Discover the best harnesses and leashes for your dog
Clipping a lead to your dog’s collar is the easiest thing to do when it’s walk time, but experts all agree that this old-fashioned method for leashing your dog is not the best option for comfort, control, or safety. Using a dog harness provides a far better solution.
If you’ve got a dog that can’t help but pull on the lead when you take them out, a well-fitting harness will make walking a far easier experience for you both.
If your pet pulls, there’s no danger of a harness choking them, as there can be with a collar, because the force is spread evenly across the dog’s body rather than being concentrated on the neck. As a result, you can control your pet more easily, as well as helping them feel more comfortable and secure. There’s also far less chance of them wriggling out of a harness, so it helps allay your fears, too.
Best dog harnesses: At a glance
- Best all-round dog harness: Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness | £26
- Best dog harness for puppies and growing breeds: Puppia Soft Harness | £18
- Best harness for large dogs: Julius-K9 IDC Lightweight Belt Harness | £20
Best dog leads: At a glance
How to buy the best dog harness for your pooch
Why is a harness better than a collar?
Let’s start by asking whether you’d like to be towed around by the neck? No, didn’t think so. Using a collar can actually damage the tissues in a dog’s neck if it pulls too hard. It also restricts a dog’s breathing – you can clearly hear it. A lack of oxygen can cause a dog to become confused, rather like a climber suffering from altitude sickness.
Harnesses have a D-ring on the back near the dog’s shoulder blades and this means it’s easier to keep the dog’s torso nearer to your legs rather than out front, which in turn makes it easier to get the animal to heel. Harnesses are also much safer to use, especially in busy traffic or anywhere a dog may become spooked. We’ve all been down that road when a dog suddenly slips its collar and you’re shouting in panic, invariably causing even more apprehension in the process.
Some dog harnesses are also fitted with a soft handle at the top, so you can easily grab the dog if it wants to get involved in a fight or is simply too keen to meet another pooch. Given that dogs will usually exit water at the same place they went in, these handles are also a godsend for helping dogs out of rivers or lakes with steep banks.
Do I still need a collar?
Yes. Although we extol the virtues of walking your dog with a harness, a collar is still essential attire for any dog (even when wearing a harness). Aside from being a legal requirement in the UK, a collar also tells others that the dog has an owner and isn’t a stray. A collar also allows you to attach a name tag – extra peace of mind that compliments the mandatory microchip underneath the animal’s skin between the shoulders.
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What is the best style of harness?
There are plenty of different styles of harness on the market, but the most comfortable usually have a type of saddle on the back that helps the harness remain in better position without twisting.
What is the best type of harness for a tricky dog?
If you have a dog that pulls on the lead every time you go for a walk, consider a front-range harness with a leash ring on the chest strap. These are proven to work wonders at getting a dog to heel. If you have an especially powerful lead-puller then invest in a double-lead balance system such as the Mekuti, reviewed in this roundup.
How do I measure my dog for a new harness?
All harness manufacturer’s websites feature dog-sizing charts. In most instances, you simply need to measure a dog’s chest at the deepest part. Dog harnesses come in various sizes – some manufacturers even provide a breed list – and all are adjustable to a generous degree. Hence, you could buy a harness for your eight-month-old pooch, knowing it will likely still fit when it’s an adult.
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How to buy the best dog leash for your companion
Once you have a harness (and collar!) in the bag, the next important item is the leash. Dog leashes come in a variety of styles and lengths and are essential accoutrements for the welfare and protection of your dog, especially if walking near traffic and areas that require a tether. Some leads are made from cheap nylon webbing and cost only a few pounds while others are hand-made out of premium leather for maximum parkland prestige.
What is the best type of leash for an unruly dog?
If your dog always pulls like a train, consider a double-ended training leash like those supplied by HALTI (see below) and Mekuti. Training leads consist of one extra-long strap with a clasp on either end. They are suitable for use only with front-range harnesses equipped with an attachment on the chest as well as on top.
Training leads take a while to master because the user is essentially holding two leashes at the same time – one fixed to the top hoop for holding the dog back and the other on the chest hoop to gently coax him or her to your side. According to many dog trainers, they work by ‘helping the dog to become aware of the way it is walking by bringing attention to its balance’.
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The best dog harnesses to buy
1. Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness: The best all-round dog harness for convenience and fit
Price: from £26 | Buy now from Amazon
IDC Powerharnesses are far and away the easiest of all models to fit and remove: simply slip the large opening over the dog’s head, clip in the chest strap, attach the lead to the top-mounted D-ring and go. Do bear in mind that a harness of this nature won’t necessarily prevent your dog from pulling; it’s simply a kinder, more convenient, safer and comfier alternative to walking with a dog collar and leash.
