Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase. For more information, read my full affiliate disclosure here.

This is the definitive guide to buying a dog harness for large dogs including pros and cons, how to ensure proper fit, and the truth about no-pull dog harnesses.

Buying a Dog Harness

Buying a dog harness for large dogs might seem unnecessary to the average dog owner for the average dog.  The traditional collar and leash work just fine.

But how many of our large or giant breed dogs are “average?”  None of mine have been.

So, if you are sitting there with a large or giant breed dog wondering whether you should buy a dog harness, you are in the right place.

Best Dog Harness for Large Dogs - Duo Dog Harness
© 2023 Big Dog Mom, LLC

In this post, you will learn:

  • The pros and cons of using a dog harness for large dogs,
  • The three types of harnesses and how to choose the right one for you
  • How to measure your dog accurately for proper fit and maximum comfort
  • The truth about “no pull” dog harnesses for large dogs you need to know,
  • And, my recommendations for the top 7 best dog harnesses for large dogs

And for your convenience, I have included a comprehensive video with step-by-step instructions on how to accurately measure and fit a dog harness and what you need to consider before you buy one for your large dog.  

Let’s get going!

Special Considerations for Big Dog Owners

As someone who has raised and lived with giant breed dogs all of my life, I know firsthand how our needs differ from the needs of the average dog owner. 

And in this case, it is not exclusive to the size of our dogs.  

Yes, size absolutely matters, but there are a few other considerations that make the dog harness purchase unique for big dog owners. 

1. Greater Risk With Poor Canine Behavior

I mentioned this in How to Socialize a Puppy At Home: 15 Creative Tips (That Work!), and it remains true when it comes to walking a big dog.  

By force of strength and size, a big dog with a poor temperament represents a greater risk than a small one.  That is a fact.  

So, it is the responsibility of every big dog owner to ensure that your dog is socialized and trained.  And for breeders to not breed dogs with substandard, poor temperaments. 

The use of a harness on a dog with a poor temperament is not going to solve the problem, but in some cases, it can help. 

For example, based on my experience with Linus, his reactivity seemed to be exacerbated with a single strong pressure point on a vulnerable part of his body (neck) as compared to multiple pressure points across the center, stronger of his body (chest and/or back).  

Reactive dogs or dogs with leash-related behavior issues may experience the same thing.  

That the distribution of pressure points gently across the body sends a much softer message to the brain when compared to the strong jerk of a collar around the neck. 

I am not suggesting a harness is going to prevent a reactive dog from reacting.  

What I am suggesting is that it is a tool that may help reduce a reactive dog’s discomfort on a walk.  And a more comfortable dog, the less risk to everyone around him. 

2. More Damage To the Dog and Others From a Collar

There are two points here that I want to make. 

The first is the most obvious.

By virtue of how a collar and leash work together, 100% of the pressure is placed on your dog’s neck when he pulls ahead.  

For very strong pullers or dogs who are prone to take off after a stimulus (animal, person, ball, bike, etc.), the sudden jerk around the neck and cervical vertebrae can put your dog at risk of injury.  

For dogs, like Junior, who has a neurological disease like Wobbler Syndrome, any pressure on the neck can make their condition worse. 

The second point relates to a more emotional reaction to the jerking mechanism around the neck of a dog. 

For all dogs, especially fearful or reactive dogs, when they feel pain or discomfort while simultaneously exposed to that which they fear or dislike, the message sent to their brain is more akin to, “I knew there was something to fear!” than, “Oh, that scary thing is really nothing to fear.”

The pain and discomfort are reinforcing, not discouraging the behavior (pulling or reacting). 

This is why I speak out against the use of prong collars and Gentle Leaders as a means to control a dog on a walk (more on this in a minute).

3. Purpose Bred Can Result in Special Considerations

And lastly, large and giant breed dogs come in all shapes and sizes. 

From the stocky Labrador retriever to the deep-chested, towering Great Dane to the massive Mastiff tank.  They range in weight from 50 pounds to over 250 making standard breed temperaments of special consideration for big dog owners.  

Best Dog Harness for Large Dogs - Big Dog Mom

There is a huge difference between walking a Labrador retriever with a prey drive and a Toy Fox Terrier wanting to chase a rabbit. 

Walking an Alaskan Malamute with a desire to run is vastly different than going for a jog with a Beagle. 

And finally, a Cane Corso or Dogo Argentino on guard at the end of the leash is nothing like a people-wary Chihuahua.

So herein lies the issue.  

