7 Best Dog Harnesses For When Collars Don’t Cut It · The Wildest

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7 Best Dog Harnesses For When Collars Don’t Cut It

Experts pick the best harnesses for every kind of dog – from flat-faced breeds to escape artists

by Avery Felman
31 October 2023
Woman with neck-length black hair wearing all black leather and black converse walking her brown dog on a black and white harness against a yellow tin background
Courtesy of By Scout

All dog parents know (or quickly find out) that certain life hacks are essential to raising your pup. Sometimes those life hacks are simple products that become so important to you and your pet that you latch on to them like a toddler with a stuffed animal.

This is especially true when you’re on a walk together and exposed to all the dangers of the outside world: loud noises, cars zooming past, power walkers who don’t respect your dog’s boundaries. That’s where a harness comes in handy; it can give you more control over your pup’s behaviour while releasing them from the restriction of many traditional collars.

There’s a lot to consider before investing in one, though. Vet Dr John Iovino advises looking for a first-time harness by “paying attention to size“ and, with younger dogs especially, “getting something adjustable and they can grow into“. From there, he says it’s all about finding something that’s ”durable and sturdy”.

In terms of material, Annie Grossman, owner and co-founder of School For The Dogs, recommends a harness with “velvet-lined underarm straps, which can reduce chafing”.

With size, material and security all at the top of the priority list, finding a solid harness is rapidly becoming a bit more of a Goldilocks scenario. Thankfully, we’ve asked the professionals what every dog owner should be looking for in a harness. Below, the seven harnesses that made the cut, handily broken down by our experts’ criteria.

Safety and fit

While it goes without saying that the best harness for a 2kg Terrier is probably not the best one for a Great Pyrenees, that doesn’t mean that the way you fit a harness to your pup isn’t worth examining. Just as you wouldn’t buy yourself a pair of shoes two sizes too big, you wouldn’t buy your dog a harness that hangs off them like a poorly tailored jacket (your vet will also tell you about the dangers of that).

Taking into account your dog’s potential for growth (are they in puppyhood or adulthood?), their temperament (are they anxious for attention or aloof?), and their nature (are they skittish or calm?) is the most foolproof way to ensure their harness is correctly fitted.

Dr Iovino says “making sure that the harness is pretty snug“ is vital. He adds: “If it’s too loose, dogs can get spooked, and then they’re out of their collar or their harness, so it’s really important to make sure that it’s not too loose.”

On the other hand, he says that many dogs have been using the same harness or collar since they were first brought home. “I’ve had a few dogs grow into their harnesses, or even their collars, and clients don’t realise – and you go to feel it and it’s so tight. They grow fast, so it’s something to be aware of.” 

Finding a happy medium between the control of a harness that fits snuggly and the comfort of a looser fit is something that can be established by the good old-fashioned two-finger test. “You still want to be able to fit two fingers between all the areas that the harness is contacting,” says Dr Iovino. Having a properly fitted harness will help prevent dogs from injury and removes the potential of escape.


Regardless of your and your pup’s levels of activity, having a harness that your dog can wear without wearing it down is paramount. A harness that’s machine washable or particularly sturdy – holding up to tugging, biting and handling – is a huge advantage. Considering that this harness will get as much, if not more, use than that old toy at the bottom of your dog’s bin, it’s not one to scrimp on.

Through her experience as a trainer, Vera Murri of physical and virtual training schools DogLife Hoboken and Dogs Life Inc, has learnt that not every harness can be used for every occasion.

“Honestly, there is no size that fits all. It all depends on the dog or the puppy. It all depends on the size and the breed and if they're pulling on a harness or the lead or if they’re walking nicely,” she says.

Front vs back lead attachment

Where your dog’s lead clips on their harness is mostly a matter of personal preference, but the options each have distinct advantages and disadvantages. For example, a front clip effectively allows you to lead stubborn, walk-resistant dogs forwards, but it’s a particularly terrible idea for small dogs who are lower to the ground and will cause the lead to drag.

Dr Iovino recommends looking for a harness with a back attachment. “It’s just more practical when they walk and sniff, especially if you have a short dog. It’s a lot easier to keep the lead above ground and just a little bit of tension when it’s hooked on the back than the front,” he says.

Murri also makes a case for when a dual-clip harness may be beneficial: “My favourite harness, and the one that I use with my dog, is the Freedom harness. I like the harness because it has two points of attachment. It has one on the chest and one in the back. The one in the back has a martingale on it, which has a little loop that gets tighter every time the dog pulls so it makes it harder for the dog to slip out of it.”

