Choosing the correct harness

July 4, 2023

You might be shocked to learn that despite the vast array of dog harnesses on the market, both in well-known, nationwide pet shops and online, not all harnesses are the same, nor are they all good for your dog. 

Following advice from veterinary professionals and canine rehabilitation specialists, this article discusses the various types of harnesses on offer and why they are or are not suitable for your dog.

Non-Restrictive Dog Harness

Canine professionals believe that a dog harness has many benefits, but a non-restrictive harness must be used when exercising your dog. A non-restrictive harness allows the entire front leg, including the shoulder joint, to move. This harness gives you greater control over your dog and lets the front legs move over their complete range of movement. The non-restrictive harness should fit snugly; you should only be able to fit two fingers underneath all sides of the harness. If the harness is not fit like this, you are at risk of your beloved pooch wriggling free!

If your dog pulls or cannot walk nicely on the lead, you should choose a soft and padded harness with a D-ring on the back so that no rubbing is caused. Another option would be to use a two-point harness with a double-ended lead, which can assist with training.

Restrictive Dog Harness

A restrictive dog harness, pictured below, has a straight band crossing the front of the dog, sitting over the shoulder joint. This restricts the movement of the front limb. This is problematic because after a while of having its front limbs restricted by the strap; your dog will alter its natural movement even when not wearing the harness. This is bad for any dog and particularly bad for energetic dogs. This is something that you may not notice happening, but it will cause unnatural change.

As well as the strap across the shoulders, many restrictive dog harnesses have a strap or plate across the back that presses on the shoulder blades. This also prevents free movement and can be a factor in bicep tendon problems. Recent research has shown that a restrictive harness reduces your dog's stride length and foot pressure, increasing pressure even more on the shoulder blades.

Walking with a collar and lead

Recent scientific research and veterinary advice suggest collars aren't ideal for your beloved pet. Collars expose your furry friend to sudden jerking on the lead, particularly if they haven't been trained to walk to heel yet. This can lead to injuries such as a crushed trachea, whiplash, fractured vertebrae and even permanent damage to the larynx. Being pulled on the lead or wearing a collar that's too tight can lead to thyroid problems too. It's important to remember that the neck is a sensitive and crucial part of the body for your pooch, just like it is for humans.

The benefit of a dog harness is that it takes away the pressure from your dog's neck. This makes it less likely for them to be exposed to lead and pulling injuries. There are also many studies proving that using a harness prevents eye problems. Neck pressure can lead to increasing baseline eye pressure. This is especially important for brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed breeds) such as pugs, shih-tzus, chihuahuas and French bulldogs. A harness will be a much safer option if you have a dog in this category.


Unfortunately, restrictive harnesses are promoted heavily as the "best dog harness", but this is not helpful for the dog or its owner as this information is not backed by scientific study nor recommended by veterinary surgeons or canine professionals.

The message from dog professionals is clear; make sure you buy a safe, soft and comfortable non-restrictive harness for your dog and avoid the restrictive harness at all costs to protect the health and wellbeing of your dog.

Thank you to Kat Waterhouse from Woofles:


Jul 31, 2023
J Oliver

I personally agree that the front band going across the chest seems restrictive, but I have been unsuccessful in finding research to prove this. It would be great if the research was cited – would this be possible?

Jul 31, 2023
Michaela Dickson

I use the perfect fit harness on my dog Inky. It’s sized in three separate parts so will fit any shaped dog. It’s non restrictive and has a soft padded interior. As the name suggests it’s the perfect fit!

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