Best Small Dog Harness Options -
The Complete Overview
Our #1 Pick
The Best Value for Money
Dog Nation Ultra Light Harness
Though it is satisfying to have a huge hug from a Scooby-doo-like Great Dane, the sausage dogs and mini dogs of the world are truly special.
We love small dogs for their quirky habits, handsomeness, and larger than life personas wrapped up in a tiny package! However, many small dogs tend to charge ahead when going for walks and pull on their leads. Not quite so cute.
A dog harness can help you to instill good walking habits, whilst keeping your pup warm and comfortable when out and about with you. (1) They also tend to be better suited for smaller dogs that can have throat and tracheal issues with collars. Each breed of dog has slightly different needs.
So, in this article, we’ll cover the different types and qualities of the best dog harnesses, our top recommendation for a small dog harness in Australia, and an array of options for specific small dog breeds. After this, you’ll come away with all the information you need and a shortlist of harnesses for your small dog. Let’s dive in!
How To Find The Perfect Harness For Your Small Dog
Dog harnesses come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and materials. Collars may be easier to find, but they can cause a whole manner of health issues if your little pup is a puller. (2) A badly fitted harness, however, can be equally damaging. Here are some key factors you need to know to choose the right harness for your small dog.
H-Shaped Harnesses vs Step-in Harnesses
There are two main types of harnesses: The H-shaped harness and the step-in harness. Both have their merits.
The H-shaped harness is made of two loops. The first loop goes over the dog’s head and the second loop wraps around their ribcage. Typically, the lead attachment for H-shaped harness is at the top of the second loop, lying on their back. This means the lead is pulling well away from your dog’s neck and enables you more control whilst you are walking together. This style of harness is extremely popular because they are very easily adjustable. The straps are often changeable in length. Even if your dog puts on a little weight, you can alter the structure accordingly for a lasting fit.
Step-in harnesses are great because of how easy they are to slip on. You lie the product on the floor and line up your dog’s paws. You then pull on the harness and clip at the back. Step-in models tend to be a bit more padded and fitted than the H-shaped models but there are modern, malleable, and comfortable options in both categories.
Quick Guide to Lead Attachments
The beauty of using a harness in the first place is that they take the pressure off of your dog’s neck whilst walking. Instead, the pressure points are around the chest should your dog pull ahead from you. This is much safer in the long run. Another aspect of this is the lead attachment.
Dog collars typically have D-ring attachments at the front of the collar, right by their windpipe. You can imagine how unpleasant this is! Now the concept of having a front-attached lead is not bad at all. The issue is the placement. Collars put pressure on the neck. Harnesses distribute light pressure around the chest. If you are training your dog to walk nicely, the front attachment halts your dog from pulling too far as the front placement effectively spins them around. So front-attached harnesses are fabulous for pulling dogs and/or puppies in training. French Bulldogs and Pugs, however, have tender throats that you need to be wary of.
Dr John Brookes from Small Dog Place writes, “Brachycephalic breeds such as the Frenchies and English Bulldogs love taking walks just like any dog, but their unique anatomy makes it difficult for them to use a typical collar. A strong pull of the leash can put undue pressure on the soft tissues of the neck and throat leading to more serious complications such as tracheal collapse.” (3)
That very same issue can make front-clip harnesses uncomfortable for Frenchies so they would be better off with back-clip models.
Mostly, harnesses will have their lead attachments at the back which has many benefits. There is far less pressure on the trachea and it gives you quite a bit of control whilst walking. They aren’t as effective when walk training your pooch though.
As for the small dog harnesses we recommended, most have both a back clip and front clip so you can adjust to your dog’s unique needs and anatomy.
Related: Best No Pull Dog Harness Australia.
What padding does your dog need?
Manufacturers are generally very aware that dogs will be wearing harnesses from anywhere between 20mins and several hours, depending on if you are going on a long adventure together.
Therefore, you need to take your dog’s comfort levels into account when choosing the right dog harness for your pup. Some H-shaped harnesses are pretty basic, with simple hardy straps; no special cushioning. T
hey are other harnesses that are very padded, adding an extra layer of warmth during the winter. It all depends on your dog’s needs.
PRO TIP: The humble harness will become a daily tool as you walk your furry companion. Comfort is therefore paramount.
