In recent years, it’s become fashionable to use a harness to walk your dog, rather than the traditional collar and lead combo. So, why is that? And what advantage does it give you, the owner, especially for small dogs?
In this comprehensive guide, we discuss all aspects of using a harness to walk your furry friend. We answer all the most commonly asked questions about using a harness for your pint sized pup, and we provide you with reviews of the best small dog harnesses that you can buy today.
So, without further ado, let’s find out why they have become so popular, and specifically for dogs with a more miniature stature.
At A Glance: Our Favorite Small Dog Harnesses
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Small Dog Harness Buyer’s Guide
Although many traditionalists may prefer to use a collar and lead to walk their furry friend, forward-thinking dog owners are now making a move to using dog harnesses instead.
They are particularly effective when used as a sympathetic training tool for puppies. They provide you with good control over pups that are inclined to jump and pull when a walk becomes just too exciting!
Another benefit of using a harness to walk your dog is that most of them have a handle on the back. That allows you to help your dog to negotiate barriers and fences while you’re out together, enjoying walks. If you have a senior dog who isn’t quite as agile as he once was, a harness with a handle on the back can be useful for helping your dog get into your car.
Canines that continually pull while on a collar and lead can suffer serious neck injuries and health problems that are caused by the pressure that a collar places on the windpipe. When your dog is fitted with a harness, there’s no direct pressure on the dog’s neck, avoiding the risk of injury.
Our Favorites By Breed
If you are specifically looking for harnesses that are great for a specified small breed, we actually have some content on this site that pertains to specific smaller breeds of dog. If you have a mutt, or your pup isn’t listed in the breakdown below, feel free to continue reading on to find the best pick for your pup!
- Our Favorites For Dachshunds
- Our Favorites For Pugs
- Our Favorites For French Bulldogs
- Top picks for Corgis
- Favorites for Yorkies
The Anatomy Of Your Dog’s Neck
To understand why wearing a collar can be so dangerous to a dog that pulls on the leash, it’s crucial that you take a closer look at the anatomy of your dog’s neck.
Beneath the canine’s vocal cords, the throat divides into two separate sections:
- The Trachea – The trachea, or windpipe, is located at the front of the canine’s neck. The trachea leads directly to it’s lungs, enabling your pup to breathe. The trachea is supported by multiple rings of soft, flexible cartilage.
- The Esophagus – Right behind the trachea lies the esophagus. The esophagus transports food to the dog’s stomach.
The trachea is not protected by hard bone. That means a collar can easily crush the esophagus if the dog suddenly pulls or jumps. If the force exerted on the esophagus is violent enough, the trachea can collapse. In all cases, the pressure will cause violent coughing seizures that are distressing for the dog and the owner.
Small dogs are especially at risk of injury because of their small physique and the lack of muscle around the neck area.
Tracheal injuries are extremely painful for the dog and often require surgical correction. Some dogs may never recover fully from collar-related injuries.
A harness is designed to fit around the dog’s chest, upper back, and shoulders. All those areas are muscular and bony, meaning that any strain that’s applied by a pulling dog is absorbed and evenly distributed across those areas.
The neck and the vulnerable structures within it are therefore safe from damage.
Best Styles For Small Dogs
There are four different styles of dog harnesses, all of which allow your dog complete freedom of movement while keeping their neck protected from injury.
- Step-in – Step-ins are the easiest to fit. Your dog only needs to step into them. Once it’s been fastened, you adjust the straps to fit the dog correctly. You won’t need to adjust it again, as you can remove it without the need to alter the fit.
- Over-head – As the name suggests, an over-head harness is placed over the dog’s head, and then you need to adjust it to fit. These usually have more padding than the step-in version. You won’t need to adjust it again once you’ve fitted it.
- Padded Strap – Strap harnesses have buckles on the sides and upper back. That makes them fully adjustable, which can be extremely handy if you have a very tiny pup. The best material for a strapped model is nylon webbing, as it’s extremely durable, lightweight, easy to clean, and weather resistant. Although leather strap variants do look smart and come in a selection of pretty colors, they can lose their shape and fit over time.
