How does a no-pull dog harness work? Are they safe for your dog?

no-pull dog harness
(Image credit: Amazon)

If you're a dog owner, you've probably heard about the no-pull dog harness. These harnesses are popular amongst dog owners whose dogs tend to pull a lot during walks – especially stronger dogs who can be tough to walk for some owners. Some no-pull harnesses are on our best dog harnesses list, but they aren't the only answer when it comes to setting your dog up for successful walks. 

No-pull harnesses are controversial in the dog community, however, with some vets and trainers suggesting they are detrimental to a dog's body structure and gait. They suggest that obedience training may be the better option when trying to discourage your dog from pulling during walks, but there are still many who think no-pull harnesses are a good option.

Here's all you need to know about no-pull dog harnesses in the hopes that this will help you decide what the right decision is for you and your dog. 

What is a no-pull dog harness? 

The name somewhat gives it away, but a no-pull dog harness is traditionally a harness with a front clip for the leash, rather than one that clips in the back. The idea is that this minimizes your dog's ability to pull hard on their leash during walks, as they can't use their chest muscles to pull as much as they usually would.  

Harnesses are, in general, a better option than simply attaching a lead to your dog's collar, which can cause injury to your dog's neck and throat if they pull too hard. Harnesses take the strain off of your dog's neck and make it easier for you to control their pulling. A no-pull harness, with its front clip, will move your dog's shoulder and core to one side when they pull, which discourages pulling. 

How to use a no-pull dog harness 

The number one thing with no-pull dog harnesses is choosing the right one. Look for wider straps, as thin, nylon ones can easily chafe your dog's pressure points. Wider, more cushy straps will help distribute the pressure from pulling and will be overall way comfier for your pup. A no-pull dog harness will have a front clip, but some will have both a front and a back clip for you to affix a leash to each. If you have an especially strong puller, you may want to try using a harness that has both a front and a back clip for a while. 

Get your dog used to their new harness by putting it on them in the house several times before you try and take them out on a walk. Give your dog a few treats while you try on and adjust the harness so they have a positive association with it, and so that they get used to the sounds of clipping, buckling, and adjusting. You really want to make sure this is a comfy fit for your dog, so make sure to measure your dog's neck and chest before purchasing a no-pull harness. 

Remember that a no-pull harness is not a replacement for good training methods. Yes, they can encourage loose-leash walking (your dog calmly walks by your side with some slack in the leash) when used correctly, but nothing will help more than consistent training. 

Do no-pull harnesses hurt dogs? 

Rabbitgoo no-pull dog harness

(Image credit: Amazon)

If the harness fits your dog correctly, it shouldn't hurt them, but if it prevents them from having a full range of motion when walking/running, they can develop muscle or tendon issues over time. Also, if it's too tight, it could chafe and irritate the skin under their front legs.

Because of this, some believe that no-pull dog harnesses are not a good option at all, like Christine Zink, a sports medicine guru and canine athlete fan who wrote to Whole Dog Journal to suggest a link between no-pull harnesses and problems with a dog's gait and body structure. "Dr. Zink observed that dogs wearing no-pull, front clip harnesses bore less weight on their front legs than they normally would – even when the harness wasn’t attached to a leash!"

If you're considering a no-pull harness, make sure you correctly measure your dog and always reach out to your vet if you notice any problems.

No-pull dog harnesses are definitely a better option than just collars, and in many cases are better than gentle leaders, but they are in no way foolproof. For one, they do not replace the need for proper and consistent training, and they can irritate your dog's skin and affect their gait. However, when used correctly and worn safely, a no-pull harness can be a good option for dog owners who have especially strong or misbehaved dogs. 

There are pros and cons to every training collar and harness, so it's up to you to determine what works best for your and your pooch. Hopefully this has helped you decide!

 Here’s what to do if your dog hates their harness.