Best Harnesses For Small Dogs

Small dogs come with big personalities. That’s why we love them so much! But sometimes, they’re a lot to handle on a leash. That’s where harnesses can help.

Trainers and vets often recommend harnesses for small dogs, who can become injured from straining against a collar. A harness reduces strain on your dog’s neck by dispersing pressure over a larger area of their body.

Plus, harnesses can be more secure than collars. Some small dogs slip their collars, but harnesses keep them safe and secure.

Benefits of Using a Harnesses for Small Dogs

Using a harness instead of a collar makes it easier to control and manage any dog, even those with leash manners that aren’t quite perfected.

Harnesses have other advantages, too:

  • They’re a good training tool for puppies that haven’t yet learned to walk on a lead. A harness will prevent him from getting tangled up in the leash and possibly hurt in the process.
  • Harnesses offer better control, which is especially important on busy streets or in crowds.
  • If you have a strong or very large dog, a harness gives you much better control and is also easier on your arms and back.
  • Very small dogs can be prone to injury from pulling or tugging on the leash. A harness disperses pressure over a larger area of his body, reducing strain on his neck and back.
  • Harnesses discourage pulling. When your dog is wearing a collar and pulls on the leash, he’s still moving forward, which makes him think the pulling is successful. A harness, whether attached on his chest or between his shoulder blades, redirects him; there’s no reward because pulling doesn’t get him anywhere.
  • If your dog needs a little assistance standing after lying down or sitting, a harness pulls him up gently without causing him any pain or discomfort.
  • Finally, harnesses are a great solution for those little escape artists that are on the lead one moment, then you blink, and they’ve wriggled out of their collar

How Does It Work

How does dog harness work

The way a harness differs from a regular collar is the fact that it spreads the stress and force gotten from when a dog pulls on the leash over a larger surface area, rather than just on the neck.

This is particularly important if you certain breeds that have difficulty breathing, such as pugs and French bulldogs.

If your pup is only wearing an ordinary dog collar, she can put a lot of tension on her throat as she strains forward, especially if you grip the leash or yank it back.

This kind of pressure can hurt your dog’s neck regardless of her size, but especially if she belongs to a smaller breed.

The best harness for small dogs has straps that cross above your pup’s shoulders and can be fastened at centre of your dog’s chest and behind her front legs. The dog harness will also have a clip in front for the leash.

Once you clip the leash to the front ring and begin walking, your dog has to stay by your side in order to keep moving.

Types of Dog Harnesses

Step-in harness

This is a harness that does not require attachments. A dog only needs to put his legs between two loops to get into a step-in harness.

You don’t need to pull a sleeve over the dog’s head or fiddle with annoying straps. Once the dog’s legs are in position, a single buckle attaches behind the dog’s front legs.

Over-the-head harness

These harnesses get their name from the way they are put on or worn by the dog. The harness is placed over the dog’s head and is then attached together

Choke free harness

If you have a small flat-faced breed like a pug or Boston terrier, you know how important it is to keep their airways healthy.

A choke free harness is one that has been designed to eliminate stress on dogs’ necks. Its X frame ensures force is evenly distributed across the chest, so your small dog will be able to breathe easily on walks.

Nylon harness

This is a harness that is for those owners that want to keep it simple. It gets its name from the fact that it is made from nylon, which makes it breathable and comfortable for the dog

Sling harness

Small dogs have different needs as they age, and some older dogs need extra support.

A sling harness is perfect for your dog if it has arthritis or an injury to their rear legs, as it helps them walk around much more comfortably.

Fashionable harness

This harness is great if you are looking to add a little style to your dog’s harness.

It comes in stylish colors and patterns. You can also be sure that a fashionable harness will be durable and comfortable for your small dog.

No-pull harness

The best no-pull dog harnesses have straps that cross above your pup’s shoulders and can be fastened at centre of your dog’s chest and behind her front legs. The dog harness will also have a clip in front for the leash.

Collar vs Harness for a small dog

Collar vs Harness for small dog

Collars are the usual solution when walking a dog. They come in a wide variety of styles. a common, traditional collar that does not constrict is fine for dogs who don’t have respiratory problems and aren’t prone to pulling on leashes.

