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Pug wearing a front clip harness

Types Of Dog Harnesses -
Front Clip To Back Clip & Everything In Between

During my childhood, my parents always had dogs. And it seemed like “default” that a dog should always wear a collar. However, many pet parents today choose to go with a harness rather than a collar.

If you are considering getting the first ever harness for your pooch, this guide is what you need to read. There are many dog harness styles available these days, but not every type of dog harness fits every breed. Read on to find out which harness is best for your pooch!

Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa | Doctor Of Veterinary Medicine


Sara is Wileypup’s Veterinarian Adviser and helped compose this article to ensure the information is up to date and accurate. For more information on Sara click here


Different Types of Dog Harnesses

Distinguishing between different types of harnesses for dogs is important for every pet parent. What is right for one dog may not be right for another, but this guide will hopefully give you enough information to make an educated decision. These are the most common harness types for dogs:

Back Clip Dog Harnesses

German Pinscher wearing a back-clip harness

As you might guess from the name, back clip dog harnesses have an attachment for the leash on the back. Back clip harnesses come in a variety of forms. Some are comprised of only a couple of straps, while others have wide chest pads to distribute the weight away from the throat more effectively.

Both of those often come with soft padding on the inside to make wearing more comfortable for your pooch. Additionally, you’ll also find some back clip harnesses that look like little soft vests. These are especially well suited for small and tiny dogs.

Back clip harnesses are by far the most common dog harnesses used today. This makes sense, since the leash attachment on the back of the harness puts the leash in the most natural position. The leash can’t get tangled in your dog's legs, you can comfortably hold the leash, and the weight gets evenly distributed across the chest in case a dog pulls.

Best Suited For

Back clip harnesses are always a good choice for daily walks. Dog harnesses for running also always have a back clip. For short-legged breeds like Dachshunds, back clip harnesses are always recommended since having the leash in any other position poses too much risk of tangling.

Back clip harnesses are also recommended for brachycephalic breeds. Breeds with a flat face can have difficulties with breathing and are always at risk of developing something called  Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) (a). For this reason, you want to keep any kind of gear these dogs are wearing away from their gentle throats. This is exactly what back clip harnesses do, making them a great choice for Pugs, Bulldogs, French bulldogs, Chihuahuas, and other related breeds.

Pros
Cons
  • Comfortable for you and your dog
  • Not enough control for dogs who tend to pull or jump
  • The leash doesn’t get tangled
  • You can’t steer the dog in the direction you want
  • Back clip harnesses keep your dog’s throat safe
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  • Better control than with a collar
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  • These harnesses are usually easy to put on
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Front Clip Dog Harnesses

Terrier wearing a front clip harness

Front clip harnesses, also sometimes called no-pull harnesses, have an attachment for the leash in the front instead of the back. The O-ring or D-ring is located in the middle of your pooch’s chest.

The attachment at the front gives you a lot more control over your pooch. If the dog start’s pulling, you need to gently tug on the leash which will turn the dog around towards you. These harnesses often have soft padding to increase comfort, though not all of them do.

In general, front clip harnesses are not designed to be the only harness you use for your dog’s entire life.

“Front-hook harnesses (...) can affect a dog’s natural gait and hinder shoulder movement. (...) These particular harnesses may not be a good choice for dogs who engage in athletic activities.”  -  Dr. Susan C. Nelson

However, front clip harnesses were never meant to be used for long walks and sports activities. What they are made for is training. These harnesses work in a way that helps you teach your dog not to pull at the leash. A front clip harness is not a permanent solution that will magically make your dog stop pulling, but it’s a great tool to achieve this result in combination with proper training.

Best Suited For

Front clip harnesses are designed to help with leash training. This is why they are most often used for younger dogs. This type of harness works best for strong dogs like Pitbulls and other large breeds who have the tendency to pull on the leash. If your dog has a problem particularly with lunging and jumping, you might want to check out this guide too.

While there are front clip harnesses available even for tiny dogs, with smaller dogs a harness with a front clip is something that should be considered carefully. Especially with short-legged breeds, front clip harnesses can cause the leash to tangle between your pooch’s legs way too often.

Pros
Cons
  • You get better control over your dog
  • The leash can easily get tangled
  • Perfect for leash training
  • Won’t solve the issues with pulling by itself
  • Helps prevent pulling and jumping
  • Shouldn’t be used for long walks and exercise
  • Great for strong dogs like Pitbulls and Huskies
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Dual Clip Dog Harnesses

black german shepherd wearing a dual clip harness

Dual clip attachments come with O-rings or D-rings both at the front and at the back. These harnesses have become very popular in recent years because they offer a smart solution: you get the best of both worlds.

During a training session, you can use the front clip, but you can switch to the back clip when going for a relaxed walk. Both attachment points can be used at the same time too in combination with an appropriate leash for training. Sometimes these harnesses will have even more than 2 leash attachments, in which case they are called multi-clip harnesses.

Best Suited For

Dual clip or multi-clip harnesses are best for active and energetic dogs. A dual clip harness will work perfectly fine for walking, running, and similar activities if you use the back clip. If the dog starts misbehaving, or you need some extra control, you can switch the leash to the front clip.

