If you’re looking for a safe, secure, and comfortable way to secure your dog’s leash or harness, these guidelines should help you get it right. Whether you’re attaching your leash to a collar or a harness, you want it properly secured so that your dog stays secure but doesn’t get uncomfortable. 

chihuahua dog wearing a harness

So, what’s the difference between using a collar and using a harness? While collars can easily and quickly be slipped on, fitting your dog with a harness generally takes more time and effort. 

Some dog owners wonder whether they should use a harness or a collar. That decision depends on a number of factors, including whether your dog has breathing issues, whether they can easily slip out of their collar, and whether convenience is an important factor to you. You can also use a collar for everyday outings and a harness for walks, hikes, or trips into more-crowded places.

Once you’ve decided what’s best for you and your dog, you want to ensure you’re attaching the leash or harness properly, comfortably, and securely. Here’s how you can do that: 

Attaching a Leash to a Collar

The first step when fitting your dog with a leash is making sure you have a proper leash. 

Contrary to popular opinion, you might actually want to avoid retractable leashes. While they offer a convenient technology for the walker, retractable leashes can actually pose multiple dangers to dogs and humans alike. They are too long to walk a dog safely in most situations when fully extended, and they can also cause serious injuries because of their thin lead design. “Slip” leads are another risky prospect because they apply tension completely on the front of the dog’s neck when pulled instead of distributing the tension across their neck muscles. This can be extremely dangerous since they put a great deal of pressure on your dog’s trachea. It can result in serious medical damage if a dog yanks with enough pressure.

Instead of these options, you’ll want to go for a leash that’s made of sturdy rope or webbing and is moderately long. Four feet is an ideal length for most dogs since it allows your dog to walk or run about at a fair distance and explore its environment while still giving you ample control of the leash. 

Generally, three to six feet in length is a good range for your dog, but the length of the leash should depend on factors such as your dog’s size and training level. 

When attaching the leash to your dog’s collar, you have to make sure the collar is secure without being too tight. The general rule for collar fitting is that the collar should not be loose enough that it wiggles up and down, but it should have enough room for you to be able to fit one or two fingers under it. 

If you notice your dog has an issue with pulling, you may want to consider switching to a “head halter” leader-type collar or a harness. These attach a small lead to the front of the dog’s head so that when they pull, their head is forced down, making for an awkward position they’ll want to avoid.

Once you have the proper collar fit, simply clip the leash in and make sure it’s fully closed. Inspect the fit and condition of the collar every time you clip in, too, to keep an eye out for issues that could cause the leash to unclip or the dog to slip away.

Attaching a Leash to a Harness

There are different types of harnesses, and each kind needs to be put differently. The three types of harnesses we’ll be going over are standard, step-in, and front-clip harnesses. 

Standard Harness

A standard harness consists of one loop around the neck, one loop around the ribs, and a D-ring located on the dog’s back for clipping the leash. 

  1. While standing, sitting, or squatting behind your dog, put them in a sitting or standing position. You must ensure you’re doing this when your dog is calm. 
  2. Slip the harness over their head. It’s important to make sure the D-ring is on the dog’s back. When putting the harness on, the wider loop (the loop with the buckle) goes on first, followed by the narrower loop. 
  3. Now it’s time to slip the dog’s leg through the harness’s first leg hole. You can tell it’s been fitted correctly when the leg is between the loop that goes around the neck and the loop that goes around the ribs. 
  4. Buckless the harness. If the buckle doesn’t reach so, you’re able to close it, that means you need to loosen the strap. 
  5. Once you’ve buckled the harness, adjust accordingly. A good rule of thumb (no pun intended!) for making sure it fits properly is to slip two fingers under any of the straps. Also, try lightly pulling the harness up and towards the dog’s head to ensure it’s secure. 

Step-In Harness

The difference between a step-in harness and a standard harness is that the former forms triangles around your dog’s legs while the latter forms rectangles. 

  1. The first step when fitting your step-in harness is to lay it flat on the ground. You should be able to see the two triangles clearly, and the buckles should be on the D-rings. 
  2. While holding your dog from behind, put their front feet in the two triangles. 
  3. Pick up both ends of the harness and buckle them together on your dog’s back. 
  4. Adjust the harness so it fits properly. To make sure it’s secure and fits well, you can try gently pulling it over your dog’s head. 

Front-Clip Harness

A front-clip harness, which is designed to discourage yanking and pulling, is characterized by the leash clip over the dog’s chest in the front. 

However, some front-clip harnesses are shaped like step-in and standard harnesses. If that’s the case for you, you’ll need to follow the steps for those types of harnesses.  

On the other hand, there are front-clip harnesses with a different design. This kind has a single strap across the chest and a loop around the ribs, and there’s no divider between the dog’s legs. If you have this type of front-clip harness, follow the steps outlined below. 

  1. Kneel to your dog’s right side while they’re calmly standing or sitting. 
  2. Put the harness’s loop over their head, so the harness label sits on your dog’s left shoulder, and the leash’s metal ring is at the center of their chest. 
  3. Fasten the belly strap by reaching underneath your dog’s belly. 
  4. Adjust the harness as necessary and make sure you’re not able to pull the harness over your dog’s head. 

Award-Winning Pet Lodging at Greenlin Pet Resorts

We know that some harnesses can be tough to figure out, but they’re pretty easy to fit on your dog once you’ve gotten the hang of them. The key is making sure the harness is nice and snug but also not too tight so that your furry companion is comfortable, safe, and secure. 

Want to know of a place that’s also comfortable, safe, and secure? It’s Greenlin Pet Resorts of course, where we provide a wide selection of award-winning dog services ranging from doggie daycare to grooming services to pet lodging

We also provide dog training from certified trainers to help your dog get used to their leash or harness and learn how to walk properly in them. Our trainers can help owners use the right techniques to continue their training and ensure that every walk is both safe and enjoyable.

Whether you want help potty training your dog or you’re going on vacation and need lodging for your canine friend, we’ve got you covered. To learn more about our wealth of dog services, give us a call or complete our contact form, or visit one of our five central PA pet resort locations.