One of the worst feelings in the world is losing your pup. Some dogs grow out of it, but some dogs perfect their skills and become the Houdini of hounds. There are many reasons why dogs escape their harnesses. Some run because they hate being restricted. Some dogs run away to chase after other creatures, and others seem to do it just because they are mischievous. To prevent the behavior, you’ll want to train regularly and pick up an escape-proof dog harness known to limit your pup’s ability to take off.
In this comprehensive guide, we are going to look at why your furry friend might be escaping their harness. We also give you some tips on how to stop your pup from escaping, what to look for in an escape-proof dog harness, and our top recommendations that are currently available on the market. While certain breeds like the Pitbull are known for escaping their harness, all breeds can develop the want to break free.
Not only have we completed all of the time-consuming and hard research just so that you don’t have to, but all of our recommendations have also been tried and tested by other canine escape artist owners across the world so you know that these harnesses will stand up to the test.
At A Glance: Our Favorite Escape Proof Harnesses
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to Amazon.com or Chewy.com, where you can get additional product information and customer reviews. If you make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
- 1 Reasons Dogs Escape
- 2 Buyers Guide
- 3 Top Harnesses For Escapers
- 4 Ensuring A Proper Fit
- 5 Combining With Collars
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Final Thoughts
Reasons Dogs Escape
There are many reasons why dogs try to escape their harness or leash. Some of these reasons for escape include poor harness fit, poor quality, nervousness or leash reactiveness, and having a high prey drive. Some of these issues can be breed dependent in highly energetic breeds like Huskies, but most of them will vary by dog. Let’s look at each reason in a little more detail.
- Poor fit: This is probably the most common reason why dogs slip their harnesses. Owners often order the wrong size without measuring their dog correctly. If your pup is not used to wearing a harness and it has a poor fit, this is an easy recipe for an escape. If your pup senses a poor fit and then protests against it, many dog owners assume that it is too tight. They then loosen it up a bit which is when they make good their escape. As with anything, be patient, and your pup will soon get used to it!
- Poor quality: Another common reason why many pooches escape out of their harness is that their harness is made of low-quality materials. It may also not be specifically designed to be more secure. A basic harness is not going to stand up to the tests of Houdini hounds! All of the recommendations in this guide are either designed specifically for Houdinis. Or, they are so well made and tick off all of the criteria needed, that they have made it onto our list.
- Nervousness: Some canines become nervous and simply freak out when confronted with unfamiliar situations. If your dog is a young pup, then it’s critical to invest time with his socialization training. This will help ensure that you make all new situations as pleasant as possible. Harness training can be done while gradually exposing your pup to a sidewalk and the associated sounds either early in the morning or late at night when noises are minimal. As your dog becomes accustomed to different surroundings, you can start to ease into walking at times that things are becoming busier.
- Leash averse: Some dogs need to walk before they can run. if your pup is nervous or unfamiliar with their new harness, then this is simply about getting them used to it. Practice harness training your dog either indoors or in a secure area. Once your pup has become more accustomed to it, they will become more confident. This is particularly true of puppies and rescue dogs, so be patient!
- High prey drive: These pooches tend to be the best harness escapers. This is simply because, to them, squirrels are life, and there is nothing that is going to get in their way, not even a harness! Prey drive can rarely be trained out of a breed like a greyhound. So, finding the right harness for that breed is essential. Not only do you need to purchase one of the best harnesses around, but you’ve also got to have your wits about you, especially if he is a large or strong dog.
If your pup has escaped a harness, or many harnesses, then expect them to do it again. Your dog should be treated as a high-risk offender. Do not take any calm walk for granted. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and while your pup may have returned to you once before, the outcome could have been far worse. Be sure to invest in a high-quality harness to reduce the chances of him escaping ever again.
So, before you purchase an escape proof dog harness it is important to understand what makes it more secure than others. Here are the most important aspects of the harness that you need to consider.
- Secure Clips: Secure clips are important. This is usually the simplest point of failure when a dog breaks free of the harness grip. Flimsy plastic clips aren’t going to hold up against heavy straining. You’ll need to ensure that the clips are solid and sturdy and will hold up against pulling. Having several clips also increases the chances of your dog not being able to escape. While multi-clip harnesses might take longer to put on, at least if one breaks or slips, then you can rely on the others to hold in place.
