Should My Dog Wear a Harness All the Time?

Mini Goldendoodle standing in grass wearing harness

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Training is one of the most significant investments new pet owners can provide for their dogs. Good toys and food aside, a well-behaved dog is a happy dog. Harnesses are pretty common for controlling and training a young pup. Not only that but they also provide a great way to comfortably control your dog throughout their life.

How often should you keep your dog’s harness on to ensure they get the best training and remain healthy?

A dog’s harness can stay on beyond their outdoor or walk time. Dogs should get used to their harnesses, leashes, and collars when trained. Familiarity with a harness will make a dog more comfortable and obedient when it’s time for a leash. Just remember that dogs need time out of their harnesses to prevent irritation.

If you are keeping your dog’s harness on for extended periods of time, you should not worry too much. However, it is important to keep a close eye on their behavior to ensure their skin is not being irritated. Young and old dogs alike can benefit from wearing their harness. Read on to learn about the benefits and concerns of harnesses for your pet.

Harnesses vs. Collars for Your Dog

Dogs naturally look up to their owners for security and comfort. Your actions, though, will have the most significant impact on how strong of a relationship you have with your dog. Harnesses can be great for helping you form a more secure bond with your new little rascal or for keeping your adult pup happy and comfortable.

When training a young dog, collars may not be the best option. Smaller pups can often wriggle their neck out of a collar and get off the leash.

Worse, squirrely dogs could quite possibly hurt themselves if they fight against the collar. Injuries to the neck and throat are not uncommon and can be serious.

On the other hand, harnesses are a more secure and safe way to keep your dog on a leash. Because harnesses are typically secured around the torso and front legs, a neck or back injury is much less likely. This also makes it highly unlikely your dog will find a way to squeeze out of their restraint.

When our dog was a young pup, we started out using a collar when we walked her. However, we found it much easier to control her without the risk of choking or hurting her by using a properly fitting harness. Your results may differ but we have found much success by using a harness over the years rather than a collar when using a leash.

Benefits of Harnesses

  • Control – It is easier to control an animal with a harness. Most of their body is under more direct control with a harness and leash.
  • Health – Back or neck injury-prone dogs will face less physical stress and be overall healthier. Harnesses will also reduce the risks of esophagus and eye damage that can occur with collar use.
  • Safety – An animal is unlikely to wriggle their way out of a harness. Harnesses are more trustworthy for keeping a dog on their leash and out of harm’s way.

Harnesses can provide general peace of mind from accidentally hurting a dog by tugging on their leash too hard. When a dog is comfortable on walks, they are more comfortable with who is walking them.

Harness Training a Dog

Small dog pulling in a harness

When first training a dog, it is important to introduce them to their leash, harness, or collar. A puppy will not be used to the sensation of being in a harness and it may give them anxiety or discomfort. Instead of simply throwing their harness on and going for a walk, you may want to take some time to get them used to it first.

It is especially important to get your dog warmed up to its harness if it can be skittish. Starting off right and slowly encouraging them one day at a time will get them more comfortable.

During downtime around the house, fit your dog with its harness. Leave it on them for a little while and let them get used to the sensation. They may act a little strange at first, but eventually, they’ll get more of a feel for moving around when wearing it.

Getting a Dog Used to Their Harness

  1. Introduce your dog to the harness. Let them sniff it and inspect it before putting it on. Encourage your dog’s positive emotions by giving them a “good boy/girl” and maybe a treat.
  2. Do a size check. Before taking your dog for a walk with a new harness, put it on and double-check the fit is not too tight or too loose. As a general guideline, you should be able to fit no more than two fingers between your pup and the straps of the harness.
  3. Before going for a walk, give them some time. Let your dog get acclimated to the sensation. Let them walk around, lay down, play, and just be themselves.
  4. Do a comfort check. If your dog tries to get out of the harness or is biting/scratching it, pay close attention to them. Where are they biting? Are those parts too tight? Adjust if necessary.
  5. Show them the love. Start to take your dog on walks with the harness. Continue to give them positive reinforcement with your words. After the walk is over, be sure to pet them and give them a treat.

Ensuring that you are giving your dog positive reinforcement during harness training will help make them feel even more comfortable and trusting towards you. When you are not on walks, leave the harness on your dog occasionally. This will only help them get more used to it.

Properly Fitting a Dog’s Harness

It is essential to get a properly fitting harness for your dog. An incorrectly fitting harness can harm how the dog walks, dig into their skin, pull fur, or put undue pressure on their body. A properly fitted harness will avoid such issues.

While it is easy to purchase harnesses online, you may want to visit a pet store with your dog to try them on.

Take your pup to the nearest outfitter and grab a couple of different styles and sizes. Put them on and walk your dog around the store a bit. The harness should not be loose, but it should not be super tight.