The thick padded saddle section moulds to the shape of the dog’s back, and it certainly looks super-comfortable. It also comes with a tough woven handle above the shoulder blades and you’ll come to appreciate this handy touch when your dog shows any signs of aggression off the lead. It may also help save a dog’s life if it gets into difficulties because you have something other than a collar to grab hold of. On the larger models, the handle can also be clipped down so it doesn’t get caught on bushes and twigs while the dog’s doing its dog thing. IDC Powerharnesses don’t come with a front ring so if your dog is a puller, perhaps opt for one of the models on this page that come with a chest ring.
The IDC Powerharnesses is available in nine sizes – from Baby 1 (teacup dog) to Size 4 (Newfoundland) – and is available in 25 colours. You can also replace the Velcroed side patch with a customized label of your choice. An excellent everyday option for top wags.
Key features – Number of sizes: 8; Smallest chest size: 29cm; Largest chest size: 138cm
2. ThinkPet No-Pull Breathable Sport Dog Harness: Best durable dog harness
Price: From £20 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’ve got through several dog harnesses during the lifespan of your dog, you’ll likely be looking for one that can withstand a bit more tough action and energy.
The ThinkPet is designed with rough and tumble in mind, and also works well for dogs that like to pull. It evenly distributes pressure across the body to protect your dog’s body and avoid the dreaded choking.
This is a heavy-duty harness, made from high-density Oxford and nylon webbing, with strong buckles that should withstand lots of tugging, inclement weather and jumping in puddles.
Despite being strong and tough, it’s also gentle enough to make your dog feel comfortable. It comes with a mesh lining with soft sponge padding at the chest and belly to prevent chafing and rubbing. The neck and chest straps are fully adjustable, so it’s easy to pull the harness on and off as you require.
Also helpful is the fact that the harness has two clips – one at the back for use on casual walks or jogs with well-behaved dogs, and one at the front that you can use while training and to prevent pulling. There’s also a seatbelt loop that you can use while taking your dogs on road trips, and a strap at the back that you can quickly grab if you need to swiftly move your dog out of harm’s way.
Key features – Number of sizes: 5; Smallest chest size: 22cm; Largest chest size: 82cm
3. Ruffwear Front Range Harness: A seriously versatile dog harness
Price: From £66 | Buy now from Pets at Home
Ruffwear produces some of the best dog wear on the market, from leads and collars to dog boots for rough terrain and snazzy coats for winter. The Ruffware Front Range harness is superbly designed and made from soft nylon padding that covers the chest area and a small area of the back. It also comes with a pouch for the dog’s ID tag. This harness is so comfy, it’s already become Juno the Labrador’s favourite beachwear outfit.
The Ruffware isn’t as quick to fit as the Julius-K9, but it’s hardly complicated. To use, slip the opening over the dog’s head, bring the chest pad beneath the torso and use the two clips. Rather handily, the rear strap section is elasticated for extra comfort. This is definitely the easiest harness to adjust while on the dog because its nylon straps are more supple and the latches are easier for making alterations on the fly.
Unlike the Julius-K9, it comes with two lead attachments: one on the back portion (like most models) and another on the chest. In most instances you’ll use the back D-ring, but if your dogs pulls on the leash, then consider attaching it to the front loop, which will help prevent excessive pulling by angling the dog’s body towards you. If your dog continues to pull like a train, consider attaching a second lead or specialised double-ended lead to both D-rings.
Double-leads are more complicated to use but have been proven to provide better balance for an unruly dog and thereby reduce pulling. That said, the chest padding alone most certainly has an affect on how the dog responds when walking – just the tiniest tug of the leash will invariably have it walking to heel.
The Front Range is available in six colours and sizes and is the harness of choice for well-to-do pooches or any owner who just wants their tyke to stand out from the pack.
Key features – Number of sizes: 5; Smallest chest size: 33cm; Largest chest size: 107cm
4. Julius-K9 IDC Powair Lightweight Harness: Best lightweight harness for summer
Price: From £20 | Buy now from Julius-K9
Julius-K9 is a huge player in the world of canine wear. The company started out supplying harnesses for police and emergency rescue dogs and has applied some of its original designs to a wide range of consumer pooch models.
This model is the same style as the popular, standard IDC Powerharness, except that it’s made from much lighter materials. All IDC Powerharnesses fit like a saddle, with a soft, adjustable nylon lower-neck strap and another that attaches around the dog’s chest, just behind the pits of the forelegs. This ensures there is no rubbing or chafing.
