How to Choose the Right Dog Car Harness

Most pet owners understand that collars are a must-have for identification and keeping your dog secure. Harnesses are a step above collars, especially when it comes to securing your dog in and out of the car. What many pet owners don’t understand is that collars can cause strain on your dog’s neck and throat if they become anxious or excitable and start to pull on the leash during your car ride. Additionally, if a collar is not properly fitted, dogs can easily slip out of them. Dog car harnesses should be considered important to pet owners because they help to ensure the safety of the dog and the driver while transporting.

Benefits of Dog Harnesses

Benefits of Dog Harness - White Dog in Car with harness

Before looking into car dog harnesses, let’s examine dog harnesses as a whole. While once thought of as a training tool, today you can find dog harnesses at any pet store or online retailer in various types and colors. Harnesses are helpful for everyday life from helping to prevent a dog from pulling too much to keeping your smaller dog secure.Other benefits include:

  • Better Control - Larger and more excitable dogs can be difficult to manage if they get distracted while walking with a leash and collar. The design of harnesses allow more control to keep your pet at your side and safe.
  • Better Safety - Collars are easy to slip out of, especially for small dogs. The buckles often come undone if the dog pulls too much against it. Depending on the model, a harness buckles either in the front of the chest or the back, making it more difficult for dogs to slip out of.
  • Prevent Pulling - If your dog is always fighting against a collar and leash, just a simple walk can be a hassle. Your dog will pull on the leash, and this control they have will reinforce this behavior. Dog harnesses prevent pulling on leashes as they are attached at the back between the shoulders or the front of the chest. If a dog tries to pull, they will feel the tension in their shoulders and be discouraged from doing so.
  • Avoid Neck Injuries - Collars are convenient to hold ID tags but should be avoided if your dog has a tendency to pull. They put too much strain on the neck and often it might not be an obvious injury until it’s too late. Some small breeds, like Italian greyhounds, have delicate neck bones that can be easily broken. Nerve damage is another common issue that comes up if a dog has an ill fitted collar, often showing up as paw licking. Properly fitted harnesses will keep your dog not only safe on walks, but safe from any neck damage.
  • Help Avoid Ocular Proptosis - Some breeds of dogs, like pugs and Pekinese, are prone to ocular proptosis, a condition when your dog’s eyes protrude part way out of their socket. Pressure on the neck can cause ocular proptosis to occur or get worse; dogs that constantly pull on their leashes while wearing a collar are at risk for ocular proptosis. Switching to an adjustable harness distributes the force away from the neck preventing this condition from happening.

What to Consider When Choosing a Dog Harness for the Car

How to Choose Harness - Beagle in car seat

When looking for a new dog harness for the car, there are a few things to keep in mind other than the color or style. You’ll want to evaluate each harness based on the following considerations:

Get the Right Fit

One of the most important things you need to consider is the size of the harness. To find the right size for your dog, you need to measure your dog carefully. Measure your dog’s chest, neck, and length measurements to get an accurate fit. If it’s too loose, the harness will slip off letting your dog escape. If it’s too tight, your dog will be uncomfortable and it could cause pain to them. Adjustable harnesses will allow you to make it smaller or bigger if your dog is in between sizes.

How to Measure Your Dog for the Right Size Harness

Since finding the right size harness is so important, you should understand how to measure your dog to find the correct fit.

Measure your dog’s girth first, which is the size of their chest. Wrap the tape measure around the broadest part of your dog's chest, directly behind the front legs. Once you have your dog’s girth, find out your dog's weight. With those two numbers, you can find the correct harness size.

Once the harness is on and adjusted, you should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and your dog’s body. If there’s excess skin bunching up around the shoulder or neck, it’s too small and you will need to loosen it or get a larger size. Anymore than two fingers spacing means the harness is too loose, and your dog could slip out of it.

Construction of the Harness

When shopping for a new car dog harness, look for one that has details like a padded chest plate, durable stitching, and high quality fabric. While cost is an important factor when deciding which harness is best, finding a comfortable harness for your dog to wear for long periods of time without chafing is important.


Some harnesses are made specifically for certain activities, such as harnesses made to be used in the car only. If you are looking for a harness to do everything from walks to summer road trips, find a harness that does it all, such as a back-clip harness.

Types of Harnesses

Types of Harness - Beagle in harness walking on trail

There are a variety of harness styles on the market to choose from. Some work better for just walking, while others are better for use with your car’s seat belt. Below are some examples of the different types of dog harnesses:

Back-Clip or Step-In Harness - The step-in harness is the most popular harness choice for pet owners. It slides up your dog’s front legs and clips in the back, where the leash will be attached. This type of harness is optimal for running and walking with your dog. The basic and comfortable design allows your dog to move freely and is the easiest to put on.

