French Bulldog Harness | An In-depth Buyers Guide
The Frenchie is growing in popularity, now reaching the #4 spot among the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. (and first among the small breeds!). It’s probably due to their adorable good looks and spunky personality.
OUR #1 PICK
The best value for money
Puppia Soft Dog Harness
You can shop on a budget and still find a great look and feel for your perky pup. This stylish design is available in 12 colors (including camo for the tough guys out there!). It is made from a lightweight, machine washable, polyester mesh. It is so soft to the touch that this makes an excellent choice if you have had trouble getting your sensitive French Bulldog to adjust to a harness.
Cool Mesh Netted Dog Harness
Red Dingo Designer Dog Harness
Puppia Soft Dog Harness
Noxgear LightHound LED Illuminated
Doggie Design American River Dog Tux Harness
If you already have one of these pint-sized companions, you are probably already aware that their cute squished faces also come with some potential health problems such as restricted breathing.
Getting a gear that won’t make breathing even harder is a chief concern for this lovable breed.
If finding the best harness for your French Bulldog is what you’re after, you have come to the right place.
We have included some information so that you can learn more about the best qualities to look for in the right harness, as well as our top 5 picks in a variety of styles and budget options.
Breathing Problems in French Bulldogs
One of the most important reasons to use a harness instead of a collar with French Bulldogs is that they commonly suffer from Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS).
This condition is a direct result of the structural characteristics that are part of the breed confirmation standard in all dog breeds that are characterized as Brachycephalic—including the French Bulldog.
What is Brachycephaly?
Over the course of selective breeding, many of the flat faced dog breeds including English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Pekingese, have been bred to have the shorter bone structure in the nose and face to maintain the breed standard.
Unfortunately, despite changes in the shape of the bones of the skull and neck, the soft tissues of the soft palate, nose tissues, trachea, and vocal cords are unchanged, and are thus stuffed into the smaller spaces allowed by the bone, causing blockages in one or more anatomical “bottlenecks.”
Symptoms of Obstructed Airway in French Bulldogs
Almost all French Bulldogs will have one or more symptoms of an obstructed airway.
Symptoms range from moderate to severe. In fact, in some cases, the condition can be life threatening.
Even if your Frenchie is breathing just fine when resting, he can suddenly start to struggle with even light excursion. The additional stress and inflammation of any additional exertion can cascade out of control quickly. Proper management is critical.
It is a good idea to keep a journal of any of the following symptoms to share with your veterinarian. This can help your vet determine what treatment options are likely to be most effective.
- Loud breathing and snoring
- Frequent coughing or wheezing
- Difficulty breathing, eating, or drinking
- Shortness of breath with even light activity (usually worse in warm or humid conditions)
- Open mouth breathing or frequent panting
Treatments for Brachycephalic Dog Breeds
Most of the treatments for this debilitating condition are surgical.
Your vet will help you decide which treatment is right for your Frenchie after doing a thorough examination, a few diagnostic tests, and taking a detailed history.
While many of the breathing problems associated with this breed are due to the structural problems created by selective breeding for a flat face, they can be exacerbated to dangerous levels if you allow your dog to become overweight.
Make sure to do right by your dog and his comfort by maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise.
When the soft palate of your dog is too big for the bone structure of the skull, your vet may recommend this procedure. It involves surgically removing excess parts of the soft palate and is usually done with state-of-the-art laser technology.
Widening the Stenotic Nares
This surgery involves opening the passageway of air in the nostrils, sometimes done with a special CO2 laser.
It can have a dramatic effect on your dog’s breathing, raising her quality of life and making it safer for her to be an active and healthy dog.
Removal of Laryngeal Saccules
Sometimes the airway of this breed is blocked by excess tissue from small nodules near the vocal chords. When the dog breathes it can pull this soft tissue into the windpipe and keep the air from flowing normally.
Unfortunately, many brachycephalic dogs also have problems with a narrow windpipe or partial or complete collapse of the trachea. This can be a life-threatening condition that unfortunately does not have a surgical fix.
Most French Bulldogs with breathing problems will experience relief after surgery, as long as the problem is detected and treated early and the dog’s exercise and weight is properly managed.
French Bulldog: Frenchie Harness or Collar?
French Bulldogs are prone to problems with their trachea, an area that can be damaged or inflamed by pulling while on a leash using a regular collar.
French Bulldogs should absolutely use a harness, not a collar!
We normally don’t take such a strong stance on dog products, but in this case we have to strongly agree with the caution that many veterinarians have expressed regarding the short faced breeds.
Unless your vet tells you otherwise, please use a harness to walk your Frenchie!
