Some dog owners swear by nothing more than a leash and collar, while others are lost without a dog harness. For those who prefer a harness, whether you have a large dog or a small dog, having extra support is essential: whether it's for keeping a frisky pup from pulling on a walk, a way to offer aid to a limited mobility dog, or a system for keeping your pet safely seat belted in the car (which is the law in many states).
After extensive research and testing, we found the Dogline Unimax Multi-Purpose Harness(available at Chewy) is the best harness for dogs. Boasting a built-to-last design and robust hardware, it provides leverage against being yanked down the street. Its large handle is helpful whether you’re walking an athletic hound up a mountain, or guiding an old-timer down the stairs. And the best part is, it can be tossed in the washing machine when you’re done! But this is only one of the dog harnesses our pack of pups took for a test drive.
Here are the best dog harnesses we tested, ranked in order:
Dogline Unimax Multi-Purpose Harness
Best Pet Supplies Voyager Step-In Air Dog Harness
Ruffwear Web Master Multi-Use Dog Harness
Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness
Joyride Pug Life Harness
Puppia Authentic RiteFit Harness
Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Dog Walking Harness
2 Hounds Design Freedom No-Pull Harness
Noxgear Lighthound Reflective Dog Harness
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Full disclosure: we’ve personally used a (now off the market) harness practically identical to the Dogline Unimax for years. And after testing this model directly next to so many competitors, we’re reaffirming our allegiance to this particular design.
A streamlined happy medium between an all-enveloping shell and scratchy tangle of straps, the vest-shaped harness is made of breathable, water-resistant neoprene (which scores extra credit for being washing machine safe) and is padded for comfort, with a removable breastplate.
It's easy to maneuver on and off with a simple click under each front leg, the Dogline fits snugly without being too tight. A heavy-duty D-ring on the back provides good leverage for either casual walks, giving corrections, or communicating with service dogs.
Incidentally, since Velcro strips on the side allow for the attachment of signage, ID’s or tags, this harness is especially useful for working/service dogs, dogs in training, or in any instance when you need to transmit info about your dog to the outside world (such as “Do Not Pet,” or “Adopt Me.”)
A built-in, generously-sized handle allows you to grab the dog if needed, help them up and around obstacles, or provide extra support in the case of injury or impaired mobility. The only downsides are the lack of a front-facing D-ring, and the fact that the thick adjustable straps take some muscle to use.
Made of soft, flexible, breathable mesh, the Voyager should provide unparalleled comfort to your small dog. And while it looks like a fashion statement (it comes in 29 cute colors!) rather than a functional tool, this harness received the highest praise possible from one of our testers.
She was able to transmit clear corrections through the leash, and her terrier-type pup stopped pulling for the very first time in their walking history.
And while there is limited opportunity for adjustment, we appreciate the addition of double D-rings on the back, which provide extra security on the leash.
I’m Sarah Zorn, and I’ve reviewed dog products, developed pet-friendly recipes, and written animal rescue stories for outlets like Rachael Ray Every Day and Animal Fair magazine for over a decade. This means that my 10-year-old hound mix, Rowdy, is truly living his best life, as official house recipe taster and product tester. Like many adoring pet parents, we take him everywhere we go, which increases the importance of having a reliable harness for walks and car rides.
We tested the harnesses on multiple-sized dogs of various breeds and temperaments, pairing them with behaviors and issues that they were specifically designed to address (pulling, impaired mobility, etc.). We made notes about how easy it was to put the harness on and off the dog, as well as adjust it, and once adjusted, whether or not it was a good fit, and stayed put throughout the walk. During the walk, we took stock of our ability to give corrections through the harness, to see how well it would provide control over your dog, and if it provided better leverage against pulling dogs. And of course, we paid attention to whether or not the dog seemed comfortable in the harness.
We evaluated the build quality and durability of the harness fabric and buckles, whether or not it was machine washable, and how long it took to dry when wet. Finally, we assessed the helpfulness of any special features, and how they contributed to our overall satisfaction with the harness.
Why Use a Dog Harness?
Many dog owners turn to harnesses in order to maintain better control of their pups on a walk and help obtain leverage against pulling behaviors. Small breed owners often favor them, as they guard against injury by dispersing leash pressure from the neck to larger parts of the body. Harnesses also have uses beyond walking. They can be used to help secure a dog safely in cars, offer support to dogs with injuries and mobility issues, and can accommodate tags for service dogs.
What Types of Harnesses Are There?
Back Clip Harness: The most common harness configuration, it has a D-ring on the back for connecting to the leash. It’s generally comfortable for dogs, directing pressure away from the trachea, but doesn’t necessarily offer a great deal of control.
Front Clip Harness: Geared towards addressing pulling, the D-ring is positioned on the chest, instead of the back. So when a dog pulls, or a correction is given on the leash, it draws a dog’s body towards the owner instead of away from them. There is an increased chance of injury when not properly fitted and used, however.
Multi-Clip Harness: As indicated, this design has D-rings on the front and the back, providing more options to the owner and dog. They tend to be more expensive, though, and contain more material, which can be hot or chafe against the dog’s skin.
These three basic harnesses break down further, by the method used to put them on.
Over-the-Head Harness: Since it has a full head enclosure (which offers good weight distribution and control) it slips over the dog head-first, before being adjusted and clipped around the legs. This motion may be intimidating to dogs who are hand shy, or difficult to perform with high energy/unwilling dogs.
