Types of Dog Harnesses: Make the Best Choice for Your Loyal Friend

Dog wearing a harness during playtime
Andra Picincu
Andra Picincu
Does your dog pull on a leash? Maybe you have a puppy and want to teach him how to behave on his daily walks? Either way, it’s worth looking into the different types of dog harnesses so you can choose one that’s safe, comfortable, and strong enough to resist pulling.

Nowadays, these accessories come in all shapes and styles, from back- and front-clip models to no-pull harnesses. But while it’s great to have so many options, it also creates confusion among pet parents. 

For example, front-clip harnesses are often the first choice for correcting undesirable behaviors. This type of harness features a leash ring that goes on the dog’s chest, keeping your buddy from pulling forward. The downside is that it puts a lot of strain on his legs and shoulders, which may cause joint problems later on. 

That said, let’s talk about the most popular types of dog harnesses on the market, how they differ from one another, and what to look for when buying one. 

Does Your Dog Need a Harness? 

Dog harnesses can be an excellent tool for training your dog to walk on a leash without pulling, and some are safer and more comfortable than a collar. However, their quality varies significantly and depends on several factors, such as their design and the materials used—but more on that later. 

A typical harness will shift the weight and pressure of the leash from your buddy’s neck to his chest, back, and shoulders, preventing neck strain or choking. This makes it suitable for most dogs, including those with short muzzles or respiratory problems. 

Orange dog harness
Image by wrapinfursupawstar, Instagram

Dogs with anxiety or aggression issues may benefit from wearing a harness, too. These accessories provide a more secure fit than collars, allowing you to control the dog’s movement as needed. Therefore, they may help prevent laryngeal trauma, neck injuries, bruising, and other problems associated with leash pulling. 

The American Kennel Club (AKG) says that dog harnesses are perfect for outdoor activities like walking and hiking. Basically, you should use one whenever your buddy engages in activities that may cause him to pull on the leash. A well-fitted harness won’t put pressure on his neck, but you’ll still be able to control his movements. 

You might also want to use a harness if:

  • Your dog had a tracheal collapse at some point in his life
  • He’s genetically prone to spinal problems 
  • His joint problems affect his range of motion
  • You have a brachycephalic breed dog, which may increase the risk of respiratory problems 

Apart from that, dog harnesses are perfectly safe for puppies, senior dogs, and adult dogs with behavioral issues. This brings us to the next point…

Is a Harness Better than a Collar? 

A well-fitted and comfortable harness is a better option than a collar, but one that doesn’t fit properly may be worse than a good collar. 

At Canion, we believe that dog collars are useful in certain situations, such as when your buddy needs to go outside for a quick potty break. 

Collars, however, may hurt the dog’s neck and cause a host of problems if used for training or over longer periods. Shock collars are even worse, as they can lead to extreme physical stress, burns, respiratory issues, or heart disease. 

Let’s start with a 2020 study published in the journal Veterinary Record. After testing seven types of collars on a canine neck model, researchers concluded that: «No single collar tested provided a pressure considered low enough to mitigate the risk of injury when pulling on the lead.»

As the scientists note, dog collars may increase intraocular pressure and hurt the neck. So, if your canine companion has glaucoma or other eye problems, a collar could make things worse. 

An earlier study conducted on 26 dogs reported similar findings, and its authors recommended harnesses over collars for dogs with eye diseases, especially during training and exercise. 

Some collars also carry a risk of musculoskeletal injuries. «Even at low forces, the pressure on the neck had the potential to cause damage if applied consistently over time,» said the researchers who conducted the study published in Veterinary Record

Dog wearing a collar while enjoying the great outdoors
Image by Leonardo Merlo, Pexels

In another study, researchers found that dogs wearing collars during their walks put their ears down and back, which could be a sign of stress. Harnesses didn’t have this effect. But apart from that, there were no significant differences in the dogs’ behavioral stress responses, regardless of whether they wore collars or harnesses. 

By comparison, dog harnesses may offer better control on walks and keep your buddy comfortable during training or longer walks. They can also be a good choice for puppies that are still learning to walk on a leash. What’s more, these accessories are just perfect for when you’re riding a bike with your dog, as they take the pressure off his neck.