Big dogs were bred for a purpose and that purpose is often a drive that cannot be contained or controlled entirely.  

It is up to us, as big dog owners, to understand our breed and how to “harness” the God-given genes he or she was passed on. 

For many, a dog harness can be a perfect tool with which to do just that. 

Here is a summary of the pros and cons of the use of a dog harness for large dogs.

Pros

  • Less direct pressure on the neck and spine, especially for large dogs that pull on the leash
  • Promotes loose leash walking with proper training
  • Appropriate for all age dogs – from puppies to seniors
  • Solution for large dogs with neurological or other health conditions which can be worsened with pressure from a collar around the neck
  • Solution for large dogs with reactivity or aggression issues if used properly.
  • Specialty harnesses like the Help Em Up and service or military harnesses for dogs with jobs or special needs
  • Adaptable for many uses including dog sports, service, and car travel with dogs

Cons

  • More challenging to fit properly as compared to a standard collar and leash.
  • Requires some conditioning to acclimate your large dog to wearing one.
  • More expensive (on average) compared to a standard collar and leash.
  • With improper training, it may encourage pulling, even with a “no pull” dog harness.
  • Improper fit can cause discomfort, pain, skin chafing, and a negative association with wearing it or walking in general.
The Best Dog Harness for Large Dogs - Big Dog Mom Mastiffs
© 2020 Big Dog Mom, LLC

Which Type of Dog Harness is Best for Large Dogs? 

There are three main types of harnesses; those that clip on the back, those that clip on the front of the dog’s chest, and those that offer both.  

The location of the leash attachment or clip is a very important distinction as it will affect how well the harness works for a particular owner and dog.   

Within those categories are a few additional varieties that will also affect the fit and function of a particular dog harness.  These can range from aesthetic differences to things that can affect a dog’s range of motion when walking. 

I will be putting these into three categories; basic, moderate coverage, and full support.  

Let’s discuss each in a little more detail.

BASIC Dog Harness

This is the most simple type of harness.  It comes with few bells and whistles, but it gets the job done.  

Examples are the PetSafe Easy Walk or the PetSafe Easy Walk 3-in-1.  

With a single strap looping over the dog’s back and looping around the chest, this type of dog harness is easy to put on and serves the primary function of reducing pressure on the neck and spine, like other harnesses.  

Including either a leash attachment on the back or one on the front of the chest or both, these harnesses can work for many big dog owners.

Here are the pros and cons of this type of harness for large dogs:

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Simple to put on
  • Reduces pressure on the neck and spine as compared to a traditional collar and leash

Cons

  • May not provide a proper fit for all sizes and breeds
  • Few points of adjustment make proper fitting difficult 
  • Improper fit can cause a decreased range of motion 
  • Straps can cause significant discomfort and skin chafing for some dogs
  • “No pull” claims are not realized by most big dog owners

MODERATE COVERAGE Dog Harness

A moderate coverage dog harness is one that, while still providing the primary benefit of reducing pressure on the neck and spine, comes with a few advantages over the more basic harness.

Examples are the Freedom Harness or the Blue-9 Pet Products Balance Harness.  

As you can see here these harnesses come with larger, thicker straps and have more points of adjustment in order to give your dog a more custom fit, a greater range of motion, and more comfort. 

In addition, these harnesses come with both a front clip and a back clip leash attachment for optimum flexibility.

To summarize, here are the pros and cons of a moderate coverage dog harness for large dogs:

Pros

  • Higher quality construction
  • Numerous adjustment points for a more customized fit
  • Provides both front and back leash attachment clips for flexibility
  • Reduced chance of skin chafing with a proper fit
  • Allows for a better range of motion compared to a basic dog harness
  • Design and functionality work particularly well for reactive dogs

Cons

  • Will not work for dogs with a girth over 44” (for reference, Junior is 48” and Sulley is 42”)
  • May not provide maximum comfort all large and giant breed dogs
  • Strap design can cause skin chafing for some dogs if improperly fitted
  • “No pull” claims are not realized by most big dog owners
  • More expensive than a basic dog harness

FULL SUPPORT Dog Harness

The last type is what I call a full support harness.  

Examples are the Duo Adapt Harness by Duo Gear, the Kurgo Journey Air Dog Harness, or the Julius-K9 IDC® Powerharness.  

BASIC

FORD ESCORT

MODERATE

FORD EXPLORER

FULL SUPPORT

LINCOLN NAVIGATOR

outdoor

While not right for all large dogs, the full support harness provides a premium level of quality and functionality unmatched by other types. 