Where the stiffer standard model is better suited to the winter months and larger dogs that pull like a train, this lightweight version is more supple and is made out of breathable mesh fabric that ventilates supremely well. It also features a sponge lining that absorbs water during a swim to help cool down the dog. Thankfully, it also dries fairly quickly, so chances are your dog won’t still be soaking by the time you get home.
As with its tougher stablemate, there’s a woven nylon handle on the back that you can grab hold of when the dog is off the lead. This handle also provides invaluable assistance if ever you need to haul a dog out of a river because it can’t get out on its own.
You could feasibly use this harness all year round, although you’d be better off also investing in the standard model for winter use. But for the summer months, there really isn’t a better-fitting and more convenient harness than this one.
Key features – Number of sizes: 6; Smallest chest size: 29cm; Largest chest size: 115cm
5. Ruffwear Hi & Light: The best lightweight dog harness for very hot weather
Price: £46 | Buy now from Amazon
Where the figure-hugging Ruffwear Front Range is quite heavily padded and therefore a little hot to wear when the temperature rises, this skimpier, bikini-like model is thinner and lighter and much better suited for use on hot summer days.
Ostensibly designed for active dogs accompanying their owners on long outdoor runs in the countryside, the Hi & Light is constructed from light Ripstop nylon material and features slim nylon straps, a single top-mounted aluminium leash clasp and a sealed Velcro pouch with integral cord for attaching a name tag. The pouch is also big enough to store a few emergency poo bags.
This harness fits supremely well without restricting the dog’s movement in any way. It’s also a doddle to put on and one of the easiest to adjust. Granted, it’s not the cheapest model here, but it’s very well designed and a great option for both energetic dogs and hot sultry summers.
Key features – Number of sizes: 6; Smallest chest size: 23cm; Largest chest size: 107cm
6. Halti No Pull Dog Harness: the best dog harness to stop pulling
Price: From £20 | Buy now from Amazon
If your dog is absolutely insistent on pulling, you’ll know how much of a pain and hassle something as simple as an ordinary dog walk can become.
A big player in the dog harness world, the Halti lives up to its name and helps control even the most eager of dogs. It works by using a no-slip chest panel, designed to stay securely in the place and help your dog feel comfortable and secure at all times. A sliding security cord lock prevents over-tightening so it should always feel as comfortable as possible for your dog.
Straps are attached via a slider, designed to adjust to tension and therefore correct pulling. The harness is lightweight, with soft but durable webbing that sits beneath your dog’s arms and helps to keep them cool during walks. The softness of the harness allows for a full range of movements, too, so your dog shouldn’t feel unnaturally restricted either.
Halti is suitable for a number of different dog breeds, coming in three different sizes. Additional benefits include a reflective strip on the harness for use when walking your dog at night. For the best experience, it’s recommended that you combine the Halti with the compatible Halti Training Lead, which you can use for even more “steering” control.
Key features – Number of sizes: 3; Smallest chest size: 22cm; Largest chest size: 62cm
7. Puppia Soft Harness: The best dog harness for puppies and small breeds
Price: £18 | Buy now from Amazon
Given the reasonable retail price, this harness is a great choice for growing puppies and a comfortable option for smaller breeds. The Puppia is made from a very soft and supple air mesh material that fits around the dog’s chest area using a single side buckle.
Although fitting does require threading one of the dog’s front legs through a hoop, it’s pretty easy to do, especially if the breed is small enough to pick up in your arms. If you have a larger breed that is a bit restless when handled, perhaps consider one of the Julius K-9, RuffWear or Hurtta models instead.
The Puppia is available in five sizes – from extra small (perfect for the smallest of toy dogs) to extra large (about the size of a Border Collie) – and 18 vibrant colours.
Key features – Number of sizes: 5; Smallest chest size: 28.5cm; Largest chest size: 80cm
8. Julius-K9 IDC Belt Harness: The best harness for large dogs
Price: From £18 | Buy now from Julius-K9
This belt harness is a good option for larger and wider breeds of dog. It’s extremely easy to fit: just slide the large loop over the dog’s head and clip it on.
The Belt Harness comes with a metal back hoop for lead attachment and an ultra-tough nylon handle for easy control of the dog when off the lead. This handle is also a godsend for helping a dog out of water, if it’s struggling to get up a steep river bank. Rather cleverly, the handle can be compressed against a piece of Velcro so it doesn’t snag on any undergrowth.
