Return to Blog

Small Dog Harnesses for Puppies: Growing Up in Comfort and Style

By Canada Pooch on Sep 6, 2023

Owning an energetic puppy comes with challenges, but you can set your little pup up for leash-walking success from the start. Proper harness use and positive training techniques will have your puppy walking politely on walks in no time. 

Harnesses are a safe alternative to collars for active puppies, distributing pressure across the chest instead of the delicate neck area. They provide enhanced control without risks. When paired with reward-based training, harnesses help reinforce good habits from day one. 

This guide will walk you through choosing the ideal harness for your pup, properly fitting it for comfort and security, and introducing it through positive associations. You’ll also learn techniques to curb common issues like pulling and jumping. With consistency and patience, you and your pup will be taking happy walks together in their perfectly fitted harness. 

Raising a mannerly walker takes work, but the payoff of enjoyable strolls with your pup is priceless. With this advice, you’ll be prepared to start your puppy off on the right paw. Let’s get walking! 

The Benefits of Using a Harness for Your Puppy 

Collars have traditionally been the go-to for walking and training dogs, but many pet parents are now switching to harnesses for their puppies instead. Harnesses provide important advantages over collars when it comes to control, safety, and training your pup. Read on to learn why harnesses are often the better choice. 

Understanding the Benefits of a Harness Over a Collar 

Harnesses distribute pressure across the chest and shoulders rather than the delicate throat area. Harnesses are also better suited for dogs prone to lunging or pulling during walks, as they disperse the pressure more evenly over the upper body.

Importance of Size and Fit for Puppy Comfort and Safety 

Getting the right size and fit is crucial when it comes to dog harnesses. All our styles have adjustable straps and multiple points of adjustment so you can tailor the harness as your puppy grows. Ensure a snug fit so your pup can't wiggle out, but not so tight as to restrict movement or chafe. Adjustable harnesses allow you to loosen or tighten specific areas as needed to follow your puppy's unique contours while preventing escape. A properly fitted harness will not rub or pinch, providing a secure yet comfortable experience for your pet both now and in the future. 

The Role of Harnesses in Puppy Training and Control 

A harness provides enhanced control during walk times and training compared to a traditional collar. Strategically placed D-rings on the back and chest allow for greater maneuverability to gently guide your pup where you want them to go. Attach the leash to the front clip to deter pulling by turning your puppy back toward you when they try to forge ahead. Unlike a collar, the force is distributed across the chest rather than localized pressure on the delicate neck. This extra control helps reinforce good leash manners in your rambunctious little rascal. 

How to Choose the Right Puppy Harness 

Selecting the ideal dog harness to suit your pup's needs and personality can seem daunting with so many styles and features to consider. However, picking the right harness doesn't have to be confusing. By focusing on a few key factors, you’ll be able to find the perfect harness to keep your pup comfortable, safe, and ready for adventure. 


One of the most important factors when selecting a dog harness is getting the proper size. A properly fitted harness should be snug but not restrict your dog's movement. To find the right size: 

  • Measure around the widest part of your dog's chest/ribcage. Also, measure the neck circumference. 
  • Compare your measurements to our sizing chart for weight and dimensions to find the right fit for your pup. 
  • Pick a size that matches your dog's measurements. 

It's crucial to measure your puppy or fast-growing dog frequently and size up their harness as they grow. Prioritizing the right size makes harness training easier and safer. 

Material Matters 

The material of your dog's harness directly impacts their comfort. Look for soft, lightweight fabrics that won't chafe. Padding is ideal for sensitive dogs, especially in the chest and belly regions. Make sure seams are reinforced to prevent chafing as your dog moves. Breathable mesh panels allow airflow to keep your dog cool on hot days.

Harness Style and Features 

Consider activity purpose, breed traits and behavior issues when selecting harness style. Step-in designs are great for low-activity dogs as they're easy to put on. Front-clip harnesses provide more control for pullers by turning them back toward you. Look for lightweight padding, reflective accents, and breathable zones. If you'll be in the water, pick a waterproof harness. Matching features to your needs results in adventures enjoyed by both dog and parent. 

Proper Introduction 

Once you’ve selected the ideal harness, take time to properly introduce it to your dog through positive reinforcement. Let them sniff, lick, and paw at it, offering treats for calm interactions. Put the harness on for brief periods at first, showering praise and extending the duration as your dog relaxes into it. Taking it slow prevents fear and frustration down the road. With patience, your pup will happily hop into their harness when adventure calls. 

How to Properly Use a Dog Harness for Puppies 

Dog harnesses can be an effective training tool for puppies. Harnesses provide a safer, more comfortable way for puppies to learn the ropes, reducing the risk of injury compared to traditional collars. 

Getting Your Pup Comfortably Into Their Harness 

A properly fitted harness keeps your puppy safe and comfortable on all your adventures together. But before you can hit the trails, getting the harness on can take a little practice! Follow these steps to help your puppy accept their harness gracefully: 

Prep the Harness 

Start by ensuring the harness is correctly sized for your puppy's proportions. Check that straps are loosened to widen all neck and chest openings. This will make it easier to slip on. Lay the harness flat on the floor with the straps splayed out and ready for an easy step-in. 

Lure Your Puppy In 

Encourage your puppy to approach and step into the harness on their own accord. Kneel and use a treat to lure them close. Reward them with praise and treats for any interaction with the gear. Be patient and let them sniff, paw and become familiar at their own pace. 

