Design is imperative when looking for a harness. It’s one purchase where you need to match not only the quality of the product but also your pup’s leash manners. Considering both factors is critical to choosing the right one. When you have a dog as strong as a Lab, durability is another essential consideration. The last thing you want is something not sturdy enough for the task.
Our guide covers the main features you need to look for when buying a harness. We’ll talk about everything from design to essential options for running your Lab in the field. We’ve also included reviews about the variety of products available. You’ll see that there are a lot of variations on the theme for this important accessory for both training and bonding with your Retriever.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites (Updated 2022)
The 7 Best Harnesses for Labradors
1. Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness – Best Overall
The Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness scores points on several fronts. First, there is the design. It follows the contours of your Lab’s body to make it more comfortable with less irritation at the pressure points. It has a chest pad that disperses the force, which is especially desirable if you pooch pulls a lot. The harness is less likely to cause pain.
Versatility is another feature we love. The size ranges seem large at first glance. However, they are adjustment levels so that you can customize the fit. You can also use the harness as a seat belt. Of course, you take your Lab with you everywhere you go! We like the dual clip, too. The addition of the carabiner is brilliant and makes it more secure.
Overall, we think this is the best Lab harness you can buy this year.
2. Sporn Non-Pull Mesh Dog Harness – Best Value
The Sporn Non-Pull Mesh Dog Harness looks different than many products of this type, with a unique design. It combines the advantages of mesh with nylon to create a lightweight harness. You might think it would irritate your pooch’s armpits, but it has extra padding at those hotspots to avoid issues with the product, making it the best harness for Labradors for the money.
It’s an excellent choice if you have a puller who fights you when you try to put a harness on him. It has a back clip, which is something of a disconnect with the rest of the design. It has a cord lock, which helps prevent your little Houdini from slipping out of it. While it works as described, it is more difficult to put on your dog.
3. Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness Dog Harness – Premium Choice
The Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness Dog Harness is appropriately named. It is a well-constructed, heavy-duty item. It comes in eight sizes with smaller ranges to get an accurate fit. It has a lot of padding on the chest and flanks. The straps going under the armpits that don’t have it. However, it has a handle at the top, which is handy for when you go boating. It’ll make it easier to pick your Lab out of the water.
The harness is good-looking and gives the impression that your pooch is tough. We like it. It’s a premium product at a premium price. It has a lot of desirable features. The handle at the top is fantastic and something any Lab owner will appreciate. It makes it so easy to retrieve your Retriever from the drink. Pun intended. The logo is a bit in-your-face, but we can forgive the manufacturer’s zeal.
4. PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness
The classic design of the PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness makes it a hit with pet owners. It has a back clip for Labs that have decent leash manners. The quick-snap closures are perfect for making it easier to put it on your pooch. It has a Martingale loop, which gives you better control over your pup. The two features are a winning combination.
On the downside, we thought that the straps were a bit thin and narrow. It’s lightweight, which can make it easier to convince a reluctant Lab from wearing it. However, we were concerned about possible irritation that they may cause. On the positive side, the pressure over the chest is minimal, thanks to the design. It’s a good match for the right dog.
5. OneTigris Tactical Service Vest Dog Harness
The OneTigris Tactical Service Vest Dog Harness is the perfect product if your Lab is your hunting buddy or if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. It is weather-resistant to hold up to the challenge. You can also customize it with badges, which we think is pretty cool. It’s a large harness, which means it may not work for all pups. It may take a young Retriever time to get used to it.
The harness has extra pouches on the sides to make it useful for you, too. It has a front clip for optimal control for pups that need more guidance. It’s a quality product for the right pet owner and Retriever. It’s a narrow niche, but the product ticks off the boxes that someone of this ilk would appreciate. We think that the proof is in the name of the item.
6. Chai’s Choice Outdoor Adventure 3M Reflective Dog Harness
The Chai’s Choice Outdoor Adventure 3M Reflective Dog Harness has a lot of features that will appeal to outdoorsy folks. It has a comfortable fit with sides that don’t rub against your Lab’s armpits and cause irritation. We like the reflective feature to make walking safe at night. The manufacturer did an excellent job with it, too.
The harness has a back clip that is located a bit lower on your pup’s back. The design is decidedly loose, which is fine if your Lab is well-behaved. It’s not the best choice if your dog is a puller. It also strikes us as kind of stiff to conform with the canine body shape. A deal breaker for us is it’s not water-resistant. Try telling a Retriever not to go in the water!
7. Red Dingo Designer Snake Eyes Dog Harness
The Red Dingo Designer Snake Eyes Dog Harness won’t win fans with pet owners who see their Labs as tough dogs. The pattern on the straps and bone-shaped closures are a bit too cutesy for some. We’re not loving the color, either. Aesthetics aside, the harness has a back clip for well-behaved pups. The design is close-fitting with the main straps located close together. It has an extra, rust-proof D-ring for an ID tag.
The harness has adjustable straps. We had concerns about whether the size you dial in would stay put with a rambunctious Lab. We also questioned its durability if you have a stronger dog on your hands, especially with the O-ring leash attachment. A pooch with his high prey drive may test its strength. The quality of the product is also suspect.