Dual clip harnesses are also a good choice for giant breeds like Great Danes. These dogs usually have a calm temper, so a front clip harness is not really necessary. However, since they are so big and strong having the option to attach the leash at the front gives you a bit of extra security and control in case an unexpected situation were to arise.

Pros
Cons
  • Combines the best features of front clip and back clip harnesses
  • Often more expensive than other types of harnesses
  • Very versatile and flexible
  • Extra leash attachments can be annoying when not in use
  • Pressure is distributed evenly
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  • Comfortable to wear
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Pulling Harness

Husky wearing a pulling harness

Pulling harnesses are designed for activities where you actually want your dog to pull. This includes activities like sledding, all kinds of joring, and canicross. Pulling weight is not advisable for all dogs, but many larger energetic dogs actually enjoy it. In fact, an intense activity like these might just be what energetic dogs like Huskies and Malamutes need.

Pulling harnesses, also sometimes called sledding harnesses or joring harnesses, are different from regular walking harnesses. They are designed to distribute the weight more efficiently when pulling is involved. If they are well made, pulling harnesses can also reduce stress to a dog’s hips caused by pulling.

Best Suited For

Obviously, pulling harnesses are meant for dogs who can participate in pulling activities like sledding and skijoring. For Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes, it’s a natural calling (check out this guide if you are looking for a harness for a Husky), but dogs of other breeds and many mixed breed dogs have been known to enjoy this kind of activities.

If you are unsure, always consult with your vet before starting any kind of strenuous activity with your pooch, and make sure to start slow.

Pros
Cons
  • Allows dogs to safely enjoy exercise that involves pulling
  • Not suitable for everyday walks
  • Made to distribute pressure evenly when the dog is pulling
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  • Durable and strong harnesses
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  • Pulling harnesses often come with soft padding
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Tactical Harness

Shiba wearing a tactical dog harness

Tactical harnesses or tactical vests for dogs were originally made for working dogs, but there’s no reason why your pooch can’t have one too. If you like long hikes with your pooch, or you enjoy camping or fishing trips, a tactical harness is the right gear for your furry companion.

Tactical harnesses are made for the outdoors, so they are usually made of strong but lightweight fabric (which also makes them a great chew proof dog harness option). These harnesses feature a lot of Velcro strips and webbing that allow you to attach patches and MOLLE pouches. This way, your dog can carry some light gear or his own water bowl and some food, for example.

Best Suited For

Tactical harnesses are a great option for pet parents and their companions who like to spend a lot of time outdoors. Don’t be intimidated by the word “tactical” - these harnesses can be very practical and versatile. Without the attachments, they can serve as a regular everyday walking harness. In any case, these harnesses are made for medium and large-sized dogs who are strong and healthy. For more about outdoor gear, you can also check out our guides about the best harnesses for hiking and the best GoPro dog harnesses.

Pros
Cons
  • Great for outdoor activities
  • Might be too much for everyday walks
  • Customizable
  • These harnesses can trap in heat in the warmer months
  • Weather-resistant
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  • Lightweight and durable
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Final Thoughts on Types of Harnesses

As you have seen, there are a variety of different kinds of dog harnesses available today. When choosing between different dog harnesses, it’s important to consider your dog's breed, constitution, and age, as well as the kind of activities you want to do with your new harness. Even the temperament of the dog can play a role in finding the right harness.

If the search is successful, both you and your pooch will be able to enjoy your walks together even more. We hope this guide has made the search easier!

FAQ

How to measure a dog for a harness?

There are three measures that dog harness manufacturers use in their sizing charts: the chest girth, the lower neck circumference, and the weight. Some harnesses may require you to measure all three of those, some might use only two. When in doubt, go with the larger size as harnesses can usually be adjusted down, not up. For more details, check out our guide on dog harness sizing.

How to put on a dog harness?

There are two main styles of dog harnesses: overhead dog harnesses and step-in dog harnesses. The first kind goes over your dog’s head, and then you need to put a couple of buckles in place. With step-in harnesses, you lay the harness on the floor and let the dog step into it. For more details, check out this guide.

Why does my dog slip out of his harness?

The most common reason why dogs slip out of their harnesses is that the harness is either not the right size or not adjusted properly. The harness should fit snugly all around, but you still should be able to insert two fingers between harness straps and your pooch’s skin.


On the other hand, some dogs are just really good at wiggling out of a harness. If this is the case, check out this guide on the best escape-proof dog harnesses.

Why should a dog wear a harness?

Using a harness is the safest way to walk with your dog on a leash. Unlike collars, harnesses keep pressure away from the dog’s throat. They also give you more control over your pup. For more details, check out this article about harnesses and collars.

References
  1. Packer, R. et al. 2015.  “Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. PLoS One. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624979/
  2. Sullivan, M. November 29, 2015. “Surprising Dog Harness Dangers to Avoid”. PetMD. Retrieved April 6, 2020. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/surprising-dog-harness-dangers-avoid

Vedrana Nikolić (B.A. in Cultural Anthropology) - Professional Writer.

Vedrana is a writer, anthropologist & dog lover. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying, among other things, the communication between animals and humans.

For more info on Vedrana click here

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