Best dog harnesses and leads 2020: Keep your dog under control with the best dog harnesses and leashes
Dog collars are a doddle to use since they’re dead easy to clip a leash to. However, research – and common logic – suggests a collar and leash isn’t always the best combination to use when walking your dog. And if your dog happens to be one of those that just can’t help pulling on the leash when you take them for a walk, then a dog harness can be a much, much more comfortable – and humane – option.
As a dog owner myself, I’ve been using a dog harness for the past year, and it’s revolutionised the daily walk, as it has for thousands of other dog owners. Holding the dog nearer your side rather than out in front, a harness feels more secure, and there’s very little chance of the dog wrestling out of it. For a selection of the best dog harnesses and leads you can buy, read on.
Best dog harnesses: At a glance
Best dog leads: At a glance
How to buy the best dog harness for your pooch
Why is a harness better than a collar?
Let’s start by asking whether you’d like to be towed around by the neck? No, didn’t think so. Using a collar can actually damage the tissues in a dog’s neck if it pulls too hard. It also restricts a dog’s breathing – you can clearly hear it. A lack of oxygen can cause a dog to become confused, rather like a climber suffering from altitude sickness.
Harnesses have a D-ring on the back near the dog’s shoulder blades and this means it’s easier to keep the dog’s torso nearer to your legs rather than out front, which in turn makes it easier to get the animal to heel. Harnesses are also much safer to use, especially in busy traffic or anywhere a dog may become spooked. We’ve all been down that road when a dog suddenly slips its collar and you’re shouting in panic, invariably causing even more apprehension in the process.
Some dog harnesses are also fitted with a soft handle at the top, so you can easily grab the dog if it wants to get involved in a fight or is simply too keen to meet another pooch. Given that dogs will usually exit water at the same place they went in, these handles are also a godsend for helping dogs out of rivers or lakes with steep banks.
Do I still need a collar?
Yes. Although we extol the virtues of walking your dog with a harness, a collar is still essential attire for any dog (even when wearing a harness). Aside from being a legal requirement in the UK, a collar also tells others that the dog has an owner and isn’t a stray. A collar also allows you to attach a name tag – extra peace of mind that compliments the mandatory microchip underneath the animal’s skin between the shoulders.
What is the best style of harness?
There are plenty of different styles of harness on the market, but the most comfortable usually have a type of saddle on the back that helps the harness remain in better position without twisting.
What is the best type of harness for a tricky dog?
If you have a dog that pulls on the lead every time you go for a walk, consider a front-range harness with a leash ring on the chest strap. These are proven to work wonders at getting a dog to heel. If you have an especially powerful lead-puller then invest in a double-lead balance system such as the Mekuti, reviewed in this roundup.
How do I measure my dog for a new harness?
All harness manufacturer’s websites feature dog-sizing charts. In most instances, you simply need to measure a dog’s chest at the deepest part. Dog harnesses come in various sizes – some manufacturers even provide a breed list – and all are adjustable to a generous degree. Hence, you could buy a harness for your eight-month-old pooch, knowing it will likely still fit when it’s an adult.
How to buy the best dog leash for your companion
Once you have a harness (and collar!) in the bag, the next important item is the leash. Dog leashes come in a variety of styles and lengths and are essential accoutrements for the welfare and protection of your dog, especially if walking near traffic and areas that require a tether. Some leads are made from cheap nylon webbing and cost only a few pounds while others are hand-made out of premium leather for maximum parkland prestige.
What is the best type of leash for an unruly dog?
If your dog always pulls like a train, consider a double-ended training leash like those supplied by HALTI (see below) and Mekuti. Training leads consist of one extra-long strap with a clasp on either end. They are suitable for use only with front-range harnesses equipped with an attachment on the chest as well as on top.
Training leads take a while to master because the user is essentially holding two leashes at the same time – one fixed to the top hoop for holding the dog back and the other on the chest hoop to gently coax him or her to your side. According to many dog trainers, they work by ‘helping the dog to become aware of the way it is walking by bringing attention to its balance’.
The best dog harnesses to buy
1. Julius-K9 IDC Powerharness: The best all-round dog harness
Price: £29 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re looking for a well made, extremely comfortable and lightweight harness that’s effortless to put on and take off, then this is the model to go for. Julius-K9 is a huge player in the pantheon of canine wear. The company started out in Hungary supplying harnesses for police and emergency rescue dogs and has applied some of its original designs to a wide range of new consumer pooch models.