Front-Clip Harness - Front-clip harnesses give you better directional control than a back-clip harness because the leash is attached at the center of your dog’s chest. Additionally, there is less entanglement than with a traditional collar since the leash is towards the ground.

Dual-Clip Harness - The dual clip harness clips in two places, on the back and the front. It requires a specially designed leash, but allows greater control when walking your dog. They tend to be more expensive and may rub your dog’s shoulders too much if worn for long periods of time due to the design.

Tightening Harness - A tightening harness should only be used for training. They are designed to be well-fitted and apply pressure when your dog is pulling too much.

Head-Halter Harness - Unlike other harnesses, a head-halter harness is worn around the neck and snout, with the leash attaching under the chin. It is not a muzzle and should be comfortable to wear. They are intended more for training a dog to focus forward when walking and to redirect attention from potential distractions. Do not use a retractable leash and be gentle when walking to avoid injury to your dog.

Harnesses for Small Dogs

Using a harness on a small dog has many benefits from protecting their fragile necks to making sure they won’t slip off their collar. When looking for a harness for a small dog, keep in mind not only the size of your dog, but the shape. Larger dogs tend to have a standard dog shape, but small dogs might have longer back or shorter legs depending on the breed. Look for a harness that will accommodate the unique dimensions and avoid pulling on their neck. A harness that fits a corgi might not be the best fit for a Yorkshire terrier.

Back-clip harnesses are ideal for small dogs. Front-clip harnesses will often get tangled in their legs since they are lower to the ground. Back-clip harnesses will deter entanglement since the leash won’t dangle in front of their small bodies.

Harnesses for Large and Medium Dogs

Large dogs can choose from most styles of harnesses. A front-clip harness is perfectly fine for them and won’t get caught up in their legs, unlike with smaller dogs. Back-clip harnesses will give you the most control if you have a strong dog with a mind of their own. When looking for a harness for your large dog, find one that they can comfortably step in and out of with soft material that won’t irritate their skin.

Car Harnesses for Dogs

Car Harness for Dogs - Small Brown Dog in Harness looking out window

Dog safety is important not only on walks and hikes but especially in the car. An unsecured dog is a distraction to the driver which could easily cause an accident and injure everyone in the car. To prevent accidents, it’s important to keep your dog restrained during car trips. Some people might opt for crates or dog car seats, but one of the best ways is using a dog car harness.

Most harnesses will work with dog car restraints, but there are special harnesses on the market made specifically to keep your dog safe in the car. Dog car harnesses either have a loop in the back that the car’s seat belt can loop through to buckle up or have an attachment in the back that will work with a dog car restraint or clip.

Selecting the Right Dog Car Harness

Choosing the right dog car harness is similar to selecting a regular harness. You want to look for durability, comfort, and the right size. However,there are some extra factors to consider with a dog car harness.

Easy Adjustment - Fit is imperative for safety in the car. If it’s too big, your dog will be able to wiggle free and wander around. If it’s small, it will cause discomfort. Ensure your harness has multiple points of adjustment so you are able to fit it exactly to your dog regardless of their shape or size.

Dual Functionality - The best car harnesses are ones that double as regular harnesses so you can let your dog in and out of the car without having to take off the harness and put another one on. Look for harnesses that are back-clipping and specifically state that they can be worn as an everyday harness. Dual functionality is especially important on long car trips where you need to keep your pet safe but make frequent stops to walk them.

Wide Straps - Some harnesses on the market are thin-strapped which are good for short walks and hot days, but wide straps are essential in the car. Wide straps are more comfortable for a dog when traveling because they spread the pressure points out on your dog's shoulders. Make sure to find a harness with breathable material so they don’t get too hot.

The Right Car Harness for Your Dog

The CarLeash’s Soft Adjustable Dog Harness is a perfect solution for dogs of all sizes. Coming in a wide array of colors, this soft adjustable dog harness works perfectly with the Adjustable Dog CarLeash to keep your dog safe and comfortable in the car or for everyday walks. Your dog will enjoy wearing this durable and breathable harness, and you will have peace of mind knowing your dog is wearing the best harness.


Happy dog looking out window on a sunny day

Remember that all dogs are unique and every pet parent’s situation is different. Choosing the right type of harness depends on your dog’s personality, behavior, and even breed. Look for one that will be comfortable, allow them to move around, and fits them perfectly. Using a harness both in and out of the car will help to keep your dog safe and happy.

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