Buyer’s Guide: Finding the Best Harnesses for Labradors
Good leash manners are imperative, especially if you walk your dog along city streets. It’s for his safety as well as your own. A properly fitted harness will give your optimal control over your pooch, whether he’s a puller or an escape artist. They are an excellent option if you have a large pup because they’ll give you leverage and lessen the amount of power you need to rein in your pet.
Contrary to what some may say, harnesses aren’t cruel. Instead, they can prevent injuries from a dog getting tangled in their leash or pulling too hard with a collar. We consider them an excellent training aid that makes using a leash easier for both you and your pup. Many include other features that are handy, such as lift handles for dogs that need help standing.
You’ll find a wide range of styles in a myriad of colors and options. Things you should consider include:
- Type and construction
- Kind of closure
- Other features
Let’s discuss each one in detail to help you choose the right harness for your Labrador.
Type and Construction
A Retriever is a good-sized dog, weighing anywhere from 50–80 ponds. Therefore, you need a harness that can control him and is durable enough to stand up to the challenge. There are several types, each one with its pros and cons.
The product you’re probably most familiar with is the body harness with an attachment on the back.
This style is an excellent choice for pups that get tangled in their leash because it keeps it away from their feet. They also help to protect your Lab’s throat if he is a puller. The force of the leash goes to his back, instead. However, if your pooch is muscular with less-than-perfect leash manners, you may find him harder to manage with this type of harness.
The front-clip harness puts you in charge of your pup while requiring less work on your part. You can easily redirect him if necessary. The downside of this kind is that the leash can trip him up if he’s not paying attention. The tightening harness takes care of that issue with a gentle tug that gets your Lab back on point. They’re a decent option if your pooch needs extra persuasion to behave.
The head halter fits and works as the name implies. Just as with an unruly stallion, this type will give you control over your larger Retriever. You’ll have his undivided attention with this one. You’ll also see step-in harnesses, which are a godsend if your pooch fits you when you try to put something on him. They’re also an excellent choice for older or arthritic pets.
Kind of Closure
There are also several variations on the type of closure and how it secures on your Lab. You’ll see standard buckles, which are reliable and stay put when fastened. It is the most popular option. There are also quick-release and bolt-on products. You’ll even find velcro ones. The essential things are that it’s easy to use and that it stays snug enough to prevent your pooch from slipping out of the harness.
Nylon, by far, is the most common harness material. It offers a lot of advantages for Lab owners. They are lightweight. They will also dry quickly after a romp in the lake chasing a ball. These products are also affordably priced and excellent value for the money. You can get a blaze orange one for hunting and another in your choice of many colors and designs.
Mesh is another popular choice for the same reasons. It also allows for air circulation, which is essential if you’re getting a larger harness that will cover more your Lab’s body. Another option for your water-loving pooch is neoprene for those winter walks. Other choices include polyester, canvas, and fleece. We prefer products that you can wash in between uses.
Of course, that only scratches the surface of what other features you’ll see in harnesses for your Labrador. A waterproof product is a welcome addition we appreciate. If you take your dog for evening walks, a reflective harness is a must-have. Other options you may find are padding over the chest portion for added comfort, personalization, and dual-clip items that you can attach in front or back.
We liked the extra security that this last feature offers.
However, the most important thing is comfort, especially if your pup pulls. Any potential hotspot becomes worse if you add your dog’s resistance to behaving to the mix.
How to Fit a Harness
The best harness in the world matters little if it doesn’t fit right. That’s why it’s essential to measure not once, but twice, to ensure that you’re buying the correct one for your Lab. Most products include a range of inches for each of the key measurements. A harness is not like buying a pair of pants for yourself. Many have different systems of adjusting the size.
You need to take three measurements. You must know the circumference of his neck, even if the harness doesn’t sit on your pet like a collar. Likewise, you have to know your Lab’s girth or chest size. Finally, you must find out the length of his back. Bear in mind that not all products will specify these three. Some only consider the chest size with adjusting parts for the others.
When measuring your Retriever’s neck, allow for some wiggle room. We recommend two inches or the width of two fingers between the strap and your dog. The point is to make it snug to prevent escaping but not too tight to make your pup uncomfortable. After all, avoiding neck damage is one reason that pet owners opt to use a harness over a collar.
We also suggest looking at the kind of adjustment on the harness. A sliding one with a clasp gives you a lot more leeway as opposed to a buckle, which has set holes. Bear in mind that your Lab’s muscles will swell with activity. That’s another reason that you need the extra room. Of course, it is a fine balance between security on both ends of the spectrum.
When you need extra control over your enthusiastic pooch, it’s hard to beat the convenience that a harness offers. The Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness stood head and shoulders above the rest. Its comfortable design was one of the most important features we considered. It provides the necessary snugness without the tightness that can make wearing it irritating.
The Sporn Non-Pull Mesh Dog Harness is our pick for best value, thanks to its lightweight design that stands up to pullers. Its reflective properties mean you’ll be confident to take your dog for a walk at night.
The research for our reviews taught us a vital lesson. These products are highly specialized for the dog, its leash manners, and the amount of control you must have over your Lab. These pups often make simple things like walks a challenge. However, with the right harness, it becomes a non-issue. Therefore, it’s essential to understand how construction affects the usability of something like a harness.
Featured image credit: PxHere