They may also be more comfortable for some dogs, especially if you plan on leaving it on all the time. A harness usually isn’t as comfortable for all day use.

Also, if your dog has long hair, it might get caught up in a harness. A collar doesn’t have that problem.

However, for dogs who pull hard during walks, a collar can increase the risk of a neck injury. A harness may be the better option in those cases.

Harnesses are becoming more and more popular as dog owners discover the advantages they can offer. They are great training tools for puppies learning to behave on leash, and they allow walkers to have a bit more control.

Harnesses discourage pulling and allow you to stop your dog from jumping up on strangers without worrying about choking.

Dogs on harnesses are also less likely to be tangled up in the leash accidentally. Another advantage harnesses have over collars is that they reduce the risk of a neck injury, especially for delicate toy breeds.

They also cause less restriction for breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs who are prone to respiratory problems or tracheal collapse. If your pup has any trouble breathing, a harness is likely the best choice.

Collars can also cause certain breeds’ eyeballs to protrude from their sockets if too much pressure is applied to the neck. Harnesses can either be front-attaching or back-attaching.

Front-attaching harnesses are effective for larger dogs as they lead from the front, while a back-attaching harness doesn’t allow for the walker to have as much control and may lead to worse pulling behavior since the dog does not feel the guidance necessary for training.

Back-attaching harnesses are recommended for small breeds as they are more sensitive to pressure and a front-attaching harness can be painful for them.

What makes a great harness for a small dog

What makes a great harness for a small dog

Soft and lightweight material

Small dogs require harnesses that fit comfortably and properly accommodate their body shape.

Obviously, you’ll need a small harness for a small dog, and this can be tricky for those with Chihuahuas or other ultra-tiny canines.

But aside from being suitably small, owners of pugs and a few other oddly shaped breeds will need a harness that can accommodate their unique dimensions and avoid pulling on their neck.

To prevent chaffing, harnesses should always be made from comfortable materials.

Soft mesh and  plush fabrics are featured by some of the best products, but even nylon webbing can provide adequate comfort, if it is properly designed.

Easy for use

Any clips, buckles or fasteners used in your dog’s harness must hold securely when engaged to keep your dog from slipping free, but they should also be easy to connect and disconnect as necessary

Fully adjustable

You will want to have a harness that is extremely adjustable, meaning you are able to move it about, adjust the length and width in the event that your doggie gets a little porky by feeding on the treats.

The best harness for your dog is something that easily grows with your dog.


There is no point buying a harness that is unable to last the length of your dog’s life.

If you have to keep purchasing harnesses because they keep getting spoilt or worn, you are bound to become frustrated.

The best harness for small dogs should be something that is extremely durable and is able to last a very long time.


The whole point of getting a harness for your little doggie is because you want to help relieve the stress that a collar places on the neck.

It would then defeat the purpose if the harness you use for your dog begins to choke it.

This is an important feature to look for when searching for the best harness for small dogs.


While you love your pooch and you are willing to do anything for them, it does not mean you have to become broke simply because you want to purchase the right tools and accessories for them.

When you look to buy the very best harness for your small dog, price is usually a major determinant.

Thankfully there are numerous harness within various price ranges so you are able to pick out what works for you and your budget, while still making sure that your dog gets the very best.

Does Spending More Means More Quality?

It is easy to believe that the more you spend the more quality you get, but sometimes this isn’t always the case.

This was something that I thought was true as well, but I have been able to discover that sometimes the cheaper stuff is actually better.

Now this does not mean there aren’t cheap harnesses that do not pass the test, it just simply means you have to take it on a harness by harness case.

How To Measure Your Dog for a Harness

How To Measure Your Dog for a Harness


You might be wondering why many harnesses don’t list a weight range for the sizing.

Well, since dogs come in so many lovable shapes and sizes, they can carry their weight differently.

For example, a 10 lb. Yorkie is going to look and fit accessories very different than a 10 lb. Pug.

Your best bet for selecting the right size is to measure both the neck girth and chest girth – the chest being the most important measurement for the correct size.