All in all, there’s no need to choose between the two. It’s perfectly fine to use a dog collar during short walks or playtime, and a well-fitting harness for exercise, training, hiking, and other activities. 

Types of Dog Harnesses: How They Differ and When to Use Each

Dog harnesses may look pretty much the same at first glance, but each type and model has distinct features. 

Agile dog harness
The AGILE K9 dog harness

For example, AGILE is a fully adjustable dual-path Y-style rope harness, meaning it has two parallel sections running from the side of the neck and down on each side of the chest and back behind the front legs. This leaves the middle of the chest almost untouched and stabilizes the whole harness. It has a two-point attachment on each side of the chest and a neck attachment. 

We also wanted it to be strong enough to resist pulling, jumping, and other sudden movements without sacrificing comfort, so we used protective pads on all pressure points. 

Furthermore, the AGILE dog harness is engineered to withstand harsh weather and keep your buddy safe. Due to its anti-rotational design and fully adjustable ergonomic fit, it doesn’t restrict a dog’s natural movements and won’t twist when he’s pulling sideways. 

Moving forward, let’s take a closer look at the different types of dog harnesses and their key features. 

1. Front-Clip Harnesses

Front-clip dog harness
Image by looseleashdog, Instagram

Some pet parents use a front-clip harness, or a no-pull harness, when training their canine companions. If you go this route, you’ll attach the leash to a loop in front of your dog’s chest. As your buddy pulls forward, the harness will put pressure on his chest, causing him to stop or turn around. 

This concept sounds good in theory, but things are a little bit different in real life. Dr. Maja Kruuse, an experienced veterinarian on our team, told us that front-clip harnesses can cause damage to the dog’s joints in the long run. 

If the dog pulls hard or suddenly stops, the leash can rotate his body around the front legs, causing a twisting motion. This twisting motion can put a lot of stress on his shoulders, elbows, and wrists, potentially leading to soft tissue damage, joint strain, or even joint dislocation. 

A poorly-fitting no-pull harness will put even more strain on your dog’s joints, especially during sudden movements. These problems occur over time, and your buddy may not experience any issues after wearing a front-clip harness for a week or two. However, it’s not a good idea to use this piece of equipment over longer periods. 


  • Widely available
  • Can make it easier to control your dog 


  • Restricts the dog’s natural range of motion
  • Can hurt his joints and soft tissues
  • Inflicts unnecessary pain and suffering

2. Static Back-Clip Harness

Static back-clip dog harness
Image by edwin heidt from Pixabay

As the name suggests, these accessories have a leash ring attached to the upper part of the harness, in the center of a dog’s back. They’re simple, convenient, and easy to use, but less effective against pulling than other models. 

Back-clip harnesses may actually encourage pulling behavior because the pressure is more evenly distributed across the dog’s chest and shoulders, allowing him to use his full strength to pull forward. This can be especially problematic for larger and stronger breeds, as they may be able to overpower their handlers. 

Many of these harnesses also tend to get pulled up into the dog’s throat because the back clip is placed too far to the front and too high. 

Think about the harnesses used on sled dogs, which have a similar design. They’re strong and sturdy, encouraging the dogs to pull harder. A potential drawback is that such a harness will easily come off if the dog backs out of it.

Another problem is that when you pull the leash, the harness can rub against the dog’s skin and cause chafing or irritation. This is because the static back-clip point will pull the harness to the side, making it rotate around the body instead of staying stabilized in the center. 

Additionally, a back-clip harness can place strain on your buddy’s spine and lead to injury over time if he tends to jump or twist his body while walking. 

But even so, this type of harness can be a good choice for small dogs and those with a calm temperament. Alternatively, you could choose one with handles (especially for smaller breeds) to ensure it won’t hurt your dog’s skin or spine during sudden movements. So, if he jumps or starts pulling while on a walk, you’ll grab the handle to keep him in place. 


  • Suitable for small breeds and calm dogs
  • Available in a wide range of styles and designs
  • Comfortable and easy to use


  • May encourage pulling
  • Can cause skin irritation or chafing
  • Can hurt the dog’s spine
  • Not suitable for dogs with behavioral issues 

3. Dual-Clip Harness

Dual-clip dog harness
Photo by Dominik Kempf on Unsplash

Dual-clip harnesses have two attachment points, one on the back and one on the front, allowing you to attach the leash to either loop. Some models require a double-ended leash, which ensures greater control over the dog’s movements. 