They generally have a more full coverage construction which can be seen as either a pro or a con depending on your needs. 

Pros

  • Premium quality construction
  • Numerous adjustment points for a customized fit
  • Many provide both front and back leash attachment clips for flexibility
  • Skin chafing is minimal with full-coverage construction
  • Design works well for specialized dog sports

Cons

  • Giant breed dogs are limited to a few manufacturers (details below)
  • Proper fit is essential to provide a full range of motion
  • More expensive than a moderate-coverage dog harness
  • “No pull” claims are not realized by most big dog owners
  • Not ideal for heat-sensitive dogs during hot summer months (though I have not personally had a problem with this living in Arizona) 

What To Look For In a Dog Harness

  • PROPER SIZE – To give maximum comfort while walking
  • EASY TO CLEAN – Machine washable for good hygiene
  • STYLE & FUNCTION – Style will meet the function you are using it for
  • FLEXIBILITY -In size and function to adapt to changing needs
  • FREEDOM – Full range of motion for front legs
  • CUSTOMIZABLE – Numerous adjustments for a customized fit
  • DURABILITY – For long-term use
  • COMFORTABLE – With the ability to dissipate heat during warm months

Which Dog Harness is No Pull? 

As stated earlier, a harness is a tool.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

There are some tools, like the Gentle Leader head collar, which claim to be no pull. 

The Truth About No Pull Dog Harnesses

According to the manufacturer, these head collars, “inhibit your dog from pulling while preventing excessive barking.”  

It has a strap that closes around the nose and applies pressure on the back of the neck when a dog pulls. 

This harness makes pulling uncomfortable by jerking the head sideways, which, they say, results in less pulling.  

In other words, it acts as a positive punishment (adding something in order to make a behavior happen less often).  

However, like with other aversive measures of controlling canine behavior, using a Gentle Leader is anything but gentle in the grand scheme of dog training and often fails to garner the results promised. 

What happens when the head collar is taken off?  The dog has learned nothing but walks tend to be very, very uncomfortable. 

According to Pamela Dennison, CWRI, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), speaker, and author of the best-selling dog training book, You Can Train Your Dog,

While I understand that having a large breed dog may be daunting when trying to walk them, using harsh equipment will not teach the dog anything. It will not teach the dog that staying close by “pays off.” Using a so-called “no pull” harness actually adds pain – it hurts. It digs into their armpits. Of course, dogs being dogs, they will pull even harder away, trying to get away from the pain, not understanding that if they eased up it would stop hurting. Think about it – if you touch a hot stove and it hurts, would you keep your hand there? Of course not! You’d pull away! The key here is to find a harness that causes NO pain whatsoever. No equipment trains the dog to walk on a loose leash. YOU train the dog to walk on a loose leash. A good harness will help you get there, by getting rid of the choking/pain.“

Pamela Dennison

The Truth About No Pull Dog Harnesses

Best Dog Harness for Large Dogs - Kurgo Dog Harness
© 2020 Big Dog Mom, LLC

On its own, a dog harness is not going to stop a dog from pulling on a leash.  

If you have a Mastiff wanting to say hi to a neighbor, a Labrador chasing a rabbit, or a Malamute looking for a sled race, you will go from a big dog walker to a sled dog musher in a split second. 

Trust me.  I speak from experience. 

Because of this, regardless of the marketing claim, in my view, there are NO truly “no pull” harnesses. 

For a tool to be no pull, it must be fastened on a dog who understands loose leash walking, as Pamela said above. 

Without proper training, a “no pull” dog harness is nothing more than a snug and desperate, “please don’t pull me” harness. 

They have a great many benefits and advantages over a traditional collar and leash, especially for large dogs.  However, we must not be lulled into the false promises of being no pull.

How to Measure and Fit Your Large Breed Dog for a Dog Harness

Getting a properly fitting harness for a large dog is dependent on two things; measuring accurately and making adjustments for a proper fit. 

The Best Dog Harnesses for Large Dogs

To measure your dog, you will want to grab a soft tape measure like this and write down the following: 

  1. Size at the base of the neck.  Not up under the ears but rather towards the base of the neck just above the shoulders and chest. 
  2. Girth around the thickest part of the chest behind your dog’s “armpits.” 

*These are general guidelines and may vary slightly depending on the manufacturer.  

