How to Fit Your Dog for a Harness: 3 Simple Tricks
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The great dog walking debate: harness or collar. It really is a no-brainer that a harness is the right way to go when you consider all the benefits. Harnesses help protect against choking or damaging the neck and throat, they can also be used as a training tool to give you better control over your dog.
Traditional collars can choke your dog when they pull, but harnesses distribute the weight evenly across their chest to avoid potential injury. Many harnesses also offer multiple attachment points that can minimize or eliminate pulling. This can be very helpful when training a dog, as you can use the harness to gently guide them in the right direction rather than correcting them with force.
Harnesses also have a handle on the back, which lets you easily lift your pup in and out of the car or up and down steps. With all these great benefits and more, it’s no wonder that harnesses are becoming the go-to choice for a growing number of pet parents.
But how can you make sure that the harness you use is fitted properly and comfortable for your pup? Follow these 3 simple tricks to get a perfect fit:
1. Choosing a Harness
As the name suggests, over-head harnesses slide over your dog’s head and are adjusted and secured around their back. Older dogs or those with mobility issues can benefit from this type of harness as they are equipped with more padding for comfort and support.
The RUFFWEAR Front Range Dog Harness is an excellent example of this style. The durable harness features four points of adjustment for an individualized fit, a comfortable foam-padded construction, and a sturdy top handle. The popular harness is available in a wide range of colors and sizes, so you’re sure to find the perfect match for your pup.
These harnesses are designed like a figure 8. They allow your dog to step right into them, making them very easy to put on. All sizing is completed the first time your dog wears the harness, and they’re held in place with a buckle that doesn’t impact the adjustments you made.
The Best Pet Supplies Voyager Padded Step-In Harness is a well-made harness that utilizes durable fasteners and quick-release buckles to ensure a secure and custom fit. It’s ideal for dogs of all shapes and sizes, and the machine-washable fabric is a welcome bonus.
Both over-head harnesses and step-in harnesses each have their own unique benefits, so it’s important to consider your dog’s individual needs before making a purchase.
2. Getting the Right Fit
Once you’ve decided on the type of harness to get, you’ll need to make sure it’s the right size and fit for your four-legged friend. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their harnesses. Here are the three most important measurements you need to know to ensure the correct fit:
- Chest: Measure around your dog’s body. Begin at the bottom of their rib cage, going up and over their back, then circle back to where you started.
- Neck: Locate and measure the thickest part of your dog’s neck. This is right at the base of their neck and the top of their shoulders, lower than where a collar would typically sit.
- Weight: Weight tends to be the primary measurement used by companies when selling harnesses. It’s important to compare the recommended weight range to the chest and neck measurements that are listed. This is because the shape of a dog’s body will impact how well the harness fits.
You’ll usually find a sizing chart in the product listing of the harness you’re looking at. Frequently, the size ranges will overlap. Here’s an explanation from Kurgo, an outdoor dog gear brand: “For example, the neck size of a medium harness might be 16-25″ while the large is 18-30″. If your dog falls within the range for both sizes on both the neck and chest, we suggest you go to the larger size.”
Remember, dogs can be uncooperative when you’re trying to take measurements! So, allow your dog to sniff the measuring tool and reward them with treats every step of the way. The easiest way to weigh your dog is to weigh yourself using bathroom scales, then pick up your dog and weigh both of you together. The difference between these two weights is the weight of your dog.
Repeat the process of rewarding your dog when fitting and adjusting their new harness. This will help reinforce a positive association and ensure you’re able to provide a proper fit.
3. Getting Your Dog Used to the Harness
Like your measuring tool, your dog may be overwhelmed or even scared by their new harness at first. But with a little patience and plenty of treats, they’ll soon get used to it. Here are some tips for establishing trust and comfort between your dog and their new harness:
- Allow your dog to smell and sniff the harness.
- Place treats around, on, and in the harness to encourage sniffing and positive contact.
- Gently touch your dog with the harness, without putting it on. Begin with quick touches and gradually extend the time they’re in contact with it. Praise and reward your pup after each time the harness makes contact with them.
- If the harness has buckles, slowly open and close them, giving your dog a treat with each click.
- Use your hands to gently massage, rub, and stroke the areas of your dog’s body that the harness will come into contact with. This will help desensitize these areas and help your dog get used to them being touched.
Take It Slowly
Choosing the right harness and ensuring a good fit is crucial for your dog’s safety and comfort. We hope the steps above make the process a little easier on both you and your pup! It’s difficult to say how quickly your dog will begin to feel comfortable with their harness. Many dogs may adapt within a few days, while others will take weeks or even longer.
If at any point your dog backs away or nips when moving through the stages listed above, it’s a sign that you’re moving too fast. If this happens, go back to the previous step and reward your dog until they’re ready to move on. It’s vital to build comfort between your dog and their harness in order to reap all the benefits they offer.