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Is it safe to leave a harness on a dog all the time?

Best tactical dog harness
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If you’re debating harness vs collar or both and want to know if dog harnesses are safe or if it is safe to leave a harness on a dog all the time, this guide is here to help.

Dog harnesses are designed to allow less pull on the neck when being led on a leash and to distribute the weight of the pull more evenly around your dog’s chest and shoulders. When choosing a harness, as well as choosing the right style, it’s important to think about its safety, durability and comfort to make sure you get the best harness for your dog

While your pet is able to wear a harness all day as long as it is the right fit and comfortable, this is not advisable for a number of reasons. Read on to find out the pros and cons of harnesses, how long your dog should wear one and more safety tips.

Why should my dog wear a harness?  

If you want to keep your dog safe and comfortable while walking them, then they should wear a harness. Dog harnesses are not only more comfortable than dog collars, but they are harder to get out of so ideal if your pet is an escape artist. Using a harness will give you more control on walks and discourage pulling so they’re great for training puppies learning to walk on a leash

They also help prevent injury. With a harness the leash shouldn’t get caught up in your dog’s legs and because there is less pull on their neck it won’t cause damage to the throat, thyroid, esophagus or trachea, which can happen with collars. If you have a dog with breathing difficulties such as a Pug, a harness won’t restrict their breathing. 

Plus, handles on harnesses mean you can help your dog when needed, for instance, assisting an older dog up into a car.

best dog harness

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Can harnesses cause harm to my dog?   

While harnesses are generally safe and comfortable, if they are not the correct style or fit for your dog, they can cause your pet harm. No pull harnesses fit tightly at the shoulder, which can cause shoulder pain if you have a dog that pulls on its leash. They can also create gait problems and could lead to more severe issues such as limping if there is strain on your dog.

If your dog has a short coat, a non-padded harness can cause chafing or raw spots, especially behind the front legs, if worn for too long. This is why it’s important to make sure your dog’s harness fits correctly.

How long can you leave a harness on a dog? 

A dog can be left with a harness on all day, but it is not advisable. Vets and trainers recommend that a dog only wears its harness when it is out on a walk or being trained, but not when at home. They should only wear their harness for long periods if necessary such as on a long hike or camping trip. 

At the very least, your pet should not wear a harness at night, in its crate or when alone. This is not only because if left on for too long it can become uncomfortable, irritate the skin and cause their fur to become matted, but the harness could become hooked on something such as the side of the crate if you are not there to make sure they are safe.

best dog harness

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Pros and cons of leaving a dog harness on

While harnesses are generally safe and comfortable, they can pose a risk. These are the pros and cons of leaving a dog in a harness:

Pros

  • If you do need to assist your dog, stop them from doing something or pull them out of danger, a harness makes it easier to grab on to them.
  •  If your dog has a short neck and doesn’t like wearing a collar, ID tags can be attached to a harness. 
  • Leaving your dog in their harness may help them get used to wearing it.
  • Harnesses often help dogs stay calm and behave better.
  • Harnesses will help keep your dog safe – you can keep them close and if they escape reflective straps can help you find them.

Cons:   

  • The wrong size or type of harness or harnesses worn for too long can irritate your dog’s skin, cause loss of fur or matted fur. 
  • Certain harnesses can cause harm to certain breeds, which is why it’s important to purchase the right one. For example, a harness with a front strap may put pressure on your dog’s chest. 
  •  If not supervised, straps on a harness could be a choking hazard if worn alone, at night or when in a crate. Your dog could chew on straps or something could get caught on the crate.  
  • If worn for too long harnesses can get dirty and begin to smell. 

How tight should a dog harness be?

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Can dogs sleep with a harness on?  

While dogs can sleep with a harness on it is not advised as there are risks if you are not there to supervise. Your dog would not be able to tell you if their harness is uncomfortable or irritating their skin. Worse still one of the straps could be a choking hazard if it got caught on something. 

Can you leave a harness on a puppy?  

The same rules apply to a puppy as to an adult dog. You should not leave a harness on a puppy. They need supervision so they are not at risk of danger or discomfort. Puppies face the same risks in a harness as adult dogs, but on top of these they may use their chest straps as chew toys.  

Puppy collar

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Dog harness safety and comfort tips 

When choosing a dog harness make sure you do your research so that you buy the best dog harness for your pet. 

There are lots of different types including vests, head halter, anti-pull with a front clip (which can hinder shoulder movement if your dog is not leash trained and pulls), no-pull with a back clip (which is one of the safest harnesses and recommended for dogs with shorter necks such as pugs). 

Make sure that you know how to measure your dog for their harness so it’s the right size and that you know how to put the dog harness on so that it’s fitted correctly.

It should be tight enough to be secure so they can’t get loose, but loose enough to fit two fingers underneath it. A harness shouldn’t cause chafing or fur loss. If the back of it is moving from side to side or your dog is vehement they don’t want to go for a walk, something may be wrong with the harness. 

Zara is Editor on bookazines and covers a range of topics from cookery to travel and animals. Her latest first edition, What Your Dog Wants You To Know, is the ultimate guide to understanding your dog’s body language. 
Former editor of World of Animals magazine, she has over 8 years of experience in publishing inspiring children and adults about the wonders of the animal kingdom as well as teaching them about their pets. She also has over 5 years experience working with vets, wildlife experts and animal behaviourists in her comms roles for various animal charities. 
A keen animal lover, Zara can often be found researching her next wildlife destination to travel to. Having just moved into a bigger house she is currently looking at which dog and cats breed would suit her new family so she can fill her house with pets.