Over the head vs step-in

Getting your dog in their harness shouldn’t be complicated, and if it feels like you’re untangling a necklace, there’s a good chance it’s not the most streamlined design. While the choice is entirely yours, many vets recommend introducing your dog to the concept of a harness before you begin your hunt for ’the one’.

“I would just expose the dog to a normal basic harness at first,” says Dr Iovino. “My dog just kind of knows now. She feels the collar part go over her head and instantly lifts her leg. If you just do that repetition on a basic harness, getting it on and off should be just as easy.” 

From there, you can choose the harness to your and your pup’s liking – whether that is one that is placed over their head, clips on after being slipped on the legs, or snapped and Velcroed on the chest.

While Murri doesn’t have a preference towards any particular method, she warns about the dangers of step-in harnesses. “I mean the easiest one obviously is the step-in harness, but the problem with that is if you have a fearful dog who gets scared of something, they start pulling away, and they can slip out of that harness really easily,” she warns. ”Before you even realise, the dog is going to be gone.”

Best harnesses

Best for colour

Best comfort fit

white harness

Made with a breathable mesh lining and flexible straps, Maxbone’s easy-fit harness is made with comfort in mind. Ideal for small pups or dogs with flat faces, the harness is a welcome alternative to collars that can restrict the airways of pups that are already working overtime. As Dr Iovino puts it: “Their throats can be quite sensitive and there’s different conditions that can make them cough more, so I think medically we can definitely recommend a harness over a collar.”

Along with being a lightweight, flexible, high-performing harness, it’s also as stylish, sturdy and sleek as they come.

Best escape-proof option

ruffwear harness in red

A huge part of harness selection has to do with your lifestyle and your pup’s behaviour. Do they come when you call their name? Do they tend to leap and lunge unexpectedly? Are you planning to trek along coastal paths together? All of this will play a role in your decision-making and, as always, safety should be the main thing informing your choice. Whether your puppy tends to wiggle their way out of their current harness, or your Great Dane forces all of their body weight against theirs, there’s an escape-proof alternative to the run-of-the mill offerings that keeps your pup’s security in mind.

Best for tuggers

black leather harness with gold hardware

Made from alternative leather, this all-weather harness is super-durable, which is ideal if your pup is a tugger. While she emphasises the pros and cons of all harnesses, Murri shares a key tenet of leather and alternative leather harnesses: “The harness is not going to be as rough, especially under the armpit, with most dogs.” So, if you have a pup that puts their whole body weight into their chest, this may prevent them from chaffing.

Best calming harness

tan harness with crystal

Ensuring your pup’s physical and emotional comfort is the most important aspect of harness training. That’s why we couldn’t miss the opportunity to sneak some woo-woo healing crystals into the mix. The good vibrations harness comes in five different crystal options – sodalite, rose quartz, black obsidian, chevron amethyst and howlite – all of which provide different benefits.

Aside from being a unique alternative to the classic leather harness (it’s made of eco-friendly genuine vegan cactus leather), it also features a dual lead attachment, adjustable shoulder straps and an elevated peek-a-boo grommet.

Best fashion-forward harness

emerald green harness with leather

Handwoven from a single piece of padded interwoven synthetic silk fibre rope and a series of Buttero leather features, Boo Oh’s Ray Harness is simplistic, chic and no-nonsense.

Celebrated for her bespoke furniture that has been featured in Architectural Digest, founder Jay Sae Jung Oh set out to create elevated pet products that fit her lifestyle – with her Frenchie, Boo, in mind, of course. The self-proclaimed animal lover definitely hit the mark when it comes to practicality and products that fashionable people actually want to be seen with.

Best sustainable choice

white harness with black chevron detail

The ’70s are back in a major way, and chevron prints are no exception. This no-pull harness’s dual functionality with a multi-clip option is just one reason why the parents of overzealous dogs are flocking to By Scout. Another is their commitment to sustainability. Made with organic hemp webbing, solid brass hardware with a low zinc count and recycled polyester patterned ribbon, the brand takes their environmental footprint seriously. By ensuring their products are cruelty-free and sourcing sustainable materials, By Scout is as much for the planet as they are for your pup.

Avery, editor at The Wildest, and her cat, Chicken

Avery Felman

Avery is a writer and producer. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her reading, practicing her Greek on Duolingo, and delving into the Sex and the City discourse. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their cat, Chicken, who rules with an iron fist.

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