- Strong Material: A second error many dog owners make is buying a harness material that’s cheap and weak. Ensuring that the material that the harness is made from is strong and well put together is also the key to ensuring that the harness doesn’t break. Look for harnesses that are either made from nylon webbing, neoprene, leather.
- Padding: Some dogs find their harness uncomfortable at first. The best way to get them feeling comfortable is to make sure you buy a harness with padding. This decreases the initial discomfort and rubbing significantly. If it’s digging into your pup or causing irritation then it’s more likely to cause your dog to break free.
- Handle Grip: Handle grips are great for extra control. If your dog is in the middle of trying to escape, a handle grip allows you to grab onto your furry friend securely and prevent them from making a run for it. It also allows for more control if you understand what triggers your dog’s need to escape. These could be things like a cat or a loud dog. Being able to pull your dog in closer and hold onto them securely not only gives you more control, but it also gives you peace of mind. Again, strong material that is well attached to his harness is key here.
- Visibility: Even with the best intentions it is not always possible to prevent your dog from escaping. In the chance that your dog breaks away, you need to make sure their harness is visible to others. Reflective strips or stitching ensures that others can see him in poor lighting or poor visibility.
Top Harnesses For Escapers
There’s a good chance you know exactly what it is that triggers your pup to escape. Combined with your knowledge about what to look for in a more secure harness, you will be able to find the perfect harness for your dog and his disappearing skills. Of course, not every dog is the same. Nor do they have the same requirements or the same build. Focus on what is important for both your dog and you, but we guarantee that there is something in our list of recommendations for everyone.
Remember to measure your pup as per the instructions on the product listing. Do not be tempted to guess, as what one company might deem a medium size, might be small or large for another.
Chai's Choice Dog Harness
- Nine Color Variations
- Five Size Options.
- Reflective straps for night walks.
- Four adjustable buckles.
- Two leash attachment points.
- Extra padding for comfort.
- Built-in handle for control.
Chai’s choice is one of our favorite models, and with good reason. It comes in multiple sizes and color variations, which means it can fit just about any type of dog. There’s less material than some bigger harnesses, which means Fido may resist less when putting it on. There’s a built-in handle which helps with control. With two D-ring attachments, it’s also a great option for discouraging pulling behavior.
This harness is extremely adjustable. There’s 4 different adjustment points, allowing it to perfectly adjust and contour to just about any dog’s body. This will help ensure you have the perfect “two finger” fit and cut down on the potential for escape. It’s made with a durable nylon, which is great for standing up to repeated use in any weather condition. It’s also made with reflective material, making it a great pick for lower light conditions.
Chai’s Choice combines quality with an exceptional price point. Other harnesses that are of similar quality, are almost double in price. With the benefits this harness brings at a budget-friendly price, the Chai’s Choice harness stands out amongst the pack.
We love this harness for breeds of all shapes and sizes. There are also multiple color variations, which is great if you want to add some style and match your dog’s personality.
Icefang Tactical Dog Harness
This harness has 4 adjustable points. This means it can be made to fit snuggly, and the edges are designed not to rub his skin. There are 2 metal buckles and 2 POM buckles to clip the harness into place. There are also two metal leash attachment points. One of them is in front of his chest, which makes this a great option for strong pullers.
There is also a handle at the base of his neck at the rear. This is great if you need to take control quickly. It’s also available in several military colors. It comes equipped with Velcro strips where name and information badges and other additions can be placed. This harness offers the largest size on this list. This means it’s a great option for those gentle XXL giants. The only issue that we can see with this harness is that there are no reflective strips or stitching.
We love that this harness is made with 2 metal buckles that are tested to take 1,000 pounds worth of weight, and 2 POM buckles that are tested to take 250 pounds of weight, as well as the rear metal V-ring, which is designed to take 1,200 pounds of weight, which makes this harness a great option for strong pullers.
Ruffwear Web Master Harness
- Built-in Handle for control.
- Can double as a lift harness.
- Ideal for working dogs.
- Five sizes and three different colors.
- Additional padding for comfort.
- Reflective trim.
- Lightweight chest straps.
While this harness is not described as an escape proof dog harness and is often used for owners that like to run with their dogs, with 5 adjustable clips, strong material and a shape that will be very difficult to back out of, it has made our top escape proof recommendations. It is a high quality harness, it is durable and value for money, and it even comes with a lifetime guarantee against doggy damage and poor craftsmanship.
