While there are plenty of science-based techniques to teach a dog to walk on a loose leash, sometimes the best solution to a dog that pulls is a no-pull harness that will do the bulk of the work for you.
Most dog harnesses connect to the leash at the spine. But because "back-clip" harnesses put your control at the strongest part of your dog's body and tap into an opposition reflex that makes your dog pull, it's not what you want for a dog that is still learning to walk on a leash. Walking a dog that pulls on a collar isn't helpful either.
"As a general rule, I don't like anything that puts too much pressure on the neck, says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Carlo Siracusa, director of animal behavior services at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. "Definitely no prong or shock collars. Even a martingale-type collar, which I do like, will not prevent the dog from pulling [and] will apply pressure on the neck."
Dogs that pull need a harness that clips at the chest instead, which puts a walker's control ahead of them, not behind them. When the dog pulls, the tension on the leash causes them to turn. If they don't slow down, they can't move forward. Of course, not all front-clip harnesses are made equal. Those that have a strap that crosses the chest near the shoulder joint, in particular, have been linked to injuries to the biceps and tendons in the front legs, according to Whole Dog Journal. Head collars are also an option for some dogs, particularly those who are not reactive or easily over-aroused on walks.
Over the last decade as a certified professional dog trainer, I've had as much practice teaching dogs not to pull on leash as I have using no-pull harnesses. With the assistance of other dog professionals, including Alisha Ardiana, a certified professional dog trainer and former registered veterinary technician with 25 years' experience; Emily Fleisher, a certified training and behavior counselor and owner of The Mindful Paw in San Francisco; and Eden Halbert, a certified professional dog trainer for nearly two decades, we've selected the best of around a dozen highly rated no-pull harnesses for this guide.
A good no-pull harness needs to fit snugly, put no restrictions or pressure on the movement of the front legs, and feature a sturdy clip at the chest for attaching a leash. Bonus points go to harnesses that are easy to put on, especially those that don't require lifting a paw or slipping straps over a dog's head.
"I want dogs to have a good range of movement without unnecessary hardware," confirms Certified Professional Dog Trainer and former Registered Veterinary Technician with more than two decades of combined experience, Alisha Ardiana.
The well-designed Blue-9 Pet Products Balance Harness meets all these criteria effortlessly. It earns our overall best no-pull harness award not just because of the experience myself and my colleagues have had with the harness on a wide variety of dog shapes and sizes, but because there's a consensus among experts, including those at The Whole Dog Journal, that it is at the top of the no-pull harness pack.
Because it has six points of adjustability and is sold in five sizes, the Balance Harness fits better than most no-pull harnesses. Buckles fitted to a strap around the neck and to both sides of the chest make putting the harness on stress-free for even handling-sensitive dogs. In addition to the sturdy D-ring at the chest for clipping the leash, the Balance Harness has a D-ring at the back to accommodate a double-ended leash or for use with a long line.
"The Balance is my favorite," says Ardiana, but she admits that putting it on is not quite as intuitive as some of the vest-style harnesses on our list. Blue-9 has added a contrasting color to the strap along the spine, which helps me to remember which end is up, but some novice walkers may struggle to remember how to put it on when they first begin using the Balance.
Because no padding has been built into the straps, the Balance Harness also isn't the most comfortable no-pull out there; after your walk is over, the harness should always be removed. But for a quality, no-pull harness that fits well on dogs of just about any size and comes in eight fun colors, the Balance is a winner.
Pros: Curbs pulling in most dogs, available in five sizes and eight colors, accommodates double-ended leash, sturdy hardware, easily fits a variety of body shapes, allows freedom of movement
A quality harness that fits well and curbs a dog's pulling isn't easy to find. A quality harness that fits well, curbs a dog's pulling, and is inexpensive, nearly impossible. We've found one that does not just that, but is also padded, reflective, and attractive.
