Choosing Great Dog Harnesses For Small Dogs

Miss T is a delightful companion on a walk. While she doesn’t always walk on my heel, she never gets too far ahead and will either stop and wait or return when called. She mostly ignores other dogs (unless it’s oneof her friends) and is never aggressive toward people or other dogs walking in the neighborhood.

Cats? Cats are another story. She will give a cat a short chase, ignoring my command to return.

But we almost never encounter a cat on our walks.  So unless I see another dog coming that I’m not familiar with, or someone I don’t know who might be frightened by her (all 12 lbs of her) I carry a leash but don’t hook her up.

Most dogs are not so easy to deal with when walking though.  They pull, they jerk, they slip their collars and generally make the walk an adventure at best… miserable at worst.

Miss T’s cousin, Gracie, is a puller. She’s also a miniature schnauzer but larger and heavier than Miss T and when she gets low to the ground and digs in she has great strength. I sometimes think she could pull a car if she was hooked up to one.

Ava in her dog harness
Ava in her dog harness.



Her BFF, Ava, is a sweetheart.  She generally doesn’t pull, but she will take a run at people or other dogs that she doesn’t recognize and forgets to slow down when she nears the end of her leash. I cringe when the sudden stop happens. As you might guess, because she’s wearing a collar, she could do serious damage to her throat or neck as she does not have the muscle mass that larger dogs have. A harness would help both of them.


How Is A Harness Different From A Collar?

dog pulling on leash

When dogs lunge or pull, wearing a collar attached to a leash, there is a lot of pressure put on a single, small point where the collar touches the neck opposite where the leash is attached. This can be dangerous for the dog. Especially small dogs and puppies.Dog with harness on leash


A harness, by contrast, fits around your dogs chest and torso. This spreads the pressure to a larger area on the chest, reducing the risk of your dog injuring itself by pulling and lunging.

What Are The Benefits Of A Harness?

As mentioned above, the greatest and most obvious benefit of a dog harness to your small dog is one of safety. When your dog lunges or pulls the pressure is against the dogs chest, not his or her neck. But there are other benefits in addition to this.

  • Control – Most harnesses allow for the leash to attach on the chest, usually to one side or the other. When your dog tries to pull, he is steered one direction or the other. The harder he pulls, the more he’s turned. He soon learns that pulling is useless because he’s not going to get where he wants to go. Quite often this is enough to discourage pulling and jerking.
  • Doesn’t Restrict Breathing – This is especially important for dogs who naturally have trouble breathing such as bulldogs and pugs.
  • Security – a harness ‘hugs’ your dog making them feel more secure, particularly puppies.
  • Safety – beside the obvious safety feature mentioned above, there is the added safety of better control and reduced ability of your dog to ‘slip’ the harness and run free. If you can control your dog better then less change of a confrontation with another dog or a person. And heaven forbid your dog should slip out of his collar and run into the street chasing a cat, squirrel or another dog.  Also, because there is more material that makes up the harness it is easier to incorporate bright and reflective material to add to the dogs safetly during evening and night walks.
  • Training – by maintaining more control it is easier to get and keep your dogs attention when training.

Picking The Right Sized Harness For Your Small Dog

When shopping for a dog harness, whether online or in person, you will quickly realize that there is an overwhelming variety of harnesses of all sizes. You want one that fits properly. Too small and you can’t easily fasten it and your dog’s breathing and may be affected. Too large and it will slip and chafe the dog, possibly damaging their coat.

So how to get the right one? Use a cloth measuring tape and measure four spots. Measure the neck size, chest size, the distance from the lower neck to just behind the front legs on the chest and the distance from the upper neck to just behind the front legs on the back. It wouldn’t hurt to know your dogs weight also.

Different Types and Styles

There are different types and styles of harnesses. The type or style that’s right for your dog depends on what’s important to you.  Here are a few different types and styles of dog harness.

  • Step in – This is exactly what it sounds like. You lay it on the floor, the dog steps into two loops and you simply pull it up and snap it over the dogs back. Of course, your dog may need some assistance ‘stepping into’ it. lol

    Step in Dog Harness
    Step In Dog Harness

  • No pull – This is the style I spoke of earlier. The ring to attach the lease is offset from the center of the harness so that when the dog tries to pull forward or lunges, they are turned to one side or the other. They hate this and will often give up trying to pull or lunge.
  • Front clip, back clip – Some harnesses clip on the front (chest area) and some on the back. Some have both options. Which one is right for you depends on your dog and it’s temperament when on a leash. The front clip helps keep the dog from pulling and lunging but if that isn’t a problem the back clip gives you a bit more control.
  • Sling harness – for small dogs who have trouble walking a sling harness allows you to support the dog as she walks by gently lifting her.
  • Carry harness – similar to the sling harness but designed to allow you to lift the entire dog.

    Dauschund in Dog Carry Harness
    Dog Carry Harness

  • Styles – there are almost as many styles and colors as there are dogs. I don’t think your dog really cares what color their harness is. They’re just happy to be out with you. So find a style and color that YOU like. Your dog will love it. (Don’t forget reflective material / trim if you take walks in low light conditions.

What Else To Look For

Some other things to consider when getting a dog harness for your small dog are:

  • What kind of material is it made of? Leather? Nylon? Cotton? Is the material appropriate for your climate and dog? Will it be strong enough to hold up?
  • Does your dog need a softer touch? Many harnesses are padded through the chest and shoulder area to provide more comfort for your dog. Keep in mind these are sometimes more difficult to keep clean and need to be washed more frequently.
  • Is it machine washable? I can almost guarantee that at some point on your walk your dog is going to decide a good roll in the grass is in order. She’s not necessarily going to be careful about where she rolls or what she rolls in. You’re probably going to want to wash it at some point.
  • Is it easy enough to get on and off? I’ve seen some harnesses that were such a puzzle it wasn’t worth the time it took to try to figure out how to get it on.
  • How many closures are there? What type? Are they secure? This goes toward the ease or lack of it when trying to put the harness on.

Now You’re Ready To Get The Right Harness For Your Dog

A harness can provide many benefits to your dog. Safety, security, control and can aid in training. As long as you consider material, strength, durability and get the right size, your dog should love wearing it and you will love walking your dog without having to fight pulling and jerking. Enjoy.





6 thoughts on “Choosing Great Dog Harnesses For Small Dogs”

  1. Great article, I have an small dog and this gives me ideas of which harness should I get for him. This was very useful thanks.

  2. Hello there!
    This is a realistic point of view! I think small dogs with big attitude will love you for that!
    Good post! 🙂

  3. I was looking for some information on harnesses for small dogs when I came across your article.
    Your information and the advice you offer is just priceless and I wished my friend had read this. She’s just lost her little puppy in a car accident due to using a collar/lead that was too large. Her pup ran onto a busy road after the collar came off and was run over by a car.
    This certainly could have been avoided with the right sort of harness.
    Thank you for this valuable information!

    1. Hi Sammy. I’m glad you found the information useful and I’m very, very sorry to hear about your friend’s puppy. They slip their collars so easily and quickly that tragedy can occur in the blink of an eye. It’s so sad.

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