Secure the Straps 

After each leg is properly situated in the harness, start gently tightening to achieve a snug fit. Check that straps are not twisted and evenly distribute pressure across your pup's chest and ribcage. Adjust the neck and chest clips, allowing room for two fingers between the harness and the skin. You want a customized, secure fit. 

Check Your Puppy's Comfort 

Once the harness is fastened, check your puppy's reaction. Make sure they can still move freely, and no areas seem too tight. Look for signs of discomfort like whining, panting or trying to paw off the harness. If they seem distressed, re-adjust the straps and seek a better fit. Introducing a harness should always be a positive process. 

Reward Their Success 

Once the harness is properly fitted, lavish your puppy with praise, belly rubs, and their favourite treats. This rewards their patience and acceptability, creating a positive association with harness time. A food-motivated puppy will eagerly anticipate harnessing up if it means yummy treats! 

With a gentle approach and letting your puppy take their time, harness training can be an easy, stress-free process. Use these steps to help your little explorer step into their harness comfortably. Soon, they’ll be ready to hit the road, safe and secure on all your shared adventures. 

Acclimating Your Puppy to Their New Harness 

You've picked out the perfect harness for your puppy - adjustable, comfortable, and suited to their unique personality. But simply strapping it on without introduction will likely cause fear or resistance. Taking time to properly acclimate your puppy to their new harness is key for both of you to enjoy using it. Follow these positive conditioning tips: 

Take It Slow 

Don't expect your puppy to love their harness instantly. This is a brand-new sensation, so give them time to get comfortable. Have the harness nearby during playtime so your puppy can voluntarily sniff and paw at it. Offer treats and praise for any interaction. At first, just let them observe the harness without forcing it on. Go at their pace. 

Use Excited Voices 

Speak to your puppy in an upbeat, encouraging tone when presenting the harness for wearing. You want to convey the message: "This is going to be an adventure!" Not, "You're trapped!" Keep sessions positive by praising cooperation and using high-pitched happy voices. 

Watch for Discomfort 

If your puppy whines, retreats or tries to remove the harness, don't force things. Stop the session and try again later. Provide ample rewards for any step in the right direction. Pushing a puppy into a harness they don't like yet will only increase anxiety down the road. 

Double Down on Rewards 

Once your puppy accepts their harness without fuss, it's time to really pile on the rewards! Give treats and affection or play reward-based games. You want your puppy to correlate the harness with great things happening. This motivates them to welcome the harness over time. 

With ample patience and positive reinforcement, you can acclimate your puppy to their new harness comfortably. Eventually, they'll hop right in, ready to join you on all your adventures together! 

Tips for Walking Your Puppy with a Harness: Avoiding Leash Pulling and Jumps 

You've chosen the perfect harness for your energetic puppy. But they still pull on the leash and jump during walks. While excited behavior is normal for exuberant pups, you can curb these habits with proper technique. Follow these tips to teach your puppy polite leash manners when out and about in their harness. 

Use a Front Clip Harness 

Harnesses with a leash clip on the puppy's chest make it easier to discourage pulling and lunging. When the pup tries to forge ahead, the harness gently turns them back toward you. This steer-back effect uses their forward momentum against them. Unlike collars, the force is distributed across the chest, not the delicate neck. 

Stop Movement When They Pull 

When your puppy tries to pull against their leash, immediately stop walking. Stand still until the leash is slack again. Doing this consistently teaches them that pulling gets them nowhere. Reward moments when they walk calmly beside you to reinforce the behavior you want. 

Practice Loose Leash Walking 

At home, hold treats by your side and walk forward, rewarding your puppy when they stick close without pulling. Vary directions to teach focus. Build up distractions slowly. This trains a habit of loose leash walking before venturing out. Always reward the behavior you want to see on real walks. 

Bring Irresistible Treats 

Have extra delicious, fragrant treats your puppy can't resist. Use tiny pieces to keep them engaged and motivated to walk close without pulling toward exciting sights and sounds. Proper rewards set them up for success. 

Be Consistent 

It takes many repetitions for puppies to master skills like loose leash walking. Don't get frustrated. Remain calm and keep rewarding small steps in the right direction. With dedication, your pup will adopt good manners that make walks more pleasant for both of you. 

With consistent training, you can transform your pup into a polite walker who loves their harness. Use the techniques in this guide to find the ideal harness, ensure proper fit, intro it positively, and reinforce good habits. Be patient – puppies have much to learn! 

Check out our range of small dog harnesses at Canada Pooch to find the best fit for your pup! 


Do small puppies need a harness? 

Yes, small puppies can benefit from wearing a harness. Harnesses are ideal for puppies because they distribute pressure evenly across the chest and shoulders, reducing strain on their necks compared to a collar. This is especially important for small breeds with delicate necks. A harness also gives you greater control over your puppy and prevents them from slipping out of their collar. It is crucial to choose a properly fitting harness that is adjustable and ensures your puppy's comfort and safety. Training your puppy to walk on a leash with a harness from an early age will help them become accustomed to wearing one as they grow. 

What type of harness is best for a small dog? 

When choosing a harness for a small dog, it is important to consider their size, comfort, and safety. It is recommended to choose a harness that is adjustable and has padded straps to prevent discomfort or chafing. Additionally, opting for a harness with a front attachment point can help control pulling behavior by redirecting their momentum towards you.

Return to Blog

More to Explore