The Julius-K9 provides a reassuringly snug fit that doesn’t get in the way of the dog’s movements; the lower chest strap sits just behind the forelegs and doesn’t rub against the elbows. However, it does seem a bit over-engineered. The chest webbing on the Size 1 model we tested is about 5cm in width and strong enough to pull a train. It’s also difficult to adjust.
The heavy-duty plastic clips are seriously large and we wonder if this combination of wide webbing and large clips is the reason the whole harness tends to shift over to one side after a few minutes wear. That said, at no time did the dog – an elderly Labrador – appear to be in discomfort. We suspect the smaller sizes use narrower, thinner and more supple webbing, which should ensure the harness remains in better position.
If you have a wide-girth breed such as a Rottweiler, Bulldog, Staff or Mastiff then this harness will do the trick, but we’d suggest Julius-K9’s figure-hugging IDC Powerharness for slender breeds.
Key features – Number of sizes: 6; Smallest chest size: 15.5cm; Largest chest size: 115cm
9. Rabbitgoo Dog Harness: The best escape-proof dog harness
Price: From £22 | Buy now from AmazonThe Rabbitgoo dog harness is a padded body harness made from resistant Oxford material to make it suitable for use whatever the weather. While the otherwise excellent Julius-K9 harnesses have a reputation for allowing determined dogs to slip out of them (something this reviewer’s dog has managed when faced with a trip to the groomer), this harness is perfect for any dog with Houdini tendencies. That’s because it is fastened with two fast-release buckles and two fully adjustable straps. Therefore if you measure carefully and adjust it to your dog’s frame, you can be confident there will be no more frightening escapes. It also makes the harness very quick and easy to fit.
Two metal leash attachments, one on the back and a no-pull ring on the front, make the Rabbitgoo an excellent choice for excitable dogs who tend to pull on walks. Your training will also be aided by the sturdy top handle.
With reflective threads for night walking, a range of 12 colours and a smart design, you can enjoy safe and secure walks with your pooch at any time.
Key features – Number of sizes: 4; Smallest chest size: 33cm; Largest chest size: 96cm
The best dog leads to buy
1. EzyDog Zero Shock Lead: Best lead for dogs that like to pull
Price: From £22 | Buy now from Amazon
This stretchy lead is a great option for dog owners who have given up trying to train their dogs not to pull on the leash. It’s also a boon for those moments when your dog spies a squirrel or another dog and suddenly dashes off, pulling your shoulder out of its socket in the process.
The keenly-priced EzyDog Zero Shock is essentially a stiff bungee cord that stretches a few inches when pulled, easing the tension for both owner and dog. It’s also very comfortable in the hand.
The Zero Shock is available in two lengths – 25in and 48in – and ten colours. Its small collar/harness clip is easy to operate even under tension and we like the plastic accessory D-ring, which is handy for attaching a poo bag container.
Given the choice, we would recommend the shorter 25in model, which keeps the dog closer to heel and prevents any unforeseen issues, especially when walking next to a busy road.
2. Creature Clothes Fabric Dog Lead: best dog lead for comfort and summer style
Price: £32 | Buy now from Creature Clothes
Add a touch of summer class and show off your lovely pooch with one of Creature Clothes’ marvellous fabric leads. Available in seven colour schemes – including stripes, Gingham, Denim and two deckchair patterns – these hand-made, home-grown leads are really light and comfortable in the hand and come equipped with high-quality clasps with a smooth action.
Creature Clothes’ fabric leashes are a metre long and made from four layers of rip-resistant upholstery fabric that’s been riveted for extra strength. Hence, you can be sure they’ll hold their own, even with the most feisty of hounds pulling on the other end. They are also machine washable. To make the most of your dog’s stylish looks, we would advise adding a matching collar while you’re at it.
3. Flexi Neon S Tape: Best lead for giving your pooch more range
Price: From £16 | Buy now from Amazon
If you have a puppy or a small dog up to 15kgs in weight that you’d rather not let off the lead, consider one of these extendable auto-rewind models from Flexi. Available in two lengths (3m and 5m) and three sizes, the Flexi’s tape is neon coloured so others are less likely to get tangled up in it when your dog’s doing its mad dog stuff. We would suggest the 5m version simply because it’s a good thing to have an extra two metres to hand.
The Flexi is very easy to use – simply hold in the button and click it into position with your thumb to release the tape and its spring-loaded mechanism will ensure it is automatically recoiled and not left lying on the ground where it’s more likely to be a trip hazard. The feed can be stopped at any time by simply pressing the button again to re-lock the mechanism.