Owners that have reviewed that this harness have commented that it prevented their Houdini hound from escaping. They also mention that other escape specific harnesses were not up to the challenge. It has a reinforced handle perfect for emergency situations. This harness also has extra padding which means that it is comfortable for you pup. It has reflective trimming which makes it great for his safety, and has 2 leash attachment points which make it excellent for pullers.
We love that this is the smallest harness on this list. It’s a great option for those XXS breeds.
Mihachi Secure Dog Harness
This secure escape proof dog harness has 5 adjustment points. This means it’s easier to find that perfect fit for your pup, and the better the fit, the less likely they will escape it. The material is polyester, and many owners have described the material as strong. It’s still lightweight enough to be comfortable.
The layer lying closest to his body is meshed material. This means it’s breathable, and the edges are soft enough to avoid irritation and rubbing. The harness has reflective strips and stitching. It also has a handle placed across his shoulder blades. Unfortunately, this harness is only for medium or large dogs like a German Shepherd, so it is not an option for smaller dogs.
We love that the buckles and rings are made out of metal. This harness is very durable and can take the strength of his pulling.
Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness
The Kurgo Dog Harness has an esape-proof design and is budget-friendly. It comes in 3 different sizes, including an XL for bigger canines. The buckles are made from welded stainless metal. You shouldn’t have to worry about breakages or rusting. With extra chest padding, it’s a comfortable option for your pup. This harness was designed by an engineering team that produces rock climbing harnesses. You can ensure a secure fit with the four different buckle points.
This harness is stitched with reflective material which enhances your pooches chances of being seen in poor visibility. It’s also crash tested up to 75 pounds. There is also a handle that lies across the shoulder blades, which provides you with the ability to take control in emergency situations.
We love that a car seat belt carabiner comes with this harness. It’s a good option for those dogs who are known to escape from the car as you open the door to let them out.
Didog Escape Proof Dog Harness
This escape proof dog harness is stitched with thick reflective material. Whatever angle your dog is seen from, they will be visible. There are 7 adjustable clips, which means that this is the most adjustable harness on this list. No matter your dog’s size, this harness will undoubtedly fit their body, whatever the shape.
There is a multi-point tension pad across his chest. This makes the harness comfortable for your pup whichever way they pull. The rear attachment point is a metal D ring which makes it strong. The only issue that we can see with this harness is that the handle is much further back along the harness. This may make it more difficult to take control of your dog if they are pulling away from you.
We love that this material is uniquely meshed throughout. Some models only mesh the underlayer. This harness is a great option for those pooches who suffer with heat-related rashes as it is much more breathable.
Gooby Escape Free Harness
This escape proof dog harness fits dogs up to 35 pounds in weight. It is designed to ensure that there is no space around the back of the neck which prevents your pooch from backing out of the harness. It is designed for easy on and off placement, which is great for those smaller wriggly pups.
The harness is padded around the chest and strap areas. This increases comfort for your pup. It’s made from neoprene material which is weatherproof as well as helping to insulate his body heat. It can be adjusted to ensure that it fits your dog correctly. It also comes in a variety of colors too. The only problem that we can see with this harness is that it does not appear to have reflective material on it.
We love that this is escape proof dog harness is designed with smaller dogs in mind. If you have a pint-sized pup, you this pick may be the perfect fit for your little escapee.
Harness Lead Escape Resistant
- Reduces pulling.
- Escape resistant.
- Adjusts to any size or body type.
- Can handle 14lb. dogs to 170lb. dogs.
- Easier to use than some harnesses.
- Strong enough to hold a boat.
This leash is designed in the shape and design much similar to a harness. It is hand-spliced and has a tensile strength of 4000 pounds. According to the manufacturer’s description it is strong enough to hold a boat. Despite being seriously strong it is made with soft-edged material which makes it comfortable for your pup, with no hard edges or rubbing.
It will fit nicely around your pooches body contours. This means that it will fit any dog perfectly just as long as they weigh between 14 and 170 pounds in weight. It is simple to use and fit, and it if your pooch attempts to back out of it, it will tighten around his barrel, preventing him from escaping.
We love that this lead offers an alternative to a traditional harness.
Ensuring A Proper Fit
One of the most common issues we see is that pet owners don’t ensure their pup has a proper fit. People often do this by buying the wrong size harness, which leaves too much room for your pup to move around inside, allowing them to break free at the first opportunity. Here are a few tips to keep your pup fitted correctly.
