Knowing how to measure your dog for a harness correctly can save you a lot of time and inconvenience. Read on to make sure you get the right fit for your dog.
A properly fitting harness is comfortable for your pup and ensures safety during walks, so it’s vital to measure your dog for a harness correctly. Afterall, your dog can wriggle free of a loose harness and dart right into oncoming traffic. On the other hand, small harnesses fit the dog too tightly, causing them to be uncomfortable and uncooperative during walks.
However, we all know that dog breeds come in different sizes and shapes, so you can expect harnesses to have varying measurements. The varying sizing accommodates all the various breed sizes, from giant Great Danes to tiny Chihuahuas. To make things more complicated, different manufacturers can have different sizing charts. To help with this, we have covered what you need to know about how to measure your dog for a harness to help you purchase the right harness for your dog.
How to Measure Your Dog for a Harness
The secret to a proper size harness is purchasing one based on your dog’s measurements. Girth (chest), neck, and head sizes are the most important considerations when you measure your dog for a harness. A harness that fits correctly should allow you to slide two fingers between the straps and the body at every point.
Harnesses are gaining massive popularity over traditional collars, and with good reason. Collars exert significant pressure on your dog’s neck, especially if your dog pulls back at the leash’s end. The pulling and concentrated force on the neck places your pooch at risk of neck and back injuries.
Meanwhile, harnesses distribute the pressure over a large surface area, the chest, making them much safer. Dogs that suffer from neck or back injuries like intervertebral disk disease benefit tremendously from a harness. Dogs with airway problems like tracheal collapse are at risk with constant use of collars, making harnesses the best option.
Despite the numerous benefits harnesses offer, incorrect fitting can negate these advantages. An incorrectly sized harness will leave indentations on the skin upon removal or may allow escape. The PawSafe Dog Harness has a clear sizing chart to simplify finding the proper harness size for your pup.
Some experts often recommend using weight to determine the harness size. While weight is a helpful guideline when choosing harness size, it leaves room for error. Considering only the weight doesn’t account for variations in body types.
For example, a 70-pound Chow Chow differs from a 70-pound Doberman Pinscher. They have the same weight but utterly different body types. The Doberman is more athletic and has a leaner build than the chunky Chow Chow.
Taking the exact measurements of your dog is the best way to find the correct harness size. Same breeds of different ages and sexes vary in harness sizing. Using the good old measuring tape accounts for all these factors that could alter harness sizing without having to complicate the matter.
Step 1: Finding the girth
Your dog’s girth refers to the size of the chest. The girth is the most important measurement when it comes to leash size. This is because harnesses rest on dogs’ chests and shoulders, with some having an attachment over the lower neck. Measuring how wide the chest lays an excellent foundation for how the harness fits overall.
To find your pup’s girth, place the tape measure around the area behind the front-leg “armpits.” For the proper girth measurements, you should measure the widest part of your dog’s ribcage/ chest. Stand over your dog to spot the broadest chest area, then place the measuring tape on the spine around that point.
Step 2: Measuring the girth
Now that you know where to measure for girth sizes, the next step is doing the actual measuring. For this, you’ll need:
- Soft measuring tape: We don’t recommend using a steel measuring tape because it’s rigid, making it ineffective at measuring circumference.
- Ruler and string: If you don’t have a soft measuring tape, you can use a string and then measure with a ruler.
- A notebook: You’ll need to record the chest measurements to avoid losing track of the number by forgetting.
Remember to measure the girth from the bottom of your dog’s rib cage. The area right behind the front-leg armpits isn’t the widest chest area; you need to move back a little more. For deep-chested dogs, the length from top to bottom is more extended than left to wide, meaning the chests are longer than wide.
- Wrap the fabric tape measure around the chest, ensuring the tape measure is snug.
- Adjust the tape measure if it’s baggy or too tight because that’s how the harness will fit your dog
- Check where the end of the tape meets the body, and record this value. You’ll use these records as a reference when you check the sizing chart of your desired harness.
Note: If your dog’s measurements are between two values on the measuring tape, size up. It’s best to purchase a slightly bigger harness instead of a tiny one. Luckily, most harnesses come with adjustable straps, so if the harness fits loosely, you can rectify the issue pretty quickly.
Step 3: Take the neck measurements
You’ll also be required to take the measurements of the neck. Adjust the measuring tape to fit your dog’s neck dimensions, leaving room to slip two fingers. Different types of dog harnesses have straps that rest on the lower neck, so it’s best to measure the area as well.
Don’t measure the narrowest part of the neck; this is where traditional collars lie. Instead, move further down to the lower neck for a more accurate reading. If you’re unsure about where to measure on the neck, feel the shoulders because the correct spot is the area right above them.
A small harness will ride up towards the neck instead of sitting comfortably on the chest. Such a harness will exert unnecessary force on the neck, the very issue we’re trying to avoid with harnesses. With this in mind, it’s essential to get accurate measurements and size up if the value is between numbers.
Step 4: Measure your dog’s head
The head is another central area that determines the size of a harness. Head size is particularly important for over-the-head harnesses. For these harnesses, you place the neck hole over your pup’s head and then strap them into the harness. Some dogs may not like the idea of a harness hovering above them before installation, but most get used to it after some time.
While still on head measurements, the dog head halter harness requires muzzle measurements. These harnesses wrap around the dog’s muzzle, and another strap goes around the neck just behind the ears. Most dogs feel highly uneasy when you wrap an object over their muzzles, so take extra caution and be patient with your dog.
Once you have these measurements jotted down, you can check the sizing chart if the dog harness company provides one. If a sizing graph is unavailable, you can contact the manufacturer with your dog’s measurements, who will advise you on the best harness size to go with.
Once your harness finally arrives, it’s time to ensure it fits your dog correctly. A good rule of thumb is attempting to fit two fingers into the various harness straps. If the two fingers fit, the harness is neither too big nor too small. After the harness passes the test, use the points of adjustability for an even better fit.
It’s essential to determine harness sizing based on your dog’s measurements. Companies often use weight to determine harness sizing without considering the breed, body type, and age. Body measurements are a more accurate way to get the right-sized harness for your dog.
Before buying a harness, you’ll need to measure the widest area of the chest, the lower neck, and the head. Most harnesses come with sizing charts that you use along with the measurements you took. Correct sizing ensures the harness doesn’t slip off the dog because it’s too big. On the other hand, small harnesses leave indentations on the skin upon removal.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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