How To Choose The Best Harness For My Dog or Cat?

best harness for dog or cat

Written by our veterinarian partner

As pet parents all we want for our pets is for them to be healthy and comfortable and sometimes it is not just limited to providing them good nutrition and exercise but choosing the right accessories for them also plays a key role.

In general, pet harnesses have become a very common pet accessory and are not only limited to cats and dogs but are available for birds, reptiles, rabbits, guinea pigs, and a variety of other pets. Pet harnesses are popular for goods reasons, including providing better control and easy application for the pet.

If you are a pet owner confused about whether to go for a harness or a conventional collar for your pet, we are here to help. Along with our veterinarian partner, we have put together this comprehensive guide that covers everything from harness benefits to choosing the right one for your pet, so read on.

Benefits of a Harness For Pets

In this article you will find some of the common benefits of harnesses for pets and reasons why they are more suitable instead of conventional collars:

Reduce Pressure on the Neck

The foremost benefit of using a harness instead of a collar is the reduced strain on the neck of your pet. Dogs, in particular, have a habit of pulling, and the collar can put significant pressure on their neck muscles and windpipe, resulting in choking or pain. In some cases, when conventional dog collars are used to walk brachycephalic dog breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, American Bulldogs, Boxers, and others, they can suffer from collapsed tracheas and respiratory difficulties.

The harness is thus suitable for all pets, including dogs and cats of all breeds and sizes, and keeps the strain off their necks.

Aid in Training

Training a pet can be a mighty challenge, especially for first timers. However, harnesses can be a very helpful tool to train pets. You can train your pet how to walk without pulling, train them not to jump, and deal with other unwanted behaviors with the help of a harness given the extra control it provides.

Escape Prevention

Most pets are escape artists, especially while wearing a collar. They can effortlessly glide and manipulate their bodies, and wiggle out of collars.

However, harness makes it more difficult for pets to escape because they are tied all the way around their chest and back. There is a risk for your pet to escape in cases where the harness is over-sized.

Better Control of the Pet

Harness is a game changer when it comes to having better control of your pet, especially in public places. With the help of a harness, you can easily control the movements and actions of your pet without worrying about getting them injured.

It is an excellent choice for reactive, highly energetic and strong dogs because a harness allows you to exert force on their entire body rather than just their neck, which is also not very comfortable for the pet.

Reduces Stress on the Back

Pets that have spinal issues or back injuries can benefit from a harness instead of a collar. In fact, harnesses are a suitable option for senior pets as well because it takes off extra strain from the back and your pet can feel relaxed while walking.

Travel Safety

Some pet parents like to carry a dog or cat crate when traveling to ensure the safety of their pets and to keep them restrained. However, for some pets, being confined to a crate or cage while traveling in a car can be quite distressing.

A harness is an excellent alternative to a cage or crate since it allows you to restrain your pet easily and safely in a vehicle.

Extra Points of Attachment

While traveling, on walks, or in public spaces you can attach various accessories to the harness such as your pet ID and your poop bag holder.

Types Of Harnesses For Pets 

Different types of harnesses serve different purposes. Some harnesses are helpful with leash walking and training while others are more suitable for safety, containment, movement restriction, guidance, or to encourage exploration and adventures.

Before you select the type of harness for your pet, you can reflect on the main purpose of this accessory. Below are some of the common features and models of harnesses available for pets:

  1. Back clip: To help with walking, pulling and controlling your pet.
  2. Front clip: To help with pulling.
  3. Dual clip: Front and back clips.
  4. Step-in harness: For more support and easy installation.
  5. Vest harness: Step-in harness which wraps around the body of your pet.
  6. Boomerang shape: Reduces chafing and hair matting and transfers pressure from neck to chest.
  7. Y-Harness: Padded Y-harness slides through the head and as multiple clips for better control.
  8. H-harness: Ideal for cats, small and medium size dogs.
  9. Jacket harness: Ideal for strong dogs.
  10. Over-the-head harness: No clip needed around the neck as it slides through the head.
  11. Car harness: Tested for safety during car rides.
  12. Mesh Harness: Breathable and lightweight making it perfect for summertime.

How To Select the Right Harness For your Pet

Below are some of the aspects you should remember while selecting the right harness for your pet.

Age and Breed

Consider the age and breed of your pet. For cats and small dog breeds usually the H-harness, jacket harness, and step-in harnesses are preferred while other types are more suitable for larger size dogs.

Size and Energy

Depending on the size and energy of your pet you can go for different harnesses. Some harnesses are designed to give you better control over pets that pull (i.e., the Y-Harness and harnesses featuring front and back clips) and you can easily manage their force.

Comfy Fit

Ensure the harness is a comfortable fit for your pet. The harness should not be too tight so that your pet feels distressed or is unable to move, jump, or breathe comfortably.

Ideally, after adjusting the harness on the body of your pet you should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and his body.

Indentations on Fur

Harnesses that leave indentations on your pet's fur when you remove them are not suggested unless your pet has long hair. Normally after removing the harness, the fur should be smooth and there must be no indentations in his fur.

Materials of the Harness

Because some pets like to lick or chew on the harness, try to choose one made of natural fabrics and materials, with no chemicals or toxic dyes used in its making. Also, the materials and the webbing should not irritate or scratch on the skin and fur of your pet, which can happen when the webbing is in direct contact with your his skin or fur.

Body Condition of the Pet

Assessing the condition of the skin, fur, and overall body of your pet before going for the harness is necessary.

If he has an open wound, skin infection, or other injuries on the body, and there is a chance the harness will come into contact with that wound and aggravate the condition, it is best to avoid the harness at that time or choose a type that does not interfere with your pet's health condition.

How To Make Pets Get Used To The Harness

Following are some of the things you can do to make your pet get used to the harness:

  • Firstly, allow your pet to wear the harness indoors so they can get comfortable with it. Go for little walks and play sessions while keeping the harness on your pet while indoors.
  • Offer your pet treats while he is wearing the harness will help associate the harness to a positive experience.
  • Motivate your pet with positive reinforcement, petting, and through verbal communication.
  • Don’t rush things and allow your pet to take his time and get used to it. If he does not seem comfortable, try making him wear the harness for short periods of time and try again after a while.
  • When initially going outdoors in a harness choose quiet places where there is less noise and distractions to keep your pet stress-free.
  • Take frequent stops between walks and encourage your pet for wearing the harness and gradually he will become used to it.

Is The Harness Suitable For Cats?

In general, a harness is more appropriate for cats than a conventional collar, especially while going outside or on walks. Cats get used to the harness very quickly and do not show signs of stress. Some cats might be hesitant in the beginning to wear a harness but with the right approach, you can easily get them used to it.

Some cats, however, may not like to wear a harness at all because cats are independent creatures who do not like being restrained because it makes them feel overwhelmed and restricted.

So, if your cat has such a personality, a harness may not be the best option. A few signs of stress in cats associated with wearing a harness include:

  • Excessive vocalization.
  • Hunched back.
  • Ears folded toward the backside.
  • Acting defensively and aggressively.

If your cat exhibits such signs, a harness may not be ideal for him.

We hope this article was helpful to you and your pet. If you have any questions on different types of harnesses, please do not hesitate to contact us at and we will be happy to assist you with any questions.

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