Some designs may also require you to measure the length of the dog as well as the front leg length. Use these general rules to take those measurements:

  1. Body length – Measure from the withers, or shoulder blades, to the base of the tail (where it attaches to the dog’s bottom, not the tip of the tail)
  2. Leg length – Measure the inside of the leg from the bottom of the rib cage to the wrist bone.

When you get your harness, you will need to make several adjustments to ensure you get a proper fit.  Generally, this means cinching each strap so that you can fit two fingers between the strap and your dog’s body.  

Keep in mind that excess material around your dog will result in impaired functionality and decreased comfort with an increase in the risk of skin chafing, so be sure to adjust the harness appropriately. 

**Again, these directions may vary slightly by brand, so be sure to read your harnesses directions carefully.  

In the video below, I show you exactly how to select, measure, fit, and put on a dog harness so there is no confusion and you can see how each of the types fits on different size Mastiffs.

Step-by-Step Video Demonstration and Comprehensive Tutorial on Dog Harnesses for Big Dogs

The latest on Youtube:

Top 7 Dog Harnesses for Large Dogs

Now that you are an expert with all of the knowledge necessary to make a buying decision, you may be asking, “Which dog harness is best for large dogs?

Based on my personal experience, and the experience of hundreds of owners in the Big Dog Mom Community, here are the best harnesses for large dogs.

Like everything else, there is no one-size-fits-all. So these 7 harnesses are not listed in any particular order. They each have their pros and cons depending on your needs.

That said, I am providing this list to save you time researching. Put simply, less screen time = more dog time!

Without further adieu… here are the top 7 BEST dog harnesses for large dogs:

Best Dog Harness for Large Dogs - Duo Dog Harness

Duo Gear Dog Harness

The absolute best dog harness made in the USA! Hands down our favorite among all the harnesses we have tried! Customized fit for every size dog. Use code BIGDOGMOM for 20% off!

Kurgo Harness for Large dogs - Big Dog Mom

Kurgo Journey Air Dog Harness

This was our first venture into full-support dog harnesses, and we never went back. Kurgo dog harnesses are premium quality at a low price.

Julius K9 Dog harness - top 7 dog harnesses by big dog mom

Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness

While we have not yet tried this one in our home, the rave reviews by so many in the Big Dog Mom Community made this one rise to the top!

The BEST Dog Harness for Large Dogs [Definitive Buyers Guide] This is the definitive guide to buying a dog harness for large dogs including pros and cons, how to ensure proper fit, and the truth about no-pull dog harnesses.

Ruffwear Front Range Harness

Ruffwear makes some of the absolute best products for outdoor adventures with your dog. The Front Range Harness has 4 adjustment points, 2 leash attachments, and a handy ID card storage. Fits up to 42″ girth.

Best Dog Harness for Large Dogs - Freedom No Pull Dog Harness

Freedom Harness by 2 Hounds Design

This is a moderate coverage dog harness that is very popular in positive dog training circles. I purchased it for Linus and have found it useful to have on hand ever since. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a quality dog harness for the warmer summer months.

The BEST Dog Harness for Large Dogs [Definitive Buyers Guide] This is the definitive guide to buying a dog harness for large dogs including pros and cons, how to ensure proper fit, and the truth about no-pull dog harnesses.

Blue-9 Balance Harness

Similar to the Freedom Harness, the Blue-9 Balance Harness is a great fit if you are looking for moderate coverage with a wonderfully customized fit. I absolutely love Blue-9 pet products and love that they are Made in the USA!

The BEST Dog Harness for Large Dogs [Definitive Buyers Guide] This is the definitive guide to buying a dog harness for large dogs including pros and cons, how to ensure proper fit, and the truth about no-pull dog harnesses.

PetSafe Easy Walk 3 in 1 Dog Harness

With three different attachment points, the PetSafe Easy Walk 3 in 1 for walks, car rides, or a jog at night. This is a terrific option for a basic dog harness that will fit most dogs

Other Common Brands – Next 4 Honorable Mentions

The following are 4 brands and styles that deserve an honorable mention:

Honorable Mentions

The BEST Dog Harness for Large Dogs [Definitive Buyers Guide] This is the definitive guide to buying a dog harness for large dogs including pros and cons, how to ensure proper fit, and the truth about no-pull dog harnesses.
The BEST Dog Harness for Large Dogs [Definitive Buyers Guide] This is the definitive guide to buying a dog harness for large dogs including pros and cons, how to ensure proper fit, and the truth about no-pull dog harnesses.
The BEST Dog Harness for Large Dogs [Definitive Buyers Guide] This is the definitive guide to buying a dog harness for large dogs including pros and cons, how to ensure proper fit, and the truth about no-pull dog harnesses.
The BEST Dog Harness for Large Dogs [Definitive Buyers Guide] This is the definitive guide to buying a dog harness for large dogs including pros and cons, how to ensure proper fit, and the truth about no-pull dog harnesses.