This particular harness fits like a saddle: it has a soft, adjustable nylon lower-neck strap and another that attaches around the dog’s chest, just behind the pits of the forelegs. This ensures there is no rubbing or chaffing.
The IDC Powerharness is far and away the easiest of all models to fit and remove: simply slip the large opening over the dog’s head, clip in the chest strap, attach the lead to the top-mounted D-ring and go. Do bear in mind that a harness of this nature won’t necessarily prevent your dog from pulling; it’s simply a more convenient, safer and comfier alternative to walking with a dog collar and leash.
The thin padded saddle section moulds to the shape of the dog’s back, and it certainly looks super-comfortable. The IDC Powerharness also comes with a woven nylon handle on the back, which you can grab hold of when the dog is off the lead. Rather cleverly, the handle can also be clipped down so it doesn’t get caught on bushes and twigs while the dog’s doing its dog thing.
The IDC Powerharnesses comes in nine sizes – from Baby 1 (teacup dog) to Size 4 (Newfoundland) – and is available in over 40 colours, including a range emblazoned with a series of country flags. You can also replace the Velcroed side patch with a customized label of your choice. An excellent everyday option for top wags.
Key features – Number of sizes: 8; Smallest chest size: 29cm; Largest chest size: 138cm
2. Ruffwear Front Range Harness: A seriously versatile dog harness
Price: From £40 | Buy now from Pets at Home
Ruffwear produces some of the best dog wear on the market, from leads and collars to dog boots for rough terrain and snazzy coats for winter. The Ruffware Front Range harness is superbly designed and made from soft nylon padding that covers the chest area and a small area of the back. It also comes with a pouch for the dog’s ID tag. This harness is so comfy, it’s already become Juno the Labrador’s favourite beachwear outfit.
The Ruffware isn’t as quick to fit as the Julius-K9, but it’s hardly complicated. To use, slip the opening over the dog’s head, bring the chest pad beneath the torso and use the two clips. Rather handily, the rear strap section is elasticated for extra comfort. This is definitely the easiest harness to adjust while on the dog because its nylon straps are more supple and the latches are easier for making alterations on the fly.
Unlike the Julius-K9, it comes with two lead attachments: one on the back portion (like most models) and another on the chest. In most instances you’ll use the back D-ring, but if your dogs pulls on the leash, then consider attaching it to the front loop, which will help prevent excessive pulling by angling the dog’s body towards you. If your dog continues to pull like a train, consider attaching a second lead or specialised double-ended lead to both D-rings.
Double-leads are more complicated to use but have been proven to provide better balance for an unruly dog and thereby reduce pulling. That said, the chest padding alone most certainly has an affect on how the dog responds when walking – just the tiniest tug of the leash will invariably have it walking to heel.
The Front Range is available in six colours and sizes and is the harness of choice for well-to-do pooches or any owner who just wants their tyke to stand out from the pack.
Key features – Number of sizes: 5; Smallest chest size: 33cm; Largest chest size: 107cm
3. Hurtta Weekend Warrior: Best harness for active dogs
Price: From £33 | Buy now from Viovet
Hurtta’s Weekend Warrior harness replaced the Finnish brand’s Active Harness, which we previously had featured on this list. It’s streamlined and ergonomic, making it a great harness for the most energetic of dogs.
The Weekend Warrior has plenty of padding around the chest and back, and pulling pressure is evenly distributed to ensure comfort for your dog. It’s a bit more heavy duty compared to harnesses such as the Julius-K9 or the Ruffwear, but not to the point that it will cause any discomfort. It’s fairly easy to fit as it clips around the chest meaning you don’t have to lift your dog’s legs, and the addition of a grab handle on the top of the harness is a very nice bonus.
Key features – Number of sizes: 4; Smallest chest size: 40cm; Largest chest size: 120cm
4. Ruffwear Hi & Light: The best dog harness for hot weather
Price: £40 | Buy now from Not in the Dog House
Where the figure-hugging Ruffwear Front Range is quite heavily padded and therefore a little hot to wear when the temperature rises, this skimpier, bikini-like model is thinner and lighter and much better suited for use on hot summer days.
Ostensibly designed for active dogs accompanying their owners on long outdoor runs in the countryside, the Hi & Light is constructed from light Ripstop nylon material and features slim nylon straps, a single top-mounted aluminium leash clasp and a sealed Velcro pouch with integral cord for attaching a name tag. The pouch is also big enough to store a few emergency poo bags.
