How to Use a Harness with a Dog Coat

Many dogs don’t handle winter weather well. The challenge of living in a cold climate with a dog that needs winter protection while managing a harness is a challenge for many dog owners.  The best way to use a harness with a dog’s coat has several solutions.

Some manufacturers offer models with slits in the coat for the harness attachment points. Some dog owners expand their dog harness to go over the coat. Other dog lovers opt for a coat that has a built-in dog harness.

Whatever solution your choose, the goal is to provide the best protection possible for your four-legged companion. A good winter coat protects your dog from the harsh winter environment. A properly fitted harness keeps your pet under control and safe from accidents. We’ll help you find the right compromises and solutions for both you and your dog.

A Bit About Harnesses 

How you manage your dog’s harness while he or she is wearing a winter coat depends on the style of harness you choose for your dog. In general, there are three types of harnesses in common use with most dogs. The key to using these harnesses with a coat is where and how the leash attaches to the harness.

The three types of most used harness are:

  • Back-Clip Harness
  • Front-Clip Harness
  • Dual-Clip harness

Back-Clip Harness – If Pulling is Not a Problem

Back clip harnesses are designed to allow the leash or lead to clip near the harness’s back. Some of these back-clip harnesses position the leash ring behind the dog’s tail. These harnesses lend themselves well to a dog wearing a coat over the harness. 

Other back-clip designs position the leash ring a bit more forward in the middle of the dog’s back. If your harness has the leash ring in the middle of the harness, the best solution may be to open the harness a bit and put the harness over your dog’s winter coat. 

The Problem with Pull

One caveat that comes with using a back-clip harness is dogs who tend to pull at the leash when walking. A back-clip harness can make this problem worse. By and large, dogs tend to move against any force applied to them. If the dog feels pressure from the back, the tendency is to pull forward.

Front-Clip Harnesses –  Keeping the Pull in Check

Harnesses with the leash attachment point at the front on the dog’s chest can help eliminate or control a dog’s desire to pull against the leash. A harness with the leash ring on the chest puts the leash’s pressure ahead of the dog. Your dogs’ natural tendency to move away from the pressure eliminates the desire to pull forward on the leash.

Many dog winter coats open in the front, making attaching the leash to the front=clip harness much easier if the harness is under the coat. However, this may also prevent the coat from closing fully and giving your dog less winter warmth.  Again, adjusting the harness slightly may allow you to put the harness over the coat with no problems.

Tangle and Mess – The Front-Clip Dilemma

The downside to front-clip harnesses is keeping the leash free of your dog’s legs. The leash wants to ride to one side or the other of your dog’s chest. Keeping the leash out of mud, water, and snow may also be a challenge with a front-clip harness.

Finding a front-clip harness can be a challenge. Most dog harnesses are back-clip styles. Your best option may be the dual-clip harness we will discuss next.

Dual-Clip Harness –  the Best of Both Worlds

Many harness manufacturers are now providing leash attachment points at several locations on the harness. Finding a harness that allows both back and front clips attachment points is an advantage. You can adjust your leash attachment to fit the situation.

While a dual-clip harness does give you more options, these harnesses also come with some disadvantages. In general, dual-clip harnesses are both bulkier and more expensive than other harness styles. Some dog owners who opt for a dual-clip harness also use a double-ended leash, allowing two control points on their dog.

Dual-clip harnesses may make using the harness with a winter coat easier under certain circumstances but, this depends on the design of both the harness and the coat. You may be able to adjust your dog’s dual-clip harness to fit over the winter coat. 

The Modified Winter Coat – Matching the Design with the Harness

Another option that many dog owners prefer is finding a coat for your dog that includes slits or openings in the dog coat. These slits or openings allow the leash to pass to the attachment point on the harness. In many ways, this seems like an ideal solution. 

Using a modified dog coat keeps the harness close to the dog’s body. Control of the dog is much better when the harness fits the dog’s body. A dog harness over a winter coat creates several problems.

Warmth as An Issue – The Downside of a Harness over a Coat

A harness over a dog’s coat can reduce the coat’s insulation’s effectiveness, resulting in a colder dog. As the harness crushes the coat’s insulation against the dog’s body, the coat affords’ less protection.

A harness adjusted to fit comfortably over a winter coat without reducing the insulation creates control issues. The harness may be so loose that the dog can slip out, or the harness can slip around the dog’s body. The harness over a dog’s coat is a compromise solution that can have major problems.

Mating the Harness with the Coat 

Of course, finding a winter dog coat that has slits in the right place to mate properly with your dog harness can be a problem. Some dog owners resort to cutting the slits in their dog’s coat themselves.

The Combination Winter Coat – Harness and Warmth in One

Realizing the problems that winter coats and harnesses posed, some harness manufacturers now produce combinations that seem to offer the best of both worlds. These winter coats feature an integral harness. Many of these combination coats and harness affairs have multiple leash attachment points as well.

The biggest disadvantage of these combination coats and harnesses is the cost. In many instances, the cost of a combination coat and harness exceeds buying both a coat and a harness separately. Convenience, it seems, does come with a price.

Keeping Warm and Staying Safe

Whichever method or style you prefer, your dog depends on you for its well-being and safety. Choosing the best harness and winter coat for your dog is your responsibility. In part, the solution to the puzzle of winter coat and harness depends on other factors.

  • The small breeds may not pose as big a problem. If you carry your miniature breed more than it walks, the issue may not be overwhelming. 
  • Larger breeds need more control. Fitting a harness to a larger breed while wearing a winter coat is more critical from a control standpoint. Opting for a harness and coat combination that keeps the harness under the coat may be the better option.
  • If you routinely exercise your dog while you exercise yourself is an important consideration. If you jog or run while accompanied by your dog, finding a coat and harness combination that is compatible with exercising is important.

Finding the Best Fit For you and Your Dog

Many factors must figure into the choices of your dog’s harness and winter coat. In the end, it is up to you. There is no one single answer that fits every dog owner’s situation. We hope that this article helps you fit your choice of harness and winter coat to your needs and your dog’s needs for a comfortable and safe winter season.

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