But despite its versatility, this type of harness can do more harm than good. For starters, your dog may feel confused if you use a double-ended leash. He won’t understand which direction you expect him to go, which can pose further challenges for anxious or reactive dogs.  

Additionally, dual-clip harnesses have all the drawbacks associated with front- and back-clip models. For example, the front clip may cause discomfort or injury over time. 

In general, these accessories are used solely for training. Unlike other types of dog harnesses, they’re not meant for daily use. 


  • Can be used as a front-clip harness, back-clip harness, or both
  • May provide better control than other types of dog harnesses
  • It’s relatively comfortable to wear, depending on how you use it


  • Can limit a dog’s natural movement
  • May cause back problems or injuries
  • Some models require a special leash
  • May confuse the dog, leading to increased anxiety 

4. Y-Shaped Harness 

Y-shaped dog harness
Photo by Alfred Boivin on Unsplash

Y-shaped harnesses come in different styles, depending on the brand. The two upper straps are usually designed to fit around the dog’s neck and connect to a third strap on his chest. The leash ring is found on the dog’s back, but some models may have a different configuration. 

Their Y-shaped design helps distribute the pressure more evenly across the dog’s chest and shoulders, offering increased comfort. At the same time, it provides greater control over the dog’s movement without hurting his muscles or joints. But they have a single strap or section resting on top of the dog’s concave chest and chest bone, forcing it to slide up into his armpits, which can cause rubbing and abrasions.

But these harnesses wrap around his chest rather than the neck, making them more suitable for dogs with respiratory issues. Most importantly, they don’t affect a dog’s gait, according to a 2019 research paper

The study authors say that Y-shaped harnesses may limit the angle of shoulder extension, but not all models have this effect. Additionally, the Y-shaped design doesn’t seem to put extra pressure on the spine, depending on how the harness is handled. 

Researchers agree that using a well-fitting harness is a must in order to avoid any potential problems. If it’s too loose or too tight, it can cause rubbing and chaffing or fail to provide the necessary control.

AGILE tactical harness prototype
Earlier prototype of the AGILE tactical harness

The AGILE harness, which features a dual-path Y-shaped design, was engineered to prevent these issues. Since it’s fully adjustable, you can tighten or loosen any section of the rope to fit your dog’s body. 

Plus, the harness is held together by one continuous, super-strong rope instead of webbings being sewn together. And the pads are completely waterproof, preventing moisture from being trapped against your dog’s body. 

Again, note that Y-shaped harnesses are available in a wide range of styles, and their quality varies from brand to brand. At Canion, we’re committed to offering a safer, stronger, and smarter harness that allows working dogs to perform at their peak. 


  • Versatile design
  • Comfortable to wear 
  • Doesn’t put pressure on the dog’s spine and joints 
  • Ensures good control over the dog’s movements 


  • Some models are poorly designed, causing discomfort, skin irritation, and limited mobility

5. Step-In Harness

Step-in dog harness
Image by arloparker_the_cavoodle, Instagram

Step-in harnesses are not meant to prevent pulling or facilitate training. Instead, they have a basic design that’s more suitable for daily walks. Generally, these models appeal to small dog breeds. 

If you choose this type of harness, your buddy will step into it with his front legs. Therefore, it can be a good option for smaller dogs who don’t feel comfortable having a harness put on over their heads. Plus, it doesn’t put pressure on their neck or trachea, and the pressure is evenly distributed across the chest and shoulders. 

Most models are adjustable and lightweight, with front or back clips. The straps are more or less durable, depending on the brand. 


  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Suitable for small dogs
  • Easy to put on
  • Doesn’t restrict movement 


  • Not suitable for training
  • Not as sturdy as other types of dog harnesses 

6. Head Halters 

Dog head halter, one of the most controversial types of dog harnesses
Image by muttcalleddakota, Instagram

The head halter is more of a training tool than an actual harness. 

With this option, the straps go around the dog’s jaws and behind his neck and meet at the base of his neck, where you’ll attach the leash. Some models have padding for added comfort. 