The Rabbitgoo No-Pull Dog Harness combines the comfort of a padded vest harness with the front-clip action of an anti-pull harness. "The Rabbitgoo is pretty great," says Scarlett Cermak, a Dog*Tec Certified Dog Walker with 10 years of experience and the owner of Embark Today in San Francisco, California. "It's sturdy, affordable, and has a good front clip that allows a free range of motion while the dog is moving."
As Cermak points out, Rabbitgoo has designed their vest well, with cushioned panels at the chest and back connected by straps with four points of adjustability for a snug fit. The harness comes with instructions for properly adjusting its four sizes to pups of any shape or size. Reflective strips sewn into both panels and stitching in the straps help keep your pup safe when the sun goes down.
The Rabbitgoo No-Pull vest also has a leash attachment on the back panel that can be used in combination with the chest ring with a double-ended leash, or solo once your dog's loose-leash walking skills have improved. A strong nylon hand loop at the back also gives you additional control in emergency situations or when your dog needs extra help.
The attractive Rabbitgoo No Pull Dog Harness is made with weather-resistant material and comes in six bold colors, but when it needs a wash, you'll have to do it by hand. Overall, for the price, you can't do any better than this comfortable, well-made harness that will curb on-leash pulling for most dogs.
Pros: Padded vest style, affordable, reflective features, D-rings at the chest and back, accommodates a double-ended leash, comes in six colors, doesn't restrict movement
For all-day adventures, harnesses without padding can chafe or become uncomfortable, even when they fit well. In human terms, it's like wearing flip-flops; they're fine for everyday activities but not the best choice for a 10-mile hike. For extended wear, a no-pull harness should be high-quality, have plenty of padding, and fit snugly.
The Ruffwear Front Range Harness got an honorable mention for its comfort and durability in our general harness guide, but here in the expanded no-pull category, it deserves a place at the top of the pack. "I love the Ruffwear Front Range Harness," says Eden Halbert, a certified professional dog trainer with almost two decades of experience and the owner of Sierra Dogs in Placerville, California. "It fits a wide variety of dogs, and it is comfortable, safe, and well made."
This soft, vest-style harness comes in five sizes — XXS to Large/XL — and has a reinforced webbing leash attachment at the chest to discourage pulling without hindering the movement of your dog's front legs. Four points of adjustment, two at the neck and two at the chest, make it easy to get the fit right on most body types, though I have occasionally had trouble getting the harness snug enough so that the vest doesn't gape a little on very thin small dogs.
This durable vest can stand up to any activity you throw at it, and foam padding at the chest and belly helps to keep the Front Range balanced and comfortable all day. Reflective trim sewn into the panels of the harness keeps your pup visible in the dark, and there's a little pocket at the back for holding an ID or an extra poop bag. There's also an aluminum leash ring along the spine for use with a long line or on high-speed pursuits.
The one thing the Front Range Harness can't handle is the washer and dryer, not ideal for a vest that is likely to pick up a lot of dirt, mud, and water in the course of your adventures. Ruffwear recommends hand washing and air drying only.
Pros: Padded, comes in five sizes with four points of adjustment, reflective, has leash attachment at chest and back, has a small pocket for holding ID, durable material, comes in six colors
Several of the no-pull harnesses recommended in this guide have more than one point to attach the leash, making them more versatile for a variety of activities. But the PetSafe 3-in-1 offers an additional feature the others don't have — a seat belt loop designed for safer car rides. By combining all three options at an affordable price, the PetSafe 3-in-1 Harness is our choice for most versatile no-pull harness.
Although this harness is only sold in four sizes, it has five points of adjustment at the neck and chest to get the fit right. The leash attachment at the chest is also a martingale, meaning that when your dog pulls, the straps will tighten up slightly to keep it in place. Because the chest strap forms a "V' instead of lying horizontally against your dog's front shoulder joint, the PetSafe 3-in-1 won't restrict movement at any speed.