First, take out your soft measuring tape. Ideally, your dog should be standing up when taking measurements to allow the chest to expand at its fullest.

Wrap the measuring tape around the widest part of your dog’s chest, just behind his or her front legs. Do the same at the base of the neck (where a collar would sit comfortably).

If you don’t have a soft measuring tape, you can always do the same with a piece of string or dental floss, cut it where the two ends meet around the dog, and then lay it out and measure it with a hard ruler.

Once you do this, then you are ready to go shop for a harness for your dog.

How To Train Your Dog to Use a Harness

Introducing a harness to your older dog:

Step 1

While it is a bit easier to select a harness for your puppy, it can be harder to do this for an older dog especially if that dog has never worn a harness before

Step 2 – Make it boring

Older dogs will tend to get excited when they see a harness, or anything that relates to going walking for that matter.

To desensitize them to it, keep the harness somewhere accessible so that he’s used to it but loses interest in it pretty quick.

Step 3 – Adjustment period

Keep the harness hanging around the house for a couple of days

Step 4 – Start indoors

Put the harness on in the house, giving your pup much praise when he accepts it. Let your pooch wear the harness for the afternoon.

Step 5 – Don’t be negative

You don’t want your pup to associate the harness with bad things, so make sure you give him praise when he does things right, rather than telling him off if he’s playing up in it.

Step 6 – Go outdoors

By now, your pooch should be ready to go out walking in his smart new harness.

Be sure to also teach him how to heel, so he doesn’t pull on the harness too hard.

How To Clean and Maintain a Small Dog Harness

It can be tempting to just toss your dog’s equipment into a machine washable bag and then throw the whole thing in the washer.

Some manufacturers specifically allow that in their care instructions. If that’s the case then go for it (on the hand wash setting if you have one).

But most manufacturers recommend against using machines. High quality gear usually includes something more than a strip of woven nylon and a plastic clip.

The best equipment relies on a combination of different materials, advanced stitching methods, protective coatings, and more to keep your dog safe and comfortable.

Those things don’t react well to machine washing.

Hand washing is always a safe bet. But handwashing means different things depending on what you’re washing.

Below are some basic guidelines based on common materials used for collars, harnesses, and leashes. Whatever method you use to clean the main part of the gear there might also be some hardware that requires additional maintenance.

The stainless steel O-ring and plastic clips have different requirements than the nylon harness they’re attached to.

These parts might not get stinky, but they can degrade over time if not properly maintained.

Do’s and Don’ts to do with a dog harness

Do’s – Proper fitting

Spend time fitting the harness properly on your dog. You can always get tips and instructions from the internet as well as the shop you purchase the harness from.

While training your dog to walk on the leash, tie the knot about 2ft from the clasp.

Holding the leash

It is necessary that you hold the leash of the harness with the hand closest to your dog.

Reward your dog each time it takes a step with you. This will help your dog enjoy its walk more while learning to adjust to the harness.

Shorter Distances

When introducing your dog to a harness, try walking shorter distances until it gets accustomed to the harness.

Don’ts – Do not pull

There are many no-pull harnesses available in the market. If this is not an option you can always tie two knots instead of one on a regular harness, and walk as close to your dog as possible.

Try to change your direction; this will divert your dog’s attention.

Do not be impatient

The best way to get your dog to enjoy being in the harness is by being patient. If your dog doesn’t feel that it is a “good boy”, it might hold the harness responsible.

Be patient while fitting, walking with and removing the harness. Jerking the harness can cause injuries in smaller dogs.

Frequantly Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I use a small dog harness on a cat?

It is possible to use a harness that was designed for a small dog for an adult cat. When it comes to kittens however, you will be hard-pressed to find a harness that actually fits them.

Short conclusion

Understand the dos and don’ts of a harness before using one. You can always consult a professional to get tips and understand the techniques.

Keep in mind the breed and size of your dog while choosing a suitable harness.

If your dog feels better with a leash, do not change it to a harness. However, short-nosed dogs, such as pugs are more comfortable when harnessed.

Photo from: buchsammy /, steveball /, graphicphoto /, 

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