- Wrap Or Vests – Vest or wrap harnesses are extremely popular with small dog owners. You can find vests in a huge range of colors and designs, and you can even kit your tiny pup out in a wardrobe to match your own! Also, the wrap or vest style is an excellent choice for really tiny, nervous dogs who may find being wrapped in the harness very comforting. A vest or wrap is designed like a small vest that the dog wears. There’s a leash attachment point, usually a D-ring or fabric connector, on the upper back part of the vest. They fasten via nylon straps or Velcro, and most have a quick-release safety buckle. A major plus point of the vest is that it’s very quick and easy to put on, which is perfect if your pup is a wriggler! Also, wraps fit comfortably and securely. You don’t need to use a harness like a sling harness unless your dog is handicapped.
How About Collars?
So, you should use a harness on your pup to keep him safe from neck injuries. However, your dog will still need to wear a collar with an ID tag that gives your contact information and his name.
Also, the collar should bear your pup’s vaccination tags, which is the law in most states. Of course, a collar could be lost, so you should also have your dog microchipped so that he can be quickly traced and returned to you if he ever gets lost and loses his collar.
No matter how well you look after your dog, he could still get lost. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, around 15 percent of all dog owners have lost their pet at some time. And most worryingly, of the half-million dogs that were found wandering as strays, only a quarter were reunited with their owners.
Getting The Correct Fit
Although a dog harness is much safer for your dog than a collar, it will only be comfortable for your pet if it’s fitted correctly. If it’s fitted too loose, it might rub your pet’s skin, creating sore, bald areas that could be vulnerable to infection.
Also, if the harness is loose around the dog’s neck, your pup could be in danger of strangulation if he runs through brambles or low branches while you’re out walking. On the other hand, if you fit it too tightly, your dog’s movement will be restricted, and he could develop painful pressure sores.
Fitting Your Pup
So, how do you fit a harness? The size you choose will depend on the breed and stature of your dog. If you have a very tiny pup such as a Yorkshire terrier or a Chihuahua, you’ll need to buy a super-small size for him. Larger small breeds such as French bulldogs or pugs will need the next size up.
If you decide to buy online, follow the manufacturer’s directions to measure your pup. To measure your dog, you’ll need a flexible cloth tape measure.
- First, measure around his chest
- Start at the bottom of his rib cage
- Take the tape measure up and over your pup’s back
- Then go back down to where you started
- Next, measure the dog’s neck by passing the tape around the thickest part of the neck
- Measure to where your pup’s neck joins his shoulders
Some manufacturers use the dog’s weight as a guide to sizing them correctly. A small dog will fit onto your domestic bathroom scales so that you can get his weight that way, or you can weigh him + yourself and subtract your weight to get the actual weight figure.
Appropriate Training Steps
If your dog is accustomed to wearing a collar and leash, it can be overwhelming for him! Here are some tips on how to get your dog used to the harness before you begin training him to walk in it:
- Allow your dog to sniff it
- Place a treat on or near it
- Let your dog take the treat and eat it
- Stroke your dog with the harness
- Praise your pup each time it touches him
- Some harnesses have a buckle fastening that makes a clicking sound when opened and closed
- That can be alarming to some nervous pups
- Overcome your dog’s apprehension by giving the dog a treat each time the harness clicks
Many dogs have sensitivity in certain areas of their body and don’t appreciate being touched there. You can help your dog to overcome his sensitivity by stroking your pup where it will be touching him. Usually, the desensitizing process only takes a few weeks before your dog begins to feel comfortable with the harness.
Putting The Harness On
If you’ve chosen a step-in harness for your dog:
- Place it on the ground, and open it out so that the leg holes are flat and facing to either side
- Now, position your pup behind it
- Lift your dog’s front end and gently lower your pet so that his front paws are in the harness’ leg holes
- Lift it so that you can fasten it on your dog’s back
- Adjust the straps to fit your dog correctly
If you’ve chosen an over-head harness for your dog:
- Open the back fastening and adjust the collar to an approximate size that fits
- Gently and slowly, slip the collar over the dog’s head
- An over-head harness fastens to the side
- Lift your dog’s leg and put it through on the side opposite the fastening
- Pull the straps up on both sides and snap the buckle closed on the dog’s back
Car Safety Tips
Many harnesses have a special “D” ring on the back that can be used to accommodate an in-car safety system. In-car harness systems are handy if your dog won’t travel in a crate. In-car safety systems come with a strap that you attach to the harness. The car seatbelt passes through the strap. You then fasten the seatbelt normally.
