Choosing the Right Service Dog Harness

service-dog-harnessUndoubtedly one of the most important accessories that you will need to purchase when you have a service dog is a good quality harness. Depending on what jobs and tasks your service animal assists you with, a standard dog collar and leash may not be sufficient. There are many different styles of service dog vests and harnesses available, and before you purchase one, here are a few considerations to ensure that you aren’t paying for dog supplies that you don’t need and won’t help you.


What Kind of Service Dog Do You Have?

The first question to ask yourself before you purchase a service dog harness is “what kind of assistance dog do I have or intend to have?”, and what specific jobs will that animal be doing daily to assist you with your disability. If you have a mobility assistance dog, for instance, you’ll need to purchase a large and sturdy mobility harness that allows your dog to safely lead you through various locations. If you have a medical alert dog, a smaller mesh vest will be sufficient. There’s no need to waste money buying something that doesn’t fit your needs or doesn’t allow your trained animal to do its work.


Size and Shape of the Harness

The next thing to consider is the size and shape of harness that you need. How large is the dog that is or will become your furry guarding angel? Some of the most common breeds of service canines such as labradors and german shepherds are “medium size” dogs, while others such as terriers are considered “small” dogs. It’s essential that you get not only the right harness for the job, but the right size and shape for your animal. You definitely don’t want a harness that slips off or cuts off you dog’s circulation.


Choosing the Right Service Dog Vest and Harness

There are many different styles of service dog vests and harnesses, but here are the most common available today:


 Service Dog VestNylon Dog Harnesses and Vests

These vests are usually constructed from durable nylon and/or other synthetic materials, and the inside is usually padded for your dog’s comfort. These vests easily fit over your dog’s head and have adjustable straps to make a cozy fit. They also usually have dedicated spaces on the sides to display service animal ID and a sturdy top handle.


service-dog-mesh-vestMesh Vests

Mesh vests are lightweight options that are prefect for smaller dogs that won’t be providing physical support to their handlers. A mesh vest is also perfect for use in hot climates and for water-rescue dogs.


service-dog-harnessPadded Walking Harnesses

Padded harnesses are very popular for use with animals that do a great deal of walking outside. These designs are very comfortable for all breeds of dogs and don’t place any strain on the animal’s neck in the way a standard dog collar does. They are perfect for walking and jogging and provide maximum security without placing any pressure on the dog.


guide-dog-pulling-harnessPulling and Balance Harnesses

These harnesses are designed so the dog can pull a wheelchair and also provide support to the handler while entering and exiting a wheelchair. They are padded and have reinforced plates inside to provide maximum support and comfort for the dog. A dog’s pulling strength comes from the middle of the chest, and these harnesses are designed to provide maximum padding in that area and avoid strain on the neck which would result from pulling a wheelchair with a normal dog collar. They also usually feature top handles and attachments for badges and other accessories.

k9 harness and leash

mobility-harnessMobility Harnesses

Top quality mobility harnesses are usually very constructed with tough and durable leather and padded on the inside with sheepskin or another soft material to ensure maximum comfort for your dog. Mobility harnesses are generally made for “light duty” or for “heavy duty”, with heavy duty models being more robust and capable of supporting greater weight than light duty models. They also usually have places to attach service dog badges and other forms of identification.

These harnesses have rigid bracing and support structures for maximum stability so the harness doesn’t slip or slide along the dog’s body. However, they also aim to be lightweight and comfortable for the dog to wear for extended periods, and easy to put on and remove. Some more expensive brands are custom fitted for your canine.


attachable-bridge-handlesAttachable Bridge Handles

These handles can attach to a standard harness to allow it to be used for mobility assistance and guide dogs. An attachable handle can allow you to convert your existing dog harness into a guide harness, but won’t be as sturdy as a dedicated mobility harness.


service-dog-in-training-harnessTraining Harnesses

A simple training harness or cape is a light-weight option that makes a service dog-in-training easy to identify. They are usually constructed of nylon and also help to teach an animal to become accustomed to wearing its “working uniform”.


high-visibility-dog-vestReflective and High-Visibility Vests

Most of the different styles of service dog harnesses can also be purchased as separate models with reflective material attached for maximum visibility, especially at night or in dimly-lit rooms.

service dog vest


saddle-bagsSaddle Bags

So-called dog “saddle bags” are two accessory compartments on either side of the harness which can be used to store medicine or dog accessories such as toys or training treats. Saddle bags have sturdy straps to support the weight of the items being carried, are padded on the inside for the animal’s comfort and are usually constructed from waterproof materials for use in all weather conditions.


dog-collar-lightLED Lights

LED lights, whether blinking or static, allow an assistance dog to be easily seen at all times while in public. They can also be a lifesaving accessory for your dog. These allow you and everyone else close by to always see where you dog is and potential prevent him or her from coming to harm at night.


service-dog-badgeBadges and Labels

These come in various sizes, shapes and colors, and have different kinds of labels such as “Service Dog” or “Working Animal – Do Not Pet”. Most come with velcro backs or some other means to attach them to a harness or vest.


service-dog-idID and Certificates

Like badges and labels, service dog ID and paperwork comes in many different styles and with different text options (typically your name, your dog’s name, your address and your phone number), but all aim to inform members of the public that your animal is a working assistance dog and not a pet.


Of course, price tag, reviews, and the reputation of the manufacturer all matter when trying to choose the right harness. The best service dog harness and vest manufacturers will likely stand behind their products and assist you in choosing the best one to suit your needs, and will answer your questions and help you to choose the right product.

We recommended looking for top-quality hand-made harnesses and vests that will undoubtedly be stronger, sturdier and more reliable than cheap imported models. It’s definitely worth spending the extra money and choosing a good quality durable harness that will last you for many years.


service dog supplies

Please Note:

A service dog is an animal that has been trained to perform specific tasks and jobs for its handler. These dogs are protected under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are legally allowed free access to all public places in the US.

A therapy dog is a dog that provides support and love to people in hospitals, special needs schools, nursing homes and on military bases. These dogs do not have the free access to public places in the US and there is currently no federal law  protecting them in the US.

An emotional support dog is a dog that provides love and support to its hander while he or she is suffering from a mental disorder such as depression or severe anxiety. These animals are provided to only individuals at the written request of a licensed medical professional, and don’t have the public access rights that service dogs do. However, they do get free access to all apartment buildings and airlines in the US.

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