This type of leash has been known to cause occasional havoc in the local park, especially with unruly dogs that run circles around other park users. But on the plus side, tape is far less likely to cause skin burns than the thin corded type.
4. Halti Training Lead: Best training lead
Price: From £6 | Buy now from Amazon
Designed by animal psychologist Dr Roger Mugford, the versatile Halti Training Lead can be used in a number of ways: as a dual-leash system for front-range harness use (the most effective method for training a dog to heel); hands-free with the leash wrapped around your waist; and taking two dogs for a walk on the same leash.
When used in training mode, attach one end of the leash to the top hoop of the harness and the other to the chest hoop. Now hold both lengths of lead with both hands, using one to hold the dog in check and the other to pull it from the chest area towards you. It takes time to get the hang of it but, when done correctly, a training leash should help with your dog’s balance and help prevent him or her from pulling too much.
5. Ruffwear Roamer Leash: Best for running with your dog
Price: From £50 | Buy now from Amazon
UK-based Ruffwear produces a wide range dog gear including harnesses, life jackets, dog boots for rough terrain and winter apparel.
This elasticated, shock-absorbing leash is available in two lengths (2.1m and 3.4m) and is an ideal choice for those who enjoy running with their four-legged companions. Simply attach it to your dog’s harness – do not run a dog using a collar – wrap the leash around your waist and head out into the fells.
The great thing about this leash is that there’s at least two feet of stretch in the webbing and that’s extremely useful when running because there’s less chance of the animal pulling you over if it suddenly veers off to chase a rabbit.
Another handy feature is the traffic handle – a split section of non-stretchy webbing positioned very close to the dog’s harness. It’s imperative that you use this handle when approaching a road or walking on the pavement.
This is a top choice for anyone with a well trained dog that enjoys a good run. Needless to say, it’s a perfect match for Ruffwear’s Hi & Light activity harness, reviewed above.
6. Creature Clothes Classic Leather Dog Lead: Best leash for dogs with a swagger
Price: From £37 | Buy now from Creature Clothes
For the smart mutt about town, how about this stylishly elegant luxury number from the house of Creature Clothes? Handmade in the UK, the Classic Leather is 107cm in length (42in) and 2cm in width, and fitted with a top-quality clasp and an O ring that joins the handle to the leash. Aside from hooking poo bags to it, the O ring is also brilliant for locking the lead around your waist or neck so you don’t lose it. It happens!
This high-quality cowhide leash is available in plain brown, black, tan and red but if you really want to stand out from the crowd, we’d suggest opting for the slightly more expensive studded version which comes with a choice of silver or brass stars, hearts and bones. Perhaps even complement it with a matching collar. Whichever model you choose, you can be sure this lead will outlast most others. In fact, the older it gets the better it looks.
7. Julius-K9 Color & Gray Super-Grip Leash: Best all-round leash
Price: From £8 | Buy now from AmazonIf you’ve invested in one of the excellent Julius-K9 harnesses in our roundup above, you may want to pair it with a Julius-K9 leash. The Color & Gray colours and design match the harness ranges perfectly. More importantly, they’re constructed using the same robust materials.
The Julius-K9 leash is designed to be easy to hold, even in wet weather conditions. With its rubberised construction, you won’t lose your grip, it will withstand no end of all-weather walking, and it simply wipes clean. The secure metal carabiner attaches easily to your dog’s harness ring. This reviewer has been using one for over two years in all terrains with no sign of wear and tear.
There’s a huge range of possibilities to choose from with these leads. With six colours and two different widths (14mm or 20mm), you can even choose a double dog lead if you’re walking two dogs, or want two attachments to prevent pulling. There are eight different lengths available in the range, but all are further adjustable to suit you and your dog.
8. JBYAMUK Strong Dog Lead: Best leash for walking your dog at night
Price: From £10 | Buy now from AmazonStrong and durable, yet lightweight and flexible, the JBYAMUK dog lead is tested to withstand a 400 pound force, so it’s capable of keeping even the strongest pulling dog under control. This sturdy nylon rope lead comes with an EVA padded handle to keep your hand safe and prevent friction burns while controlling your dog. A 360 degree swivel design means there’s no more getting caught up in the lead when your dog suddenly changes direction.
What makes this lead stand out from the crowd is its visibility at night. While many leads have some reflective threading, the JBYAMUK has wide double reflector threads to give you extra visibility on those late-evening walks. With its 5ft length, your dog will be free to roam a little while safely under your control. It comes in a range of seven colours.