Though this isn't my favorite for extended wear, the PetSafe 3-in-1 is lined with neoprene padding, making it more comfortable than some webbed harnesses. Three buckles, two at the chest and one at the neck, make getting the harness on and off more comfortable as well, especially if you have a shy or handling-sensitive dog. All those buckles, though, do make the harness a struggle to put on correctly every time. When they're all unbuckled, it can be easy to get it halfway on before realizing the whole thing is backward.
The PetSafe 3-in-1 is sold in only three colors, but each is sewn with reflective stitching for easier nighttime visibility. And while the car safety loop has not been crash-tested (and it's always safer to transport a dog in a secured crate), knowing your dog won't go flying if you have to stop short offers real peace of mind.
All-in-all, the PetSafe 3-in-1 is a highly versatile no-pull harness that can make everything from walks to car rides less stressful.
Pros: Easy to fit all sizes and body shapes, doesn't restrict movement, good for handling-sensitive dogs, accommodates a double-ended leash, reflective stitching for walks after dark, affordable, can be used as a traditional harness or car safety harness
A halter contains only the head of a dog, with a strap over the muzzle and one behind the ears, just like those used on horses. By giving the walker control over such a sensitive body part, in some cases, this equipment can actually be more effective than a body harness. It does, however, present some dangers, especially for dogs that are reactive or wiggly.
"What I'm mostly concerned about when a dog struggles is the possible injury to the neck and the spine," says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Carlo Siracusa, director of animal behavior services at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. "This is especially true for the head collar because it really just contains the head of the dog. If the dog still struggles, especially those dogs that jump and spin, I find it very dangerous for the neck." Dr. Siracusa isn't opposed to head collars for dogs that are not prone to high arousal, though. "In some cases it's good and in other cases it is not," he confirms.
For those dogs that are good candidates for the head collar, I recommend the PetSafe Gentle Leader. This super-simple halter couldn't get much easier to use. It has just two straps, a padded noseband that conforms snugly to snouts of (most) shapes and sizes through a slip-loop that attaches to the leash, and an adjustable headband that clips behind the ears.
While the design is a cinch to use, the one thing this headcollar lacks, which is found in that of its major competitor the Halti, is a safety tether that attaches to a dog's collar. And forget using a head collar on a flat-faced (brachiocephalic) dog like a pug or French bulldog. They don't have enough snout to hang the noseband securely.
The affordable Gentle Leader comes in five sizes and eight colors, and while it shouldn't cause your dog pain or extreme discomfort, they aren't exactly cozy either. In fact, if you don't desensitize a dog to a head collar before attempting to use it, nine times out of 10 they will spend the entire walk trying to get the thing off, rubbing it against plants and fences. I've even seen dogs get down on the ground to rub their faces against the sidewalk to try to remove a head collar. Once a dog is desensitized to the head collar, the extra padding on the Gentle Leader's noseband will make irritation less likely.
Pros: Affordable, simple design, has a safety attachment, padded noseband, sold in five sizes and eight colors
Cons: Dangerous for over-aroused dogs, dog must be desensitized to head collar before use, won't work on flat-faced dogs, no safety tether
The Company of Animals Halti Head Collar: While the PetSafe Gentle Leader is great for its simplicity, I also like the Halti Head Collar for its additional nods to safety. This halter has a tether beneath the chin that attaches to the collar, keeping you connected to your dog if they manage to slip out of the device. This head collar also has a padded nose band and an extra strap on either side of the snout to help keep the whole thing a bit more balanced and secure. It was narrowly edged out of the top spot by the Gentle Leader for the way those additional side-straps can gape or strain on some snouts, for its lack of color choices (the Halti only comes in black and red), and for being slightly more expensive than its competitor.
The best harness for your dog is the one that makes walks and other adventures easy while keeping them comfortable, secure, and pain-free. We've narrowed down a crowded field of more than two dozen options to find the six best harnesses for dogs of different sizes, needs, and abilities.
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