Five Reasons to Use a Dog Harness

March 25, 2014

By Laurie Darroch

Your dog may need more than just a simple collar and leash to wear for a walk or an outing. They may need to use a harness as well. A harness helps with control and safety issues. Take these five reasons into consideration when you are deciding whether or not to purchase a harness for your dog.

Size of the Dog

Large or muscular dogs can be very strong. A harness can give you more control with your dog when you are out and about, even if your dog is not fully trained in good leash behavior.

Some smaller dog breeds may be more delicate and prone to injury. Wearing a harness disperses the pressure from one smaller area on the neck, to the back and the body. It spreads the stress over a larger surface area.

Choking and Injuries

Neck and trachea injuries might occur if a dog is constantly yanking, pulling or fighting the leash. Unlike a leash attached to the collar at the neck, a leash attached to a traditional body harness connects to a hook on the dog’s back between their shoulders.

The body harness takes the direct stress off their neck. There are also harnesses which attach on the chest or head.


A dog that is fighting the leash, or excited, jumping and twisting it can tangle not only themselves in the leash, but their human as well. A strong dog might quickly wrap the leash around your legs, feet, fingers, arms or wrist and pinch or injure you.

When a dog gets excited, he doesn’t know his own strength or understand that he might be hurting you. A really strong dog might even pull you over when he has you tangled in the leash. It is more difficult for the dog to tangle either of you up if the leash is attached to a harness on his back.


Although dogs can be trained to follow the rules of good behavior when on a leash, wearing a harness gives you more control when training your dog.

It is easier to attach the leash to the back or chest of an excitable dog than it is to one wiggling his head around in anticipation, or because he doesn’t like the leash.

If training is easier, the dog will learn to associate the harness and leash with the pleasant experience of going on an outing with someone they love.


Some dogs dislike any kind of collar or restraint. They may be able to work a collar off their neck. If a harness is fitted properly and is the right size and style for the dog, it is more difficult to wriggle out of than a simple collar might be.

There are safety reasons for using a seatbelt for a dog riding in a car or truck. A harness is an easy way to attach the seatbelt to the dog to keep them safe while you drive. In case of an accident, the dog will be held securely in place.

Dog harnesses are made in different styles designed for whatever the individual dog’s need may be. Some are simple straps. Others have more material covering a larger area of their back or chest. There are also different styles with alternate attachment points for the leash than the traditional body harness has.

It is a good idea to remove the harness after an outing. Constant wear may be annoying to the dog. It can also rub the fur, irritate their skin on areas that the harness rubs, and matt the fur.

Top photo by HackBitz
Middle photo by John M. P. Knox
Bottom photo by Rennett Stowe

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

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  1. Sayla Buckingham says:

    I am disabled and on a walker and I have had to pick him up using his harness. He is now having trouble breathing. I hurt him with his harness??

  2. Niki Wise says:

    I don’t get it. If you are training a dog to pull a cart or sled, a harness is the way to go as a dog’s natural inclination to a harness is to pull against it. The strongest part of a dog is the neck. When a dog plays with another dog they grab each other by the neck to wrestle. When a mother dog disciplines a pup she grabs it by the neck. Dogs understand pressure on the neck as a communication. I have never seen a dog on a harness walk calmly at heel. They are always lunging or pulling against it and dragging the handler after them, potentially pulling them to the ground. It is not a training device unless one is training the dog to pull. A collar gives the dog the information it needs to relate to the handler’s commands.

  3. Suzy says:

    Thank you for this article! I have been trying to convince my neighbor to use a harness instead of a choke collar for her dachshund. Dachshunds are prone to injury anyway and hers is also overweight, doubling the danger. Your article changed her mind and now I don’t cringe when I see her walking Mack down the street with him tugging at the leash!

  4. Becca says:

    My golden retriever puppy has a harness for walks and fun outings, like a trip to the store. He’s fine with a collar for quick trips outside, but the harness is incredibly helpful for his training when we’re out on longer walks on the trail. He’s such a friendly little guy, and he loves people and other dogs, so the harness is great for more control when he gets super excited about something. And he has come to associate the harness with fun experiences. He has a step in harness, and all I have to do now is set it on the floor and he’ll put his feet in the leg holes and wait for someone to buckle it up and take him out for an adventure!