Best Dog Harnesses for Small Dogs 2021 Reviewed
Now that we have identified the key factors of a fabulous small dog harness, let’s dig into the best small dog harnesses Australia has to offer.
Here we’ve identified a few specific breeds and what we recommend for them, but you can translate these qualities to any and all breeds. We just wanted to help you by further personalising our picks.
What sets this product apart from the rest?
We love the Dog Nation Ultra Light Harness because of its fantastic size range! As a harness for small or toy dog breeds, this is a wonderful product with many great features.
First, let’s talk about the cool design. The padded mesh material comes in a fantastically bright array of colours, so your pup will be the envy of all at the dog park. The chest area is made of a breathable, high-quality polyester that is flexible and hugs your dog’s body. The straps are fully adjustable so you can make this product fit your dog perfectly.
This is an H-shaped harness so you slip the front loop over your dog’s head. It’s incredibly important that you measure your dog’s neck before purchasing the small or extra small sizes to make the fitting process easier. You don’t want your pup to get stuck!
There is a front and back-attachment points and the unique design is meant to distribute the pressure from the lead across your dog’s chest. This helps stop your dog from pulling without the strain of a regular front-clip.
This harness is machine washable but the manufacturer recommends hand washing and air drying to ensure the longevity of the product over time. This isn’t the most convenient thing in the world but we do agree that the integrity of the fabric will maintain better if you scrub it by hand.
Overall, we recommend this harness to all small dogs, regardless of breed. Tender throated or barrel-shaped dogs, long-haired or short-haired - the Dog Nation harness is suitable for all!
This is also our number 1 rated option for puppy harnesses available in Australia.
Verified Review - 16/04/2021
"I love my harness because when it gets put on I know I am going for a walk. It stops me pulling my owners along and helps control my leaping up and it's so comfortable I hardly notice I am wearing it."
What can bring you joy? (chihuahua) Ooooooooh Chihuahua!
Only a dog so stylish and fun could have an early 2000s bubblegum pop song dedicated to them. And whilst the age of copying the Paris-Hilton-Chihuahua-in-the-handbag look may be passing, your pooch is still one of the coolest around.
Chihuahuas are small but mighty dogs with tiny little chests. This makes the search for well-fitting harnesses quite challenging. We picked out the PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness for this very reason - it comes in a petite and small size which should be a good fit for your mini pup. There are 4 adjustable points on the harness too so you can adjust the fit as necessary.
Chihuahuas are also notorious pullers and escape artists. That small dog syndrome gives them big dog energy when walking those streets. They own everything and will try to pull you everywhere. Maybe that’s why Paris had hers in her handbag! To help your little one stop pulling, the PetSafe harness is very secure with a front-clip and back-clip. You, therefore, have complete flexibility as to how you use it. However, Chihuahuas are also brachycephalic breeds, so the back-clip is probably better for them if your dog is a very strong and stubborn puller.
We love that the PetSafe comes in a wonderful range of colours to suit your dog’s chic style. It is economical and easy to use. To sum up, we think the PetSafe is the perfect option as a harness for Chihuahuas.
Pugs are truly amazing dogs! We love the resurgence in popularity they had in the 2010s. Pugly is the new beautiful. For your stunning Pug, you have to take into consideration their very unique anatomical issues. As we mentioned, pugs are brachycephalic breeds. They are also very strong for their size. Therefore, your Pug needs a harness with good padding, durable support, and a back-clip attachment to prevent restricting airflow.
Introducing the Rabbitgoo No Pull Dog Harness; the best harness for Pugs in Australia. First, this is an H-shaped harness with excellent padding and adjustability. Like the PetSafe, there are four points where you can adapt the straps to your pup’s body, making for a more comfortable fit.
The material itself is durable and easy to clean. A nylon oxford material makes up the fashionable plaid designed front. Cushioning in the inside make it super comfy for your dog.
The sizing is ideal for pugs and the breathable material feels fresh on the skin. No chafing or sweating. A bonus with the Rabbitgoo is the day and night use. If you are an early riser or late walker, your Pug won’t get lost in the dark, due to reflective strips on the harness. The high-vis ability makes this product safe to use at all hours of the day and night.
Though this is not the cheapest tiny dog harness on the market, this is a great pick for a harness for Pugs. Highly-rated, stylish, and long-lasting, this is an awesome product all-round.