Always sit your dog in the rear of the car behind the passenger seat. Don’t allow your dog to sit in the middle of the back seat, looking out from between the front seats. If you have to brake suddenly or are involved in a collision, you don’t want the dog to shoot through the gap between the seats.
For an in-car safety system to work correctly, your dog must be well-behaved and sit quietly on the seat. If your pup is inclined to spin around or fidget so that he becomes in danger of getting tangled in the harness, you should travel your dog in a secure dog crate instead.
Our Favorite Small Dog Harnesses
Now it’s time to move on to our favorites. Below we dive into our 10 favorites and comprehensively look at each harness for what makes it a great option for just about any small dog owner. If you aren’t the type of person that likes a quick recommendation like we made above, you are in the right place!
Below are our top picks, followed by a deep dive on why they made our list for the best harness for small dogs.
- No-pull and no-choke design.
- Four adjustment points.
- Breathable padding.
- Eleven color combinations
- Four different sizes.
- Medium is perfectly sized for Aussies.
The Rabbitgoo is a best-seller, and it’s easy to see why. The over-head style harness comes in four stylish colors, including black, light green, red, and orange. The padded design ensures that your dog won’t pull and choke, even if he’s a lively little guy who loves his walks.
The Rabbitgoo has two metal leash rings for easy walking. Also, you can use the chest clip attachment to prevent your dog from pulling while out on his walks. That feature is perfect for training your dog to walk politely without pulling on his leash.
For extra control and convenience, it has a grab handle on the back that allows you to lift your pup out of harm’s way if necessary or to help your tiny pup get into your car.
The “Y” shaped harness has four easily adjustable straps that fit around the body, two neck straps, and two chest straps. That means that it’s fully adjustable for a perfect fit, and there’s also plenty of room for growth, making this pick the perfect choice for you if you have a puppy.
The Rabbitgoo is made from durable nylon Oxford fabric, and it’s also padded with soft cushioning for excellent comfort. The harness is covered with a breathable mesh, keeping your dog cool in hot weather, and preventing discomfort if your dog pulls.
Super-bright reflective strips ensure that you’ll be safe and visible when walking your pup during the day and at night.
- Mesh breathable fabric.
- Two sturdy D-ring attachments.
- Allows for rear leash attachment.
- Vest cross-over for comfort.
- Padding ensures comfort fit.
- Step-in style.
- Great for Frenchies of all ages.
The Voyager Air Dog Harness is available in a wide range of bright colors trimmed with smart black, making it easy to coordinate with your favorite outfits too; a must for the fashionista about town!
The Voyager is a step-in style pick. Be sure to use the manufacturer’s sizing chart and measure your dog to make sure that you get the correct size when ordering online.
It’s made from comfy, breathable mesh fabric, making it perfect for use all year round. If you choose a pale color and the harness gets grubby, simply pop it into the washing machine to freshen up the color.
The step-in design makes the harness easy and quick to put on, which is a huge benefit if you have a pup who wriggles. The fastening is via a strong Velcro closure, so you can be sure that you can walk your pet with confidence that it won’t come adrift, even if your dog pulls.
The Voyager is designed to last and will see you and your dog through many hours of enjoyable walks.
PoyPet No Pull
- No pull and choke free design.
- Multiple color combinations.
- Five different sizes.
- Elastic construction for comfort.
- Three snap buckles for a perfect fit.
- Dual leash attachment.
- 3M reflective padding.
The popular PoyPet No Pull Dog Harness has been recently redesigned and improved so that it’s super-easy to use.
The PoyPet is a step-in style harness that’s easy to put on and take off. It has two easy-to-fasten buckles on the belly straps and a further lockable Quick-snap buckle on the neckline. Once the straps are adjusted to fit your dog, you won’t need to alter them again.
It has two sturdy metal leash attachments with reinforced webbing. The front clip discourages pulling and is perfect for training an excitable dog to walk politely with you. It’s made from soft, breathable, non-toxic mesh fabric and is padded for comfort.
