Buying Your First Harness

Written by Jenny McKellar


Posted on October 13 2023

Obviously we think your decision to get a harness is an excellent one! But this is not about sales; this is about walking your dog safely and comfortably. Any dog can be spooked by a car backfiring, people shouting, a cat/rabbit/possum running across the path, car horn, cyclists, other dog/s, excited children etc; if you have your lead attached to a collar on a surprised or excited dog, that could do a great deal of damage, especially when it happens time and time again. And if you have a dog that pulls, imagine the impact of a collar on their muscles, spine, ocular region, and especially the throat (trachea, oesophagus, thyroid, arteries, veins, glands etc).

In any case, at Harbour City Dog Gear our job is not to convince you to buy a harness; our role is to offer you choices. We are dog owners (fur-parents if you like 😊) and we have not only had real life experience with our own dogs, we have also done lots of research, read papers and articles, spoken to rehab/physio/behaviour vets, in order to curate an outstanding range of non-aversive ergonomic harnesses sourced from all over the world.

We will never favour style over fit/function.

At the core of what we do is what is best for dog and human together.

So Where Do I Start?

If you are buying a harness for the first time, here are some tips to help you:

Look at aesthetics last

    We all want something stylish/pretty/smart, but unless you need something very specific please consider aesthetics after all else or you may end up with a visually beautiful harness in the colour you love but that doesn’t fit your dog properly. We have some gorgeous harnesses, but let’s sort out fit and function first.

    Try to be clear about what features you want and what you want the harness to help you with.

      Think about your dog's temperament; do they have any challenges or limitations; what activities you will be doing together. Do you need a neck buckle? Front ring for a dbl-ended lead? Handle? Adjustable? Padding? Fast drying? What material is best suited? It is tricky to find a harness with every possible feature; decide what you might be willing to compromise on, if anything.  Always remember that a well-fitting harness trumps an ill-fitting harness that has all the bells and whistles.

      Sizing - the girth measurement is the place to start.

        Try to find a harness that has a girth size range that your dog’s girth measurement sits in the middle of. That generally indicates that the harness won’t be too close to the front legs and also won’t be too roomy around the neck.

        If your dog’s girth measurement is right at the upper end of the size range the general advice is to size up, but I would suggest that you perhaps consider a different harness where the girth size range is better suited to your dog.
        Some harnesses also have a neck size guide and/or body length to take note of along with the girth size so please check both of these too.
        If you have a particularly long dog or deep-chested dog, consider a ‘long’-sized harness (eg. Haqihana Long, anny.x Fun Long, Blue-9 Balance).

        You may have to try a few harness sizes/styles before you find 'the one'.
          If you are buying online please factor in one additional postage cost when deciding on your budget – we try very hard to help you to avoid extra postage, but it is sometimes part and parcel of buying a harness online. Our stats tell us that apx 15% of online customers exchange either due to the size or style not being quite right. This is not a failure of yours or ours, this is just because all dogs are unique and have varying anatomies.

          Please don’t think a ‘no-pull’ harness will teach your dog to stop pulling.

            There are some harness features that may be useful when you are teaching loose leash walking skills, but training is the key to teaching your dog to walk nicely on lead. Connecting one end of a double-ended lead to a front d-ring may help gently guide your dog’s attention back around to you, but this alone is not enough – you need to teach your dog that being near you is awesome! Please look for a force-free trainer to help you - good ones are worth their weight in gold.

            Good, Better, Best?

              We don’t have quality levels here at HCDG. All our harnesses are excellent quality and we stand behind every one of them. Some are better suited to particular dog breeds or body shapes; they are designed and made in different countries; some are handmade by actual people! Please ask us if it’s important to you to know how/where a harness is made (some info is also in each harness listing).
              The price of a harness depends on many factors including how labour-intensive the manufacturing is, where it’s made, the materials, the freight, foreign exchange rates and import duties etc.

              With so many harnesses available, how do you choose?

                Don’t get carried away and look in detail at every harness. Try to identify the ones that meet your requirements and do a deeper dive into three or four max.
                We are here to help you so please reach out. But when you do, please give us as much info as possible so we can tailor our suggestions to your needs.


                  If you are completely stuck, there are a couple of harnesses that a very good at fitting most dogs. Our four “all-rounders” are Blue-9 Balance, Perfect Fit, Haqihana and anny.x Fun. If you are in Sydney, consider popping into our fitting studio to try some harnesses on your dog before you buy. This is particularly important if you are purchasing a Perfect Fit or Grossenbacher harness. If you are not able to get to Sydney, we encourage you to book one of our free Zoom fitting advice sessions or ask for help via email.

                  (Picture shows a Rhodesian Ridgeback in a Woolly Wolf Nightless Night 5pt harness.)