Verified Review - 25/04/2021
It’s Soft And Comfortable.
"The harness we purchased, is good quality, easy to fit, and very comfortable for my dog. Stops pulling too. I cannot comment on durability as I have only recently purchased the item."
The original sausage dog! Dachshunds are naughty, playful, and oh-so-lovable. We totally understand why you fell for yours. Well, you’ll be glad to hear that your pup is not brachycephalic at all, so they will do well with a front and back clip. A good Dachshund harness would also have soft padding due to a fine coat and come in a small enough size for extremely small chests.
Our pick for a harness for your Dachshund is the Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness. This adaptable, colourful harness has it all. It is an H-shaped harness. Front and back lead attachments for flexibility. Structured, cushioned shell formation to keep your dog secure and comfortable as you walk. The size range is wonderful too. An extra small dog harness can be hard to find. Luckily Ruffwear has small, extra-small, and extra-extra-small options to suit your doggie’s needs.
We love the mix of colours you have to choose from. It is possibly one of the widest ranges of designs on this list. It’s not just fashionable, but also super practical. The Ruffwear has light-reflective trim for low-light walking. Early-risers and nightwalkers rejoice.
As for maintenance, this small dog harness is hand-wash only. For the high price point and quality, you’ll want to keep this harness in tip-top shape for as long as possible.
As a harness for Dachshunds, you can’t go wrong with the versatile, high-reviewed, and easy-to-use Ruffwear model.
Verified Review - 13/04/2021
Seems Well Made, But Sizing Runs Small
"My six month Bernedoodle is 29" around the chest, but the L harness barely goes over her head, which is a drawback, since we take it off at the dog park a couple of times per day. (Adjustments around the chest have plenty of space, but the front straps are run to their max length already.) Seems well made, good colors, etc. Would be nice to have a handle on top too, as most harnesses have."
Frenchies seem to have taken the world by storm! They are the It dogs of our day. We can tell why you love this caring, sweet, fun-loving breed so much. Frenchies are brachycephalic so you’ll need a back lead attachment. They are excitable so they may pull on the lead when walking; you’ll also want to curb that in any way you can. Fine fur and thin skin call for a soft, smooth fabric lining, but not needing as much structure as the Daschunds do.
The economical product that encapsulates all of these features and more is the Best Pet Supplies Voyager. The Voyager is a step-in harness so it’s very easy to slip onto your dog’s body. The material is breathable, stretchy, and has a warm, soft lining that your Frenchie will love on cold evenings or early mornings.
With an astounding array of colours and designs, your pup will be so fashionable with their new coat. The Voyager only has a back-clip which is ideal for Frenchies, as it’ll never put pressure on their delicate tracheas. Size range is also quite impressive; with the Voyager there are extra-small and small options available in all colours.
This harness for French Bulldogs comes at a great price point for the quality and reviews. The cons would be that this harness is not as adjustable as the H-shaped models we have previously discussed. If you are interested in buying this product, you do need to take good measurements of your dog to ensure you have the right fit for them. But don’t worry. If it’s not right, the manufacturer offers a 100% money-back guarantee if you are unhappy or need an exchange in size. Win-win!
Verified Review - 31/03/2021
"This is a cute harness and is soft and appears to be well made. I bought a large for my pug (who may have put on some COVID weight) but it’s a tad too small. She normally wears a Medium so I sized up. I’m going to keep it cuz it works but size up."
Our last harness recommendation is for the lovable, hyperactive Jack Russel Terrier. The OG rough and tumble working dog with plenty of attitude and spirit. The epitome of sweet small dogs in many ways! Jack Russell’s need a harness that can keep up with them. It needs to be durable, adjustable, and comfy on your Jack Russell’s skin. As super active dogs who love to roll around, resistant material is a must.
The best harness for Jack Russell Terriers is the True Love Dog Harness. Scratch-resistant and lightweight, even your boisterous, fun-loving dog couldn’t destroy this harness. It is built to last your pup through all his or her adventures.
This is an H-shaped harness with two lead attachments for maximum versatility. It has some other tricks up its sleeve too. This doubles as a dog car harness as it has a loop for the car seat belt and reflective properties woven into the nylon fabric are added bonuses to an already solid product. The straps are fully adjustable, ensuring the perfect fit.