- Measure it: Measure your pup. Measure it according to each manufacturer’s suggestions once you’ve picked a harness out for your dog. Each harness fits a little differently, so make sure you are sizing your dog correctly with the right size before making a purchase.
- Put it on While Standing: Put your pup’s harness on while your dog is standing. By doing this you will ensure you are giving your dog a proper fitment. If you tighten the harness while your dog is lying down, it’s likely to cause loose areas in the harness, allowing your pup room to escape.
- Tighten the Straps: Once it’s on your pup, ensure you tighten the straps. Don’t just blindly put the harness on, expecting it to be a one-size-fits-all solution for your dog. Every dog is different, so you’ll want to make sure your pup is firmly secure.
- Finger Rule: Ensure the harness fits your dog correctly by allowing no more than a finger of space between the harness and your dog’s body. This will ensure that your harness fits firmly, and that your dog doesn’t have room to wiggle away on walks or if high prey drive kicks in.
Combining With Collars
An escape proof dog harness is the best thing to purchase for dogs who like to escape. Their leash should always be attached to their harness and not their collar. Having a collar with a nametag on, however, is a must for pups who like to run away. You’ll want any potential humans they encounter who they can contact in the event of an emergency. Having your contact information on a nametag is the easiest solution.
Dr Emily Weiss, the Vice President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, notes that only 10% to 30% of dogs that run away are reunited with their owners. Not only are those pups with a name tag more likely to find themselves back with their owners, they are also much quicker to be reunited than those who simply have chips. So, make sure you invest in a name tag, and keep your contact details up to date on both his tag and chip.
Ensure that your current contact number, preferably a mobile number, as well as the city that you reside in is up to date. Some owners prefer to put their pooches name on the tag. Other dog owners prefer not to. You’ll have an equal split of owners that put their full address on their nametag vs. those who do not. These are simply a personal choice. It’s also a good idea to get a second tag with the microchips company name and a contact number. In some states, it is the law for your dog to wear a proof of rabies vaccination tag.
Frequently Asked Questions
While we’ve likely covered many of your questions above, there are still some other questions you may have. Below are a few commonly asked questions we get here at Love Your Dog, for high likelihood or repeat escapees.
Will harnesses that tighten hurt my dog?
No, harnesses are designed not to hurt your dog in any way. Those that utilize tightening as a deterrent will tighten across the barrel of his body. These are designed to put pressure around the barrel of a dog’s body and muscles, rather than their lungs or airways. Your dog may not like the sensation of the tightening. But it does not harm them in any way. Harnesses are suggested and used by dog trainers across the world. Any harness that works on air restriction techniques is not to be used.
How do I know that the harness fits properly?
There’s one rule to the perfect harness fit. As long as you can fit two fingers between the harness and his skin, even if it feels a bit snug, it fits him fine. If your pooch has a fluffy coat then your fingers need to press against his skin rather than his coat. Otherwise, the harness will be too loose, and he will escape easily. If he initially starts scratching or tries to pull it off, then he simply needs to get used to the feeling of a harness around his body. It shouldn’t take your dog too long to get used to the feeling. Just be persistent with it. If your pup is trying to escape then practice in a controlled area first such as indoors or in your backyard.
Can I attach my dog’s leash to his harness as well as his collar just in case he slips the harness?
If you are really concerned about your pooch slipping his escape proof harness then you can attach his collar to his harness with a carabiner. This way, you will still be attached in some way. Just be sure to use a strong carabiner that will not break under pressure. This is especially true if you have a large or powerful dog.
It is important to firstly focus on what triggers your pup. If it’s something external or unavoidable such as other animals, then always be alert to your surroundings. If it’s simply a new experience for your pup then take the time to train him and be persistent.
Once you have recognized what makes him want to escape, it may help you to choose a particular type or design of harness. Always check that the harness is the correct size before every adventure out. You should always remember the two-finger rule. Ensure that his name tags and chip is up to date with contact details, just to be safe.
Our escape artist pups are undoubtedly clever, naughty, tricksy, or mischievous. Whatever word you would use to describe your four-legged escapee, if you go with one of our recommendations in this guide it will help put a stop to his escaping behavior. Of course, nothing is certain. But, the above harnesses really are the best around and they have all worked for many others in the same boat as you and your dog.