Even if you take the time to properly train your pup to walk on a leash without pulling, you can’t predict or prevent distractions such as a cat running away or another dog popping around the corner that could trigger your dog to suddenly run to the end of the leash.
It only takes a split-second to do permanent damage to the windpipe.
If your little guy is on a low-front harness, you won’t have to worry about doing any additional damage to the windpipe if he happens to get excited and run to the end of the leash.
How to Put a Harness on a French Bulldog: Training Tips
Frenchies can be known to be a little stubborn. If you have a puppy, the best thing to do is to help her get used to using a harness as soon as possible.
The truth is most dogs will adjust to a harness in a matter of a few tries.
However, if you have an adult who is struggling to get used to it, here are some tips to help you make the transition:
Pick a lightweight harness to start with.
The softer and lighter the gear, the less it will bother your canine companion, helping her make a quick adjustment to the new feel of wearing her halter.
Check out our top lightweight pick if you think this might apply to your dog.
Start by associating the harness with praise.
It is important that when you first take the harness out of the box you start the process of associating it with rewards.
Use a positive tone of voice when you are holding the harness and give your doggie plenty of praise for showing the least bit of interest in the harness.
Keep your cool.
It might be frustrating if your pup rejects the harness at first but avoid letting that show.
Your buddy is likely to associate your negative mental state with the harness and misinterpret the signal to mean that the harness is what is causing your distress.
If you find yourself getting inpatient, put the harness away and try again later.
Before even putting the harness on your Frenchie, just put it on the floor and reward her for even going over to check it out.
When she seems calm around the harness, slip it over her neck loosely, reward and praise, then immediately take it off. At this point the harness doesn’t even have to be fitted as you are not fully connecting it to her body.
Continue with this process but start adding a few seconds before rewarding followed by taking it off.
Once you are up to about 5 seconds, start rewarding it every few seconds without taking it off.
If she starts fussing with the harness, you should just take it off, and put it and your bag of treats away, and say “Too bad!”
Try again in about 5-10 minutes, starting back at just a few seconds of not fussing with the harness to make her earn that reward.
Fit the harness.
It is best to do your preliminary adjustments on the harness before you attempt to put it on. Estimate by adding 1.5” to your dog’s measurements along her body where the straps will lay.
Try it on. You want to be able to fit 2 fingers along the harness straps, making sure she won’t be at all constricted in her breathing.
Take it off if you need to do further adjustments.
Practice before going on walks.
Before you ever hook on the leash for a walk outside, give your furry friend a chance to get used to wearing it around the house.
Continue to make a big deal about how cute she looks and administer lots of praise and reward.
Ignore attempts to get it off.
At first, your pup may try to get the harness off. Have something she really loves to distract her the first few times she wears it around the house.
If you give in and take it off at the first sign of trouble, you are training her that this tactic is effective, and she is likely to try even harder to get it off next time.
Adding a leash.
Before you take her out on the first walk with her new harness, practice walking in the house with the leash, using a few treats as a lure if necessary.
The Best French Bulldog Harness: Qualities to Consider
Different styles of harnesses have their own style of fit.
Our review includes the measurements for the sizes most likely to fit to save you a step. Usually this will include a chest, and in some cases, also a neck measurement.
Take your French Bulldogs chest size and neck measurements before you order so you can get the size that gives you the most room to adjust for the perfect fit.
Low Front Neckline
Because it is so important to protect your little guy from any windpipe or tracheal damage, this is probably the most important feature of the right gear.
You want a harness that distributes any pressure from pulling over the chest and shoulders rather than adding pressure to the delicate neck area.
Because these dogs are prone to overheating, you don’t want to walk your pup in gear that will trap body heat and make the problem even worse.
Likewise, while more coverage distributes weight more evenly, it can also trap more heat. It is important to balance these two qualities.
The exception to this rule is if you are looking for a harness for cool weather since these small dogs can catch a chill quickly.
The fact is that if you live in an area with hot and cold seasons, you may need to invest in a different harness so that you have year-round options.
The best French Bulldog no pull harness designs have a clip in the front so that you can attach the leash.
When your pup tries to pull this will gently transfer the forward momentum to the side without adding pressure to the chest or neck.
Here’s what to avoid
- Squeezing style training harnesses. This breed is already prone to have trouble breathing so additional restriction on their chest is just not safe.
- Face harnesses. Marketed as training gear, the type of harness that fits on a dog’s face like a halter on a horse is simply a terrible idea for these flat faced dogs.
- Bulky decorative styles. While lots of toy breeds are great to dress up, particular care needs to be taken with French Bulldogs since they are prone to overheating, especially during exercise such as a walk. Unless you are walking your pup in cold weather, go with a lighter weight choice for an everyday walking harness.