With excellent reviews and a decent, mid-range price point, we are struggling to find cons with this product. It’s a shame that the True Love only comes in four colours, which is far more limited than our previous choices. This doesn’t take away from the top quality and good size range available.
All in all, a great choice as a Jack Russell harness.
Final Verdict: Best Dog Harness for Small Dogs
When it comes to small dog harnesses, we love the Dog Nation option as a great all-rounder. The back-attachment is suitable for all breeds and the soft design is comforting for your tiny pup. Though we have given recommendations for certain breeds, we couldn’t cover all of the small dog breeds in Australia or we’ll be here forever!
That said, all of the products mentioned are extremely versatile so Pomeranians, Bichon Frises, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, Shih Tzus, Basset Hounds, and Beagles can all be catered for with one of these options. All you need to know is whether your dog is susceptible to Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, in which case a back-attached harness is preferable. (4) You’ll also need to take into account your dog’s coat and pulling tendencies. Keeping those factors in mind, any on this list can be adapted to suit your small pooch.
There is a great debate among the dog-owning community regarding whether harnesses are better for dogs than collars. Or indeed, vice versa. It’s fair to say that both have their pros and cons. (5)
As you saw, many harnesses are padded and fitted, which can cause issues for long-haired dogs. The front-attachment of a harness can also affect your dog’s walking patterns as they adjust to this new sensation. Collars are more comfortable for your dog to wear for longer periods of time as they are likely used to wearing them all day every day anyway. Some breeds are even relatively excluded when it comes to sizing harnesses.
Megan Sullivan of PetMD writes “Pet parents with barrel-chested dogs, like English Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pit Bulls might have a tougher time finding a harness that fits properly.” (6)
On the other hand, harnesses are gentler on your dog’s throat. They can provide another layer of warmth and comfort for fine-haired breeds like the small dogs we spoke about today. Harnesses are also fantastic walking training tools.
It is best to review your dog’s specific, unique situation to judge what is best for them.
The important measurements to take are:
- Your dog’s weight
- Circumference of their neck
- Circumference of their chest
- Circumference at their rib cage
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and fully measure your dog before purchasing. Yes, adjustments can be made with the straps but this only goes so far! It is better to have a great fitting base and then adjust, than an ill-fitting base that you have to adjust too much. The harness should fit snugly but not be suffocating or too loose.
We’ve mentioned in this article that harnesses can help with training your dog to walk nicely, but how do they do this? Well, essentially it’s a case of dictating the direction. Having a front-clip attachment for the lead means that your dog cannot get very far ahead of you without the lead pulling them around to face you again.
Kendall Curley at PetMD writes “Once you clip the leash to the front ring and begin walking, your dog has to stay by your side to keep moving forward. If she does pull, the leash goes off to the side—not straight back—which directs your dog back towards you. That gives you greater ability to control and guide your dog back to your side by applying a little pressure.” (7)
- Madson. C. September 21, 2020. “Dog Harnesses: Helpful Tools for Loose Leash Walking”. Preventive Vet. Retrieved October 18, 2020. https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/dog-harnesses-helpful-tools-for-loose-leash-walkin
- Remitz, J. January 16, 2018. “5 Ways Collars Can Harm Your Dog”. PetMD. Retrieved October 18, 2020. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/5-ways-collars-can-harm-your-dog
- Brookes, J. December 31, 2019. “Harness Train Your French Bulldog Using These 7 Quick Tips”. Small Dog Place. Retrieved October 18, 2020. https://www.smalldogplace.com/harness-train-your-french-bulldog.html
- Williams, K. “Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs”. VCA Animal Hospital. Retrieved October 18, 2020. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/brachycephalic-airway-syndrome-in-dogs
- Clark, M. “Collar Versus Harness: Which Is Best For Your Dog?”. DogTime. Retrieved October 18, 2020. https://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/43739-collar-vs-harness-best-dog
- Sullivan, M. November 29, 2017. “Surprising Dog Harness Dangers to Avoid”. PetMD. Retrieved October 18, 2020. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/surprising-dog-harness-dangers-avoid
- Curley, K. October 11, 2018. “How Do No-Pull Dog Harnesses Work?”. PetMD. Retrieved October 18, 2020. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-do-no-pull-dog-harnesses-work