Elasticated belly strips make for stretchable comfort that helps to absorb jerks, reducing strain, and preventing injury to your dog. It is completely adjustable to allow for growth.
There’s a soft-filled handle that feels good in your hand, allowing extra control, and also acting as a seat belt loop. Reflective stitching gives added visibility and safety during walks in poor light.
The manufacturer gives a 100% satisfaction guarantee and will refund you if you’re at all dissatisfied with your purchase.
Metric USA No Pull Small Dog
- No-pull dog harness.
- Reinforced d-rings & quick attach buckle.
- Snug, comfortable fit.
- Soft, padded, and breathable.
- Available in multiple sizes and colors.
- Step in dog harness.
The Metric USA No Pull Small Dog Harness Vest comes in eight vibrant colors. There’s also a smart black variation that has the advantage of reflective strips to make your dog more visible and keep you both safe when you’re out walking in poor light.
The super-comfy padded, over-head model is perfect for a small pup. It’s very easy to put on and take off via a quick-release clip, and the design means that even the wriggliest dog won’t be able to escape!
Two reinforced “D” rings lock the harness onto your leash, keeping your dog firmly anchored to you while out walking.
The high-quality, washable fabric is easy to care for and incredibly lightweight.
Gooby Comfort X
- Even weight distribution design.
- Dual D-ring attachment in the rear.
- Made with lightweight mesh.
- Hugging (not restraining) feel when pulled.
- Four adjustment points.
- Breathable lightweight mesh.
- Four different sizes, six colors.
The Gooby harness is specially designed for small dogs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when measuring your dog for size and before ordering.
The Gooby is made to a patented, choke-free design that features the chest strap positioned below the neck area, thereby reducing the stress placed on the dog’s neck, even if he pulls. The “D” rings are placed on the back of the harness, lowering the pull trajectory and reducing the chance of the harness being pulled up and choking the dog.
The lightweight, polyester mesh fabric that’s used to make it helps to keep your dog cool and comfortable. You can also wash it in your washing machine to keep it clean. The light fabric air-dries quickly too.
Downtown Pet Supply Small
- Slip this small dog harness on and off your pup.
- Fits better than traditional dog vest harnesses, without tugging and pulling.
- Adjustable dog harness.
- Breathable mesh fabric.
- Strong velcro closure, buckle strap and heavy-duty metal rings.
- Easy and safe dog leash attachment
The Downtown Pet Supply Small Dog Harness is designed with the needs of the small dog in mind.
The manufacturer guarantees that it will fit your dog! A size chart is provided so that you can make sure it’s the right one for your pup. However, if you do make a mistake, the manufacturer guarantees that they will exchange it free of charge.
The step-in style harness is extremely easy and quick to put on and take off thanks to the cleverly designed Velcro and click-button fastening. It features luxurious padding that reduces pulling on your dog’s neck and keeps him cozy and snug while walking. The mesh fabric is also breathable and quick-drying, making the harness perfect for use in any weather.
The fabric is double-stitched, the Velcro closure is very strong and durable, and the heavy-duty metal “D” rings combination makes for a very strong harness that allows you to walk your dog with confidence.
Pawtitas Pet Reflective Step-in
- Designed to reflect ambient light in extreme low light conditions.
- Step in dog harness.
- Functionality of a dog vest harness.
- Large selection of colors.
- Available in both sizes.
With no fewer than 14 beautiful colors to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the Pawtitas Pet Reflective Step-in Dog Harness.
The Pawtitas doesn’t feature lots of padding and is a basic, strap-style step-in harness. That said, it’s ergonomically designed to offer the functionality of a vest harness while being easy to use, lightweight, and comfortable for your dog while you are out on adventures together.
The fully-adjustable variant is ideal for puppies and for all small breeds. The material used to make it is designed to reflect ambient light in very low light conditions. That makes for maximum visibility when you and your dog are out exercising in the early morning or dusk.
Didog Soft Flannel Padded
- Front D ring is welded and link leash here make the harness effective no pulling.
- Only 1 buckle to control this harness, easy to put on and take off.
- Simple and very light weight.
- Soft fleece pads beneath the straps.
- 2 reflective lines along each strap.
- Quality nylon material strap and durable nylon buckle.
