Does your dog love the outdoors? If they are anything like mine (I have 5) they absolutely do. For years, I went with the traditional dog collar and lead. I never thought of using anything different until one day I accidentally bought Ralph (picture right) a dog harness. Since then I have never used anything else.
In this article I will share what the features you should look for in the best dog harness for hiking before reviewing some of my favourites which I use with my own dogs. There is a perfect harness for every dog regardless of breed or size.
So let’s jump in!
Best Dog Harness For Hiking: Our Favourite Picks
The Webmaster harness from Ruffwear is made from durable, easy-to-clean material with a highly reflective trim so your dog can be easily spotted on the trail in low light conditions. There is also an optional beacon light available for purchase if you need extra light at night. The harness comes with aluminum connecting points, one in the front and one in the back. It also has a padded handle to help your dog over difficult inclines. Of all the hiking harnesses on the list, the Ruffwear Webmaster is the best fit for dogs with only three legs due to its multiple adjustable straps.
The Kurgo Journey is a heavy-duty harness with thick chest and back plates making it suitable for both a hiking harness and securing your dog in the car. When tackling the steep uphills, the V-neck design keeps the harness from riding up on your dog’s neck. Its four adjustment points give you full control over the fit. And although the thickness of the material makes the harness heavier and hotter than some others on the list, this is still a great option if you need a heavy-duty harness for regular use.
With five sizes available and multiple adjustment points, Expawlorer’s Outdoor Adventure Pet Vest is the ideal harness when your dog is between sizes, and you just can’t find a correct-fitting harness. In addition to the sizing options, the harness includes thoughtful features such as reflective night visibility webbing and a handle for attaching a seatbelt during car rides. Wide padding along the chest and belly helps to prevent chafing or ties digging into your dog’s sides.
Urban Trail’s Adjustable Dog Harness is a great choice if you need something fully custom-made for your dog. Everything can be customized for your pet, from the color to the placement of the lead attachment points. Despite the harness being fully padded to prevent chafing, it is still incredibly lightweight, and the cut of the harness is designed to support a steep pull angle for biking in addition to hiking or running. If you prefer a ready-to-wear harness in one of the standard four sizes, those are also available for purchase.
If a complicated adjustment system is keeping you from trying out a hiking harness with your dog, you may want to check out the EzyDog Quick Fit adjustable harness. Thanks to a special one-click fitting system, fitting this harness on your dog is as easy as fitting a collar. For most dogs, the quick fit is an advantage, however, it’s always a good idea to check the fit thoroughly. Also, reflective stitching keeps your dog safe in low-light conditions.
Puppia’s Soft Dog Harness is the softest harness on the list, made from a stretch fabric designed to fit your dog close to their body without limiting their movement or causing chafing. It is absolutely necessary to measure your dog before you order because the harness can only be adjusted around the chest, not around the neck or shoulders. The one-piece design is quite comfortable, but it does make correct sizing more important than ever.
Hiking Harness v Traditional Collar
Hiking dog harnesses have a few key advantages over traditional collars. The main benefit of a harness over a collar is that they put little to no pressure on your dog’s neck. Collars can restrict your dog’s airway, especially when your dog pulls or lunges forward. Apart from comfort, reducing the pressure on your dog’s neck also makes breathing much easier.
This is particularly important when your dog exerts a lot of energy, such as a long hike or run. Also, many dogs pull less in a harness, especially one that fastens securely in the front. While a harness won’t replace proper training, your dog may find it more enjoyable to walk in a harness which in turn makes it more pleasant for you.
Hiking harnesses are especially useful when hiking and backpacking with your canine companion because they are designed for strenuous activities. Most harnesses suitable for hiking include a loop on the back of the harness which makes it easier to lift your dog if they need help climbing over a fallen log or a particularly steep slope.
What you should look for when choosing the best hiking harness for your dog
When shopping for a hiking harness, take the time to thoroughly consider the attachment point, material of the harness, and overall fit. The last thing you would want is for your dog to be uncomfortable on a long hike.
Decide on a front or back attachment
Most harness includes either one or two rings for attaching a leash, either on the chest, back, or both. The reasons for choosing one style over another largely depends on your dog and how you intend to use the harness.
Harnesses with attachments on the front and back can be used with a double-ended dog lead for training, giving you more control over your dog’s pace and posture while walking. You also have the option to use a traditional lead on just one of the attachment points as needed.
The main advantage of a front attachment option is that front-attaching harness discourages pulling, making it a true favourite among pet trainers. As an additional bonus, the front-attaching harness helps keep your dog closer to you, almost in a natural healing position. If you own a dog that loves to pull or lunge on walks, a front-attaching harness will help you train more polite leash skills, which makes your job much easier.
Back-attaching harnesses allow more freedom and control for your dog. Attaching your lead to the back of their harness will give your dog a more natural feel on the hike, closing mimicking an off-leash experience more so than a front-attaching harness. Buying a back-attaching harness is best only after your dog has some basic leash skills or opt for something with both front and back attachment points, which gives you the freedom to switch between them. Back harnesses are also great if you need to comfortably leash your dog when camping.
Fit is important
An ill-fitting harness will chafe or dig in under your dog’s shoulder, negating any benefit in comfort over a traditional collar. The best way to prevent discomfort for your dog is to ensure that you buy a harness in the right size. Sizing will vary among brands and styles, but most rely on chest measurement. Measuring your dog’s chest is a good place to start when looking for a harness.
The best dog hiking harnesses will have multiple adjustment points to ensure a comfortable fit for your dog. Harness such as the Kurgo Journey has four adjustment points which give you better control over the fit. However, they can be time-consuming to adjust until you become used to the harness. If you want an easier to use a harness with fewer adjustment points, the EzyDog Quick Fit could also be a great option.
Consider the material
When it comes to the harness material, the conditions that you expect to encounter on the trail should influence your priorities. If you’re going to be hiking in the mud or dust, opt for an easy-to-wash harness like Puppia’s Soft Dog Harness or Kurgo Journey, or go with a harness that is easy to keep clean without washing like the Ruffwear Webmaster.
If you take a lot of early morning or evening hikes, it will be important to have reflective material to help improve visibility in low light. Many of the styles on this list include a reflective component, such as Ruffwear’s Webmaster and Expawlorer’s Outdoor Adventure Pet Vest.
If your dog is going to swim in the harness, choose something that doesn’t contain a lot of excess material that may weight them down when it’s wet. Padded back and chest plates make a comfortable fit, but something slimmer like the Urban Trail’s Adjustable Dog Harness would be much better suited for swimming.
Getting your dog, a high-quality hiking harness will make hiking much safer and enjoyable for both of you. Not only will your dog appreciate their new freedom and reduced pressure around their neck, but you’ll also love how easy it is to control your pup without any pulling or dragging on the trail.