These dog harnesses are either popular in the big dog community or versions of the aforementioned listed in my top 7. While I do not have personal experience with these, I feel they are worthy of mentioning as an option to consider in your search for the best dog harness for your dog.

Similar Posts

14 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I have tried several harnesses for my golden Great Pyrenees 115lb beautiful female. She is stubborn and curious (Pyrenees) very tender hearted towards us, But can wander and obsess when she wants to check something out. She also has a sensitive throat so I hate having to pull hard on lease. Anyway thank you for the great advise.

      1. Hello… which of the harnesses would you recommend for a 160 pound Ovcharka female…. Thanks
        Steve

  2. Looking for the best harness for great Dane to be used for car rides to hook to safety belt. Any suggestions? Prefer made in America.
    Thank you

  3. Hi! Thank you for all the wonderful and helpful advise. I bought a harness from your recommendation and am looking forward to receiving it soon. Can you suggest a safe, comfortable harness for riding in the car? I understand that there are some that do both (car and walking), and some that are just for the car. The Julius Powerhouse seemed to be just for walking. If I’m wrong about that, what safety belt do you recommend with that harness? Thanks so much, and Happy Holidays!

  4. Thank you for an informative article and expert opinion from someone who owns large dogs.
    I have seen some “best” articles, but they seem to imply ‘most popular’ which seems to mean most sold, cheapest, or popular for smaller dogs. For the safety and comfort of my beasties, we thank you 🐾🐾👍

    1. Which of these would you most recommend for a dog with Wobbler’s? I have a 74 lbs. Belgian Malinois with a super deep chest that makes fitting difficult. He has Wobbler’s and is about to get surgery for a spinal cyst, and I need to find a harness that will not exacerbate his condition.

  5. Have you reviewed the Perfect Fit Modular Fleece Lined Harness? I have one for my American Bully and love it, but wondered about a Mastiff.

  6. Thank you BigDogMom. I have a giant Alaskan Malamute that weighs 97 kgs. (He weighs more than my ST. Bernard gal.) As I need to buy him a quality harness so that I can drive him around, the recommended sites/suppliers with the particular sizes are extremely useful. I am a big dog mum, too, all in my life and I believe I can find something for my sweet baby now. Thanks again!

  7. I just discovered your blog during my search for a dog harness for my Great Dane who was just diagnosed with Lar Par. Thank you for this review and making it so easy for me to find something to fit my very large 45-46 inch chested boy! I was able to narrow down to 3 contenders with this article and have placed an order to arrive this weekend. I’m so thankful for this! Love the photos of your fur babies! Looking forward to perusing your blog.

  8. Thank you for your review of harnesses for large breed dogs. I haven’t decided which one to go with for my Great Pyrenees, who is a giant among the breed, but feel so much better informed now. Your review was so specific & validates concerns not mentioned in other reviews, concerns unique to large dogs. After comparing numerous harness reviews for several years (omitting “general reviewers” that review everything) yours stand above the others. Thank you

  9. This was one of the most confusing and unhelpful articles I’ve read on how to select an effective harness for a large breed reactive dog. I finished the article far more perplexed about what to do, than prior to reading it. What most people are looking for in this regard is the bottom line. We don’t want to be forced to isolate our large reactive dogs. That means we need to be able to control them in our communities. We need to know what the most effective tools are best suited to accomplish this. We understand there are no guarantees. What we want to know from authoritative sources is thus: if it were illegal for you to select more than ONE harness, muzzle. Collar, leash, safety strap, etc. for your large reactive dog, which Ives would you choose?!

    1. Thank you for sharing your feedback, Diane. I’m sorry this article was unhelpful to you. My intent was to help large dog owners narrow down their search, not necessarily recommend certain products for reactive dogs. That said, you bring up a great point. I have been where you are – with a very large reactive dog that I felt unsafe with the tools I had to take him in public. I get it. I think this is a great idea for another post on the topic of harnesses and other tools that can specifically help with reactivity, aggression, fear, etc. I do have a harness that I’m working on reviewing that may be helpful, but until I am able to fully vet it, I can’t recommend it just yet. Stay tuned and best of luck. I appreciate your feedback very much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.