Instructions for Step-In Dog Harnesses

Working dogs routinely wear various kinds of harness.

Working dogs routinely wear various kinds of harness.

You've looked every which-way at that new step-in dog harness, turned it around several times, and you're still not sure which side is up. Laying it flat will help sort things out, but success with any harness first depends on whether you measured your dog properly for fit.

Tell your dog to stand. If she doesn't understand the command, you can either ask a helper she trusts to hold her gently just behind the shoulder blades to keep her standing, or you can have the dog sit instead. Measuring her chest is easier if she's standing, but you can do it if she's sitting, too.

Wrap a cloth tape measure around the deepest part of your dog's chest to find her chest circumference. Add two inches to provide for the extra room needed to prevent the harness from being too tight.

Select and buy your new step-in dog harness using the measurement you took to ensure it will fit your pup. Harnesses are made to fit specific chest sizes, so you can find one that's right for your dog. Look on the packaging, or read the product details if you're shopping online, for the harness sizing information.

Lay the new step-in harness flat on the ground so that you can see two openings, one for the left paw and one for the right. Grasp your pup's right front paw, and place it in the appropriate opening, then place her left front paw in the left opening.

Pull the harness up so that the center vertical strap is against her chest. Click the harness in place with the plastic buckle. The buckle will rest on her back, along with either one or two rings that are usually O-shaped or D-shaped. Talk quietly to your pup while you're putting the harness on. It doesn't matter what you say, just as long as your tone is gentle and soothing.

Adjust the fit of the harness straps with the slide adjusters. You should be able to fit two fingers between the straps and your dog. If you can fit more than two fingers, it's too loose; fewer than two fingers is too tight.

Congratulate your little girl for going through with the process by giving her lots of praise and a tasty treat. Secure the leash clasp through the ring, or both rings if applicable, and go have fun together on your walk.

Items you will need

  • Treats
  • Cloth measuring tape


  • You can tell if the harness is upside down by looking at the plastic buckle and connector. They should be facing upward, rather than toward the floor.
  • If you have a fearful or sensitive dog, or a new dog who's not yet bonded to you, watch how she reacts when you introduce her to the harness. If she backs away, hides, shakes or seems fearful, it may be best to introduce the harness in several sessions over two or three days. Let her see it, smell it and feel it. Give her treats and plenty of praise each time she reacts positively. When you finally do put the harness on her, leave it on for 20 to 30 seconds, then remove it. Repeat the process for a day or two, gradually lengthening the amount of time it stays on her until she's wearing it without concern.


  • Never scold your dog if she reacts negatively to the harness. Just ignore the behavior, and try again later. If she starts struggling when you put the harness on, hold her until she quits, then take it off and go back to a step in the process where she was more comfortable.

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About the Author

Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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