Can A Dog Wear A Harness All The Time?

dog wearing a harness while out and active

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Many dog owners use a harness instead of a collar when walking their dogs and they make an excellent option for walking your dog. Unlike collars, they remove any pressure from the neck area. They also are generally more secure for your dog. 

People who walk their dogs multiple times per day or live in high-rise apartments tend to leave their dog’s harnesses on all the time. On the other hand, some people argue that you shouldn’t leave your dog’s harness on all the time. This is a hot topic of debate among pet parents!

So the question is, can a dog wear a harness all the time?

Harnesses are intended to be comfortable for your dog, but leaving them on all the time can cause your dog to be uncomfortable. Some harnesses can even restrict your dog’s natural movement and cause skin irritation. You should take your dog’s harness off when he’s alone, in a crate, and at night.

While harnesses are a great option to use on your dog, be sure to take them off your dog once you get home. 

Since this can be such a polarizing topic, let’s discuss why you shouldn’t leave a harness on your dog all the time. 

Why Should Your Dog Wear A Harness?

Since there is so much information available about what type of gear you should walk your dog in, let’s first discuss why your dog should wear a harness in the first place. 

Harnesses Are Secure

Harnesses are a great option when walking dogs because they can keep your dog more secure than just a collar. If you have a dog who is an escape artist, a well-fitted harness will keep your dog safe and prevent him from getting loose. 

Harnesses Prevent Injury 

If a dog is wearing a collar and begins to pull, there is a risk that he could do damage to his trachea or throat. On the other hand, harnesses don’t put pressure on the throat area, so they prevent injuries. Harnesses distribute pressure evenly over your dog’s chest and body, which makes them more comfortable. 

Any dogs with throat issues, like megaesophagus or collapsing trachea, should be walked in a harness instead of a collar. Most veterinarians also recommend walking brachycephalic breeds in a harness as well. It’s always best to remove any unnecessary pressure from the throat area.

Harnesses Prevent Pulling

While some people believe harnesses encourage pulling, it’s really the lack of loose leash training that is at play. Many harnesses have front and back attachments for leashes, and many people find that their dogs walk better when using the front clip of a harness. When your dog is attached to the front clip, your dog is naturally redirected toward you when he starts to pull.

How Long Can You Leave A Harness On A Dog?

It’s a great idea to walk your dog in a harness, but you should take it off once you get home. While you could leave the harness on your dog all day, your dog probably won’t find that comfortable. Plus, you risk your dog getting irritated skin from constant rubbing. At the very least, you should take your dog’s harness off whenever he is alone, in a crate, and at night. 

Should You Leave a Dog Harness On All The Time?

As mentioned above, it’s best to use a harness only when you’re actively going out and about with your dog. Otherwise, it’s best to take your dog’s harness off once you get home. The same is true for most of your dog’s accessories including your pup’s collar which is best left off at night

The only exception to this is if you’re traveling. If you’re traveling, hiking, or camping, leaving your dog’s harness on could be beneficial. In these instances, in new environments, keeping your dog in his harness keeps him safe and secure. You can easily attach your leash to your dog if he’s already wearing the harness. The harness also provides extra material to grab onto if you need to. Using a harness prevents your dog from sneaking by and getting lost. 

Is It Safe to Leave a Harness On All the Time? 

While leaving a harness on your dog can be uncomfortable, it can also be a safety concern. Let’s discuss some of the reasons why it isn’t safe to leave a harness on all the time.

Altered Gait or Restricted Movement

One study showed that dogs wearing harnesses had less shoulder extension than dogs wearing collars only. Dogs wearing a restrictive harness with a strap across their shoulder had even more restricted movement than dogs wearing a non-restrictive or Y-shaped harness. 

This study shows that harnesses can alter a dog’s gait, so it’s essential to use a non-restrictive harness and not keep it on your dog all the time. Despite this, harnesses are still considered a safer option, and when appropriately used for a short time, they should have no long-term adverse effects on your dog. 

Skin Irritation and Discomfort

Let’s face it – when we come home from work, we often immediately change out of our work clothes into our “comfy” clothes, right? We do that to be more comfortable and relaxed in our homes.

While our dogs can’t verbally tell us when they’re uncomfortable, we can imagine that keeping a harness on for an extended period can be awkward and uncomfortable. It can even pinch or rub in places, like under the armpit, and cause skin irritation.

Matted Fur

If your dog has long fur, the harness can cause painful mats and knots as it rubs against your dog when he’s moving. As the hair wraps around itself, it knots closer to their skin. In severe cases, this can become a medical issue and requires your veterinarian to shave them out.

Chewing Risk

One of the primary concerns with leaving your dog’s harness on when he’s unattended is that he may chew through the harness. 

Not only will this ruin the harness, but it also poses a serious safety concern for your dog. If he does chew up and eat pieces of his harness, he’s at risk for a foreign body. Foreign bodies can cause obstructions, and in severe cases, they can lead to surgery and are sometimes even fatal.

Choosing The Right Harness For Your Dog

When used appropriately for the appropriate amount of time, harnesses are one of the best pieces of equipment you can buy for your dog. Investing in a quality piece is sure to be one of your best investments as a dog owner and will last you and your dog for years to come. 

With tons of harness options on the market that are all different styles, how do you choose the right harness for your dog

The video below discusses tips on how to choose the best harness for your dog. It goes over the differences in the main type of harnesses available on the market, and it also includes some tips on what to do if your dog is fearful of putting a harness on. 

In general, the first thing you should look for in a harness is to ensure that it’s non-restrictive. Non-restrictive harnesses are usually referred to as “Y-shaped harnesses.” These harnesses fit tightly at the base of the dog’s neck and have a piece of material that goes down the sternum, which ultimately connects to the straps that will sit about two inches behind the armpits.

It’s essential that a harness is fitted correctly and is considered non-restrictive. Some harnesses with straps across the dog’s shoulders restrict their movement and ultimately alter their gait. Not only is that uncomfortable on walks, but it makes it an even worse choice for wearing for long periods of time.

Getting the Right Fit

The most important thing with any harness is ensuring it fits your dog correctly. 

A harness should sit 2-3 inches behind your dog’s armpit. This prevents it from digging in under their arms and causing discomfort. It shouldn’t sit so far back that the straps sit past the ribcage.

The harness should be snug so your dog can’t wiggle out of it, but you should still be able to fit two fingers underneath it comfortably. 

Final Thoughts

Harnesses are a great alternative to walking your dog with just a collar. Harnesses provide security, prevent injuries, and are comfortable for your dog. Even when you choose the correct harness for your dog, remember to take it off so your dog can be more comfortable and doesn’t risk any skin irritation or other problems.