Some dog owners let their dogs wear a harness all the time and others are against this practice. No matter which side of the harness debate you’re on, let’s take a look at whether or not a dog can wear a harness all the time and then explore both sides a little further …
A dog can wear a well-fitting harness all day if the harness is comfortable and loose enough not to scratch or irritate the dog’s skin. At the very least, a dog’s harness should be taken off at night, when the dog is in a crate, and whenever the dog is left alone.
Dog owners, trainers, and veterinarians have differing opinions on whether or not a dog should be left wearing a harness all the time. What everyone does seem to agree on is that the only time a dog really needs to wear a harness is when the dog is out for a walk or being trained.
As a dog owner, you will need to weigh up the pros and cons and make the best decision for your dog. Below, I’ll give a rundown on what you can gain and what risks are involved with letting your dog wear a harness all the time, along with some tips and tricks on how to make it safer and more comfortable for your dog to wear a harness for long periods.
The pros of leaving on a dog’s harness
Here are the pros of letting your dog wear a harness all the time, or at least most of the day:
- Harnesses give you something to grab on to pull your dog or puppy out of danger quickly or to stop your dog from running away
- Dogs with very short necks, like Pugs, can’t wear a regular collar with ID tags around their necks, so a harness is a good substitute during the day in case the dog ever goes missing (though it’s always a good idea to get your dog microchipped and not just rely on tags for identification)
- It’s quicker to get your puppy or dog outside for a potty break – just clip the leash onto the harness and you’re ready to go outside. This is especially handy if you live in an apartment or need to take your dog out every time for a potty break
- If you have a puppy or dog that needs supervision for whatever reason, the harness gives you something to tie the dog to you and keep it nearby. This is much safer than using a neck collar, which can choke a dog or cause neck injuries if the dog pulls on it
- Leaving a harness on a dog for a while can get your dog used to wearing a harness, which can make walks easier
- Dogs tend to listen more and behave better with a harness on
- Some dog owners claim that wearing a harness makes their anxious dog calmer, such as when there is a storm
- If your dog ever runs away or into the road at night, a harness with reflective stripes will reflect cars’ lights, so drivers can see your dog and avoid hitting it
- Older dogs or sick dogs that need help moving around or getting up and down can benefit from wearing a harness with handles on it – simply grip the handles and you can help your dog with what it needs
- Service dogs and many working dogs are required to wear a harness all day while working, to help them get the job done
The cons of leaving on a dog’s harness
There are cons or risks in letting your dog wear a harness all the time, such as:
- Harnesses can irritate a dog’s skin where it rubs a lot, especially if the harness is too small, too tight, worn for too long, or made of a rough material
- If a harness is worn for too long and it rubs against the dog’s skin, the dog can lose hair in that area
- A harness can rub against long fur and make the fur knotted or matted
- Harnesses with a front strap across a dog’s chest can put pressure on the dog when it’s sitting down, making the harness very uncomfortable
- Puppies and dogs with Pica have lots of time to chew on the harness and swallow pieces, which is a serious choking hazard
- If a wet harness is left on a dog for too long, the dog could get a skin infection
- A harness can hook on something your dog walks past and trap your dog
- The harness can get dirty and start to smell if it isn’t removed and cleaned regularly. Here’s a great video showing you a very easy way to clean a dog’s harness:
Dog safety and comfort when wearing a harness
If your dog needs to wear a harness all the time or you want to leave it on, here are some tips and tricks to make long-term harness wearing as safe and comfortable for your dog as possible:
Make sure the harness fits well
Make sure the harness fits properly, and that it isn’t too tight or too loose. Your dog should be able to walk normally in the harness. If your dog walks funny or differently in the harness, wearing the harness for long periods of time could negatively affect your dog’s walking style and posture.
Also, the back of the harness should be positioned two to three inches behind the dog’s front legs, but not sit past the ribcage.
Here’s a comprehensive video explaining how to choose a harness that’s best for your dog:
Don’t get a harness with a front strap
Choose a harness that doesn’t have a strap across the front of the dog’s body. These are fine for walking, but can be uncomfortable if the dog needs to wear the harness for many hours as the strap can become tight and uncomfortable across the chest when the dog sits down.
Check for sores
Check the skin under the harness every three to four days for chafing or irritation. If there is some skin irritation, remove the harness immediately and let the dog’s skin breathe and repair before putting it back on.
Consider buying more than one harness, and alternating harnesses every week or so. Be sure to wash a harness when you take it off, so it’s nice and clean for when you want to use it again.
Don’t let your dog overheat
Don’t leave a padded harness on your dog for long periods of time as your dog could overheat, especially in warm weather or if your dog has a double coat.
Here are all my tips for keeping a dog cool.
Don’t let your dog or puppy chew on the harness
Watch your dog to see if your dog bites or nibbles on the harness, or if your dog tries to chew through it. Don’t let your dog or puppy chew the harness as it is a choking hazard.
Rub and brush the harnessed area regularly
Take the harness off at least once a week and give your dog’s chest and back a good rub down and a brush.
Leave the harness off for a couple of hours to let your dog’s skin breathe and the hair relax.
Remove the harness when your dog sleeps or is alone
A dog should never sleep with a harness on. You should remove the harness when your dog is in a crate, sleeping, or alone and you won’t hear your dog crying for help. This is because the harness can get caught on something and trap, hang, or choke your dog, which can be fatal if you aren’t nearby or awake to help.
And there you have all the pros and cons of leaving a harness on your dog. Every dog is different, so you need to make your own decision and watch your dog carefully to see what makes your dog happiest and most comfortable.
You’ll soon see if your dog’s harness is a bother or a source of comfort, and you might have one dog that loves wearing a harness and another that hates it. If your dog hates a harness, don’t force your dog to wear one all the time – keep the harness for fun things like walks and training sessions.