Golden Retriever Mix wearing a front clip harness

The Front Attaching Dog Harness -
Everything You Should Know

Getting the right gear for their canine companion is important for every responsible pet parent. However, once you start looking into specific things you need to buy, it all gets confusing fast. Try to buy a harness, for example, and you’ll get confronted with a host of different options and unknown terminology.

One of those is a front attach harness. So what is that exactly? A front attach harness is, just like the name suggests, a harness where the lead is attached at the front. This is the opposite of most standard harnesses where the lead is attached to a clip on the back.

Related: Best Dog Harness Australia.

So, what is the point of having a front lead attachment? How do these harnesses work and do you need one for your dog? Keep on reading to find out.


Front vs Back Attachment Points in Harnesses

How many types of harnesses are there? First of all, it’s worth saying that there is no official division into categories. We could talk about different types of harnesses according to the lead attachment point (which we will below), but one could also consider the different shapes that harnesses have.

For example, there are H-shaped harnesses that you usually need to put on over your dog’s head. These are typically considered to be the most comfortable but a bit difficult to put on. Then, there are the step-in harnesses which are easier to put on but sometimes fit awkwardly.

Finally, there are many different harnesses designed to correct the dog’s behaviour, like no-pull harnesses. The term ‘no-pull harness’ is often equated with a front attach harness, but not every no-pull harness has a lead attachment at the front.

Here is a quick overview of every type of harness according to the lead attachment point:

Back Attach Harness

Harnesses with an attachment on the back, or ‘back clip harnesses’ are pretty much the standard. As the name suggests, you attach the leash to the harness in the middle of your dog’s back. This design is considered the safest and most comfortable for dogs, as it protects their throats and spine as it distributes the weight evenly when they pull on the leash. Another benefit of this type of harness is that the position of the lead is very natural, so you are unlikely to get any tangles.

These harnesses work great with well-behaved dogs, and they are the only appropriate option for sports activities with your furry friend like running and hiking.

The main downside of back-clip harnesses is that they do very little to correct the behaviour of dogs who pull on the leash, lunge, or are reactive. On the contrary, a back-clip harness can even encourage pulling since it doesn’t cause any discomfort.

Front Attach Harness

A front attach harness has the lead attachment in the middle of a dog’s chest. While they are often called no-pull harnesses, these harnesses will not automatically fix your dog’s behaviour issues, but they can help. The trick is simple: when a dog pulls while the leash is attached to their chest, they will not get very far. Instead, they get turned towards you. This is why a front-clip harness is a great tool to help you teach leash manners to your dog.

The obvious downside of a front-clip harness is that the leash can easily get tangled in your dog’s legs. If worn over longer periods, these harnesses can also negatively affect the dog’s gait, which is why we don’t recommend them as a permanent solution.

Dual Clip Harness

As you can surely guess, a dual clip harness offers both options. There is a ring for attaching the lead both on the dog’s chest and on the dog’s back - use them as needed! This is generally the best option as it can adapt to different situations. The only downside is the unnecessary weight added by the leash rings in two places.


How & When to Use a Front Clip Harness

As mentioned above, front clip harnesses are a type of no-pull harness. They allow you to achieve better control over your dog and they are a great tool for teaching your dog how to walk on a leash.

With dogs who are strong and have the tendency to pull, a front-clip harness can give the owner a sense of security as it allows them to control the dog with ease.

“No-pull harnesses provide, in my experience, the least harmful way to give many owners the window of opportunity to reinforce -and thereby train – polite leash walking. An owner can’t train a dog to walk on a leash if she is getting dragged off her feet.” - Pat Miller, Whole Dog Journal (1)

The main issue with front clip harnesses is the awkward position of the leash which - while giving you better control - can also affect the dog’s natural gait in weird ways. However, as long as they are fitted right and used in moderation, front attach harnesses can be a good solution.


How to Fit a Front Clip Harness

YouTube How To Put On A Dog Harness

With a front attach harness, it is very important to achieve the right fit. These harnesses come in different shapes, some of them fit more comfortably than others. That is something that will also depend on your dog's body shape. Still, it’s important to choose a harness that fits as naturally as possible so as not to cause unnecessary discomfort to your canine companion.

“The best no-pull dog harnesses have straps that cross above your pup’s shoulders and can be fastened at the centre of your dog’s chest and behind her front legs” - Mikkel Becker, PetMD (2)

The main issue is finding a harness with the chest strap sitting in the right spot. You don’t want it sitting too high so that it presses onto your dog’s throat, but when it sits too low, it can make it difficult for the dog to walk. Not to mention that a wrong-fitting harness will let the dog escape more easily:

“For some dogs, particularly the short-armpit-to-elbow-length dogs, fitting to prevent slipping out of the harness can sometimes be challenging. Fitting the harness so that the chest strap sits higher on the chest usually makes the fit better. It may also reduce the likelihood of slipping out of the harness for these types of dogs.” - Scott Raymond, Synergy Behavior Solutions (3)

Once you’ve found the right shape of harness for your dog, it’s all a matter of adjusting the straps. The rule of thumb is to always have the harness fit snuggly - but not too tight. You should always be able to insert two fingers between each strap of the harness and your dog’s skin.


Final Thoughts

That’s it for today! We hope this guide has cleared out any questions you had about front attach harnesses. 

References

  1. Kerns, Nancy. June 13, 2013. “The No-Pull Harness Debate”. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved March 10, 2022. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/care/collars-harnesses-leashes-muzzles/the-no-pull-harness-debate/
  2. PetMD Editorial. October 11, 2018. “How Do No-Pull Dog Harnesses Work?”. PetMD. Retrieved March 10, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-do-no-pull-dog-harnesses-work
  3. Raymond, Scott. August 9, 2012. “Front-Clip Dog Harnesses”. Synergy Behavior Solutions. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is a professional writer, anthropologist & dog lover with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying the communication between animals and humans. Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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