Head halters work by pulling a dog’s muzzle and neck to the side when he pulls on the leash. As you would expect, they may cause pain, physical discomfort, or even injuries to your buddy’s neck and spine.

Our founder, Anne, actually had a bad experience with one in her earlier years as a dog owner. This is what she has to say about it:  

“My dog was young and wild, and I struggled a lot to get him to walk properly on a leash when I came over this type of head halter. It was made out of very soft and silky straps with an attachment point under the jaw. 

I was tempted to try it out, as I couldn’t see anything that would harm my dog on this piece of equipment. Oh, how wrong I was! 

It wasn’t long after we started using it before my pup got serious back pain. He couldn’t walk, and I had to put him on strong medicines to get over the worst inflammation and pain. Turned out he suffered from a disc protrusion in his lower back after over-exerting his back muscles asymmetrically, trying to stay straight while his muzzle was constantly being pulled sideways. Even though I never pulled him hard, it was the constant asymmetrical strain that caused the problems. 

I learned something extremely important back then—good equipment is not only about soft and comfortable materials but also how the equipment makes or lets the dog use his body and muscles. 

Let me give you a small exercise to demonstrate my point:

Put the palm of your right hand on your right cheek. Apply moderate pressure from the hand and to the cheek (toward the left), and let your face follow it a bit to the left. 

Now, while keeping the pressure on, force your face back to a straight-forward position, keeping your body straight as well. This should make you really feel the back muscles on your right side working hard to keep your body straight. Would you be comfortable walking around like that?”

These accessories are pretty odd, and the way they work can lead to anxiety and stress. Some dogs may try to paw or rub the halter off, potentially injuring themselves or damaging the halter itself. 

What’s more, the use of head halters often leads to dependence on the tool rather than on training and positive reinforcement. The dog may begin to associate them with punishment, which can worsen existing behavioral issues. 

Suzanne Clothier, a New York-based dog trainer, warns that head halters, shock collars, and other similar tools can cause pain and suffering in our canine companions. A dog’s muzzle is different from that of a horse or other domestic animals. Our canine friends use their muzzles to communicate with us, so putting on a head halter can suppress their ability to express themselves. 

These accessories can also crush a dog’s trachea and cause painful injuries, including damage to the cervical spine. The risk of injury is even higher during sudden movements, explains Clothier. 


  • May reduce pulling when used correctly and for short periods 


  • Uncomfortable and painful 
  • May hurt a dog’s neck, trachea, and spine
  • Can increase stress and anxiety in dogs
  • Can worsen behavioral problems 
  • Can leave marks on the dog’s skin

7. Safety Harness 

Dog safety harness
Image by cloudfox24, Instagram

Dog safety harnesses are designed to protect your buddy during road trips. They’re not meant for daily walks, training, or exercise but rather as a safety measure in the event of a car crash.

These pieces of equipment are suitable for most dogs, featuring a vest or chest pad, adjustable straps, and multiple points of restraint. Some models also have shock-absorbing sleeves, and some can be used as a standard harness, too. 


  • Lightweight and comfortable to wear
  • Some models can be used as a walking harness
  • May protect your dog in the event of a car accident


  • Some models don’t have padding
  • Their quality varies among brands, and some models may not offer adequate protection


Apart from that, there are a few other types of dog harnesses designed for outdoor activities, like hiking, skiing, and running. Some manufacturers also offer a variety of styles for dog sledding, skijoring, canicross, and similar sports.  

How to Choose a Dog Harness That Fits the Purpose 

Now that you know more about the different types of dog harnesses, you may wonder how to choose one that’s right for your buddy. After all, a basic harness designed for short walks will look and feel differently than one designed for K9 training or dog sports. 

Generally, a high-quality harness should be durable, comfortable, and safe. At the same time, it should give the handler control without restricting the dog’s range of motion. 

In some cases, it makes sense to choose a model with reflective strips, bright colors, and/or tactical features, depending on the intended use. 

With that in mind, let’s go over the main features of a premium dog harness:

Durability: A high-quality dog harness should be made from strong and durable materials that can withstand wear and tear. Working dogs are often exposed to more intense activity and harsh weather, so the harness should be sturdy enough to withstand these conditions. 

