Dog Harness Fitting Guide

Dog Harness Fitting Guide

Looking to hit the trails with your furry friend? You will probably need a dog hiking harness to keep both you and your pooch safe on rough terrains. But which do you choose? The size, shape and temperament of your dog will all contribute to your choice of harness. And for your dog to accompany you on your outdoor adventures, you’ll need to make sure that you pick up the most appropriate harness for them that will keep them comfortable and safe while you’re on the move. Our doggy harness fitting guide will tell you everything you need to know about choosing the right fit for your pooch. From how to measure a dog for a harness, to how tight a dog harness should fit.

Choosing your dog hiking harness

A back-clip harness allows you to attach your lead to a hook on your dog’s back and may be the best choice for hiking as you can keep control of your pup whilst you explore. Some even come with handles over the back so you can lift them up over rocks or into the car, and thicker straps also help to distribute the pressure more evenly, so may be the best dog harness when it comes to hiking along rough tracks with your furry friend.

And what about puppy harnesses? Well, these should be both light and secure, as a puppy’s body is still developing. So, you may want to choose a harness made of a material that can shape around your dog’s body without chunky plastic buckles and straps to weigh your puppy down.

Dog hiking harness

Properly fitting a dog harness

A dog’s harness should be tight enough so that they can’t wriggle out of it, but not so tight that it’s causing discomfort, pain or difficulty to breathe.

How to know identify a poorly fitted dog hiking harness:

  • Their fur starts to thin around the harness area.
  • The harness causes chafing and makes your dog uncomfortable.
  • If your dog can wiggle free, or the harness is moving about on their back, it is too big.
  • If your dog is struggling to walk/does not want to then the harness might not fit properly and is probably making it uncomfortable.
How to measure a dog for a harness

So, how tight should a dog harness fit?

Top tip: To ease them in to the harness, try leaving it on for just a few minutes and distracting them with their favourite toys. Each day you can increase the time that they're wearing it and eventually, it'll be like it's not even there! So that when the time comes, your pooch will be ready and raring to go for your outdoor adventure.

How to measure a dog for a harness:

To buy a dog harness online, you’ll need to know what size you’re ordering. The measurements you need to make note of are:

  • Chest/Girth: measure around the body of the dog, about 2 inches behind their elbows. Start at the bottom of the ribcage, up and over the back and then back down to the starting point.
  • Neck: the wider area of the neck right at the top of their shoulders, under where the collar would usually sit.
  • Weight: many companies use weight as a guide to harness sizing. If you’re struggling to get them sat on the scale, weigh yourself first, then pick up your pup and take the weight of the two of you together. The difference between the two weights is that of your pooch.
Fitting a dog harness for hiking

Use the table below as a guide to help you find the right size for your doggy harness:

Neck Size (cm) 23-33 12-20 40-63 46-76 61-89
Chest Size (cm) 30-44 41-56 46-71 61-86 71-112
Weight (kg) 2-5 5-11 11-23 23-36 36-50

If your dog fits into two of these size categories, think about how strong they pull, as this will also help determine which harness will fit best:

  • XS/S are more appropriate for smaller dogs that aren’t strong pullers.
  • M is more suited to smaller dogs with a strong pull, medium-sized dogs and large dogs that aren’t strong pullers.
  • L/XL are best for stronger pullers, large dogs and giant breeds.

What else to consider when choosing your doggy hiking harness


For walking and soft temperament dogs, plastic buckles are ideal as they’re quick and easy to open and close. But if your pooch is particularly energetic and lively, or you need a harness for car safety purposes, metal buckles may be the way to go. They also don’t catch and pinch your pooch’s fur like plastic buckles often do.

Over-head vs. Step-in harnesses

Over-head harnesses slide over the head and fasten over the dog’s back; whereas, step-in harnesses are shaped like a figure of 8 for the dog to step in to. The latter are often easier to put on but are generally less secure, so probably not ideal for open-air adventures. Over-head harnesses provide more padding and more points of adjustment – making them much more safe and secure.


Like their owners, dogs come in many shapes and sizes, so it’s important that harnesses come with many points of adjustment. We would recommend a harness with at least 5 adjustment points so that the harness fits as best as it can – so that when you’re on the trail, your furry friend is kept safe.

Doggy Coats

If you’re heading out on a winter venture, then you may want to dress your dog in a coat to keep them extra warm in the cold. So, bear this in mind as you choose your harness as your choice may restrict what coats you can or can’t put on over the top. Alternatively, you may want to buy a bigger coat.

Dog hiking accessories

When taking your dog out on the trail, you need to be fully prepared. Whilst a dog harness is designed to keep them safe, there are other dog hiking accessories you will need, too. At Hawkshead, we offer a range of pet travel accessories to accompany you and your furry friend on any outdoor adventure. So if they’ve been running through puddles and streams, not only will you benefit from a towel to dry them off, but you can also pick up a car seat cover that keeps your car fresh and clean. From the right dog lead to make sure they stay safe and secure, to a packaway dog bowl to keep them hydrated, pick up your dog hiking accessories from Hawkshead today.

And don’t forget about yourself. Browse our full range of outdoor accessories for everything you need, today.

If you’re still feeling underprepared for your upcoming adventure with your furry friend, read up on our top tips for hiking with your dog.