The Didog Soft Flannel Padded Dog Vest Harness comes in a pretty sky blue color only. If it doesn’t fit your pup or you’re not happy with your purchase, the manufacturer pledges to refund your money without quibble.
The over-head harness is designed to eliminate choking, even if your dog pulls on the leash. The front “D” ring is welded securely for safe and secure walking. This model is extremely easy to fit, having only one buckle, and it is very lightweight too, weighing just half that of many other popular harness brands.
Fleecy pads are fitted underneath the straps of the harness for super comfort. Even if the dog pulls, the pads are specially designed to be wider than the straps to eliminate the possibility that the fastenings will cut into your dog.
Reflective stitching is included along each strap to provide extra visibility when you’re walking in poor light conditions. The harness is very well-constructed from high-quality materials, giving you a durable product that will last through many hours of walking.
- Pulling weight is evenly distributed.
- Reflective straps.
- Thicker front strap for security.
- Six different sizes.
- Wide variety of different colors & styles.
- Rear handle for maximum control.
The Bolux Dog Harness comes in a good range of pretty colors that can be matched to any outfit for a super-stylish look!
The vest-style pick is made from a high-quality, waterproof Oxford cloth for excellent durability and longevity. The stainless steel “D” ring fittings and engineered plastic buckle give you superior security when walking your dog, even if he pulls.
It’s designed to evenly distribute any pressure that’s exerted if your dog pulls, preventing choking and windpipe injuries. You can easily adjust it for the perfect fit, even if your pup changes shape as he grows.
This harness features a sturdy handle on the back, giving you more control over your dog and allowing you to give your pup a helping hand whenever he needs you. If you need to walk your dog at night or when visibility is poor, the Bolux has your back with its reflective straps.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section of our guide, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about fitting and using dog harnesses. If you don’t find the information you need here, shoot us an email, and we’ll do our best to help you!
Can you leave the harness on your dog?
Yes, you can leave your dog’s harness on while your pet is in the house. However, it’s advisable to remove it from puppies and dogs that are likely to be left alone for long periods. Chewing can be a problem too, so if your pup is a chewer, it’s best to remove it when your pup is left unattended.
Can a puppy wear one?
Yes! Puppies can learn to wear them, practically from day one. Once your pup has had a week or so to settle into his new home, you should start teaching him to wear his harness.
How tight should it be?
Always begin by fastening your dog’s harness quite loosely so that it’s easy to slip on. Once it’s in position, you can tighten up the straps so that it fits snugly and securely. A snug fit means that you can fit only two fingers between your dog and the harness at any point.
Does a harness encourage pulling?
A harness with only a back clip leash fastening is not the best choice of style for a dog that pulls or is very reactive while on his leash. That’s because back-clipping harnesses can trigger a dog’s opposition reflex, and that encourages the dog to pull back on his leash. For that reason, you should always choose a no-pull design variant.
How does a no-pull harness work?
A no-pull harness is specially designed to prevent your dog from pulling on his leash while you’re walking him. On a no-pull harness, the clip is sited at the front, unlike a traditional model where the clip is fixed directly to the back.
- Using a harness and leash combo reduces pulling and potential windpipe injuries.
- A no-pull model is the most effective style for dogs that tug on the leash.
- Always be sure to fit the harness correctly. Loose harnesses cause injuries.
- When ordering online, always check the manufacturer’s sizing guidelines the get the right size.
- When training your dog or puppy to walk in his harness, don’t rush him.
- Be prepared to allow plenty of time for your dog to get used to the harness.
Finding the best harness for your small breed dog is no doubt a challenge. You don’t want to buy something that’s cheap that you end up burning through in less than a year, and you don’t want to buy something that makes your pup uncomfortable.
With that being said, any of the harnesses we’ve discussed above should do a solid job of keeping your pup under control and on leash. It doesn’t have to be challenging to set your little pup up for success when training to walk on a harness. We wish you nothing but the best as you continue training your best friend to walk appropriately!
March 21, 2022 at 4:19 pm
I have always used Buddy Belts on all my yorkies. Made in Canada from very soft cow hide leather. You will only ever need one Buddy Belt for the life of your Yorkie.
I have a few sizes one that fits perfectly with no sweater or jacket and one that fits over top of the sweater or jacket. This harness should be #1 on your list.