Comfort: Choose a harness that’s comfortable to wear for long periods and fits your dog’s body. For working dogs, a comfortable harness is especially important, as they will be wearing it for hours at a time. 

A well-fitting harness also comes with a lower risk of neck injuries, gait problems, and increased intraocular pressure. Additionally, it’s less likely to cause overuse injuries than a poorly-fitting one. 

Control: A good harness will give you control over the dog—but without restricting his natural range of motion. Ideally, choose one that distributes the dog’s weight evenly across his body to prevent neck or back strain. 

Visibility: A harness with reflective strips or bright colors can help make your working dog more visible, especially in low-light conditions. This feature may also come in handy for pet parents in northern Norway or other Scandinavian countries where sunlight is scarce during the winter. 

Easy to clean: The harness should be easy to clean and maintain, especially for working dogs that may get dirty or wet during their duties. 

Convenience: One of the reasons we fitted the AGILE harness with molded pads is that they’re easy to replace in case of damage (or as an upgrade). Thanks to this feature, you can switch to a different set of pads as needed, not having to buy a brand-new harness. 

Price: What you’ll pay depends on the brand and type of harness, its size, materials, design, and the technology used. 

A basic harness costs less than a bag of dog food, but a premium model won’t be that cheap. The latter, however, may be better suited for large, strong dogs and working breeds and can last for years. Think of it as an investment in your dog’s well-being. 

Tactical features: For working dogs, a harness with tactical features, such as attachment points for extra equipment, can be useful for carrying water bottles, emergency kits, and other items. 

Some models allow handlers to attach pouches, knick-knacks, water bottles, and more. The AGILE dog harness, for example, features multiple attachment points for lights and other add-ons. 

Padding: Some harnesses have padding on the chest or back to prevent excessive rubbing against the dog’s skin. 

However, padded models tend to soak up water (unless they’re waterproof), which may result in premature wear and tear. Additionally, the wet fabric can cause chafing, skin irritation, and physical discomfort. 

Last but not least, consider your dog’s size and temperament. For example, dogs with anxiety issues may not feel comfortable wearing a dual-clip harness or one that’s too tight around the neck or chest. 

Take Measurements to Ensure a Perfect Fit 

Even the best dog harness can cause discomfort if the fit is wrong. A loose harness may not provide adequate support and could even lead to accidents, whereas a super-tight one can result in physical injuries, irritation, or pain. 

Measuring your dog for a harness is quite straightforward. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Wrap a measuring tape around the widest part of his rib cage. Write down the measurements. Measure his chest around the breastbone, too. 
  2. Next, place two fingers between your dog’s lower neck and the tape and measure the circumference. 
  3. Measure the dog’s length from his neck toward the hip bone. This step is usually required for vest harnesses. 
  4. Measure the dog’s head circumference if you opt for an over-the-head harness.

For most types of dog harnesses, you’ll only need to measure your buddy’s neck, chest, and girth. As a general rule, leave room for two fingers between his body and the straps.

Once these steps are completed, check the manufacturer’s sizing chart for the type of harness you want to buy. Select the larger size if your dog is between two sizes. Ideally, choose a harness with adjustable straps. 

As a side note, the AGILE dog harness doesn’t require exact measurements. Our tactical dog harness is fully adjustable and fits a wide range of sizes, from medium to large breeds. So, if you have a large breed dog, the AGILE harness will «grow» with him. 

Moreover, Canion’s K9 harness doesn’t have traditional buckles and seams. Instead, it consists of one continuous rope that holds everything together. Therefore, it’s sturdy, comfortable, and durable. Plus, you can swap the replaceable modules for new ones in a different color to give the harness a fresh look. 

Keep Your Buddy Safe and Secure with a Well-Fitting Dog Harness 

Man hugging his dog
Photo by Valeriia Miller on Unsplash

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into choosing a dog harness. You can’t just pick one based on looks alone. 

Think about how you plan to use it, where your buddy is on his training journey, and what problems you want to address (if any). Also, consider your dog’s behavior and temperament, as well as his age, size, and exercise habits. 

With that in mind, compare the different types of dog harnesses and pick one that blends comfort and functionality. A high-quality model will not only last longer but also keep your beloved friend secure and make training easier.