Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Put On & Fit a Dog Harness: 4 Simple Steps

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

golden retriever in harness

If you just got a new puppy and want to take it for a walk, you will need a leash, and you will need to know how to put it on. If you never had a pet before, it’s common to have many questions about securing it on your pet properly. We will help you by providing a step-by-step guide for putting on multiple types of dog harnesses. Join us while we look at the standard, step-in, and front clip harnesses so you can safely and securely take your dog out.

divider 10

Get the Right Dog Harness Size

No matter what type of harness you are using, it needs to fit your pet properly. If it is too tight, it will be uncomfortable for your pet, and it might even cut off circulation. If it is too loose, your pet will be able to get out of it, putting your pet in harm’s way with other animals or traffic. Before buying, look over the package carefully to see if it will fit your pet. We’ve found that many people who are having difficulty securing the harness are trying to use the wrong size for their pet, leading to confusion. To get the best harness for your pet, follow these next few steps.

  • Get an accurate weight of your pet.
  • Use a measuring tape to get the measurement around your dog’s neck.
  • Use a measuring tape to measure the broadest part of the chest. You can do so by putting the tape measure around the dog behind the front armpit.
  • Look for a harness two inches larger than the chest and rated for the weight of your dog.

Divider 1

The 4 Steps to Put On a Standard Dog Harness

The standard harness has a loop around the ribs and another around the neck. A D-ring on the back allows you to clip the leash.

1. Slide the Harness Over Your Dog’s Head

When your dog is calm, stand behind it and slide the harness over its head, so the D-ring is toward the back. The bigger loop will go over the ribs, and the smaller loop will go around the neck.

2. Put One Leg In

Put the dog’s leg in the first hole, so it’s between the two loops.

woman choosing pet harness in pet shop
Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

3. Buckle in the Second Leg

Buckling the harness should secure the other leg in its proper hole. If you cannot fasten the buckle, you will need to loosen the strap. If you can’t loosen it enough, the harness is too tight.

4. Adjust the Harness

Once you buckle the harness, you can adjust it, so it fits snugly. You should be able to fit two fingers under any strap, but the dog shouldn’t be able to get it off.

chocolate brown goldendoodle dog in a harness outdoors
Image Credit: MathieuLphoto, Shutterstock


Divider 8

How to Fit a Step-In Dog Harness

dogs with harness
Image Credit: Yama Zsuzsanna Márkus, Pixabay

The Step-In harness is similar to the last type, but the Step-In Harness forms triangles around the legs, and the Standard Harness forms squares. Some owners feel this type is more comfortable for the dog, but the difference is minimal.

  • To put this harness on your dog, lay it flat on the ground. You should see both triangles, and the buckles should be on top of the D-rings.
  • When your dog is relaxed, have it walk over the harness and place its two feet in the triangles.
  • Pull up the front, clip it behind the neck, and then pull up the other side to clip it around your pet’s back.
  • Adjust it to fit correctly. Once again, you should fit two fingers behind each strap, but it shouldn’t be loose enough that your dog can wiggle free.

How to Fit a Front Clip Harness

PetSafe step-in dog harness
The Front Clip harness is unique in that it places the D-clip in front of the dog’s neck, which should help reduce your pet’s pulling. Some Front-Clip Harnesses are the same as the Standard or Step-In types with the D-clips moved to the front, and you will put them on your pet in the same way. However, there is another slightly different type. These harnesses will have a loop that goes around the ribs and a strand across the chest. It will not have a divider that separates the legs.

  • To put the Front Clip Harness on, wait until your dog is comfortable and place the harness over your pet’s head so it sits on your pet’s left shoulder. The metal ring should sit on the front of your pet’s chest.
  • Place your hand under your pet’s belly to attach the belly strap.
  • Adjust the harness to fit correctly, and once again, make sure you can fit two fingers under the straps, but the dog cannot wiggle out.

Divider 3


No matter what type of harness you are using, make sure you put it on repeat until you get the hang of it and your pet gets used to wearing it.  We find that any harness will work better than the collar and leash, but if your pet pulls while you are walking, then a Front Clip Harness will help you can better control your pet.  The front clip is available in any style, so if you have already gotten good at putting on one type, you can continue to use it.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide and learned some new tricks that can help. If we have helped you enjoy your dog walks more, please share this guide to putting on a dog harness on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Image Credit: Dzmitry Dudov, Unsplash

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database