Some styles may simply not work for your dog. Whether they are ill-fitting in certain areas or proportioned awkwardly, not all harnesses work with every breed. Some trial and error may be necessary to narrow down the most comfortable harness for your dog.

Small Poodle lying down wearing harness

Ensuring the Proper Fit

  • A harness should fit securely around a dog’s torso, chest, and back. There should be enough slack to easily fit a finger or two (but no more) under the harness.
  • Make sure it isn’t too tight on their chest. This can restrict breathing and also put stress on their shoulders and harm a dog’s joints.
  • Ensure the straps aren’t rubbing too much against their skin. Too much slack can cause chaffing.

How to Know if a Dog’s Harness is Irritating Them

Harnesses are overall an excellent method for keeping your dog on a leash. They ensure maximum comfort for your animal when on and off walks. If you’d like, you can leave a well-fitting harness on throughout the day. This will get a dog more comfortable with being on a leash and in its harness.

Chaffed Skin or Matted Hair

You should be on the lookout, though, for any signs of irritation. Be sure to take your dog’s harness off at least every once in a while. Give them some nice scratches around where it was, and double-check for any signs of chafing or hair matting.

Awkward Gait or Strained Breathing

Other signs of discomfort can be varied. If your dog always walks awkwardly when on a harness, it may be straining their joints or shoulders. Listen to how your dog is breathing with and without the harness on. Strained breathing can indicate a harness that is too tight.

If a specific harness is consistently causing these signs of discomfort, it may simply not be a good style. Try some others out and reevaluate.

Types of Harnesses and Uses

When picking a harness for your pup, you should consider comfort and control needs. Not every harness is right for every dog.

There are two different styles of harnesses: Strap and Vest.

Strap-Style harnesses are pretty low-key, lightweight, and cover less of the dog’s body than vests do. If your dog is a strong puller, this style may cause more chafing. Another drawback is the ease of use, as it can be quite challenging to figure out which strap goes where.

Vest-Style harnesses can be bulkier as they cover more of your dog’s torso. On the plus side, though, they chafe less than strap-style harnesses. Their swaddling qualities can have a calming effect on skittish and anxious dogs but are less beneficial for dogs who dislike feeling constrained. They are often made of breathable material with mesh inserts.

There are 4 main types of harnesses (aside from service dog harnesses, harnesses for disabled dogs, and car harnesses). Most harnesses have the same basic design of two straps that loop around the dog’s torso, with one strap sitting on the chest in front of the front legs and the other wrapping around the torso behind the front legs.

There are two additional straps connecting both loops at the top and bottom. Harnesses are also equipped with a D-Ring to attach a leash and/or ID tags to.

1) Front-Clip Harness

The key distinction of a front-clip harness is the attachment point of the D-ring on the chest. It is a good option for dogs who tend to pull during walks as it makes them slow down to avoid the increased pressure in front and redirects your dog’s attention back to you.

Drawbacks: increased chafing and a greater chance of leash getting tangled in forelimbs

Popular choice: PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness

2) Back-Clip Harness

The attachment point for the leash on a back-clip harness is a D-ring located on your dog’s back. It is a great alternative to a traditional collar as it provides more control and reduces the risk of throat and neck injuries. With the leash attaching at the top, there is also less potential for tangling.

Drawbacks: may worsen pulling issues

Popular choice: PetSafe Sure-Fit Harness

3) Dual-Clip Harness

This type of harness has a D-ring connection at the front AND the back, letting you attach a leash to either location or both (if you own a double-ended leash). If you’re on the fence between option 1 and 2, go for this type as it’s the most versatile.

Drawbacks: cost more and you need to purchase a double-ended leash if you want to connect to both points at the same time

Popular choice: 2 Hounds Design Freedom No Pull Dog Harness

4) Head Halter

Head halters are an excellent training tool for even your toughest pullers. There are two straps that loop around your dog’s head, one sits high on its neck and the other fits over the nose. Both loops connect below the jaw where the leash can be attached to a D-ring.

This halter type works by gently redirecting a dog’s head towards you and refocusing his/her attention on you. It allows you to effectively control your dog’s movements regardless of their size and weight.

Drawbacks: extremely rebellious dogs could sustain neck injuries or end up with marks on their face from the nose loop

Popular choice: PetSafe Gentle Leader

In Conclusion

A dog with a properly fitting harness can surely wear it around the house. If it is not causing them discomfort and is taken off on occasion to give their skin some air, your dog should be comfortable wearing their harness all the time.

Dan Collins

Not only am I a dog or pet lover, but an animal lover. My Goldendoodle has opened my eyes to how special animals can be and I am proud to be her dad. I write about Doodles and share my knowledge and experience of owning a mini Goldendoodle for 16 years.

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