Best Harness for French Bulldog
Best “Keep it Cool” Mesh Harness for Frenchies
Doggie Design Cool Mesh Netted Dog Harness with Matching Leash
Thanks to the flattened face of our beloved French Bulldogs, there is always a concern to make sure these little troopers stay cool during a walk. And, as we discussed in the introduction, a plain collar isn’t the best choice.
This mesh style harness makes it possible to enjoy the choke free control of a harness, without trapping any excess heat for those extra warm summer days.
It isn’t built to last forever, particularly if you are planning outdoor play activities. However, for a walk about town, this lightweight harness is a great choice. Plus, the Velcro closure system could not be easier to use. Simply put it on like sweater and pull the tabs together for the perfect fit.
This harness is so soft your Frenchie won’t mind wearing it all day long. And, you can choose between 4 great colors for the style conscious.
Best Simple Design Harness for French Bulldogs
Red Dingo Designer Dog Harness
*(at the widest part of the chest)
There are several brands out there that make this style of basic strap dog harness. However, this is our top pick for Frenchies thanks to a few stand out features.
Red Dingo has gone out of their way to make a harness with the toy breeds in mind, perfectly tailored to their little bodies. While some strap harnesses are hard to fit to small dogs, and tend to look bulky and odd, this one has five adjustment points for the perfect fit.
Another benefit of the design is the ribbon covered straps which are softer and less abrasive than plain nylon webbing. This puts your pooch’s comfort first by preventing chaffing even with long term wear.
Going with a simple harness like this offers another advantage: Easy cleaning. In most cases, the occasional wipe with a damp cloth is all it will take to keep this gear looking sharp.
And, speaking of sharp, this harness for French Bulldogs comes in several color and pattern combos, all of which can be paired with a matching leash for a separate purchase.
Best Inexpensive French Bulldog Harness
Puppia Soft Dog Harness
No need to break the bank.
You can shop on a budget and still find a great look and feel for your perky pup. This stylish design is available in 12 colors (including camo for the tough guys out there!).
It is made from a lightweight, machine washable, polyester mesh. It is so soft to the touch that this makes an excellent choice if you have had trouble getting your sensitive French Bulldog to adjust to a harness.
The sizing on this harness is by neck and chest, although the neck is not adjustable. If your dog is in between two chest sizes, go for the larger neck opening to make sure she will have plenty of room in this tender area.
If you have a puller on your hands, this may not be the best choice for you. Although it will evenly distribute the weight if your dog pulls on the end of the leash, it isn’t designed for that kind of heavy duty wear and tear.
Best LED Lighted Harness for Frenchies
Noxgear LightHound LED Illuminated & Reflective Dog Harness
Chest 11.5”, up to 15 pounds
Chest 17-29”, 14-45 pounds
If you are able to spend a little more for the ultimate in safety, consider this LED lighted harness. Incorporating an escape proof design with the latest in technology, the Noxgear offers a lot of peace of mind.
Unlike many of the lighted dog harnesses out there, this model is scaled down just for toy breeds like French Bulldogs. And the visibility this harness offers in dark and low light conditions is virtually unmatched. Wide light strips and large reflective patches make your dog visible from 360°.
Whether you want to give her extra protection around traffic, or just want to be able to spot her out in your large yard after dark, this is going to be an investment you won’t regret.
The tough military grade materials used in the design of this lighted harness are weatherproof and completely washable. Detach the battery pack and toss this gear right in the washing machine for cleaning.
Best Harness for the Classy French Bulldog
Doggie Design American River Dog Tux Harness
Neck (at the base)
11-13”, 4-6 pounds
13-16”, 6-11 pounds
16-19”, 11-16 pounds
19-21”, 16-25 pounds
Some Frenchies already come with their own tuxedo look from birth. However, if your little guy didn’t, this vest style harness is one novelty selection we had to bring to your attention. Because…ADORABLE!
Made with lightweight fabrics and mesh, this is a good costume style harness that is safe for brachycephalic breeds such as French Bulldogs. While it isn’t the best choice for an already hot summer day, this outfit won’t overheat your pup during moderate weather.
The harness is built in and can be adjusted for a great fit and escape proof functionality for safety. It isn’t really designed with long-term durability in mind, but it also isn’t very expensive. It will pay for itself in a single wear in terms of the cuteness factor.
Still not sure if you want to go in on this selection? Did we mention it comes with four different colored bow ties to choose from?
We hope this guide has helped you find a safe harness for your French Bulldog. You’re making the right choice to use this simple piece of gear rather than a collar with your pocket-sized pet.
Not only will he look dapper, he will be protected from the damage to his neck that can come from using normal collars.
Do you have a Frenchie story that you would like to share with our readers? Please feel free to tell us about it in the comments section below!