This harness fits supremely well without restricting the dog’s movement in any way. It’s also a doddle to put on and one of the easiest to adjust. Granted, it’s not the cheapest model here, but it’s very well designed and a great option for both energetic dogs and hot sultry summers.
Key features – Number of sizes: 6; Smallest chest size: 23cm; Largest chest size: 107cm
5. Mekuti Balance Harness & Lead Set: The best dog harness to stop pulling
Price: £25 | Buy now from Mekuti.co.uk
Few things are more tiring or frustrating than a dog that continually pulls on the leash; it just makes the owner look like they’ve lost control – which, let’s face it, they have. Mekuti is a specialist brand for just such owners. The company’s Balance Harness isn’t the quickest to fit, but there’s no threading the dog’s legs through any hoops, which is often the case with cheaper harnesses.
Despite the slightly more awkward fitting procedure, this is a very simple belt harness made from tough nylon webbing. There are no saddle pads on the back, so it doesn’t look as “cool” as the others here, but it’s well thought through and not at all bulky. However, we’d advise reading Mekuti’s informative website guides and looking at some of its instructional YouTube videos before using it.
The lightweight Mekuti comes with a double-ended leash and three lead attachments: one on the back and two near each shoulder. Standing on the dog’s left or right, attach one end of the leash to the rear D-ring and feed the other end through a hoop on the front of the dog’s neck and secure it to the outer shoulder ring.
There’s a learning curve for the owner – but, in essence, the harness helps keep the dog well balanced and easier to control by coaxing the animal into position without excessive force. The harness isn’t necessarily a cure for pulling on the leash – some dogs will always pull given the chance. However, it’s definitely the best, and most gentle, option here for making both your and your dog’s life a lot easier.
The Mekuti Balance Harness comes in five sizes (Mini to Extra Large) and is available in a wide range of colours. A top choice for obstreperous hounds.
Key features – Number of sizes: 5; Smallest chest size: 33cm; Largest chest size: 116cm
6. Puppia Soft Harness: The best dog harness for puppies and growing breeds
Price: £18 | Buy now from Amazon
Given the reasonable retail price, this harness is a great choice for growing puppies and a comfortable option for smaller breeds. The Puppia is made from a very soft and supple air mesh material that fits around the dog’s chest area using a single side buckle.
Although fitting does require threading one of the dog’s front legs through a hoop, it’s pretty easy to do, especially if the breed is small enough to pick up in your arms. If you have a larger breed that is a bit restless when handled, perhaps consider one of the Julius K-9, RuffWear or Hurtta models instead.
The Puppia is available in five sizes – from extra small (perfect for the smallest of toy dogs) to extra large (about the size of a Border Collie) – and 16 vibrant colours.
Key features – Number of sizes: 5; Smallest chest size: 28.5cm; Largest chest size: 80cm
7. Julius-K9 IDC Belt Harness: The best harness for large dogs
Price: From £20 | Buy now from Julius-K9
This belt harness is a good option for larger and wider breeds of dog. It’s extremely easy to fit: just slide the large loop over the dog’s head and clip it on.
The Belt Harness comes with a metal back hoop for lead attachment and an ultra-tough nylon handle for easy control of the dog when off the lead. This handle is also a godsend for helping a dog out of water, if it’s struggling to get up a steep river bank. Rather cleverly, the handle can be compressed against a piece of Velcro so it doesn’t snag on any undergrowth.
The Julius-K9 provides a reassuringly snug fit that doesn’t get in the way of the dog’s movements; the lower chest strap sits just behind the forelegs and doesn’t rub against the elbows. However, it does seem a bit over-engineered. The chest webbing on the Size 1 model we tested is about 5cm in width and strong enough to pull a train. It’s also difficult to adjust.
The heavy-duty plastic clips are seriously large and we wonder if this combination of wide webbing and large clips is the reason the whole harness tends to shift over to one side after a few minutes wear. That said, at no time did the dog – an elderly Labrador – appear to be in discomfort. We suspect the smaller sizes use narrower, thinner and more supple webbing, which should ensure the harness remains in better position.
If you have a wide-girth breed such as a Rottweiler, Bulldog, Staff or Mastiff then this harness will do the trick, but we’d suggest Julius-K9’s figure-hugging IDC Powerharness for slender breeds.
