos if your small pet roamed freely while you drive.

Car harness combined with seat belt delivers maximal safety for the dog in the case of sudden breaks or accidents. Also, never allow your dog to stay on the front seat because it is also forbidden, for his safety.

Collar vs Harness for a Small Dog

Collar vs Harness for small dog

There is not much to argue about here. Small dogs don’t have the strongest muscles in their little necks, and a collar is too much of a hazard to them if pulled stronger than expected. Sadly, a decent amount of small dogs lack proper training and can be quite playful and sometimes even rude in their behavior.

They don’t represent any threat to their surroundings, just to themselves. The collar will just get them into problems, especially for the throat and trachea. Furthermore, a small breed or a pup can escape the collar much easier than the harness.

At last, the harness can teach your dog some manners and proper training without getting him hurt.

What makes a great harness for a small dog

What makes a great harness for a small dog

You need a great harness for your small friend with the greatest heart. We will help you not to let him down.

What needs does my dog’s harness need to fulfill?

Ask your self the purpose of the harness that you are going to get for your little fellow. Besides protection, there are some kinds of harnesses that don’t fit all puppies or miniature dogs.

If a puppy is a therapy dog or a police dog in training, the harness has to have official marks of the profession. For the really small breeds, choose a harness with extra protection, so they can’t run away. If you and your dog go hiking or sightseeing, get him a harness with sling function, to make his trip easier.

Soft and lightweight material

Remember, your small dog is, well…small. Don’t over encumber him with a harness made of hard materials or too many metal ornaments. Choose modern, man-made materials like nylon, polyester or artificial leather. Just make sure the material is well padded and doesn’t bother your dog.

Easy for use

Every harness for dogs should and must be easy to use. That means, no complication with the belts or buckles, no need for googling how to use it. It shouldn’t interfere with his normal use of a durable indoor potty, playing or feeding. Just simple, with few steps to take it of and on. Saves you and your dog a lot of time and nerves.

Fully adjustable

Not all small dog breeds are the same nor have the similar shape of the body. Considering that with the fact that puppies grow incredibly fast, your dog harness must be fully adjustable.

That means easy tightening or loosening the straps, considering the body changes or unique body shape of your pet. Keep in mind that the harness that you used on your miniature puppy will probably not be appropriate when he grows to his full size.


A good harness for small dogs must be durable. Not just for the sake of not throwing the money to the fire, but to the fact that dogs get used to their harnesses, and grow pretty fond of them.

If the harness isn’t durable, you will have to change it every now and then, and it will feel like you took your dog his favorite toy, and start the process of adjustment to a new harness again and again. Get a harness that is water-resistant, so you have one thing less to worry about.

Price of the good, quality, secure harness for my small dog?

There is an endless amount of manufacturers and sellers of any kind of merchandise, and dog harnesses are not an exception. Price can vary from extra cheap to sky-high, depending on your needs and preferences.

But remember, always choose the good, quality materials and products that were made by tested manufacturers with a good reputation. Be very suspicious of offers that are too good to be true.

Any cheap knock-off can badly injure your dog and I think that is a risk you are not willing to take. You can’t put a price on the safety of your little pet, can you?

How To Measure Your Dog for a Harness

How To Measure Your Dog for a Harness


Imagine you are buying him a tuxedo, which, essentially, you are. Take a soft measuring tape, the kinds that the tailors use. If you don’t have it, take a piece of string and a ruler. Get someone to help you if your dog is hyperactive or nervous.

Calm him down with some petting and snacks and measure the girth of the neck on the place where the collar usually goes. The next step is the girth of the chest, right behind your dog’s front leg.

Just write down the measurements, along with his weight and compare it with the chart above. Remember that your pup needs some space, and always get him a harness in which he will feel comfortable.

How To Train Your Dog to Use a Harness


A dog must be at least 2 months old. It is easier to teach them when they are puppies but an old dog can, too, learn this new trick. The process of adaptation to harness doesn’t take more than a few days so don’t worry.

The first step is to get your dog used to the idea of a harness. Leave the harness within his territory, among his durable and indestructible dog toys, favorite food and excellent elevated dog bowls. It will give him the time to sniff it and get used to its smell.

Open and close the buckles for a few times, so the sound of it becomes familiar. Don’t forget to arm yourself with patience and a massive supply of dog treats.

Reward every successful step with a treat. Then try giving him a treat with harness in one hand, so he must push his head through the harness to get it. Once succeeded, keep the harness on him for a very short time, to prove him that wearing a harness is just temporary.

Take the harness off again, let your dog calm and try repeating the process. Once he’s got used to it, keep it on him and let him go to his safe place. If everything goes well, reward him with an unreasonable amount of treats and take him for a short trip.

It’s very important that the first trip goes with no complications, so don’t go to a veterinarian’s office or any crowded place, like public transportation.

The dog must associate the harness with a pleasant experience, so it would happily go every time on the very sight of the harness. The process is very much the same for a young pup as well as for the older dog.

How To Clean and Maintain a Small Dog Harness

Even if your small pet isn’t a great fan of the muddy puddles or chasing cats and birds over a dirty neighborhood, the harness will get dirty. I mean, really dirty. Your playful dog will overturn his food bowl, knock out his excellent elevated dog bowls, try to catch that grasshopper in the garden, and the result will be seen on the surface of the harness.

Besides the embarrassing look, a dirty harness can become the gathering spot of all parasites, fleas and ticks. Proper cleaning of a harness should become your habit after every trip, so it retains its good look and doesn’t affect the health of your dog. Small dog harnesses are usually made of a material suitable for a washing machine, but be sure to check the details with the seller or manufacturer.

If you are hand washing the harness, soak it in warm water with an addition of mild soap or laundry detergent. Don’t use any harder chemicals because they can damage the harness and even cause a rash on your petite dog’s fur. At last, dry the harness well, especially if it has stuffed parts, so no moisture is left in it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I use a small dog harness on a cat?

Technically, you can, but it’s not the best idea. Cats and dogs aren’t shaped similarly, so you could get into some trouble with your cat if you try. Don’t forget that most cats are impressive escape artist and would pretty much just slip easily from a dog harness. Of course, it depends from one cat to another, but just to be safe, get your cat a nice cat harness.

Can I leave the harness on my small dog all the time?

Sure, why not, if your dog doesn’t mind. The harness was designed to be ergonomic and suit your dog. If the dog is well-used to a harness, let him be.

Some owners just take the harness of the dog right before bedtime and put it back on the dog the first thing in the morning. Just be careful if your dog develops a taste for chewing the harness because it can get pretty damaged and less secure. Also, never leave your dog unattended with the harness on.

Can my petite dog swim with his harness on?

It depends. The smaller and lightweight harness is perfectly safe for a dog to swim in it. Just remember, only harness, no leash. A leash could easily get stuck and cause some serious problems.

Bigger harnesses with stuffed parts are not suitable because they will get wet and thus heavier, which will bring your pup in danger of drowning. The best solution is a life jacket for dogs, made just for the purpose of helping dogs to swim, float and have fun in the water.

Short conclusion

And so, our mission here is done. Through this article, we explained why do you need a dog harness for your small dog,  the benefits of using it, the things you must be aware of when buying one. Now go and get your furry little son the best harness there is.

Photo from: buchsammy /, steveball /, graphicphoto /

Big pet lover and a dog training and behavior expert who loves to share his knowledge and experience. Happy owner of two amazing dogs Labrador Bela and Jack Russell Terrier Piksi and one cuddly cat Tom.

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