Fitting Your Dog For A Harness

Dog on a hike wearing an OllyDog Harness

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and finding the right harness can sometimes be a challenge. Whether you have a lovable labrador with near-perfect symmetry or a dapper little dachshund with more torso than legs–there’s a harness out there for them! Here are some tried-and-true tips for finding your furry friend their perfect fit.

Dog outside on a hike with a OllyDog harness on.

Choosing a Type of Harness

There are seemingly endless options for dog harnesses on the market today. From step-in to over-the-head harnesses and harnesses of all types of materials and functions. Some are padded for comfort, some are minimalist by design, and some are meant for high performance with extra straps and handles. 

Considering what type of dog you have and what function you would like the harness to serve is key. Smaller dogs can usually get away with more lightweight harnesses or those made of mesh. While a bigger, stronger dog may tear those materials with one tug on the leash! If your dog pulls–you may want a more durable, padded harness or one with a front hook option for better control.

A good all-purpose harness that is highly adjustable, like the Alpine Reflective Harness, is a great option for any dog. It comes in three sizes and has four fully-adjustable straps for a custom fit. It’s also padded for comfort, reflective for safety, and has two leash attachment points. With an assist handle at the top, this harness is also great for active dogs that hike or run with their owners or that have mobility issues and need a little help. Whether your dog needs lift assistance into the car or up a mountain, the Alpine Reflective Harness has you covered! 

Taking Your Dog’s Measurements

While some dog gear may be characterized by weight or a generic small, medium, or large category, harnesses can be tricky. They are better fitted by taking your dog’s exact measurements. Weight can look very different depending on the dog. A basset hound, pitbull, and greyhound can all weigh 60 pounds but have vastly different proportions!


So grab your pup and a tape measure, and let’s get to measuring! A soft tape measure works best, but if you don’t have one you can use a string and measure it against a ruler once you are done. If your dog isn't too keen on sitting still for this exercise, take the measurements a few times to ensure they aren’t modifying the results with their squirmy bodies or wagging tails.


There are two main points on your dog you’ll want to measure. Their neck–at the base where their collar would naturally sit, and their chest–at the widest part of their ribcage. This is known as their girth. Once you have these two measurements, it should be relatively easy to match them up with the size chart for your chosen harness. 


Some harnesses may have a strap that runs from the neck to the ribcage or along the back that isn't adjustable. In that case, you’ll also want to measure those areas on your dog. Many soft-sided harnesses meant for smaller dogs also have non-adjustable portions that sit lower on the neck, just above the chest, so it's important to read the size charts carefully and measure accordingly. 


If you’ve measured your dog and they come up in between sizes–opt for the larger one or consider a different harness that is more adjustable. While you don’t want a harness to be too loose, one that is too tight can be dangerous and restrictive to your dog. When in doubt, go with the “two-finger rule”–a perfect fit should allow room for two fingers between the collar or harness and your dog’s body. This is to ensure it is neither too tight nor too loose. 


If you’re having trouble finding a harness that properly fits your pup, make sure you are trying options that are highly adjustable. Because dogs can have such different body types, harnesses that have multiple adjustment points are always a solid choice. 

Happy dog on a couch wearing his OllyDog harness. 

Harness Comfort and Safety for Dogs

Once you have your harness, you’ll want to ensure it’s comfortable and safe for your dog. Make sure it’s neither too snug nor too loose–remember the two-finger rule! Check the fit of it periodically as buckles can loosen over time with pulling or the fit can change with fluctuations in your dog’s weight. 


Make sure the harness is not rubbing anywhere or restricting movement. Check your dog’s body for any friction points that may cause discomfort, especially under their front legs or armpits. If you find any redness, swelling, or hair loss in those areas, that could be a sign their harness is hurting them. 


While harnesses can be a lifesaver on walks, your dog’s time in them should end at the door. Leaving your dog’s harness on for extended periods of time can cause them discomfort, especially when lying down. Some dogs may also find themselves caught on things like cabinet handles, door knobs, or crates. Dogs left in harnesses may also become irritated with them and attempt to chew them off. This can result in a host of problems, from choking hazards to broken teeth (from metal buckles) or your dog ingesting material that can cause intestinal blockages. 

Dog outside with his OllyDog collar on.

Don’t Forget the Leash!

Once your dog is fitted in their new harness and ready to strut their paws on the street, you’ll want to ensure their leash is also ready for the adventure! While any old leash might do the trick, having one as comfortable and adjustable as their harness will make walks much more enjoyable for both of you. 

The Urban Journey Reflective Leash is a great option to complement any harness. Its durable design is adjustable from 4 to 6 feet with a comfortable, padded handle. It’s also highly reflective and has a traffic stop handle for safety. The hardware is strong aluminum with a 360° swivel clasp to keep your dog tangle-free! The Urban Journey Reflective Leash comes in multiple colors, so it’s easy to match with their harness. 

Here’s to more comfortable walks with your dog this year!

Written by Lauren Rey, January 2023



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