Key features – Number of sizes: 6; Smallest chest size: 15.5cm; Largest chest size: 115cm
The best dog leads to buy
1. EzyDog Zero Shock Lead 25: Best lead for dogs that like to pull
Price: From £20 | Buy now from Amazon
This stretchy lead is a great option for dog owners who have given up trying to train their dogs not to pull on the leash. It’s also a boon for those moments when your dog spies a squirrel or another dog and suddenly dashes off pulling your shoulder out of its socket in the process.
The keenly-priced EzyDog Zero Shock is essentially a stiff bungee cord that stretches a few inches when pulled, easing the tension for both owner and dog. It’s also very comfortable in the hand.
The Zero Shock is available in two lengths – 25in and 48in– and nine colours. Its small collar/harness clip is easy to operate even under tension and we like the plastic accessory D-ring – handy for attaching a poo bag container.
Given the choice, we would recommend the shorter 25in model which keeps the dog closer to heel and prevents any unforeseen issues, especially when walking next to a busy road.
2. Creature Clothes Classic Leather Dog Lead: Most stylish lead
Price: £47 | Buy now from Creature Clothes
For the smart mutt about town, how about this stylishly elegant luxury number from the house of Creature Clothes? Handmade in the UK, the Classic Leather is 107cm in length (42in) and 2cm in width, and fitted with a top-quality clasp and an O ring that joins the handle to the leash. Aside from hooking poo bags to it, the O ring is also brilliant for locking the lead around your waist or neck so you don’t lose it. It happens!
This high-quality cowhide leash is available in plain brown, black, tan and red but if you really want to stand out from the crowd, we’d suggest opting for the slightly more expensive studded version which comes with a choice of silver or brass stars, hearts and bones. Perhaps even complement it with a matching collar. Whichever model you choose, you can be sure this lead will outlast most others. In fact, the older it gets the better it looks.
3. Flexi Neon S Tape: Best lead for giving your pooch more range
Price: From £12 | Buy now from Amazon
If you have a puppy or a small dog up to 15kgs in weight that you’d rather not let off the lead, consider one of these extendable auto-rewind models from Flexi. Available in two lengths (3m and 5m) and three sizes, the Flexi’s tape is neon coloured so others are less likely to get tangled up in it when your dog’s doing its mad dog stuff. We would suggest the 5m version simply because it’s a good thing to have an extra two metres to hand.
The Flexi is very easy to use – simply hold in the button and click it into position with your thumb to release the tape and its spring-loaded mechanism will ensure it is automatically recoiled and not left lying on the ground where it’s more likely to be a trip hazard. The feed can be stopped at any time by simply pressing the button again to re-lock the mechanism.
This type of leash has been known to cause occasional havoc in the local park, especially with unruly dogs that run circles around other park users. But on the plus side, tape is far less likely to cause skin burns than the thin corded type.
4. Halti Training Lead: Best training lead
Price: From £7 | Buy now from Amazon
Designed by animal psychologist Dr Roger Mugford, the versatile Halti Training Lead can be used in a number of ways: as a dual-leash system for front-range harness use (the most effective method for training a dog to heel); hands-free with the leash wrapped around your waist; and taking two dogs for a walk on the same leash.
When used in training mode, attach one end of the leash to the top hoop of the harness and the other to the chest hoop. Now hold both lengths of lead with both hands, using one to hold the dog in check and the other to pull it from the chest area towards you. It takes time to get the hang of it but, when done correctly, a training leash should help with your dog’s balance and help prevent him or her from pulling too much.
5. Ruffwear Roamer Leash: Best for running with your dog
Price: From £38 | Buy now from Amazon
UK-based Ruffwear produces a wide range dog gear including harnesses, life jackets, dog boots for rough terrain and winter apparel.
This elasticated, shock-absorbing leash is available in two lengths (2.1m and 3.4m) and is an ideal choice for those who enjoy running with their four-legged companions. Simply attach it to your dog’s harness – do not run a dog using a collar – wrap the leash around your waist and head out into the fells.
The great thing about this leash is that there’s at least two feet of stretch in the webbing and that’s extremely useful when running because there’s less chance of the animal pulling you over if it suddenly veers off to chase a rabbit.
Another handy feature is the traffic handle – a split section of non-stretchy webbing positioned very close to the dog’s harness. It’s imperative that you use this handle when approaching a road or walking on the pavement.
This is a top choice for anyone with a well trained dog that enjoys a good run. Needless to say, it’s a perfect match for Ruffwear’s Hi & Light activity harness, reviewed above.