Step-In Harness: Since it maneuvers over the legs first, dogs can literally step right in, before having the harness snapped over their back. That said, it can be tricky with dogs who don’t like having their legs manipulated.
Which Harness is Right for My Dog?
Take stock of your dog’s size (do you have a big dog or a tiny pup), needs and temperament, to determine what your harness would be primarily used for. Calm companions are probably best served by back-clip harnesses, while exuberant pullers may benefit from a front-clip. Sporty dogs will appreciate harnesses made of lightweight material with fewer clips, while senior or decreased mobility dogs require harnesses that distribute weight for added support.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Harness?
Once you’ve determined the style of harness, there are other factors to consider. What material is it made out of? Will my dog be able to chew through it, or will it scratch against their skin? Can it be easily washed and dried? What about the buckles and rings? Are they sturdy? Will they give way or snap? Ideally, a harness will offer four to five adjustment points for a perfect fit, otherwise, the harness can chafe a dog, rotate side to side and impede walking (or cause injury) or offer opportunities to escape.
Finally, there are special features to consider. Reflective harnesses are useful for walking dogs at night, or in reduced visibility situations. Vest-style harnesses with handles are good for added support. And some harnesses have Velcro strips allowing you to attach stickers, like “Service Dog” or “Therapy Dog.”
How Do I Fit a Harness?
Brands all use similar measurements to create different sizes. To find out which size is best for your dog, measure the circumference of the broadest part of their chest, the thinnest part of their neck, and the length of their back from the base of the neck to the base of the tail, and take their weight. If your dog falls somewhere in the middle of recommended sizes, opt for the larger one, as long as it can be effectively adjusted for a proper fit.
Other Dog Harnesses We Tested
Ruffwear Web Master Harness
The Ruffwear Web Master Multi-Use Dog Harness was so close to being our top pick. This truly multi-use harness is designed and sized to see your dog through any and all life stages, from rambunctious puppy to active adult, to mobility-impaired senior. Five points of adjustment and a padded web design not only ensure a perfect, chafe-free fit, but keep wriggly, Houdini-esque youngsters from wiggling loose.
A large, secure, grippable handle is ideal for either helping sporty dogs up and around obstacles or guiding older or infirm doggos into cars or up sets of stairs.
Reflective trim is useful for nighttime outings or reduced visibility situations, and there’s a loop for attaching an additional safety light, sold separately.
The few downsides of this dog safety harness are a lack of a front-facing D-ring, the fact that it’s meant to be hand-washed, and that it may be a bit too bulky or cumbersome for some dogs.
Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness is a great option if you’re looking for all of the features we appreciate in the brand's Web Master harness—sturdy build, comfortable soft padding, customizable fit with multiple points of adjustment—plus the ability to attach a leash to either the back or the front.
The webbing is further reinforced at the breastplate, so it stands up to any pulling action. It doesn’t include the supportive handle, however, so the two Ruffwear harnesses really run parallel in our rankings. Dogs that yank on the leash would be better served by the Front Range, while the Web Master is ideal for sporty or senior dogs.
The popular Joyride Harness gives a portion of proceeds to dog rescue, which is always an upside in our book. Originally marketed as Pug Life, it was a top-selling model for owners of small breeds. However, it has a sturdy enough build and durable hardware (a D ring on the back and one on each side, plus a small handle) for a larger dog.
We also appreciate the reflective trim and one-year warranty with free exchanges. With one adjustable Velcro strap around the chest and an adjustable clip around the belly, it’s not especially intuitive to fit, however, and has a tendency to loosen and slip from side to side on a walk.
There are definite upsides to the Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Dog Walking Harness. It boasts both a back and front D-ring, 5 points of adjustment, and comes with a 10-inch tether that can be used as a seatbelt. It’s made of heavy-duty materials that feel durable and long-lasting, provides good leverage against pulling, and transmits corrections effectively through the leash.
But the D-rings are a bit small, making it trickier to clip the leash on. There’s no padding, no reflective element and the straps — which connect through a triangle-shaped clasp on the front — tend to shift around and twist, which can catch in a dog’s fur, lead to chafing, and cause overall discomfort.
Front-facing no pull dog harnesses like the 2 Hounds Design Freedom are specifically geared towards problem pullers, by allowing owners to give sideways corrections (instead of playing tug of war with the dog from behind, you angle their body towards you).
They also tighten across the chest, as a form of correction when yanked. And this model actually comes with a few options, since a double-ended leash can be attached to either the front or back D-rings or even both at the same time for extra control. Bonus points for the lifetime warranty against chewing.
But besides being frustrating to fit (the Freedom is a rather complicated jumble of interlocking straps, with a bare minimum of padding) we wouldn’t recommend this harness for anyone other than experienced handlers or dog trainers. If used incorrectly, you could wind up encouraging the very behaviors you’re trying to avoid or even cause bodily injury.
The Noxgear Lighthound Reflective definitely delivers on its selling point—unrivaled illumination. With the push of a button, it transitions between eight solid and flashing LED fiber optic lights, that are water-resistant, run on a 12-hour battery charge, and are visible from half a mile away.
But while it would be fun as a novelty outfit, we could never recommend this harness for actual walking. No matter how we adjusted it, the front strap pulls and compresses dangerously against the trachea.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.