How to measure your dog for a harness

I thought I’d write this blog to help those who struggle with measuring for a new harness for their dog. Measuring your dog might sound easy, but the reality is that many manufacturers use different measurements to make themselves unique and dogs will inevitably move around a lot when you are trying to take measurements, making it hard for you to get it accurate.

A few of the important things to look for in the perfect harness

A few of the important things to look for in the perfect harness

My top 3 tips are:

1 – Get a soft tape measure or long piece of string, there is no point trying to fold a more rigid tape measure around your dog in the hope you will be able to guess correctly.

2 – Measure at least 3 times on different occasions, this will ensure you get a true picture of the measurements and allow you to pick an average if all your measurements are different.

3 – Get someone to help you keep your dog as still as possible, you might want to do this using bribes or just having an extra pair of hands to keep your dog in a standing position will make your life easier.

Where to measure:

Neck: This is the most important bit and the measurement people get the most wrong! For Non-stop, Howling Dog Alaska, Zima, Manmat and in fact most other harnesses, except the Zero DC harnesses, the measurement you need is from the breast bone on the front of the dog to the back of the neck, before the shoulder blades. This is the trickiest measurement to get right and so I recommend measuring one side of the neck and doubling it, as getting a tape to curve around and stay in place is nearly impossible.

You can see very clearly in this picture where the neck of the harness should sit - this is what you are trying to measure - Photo courtesy of Karen Richardson

You can see clearly in this picture where the neck of the harness should sit – this is what you are trying to measure – Photo courtesy of Karen Richardson

For the Zero DC harnesses, the measurement you need is the collar measurement and this should be easier to obtain than the breastbone to shoulders, as the collar area is smaller and you can even measure your dogs’ collar to get the fit. The other thing you may have to consider is if your dog has a particularly large head or broad shoulders then this will affect the size of harness you need and this is why the neck measurement is the most important one to get correct.

Ribs: In my opinion the easiest measurement to get, measure just behind the front legs of your dog at the widest part of the chest. Pull the tape snug but not digging in and make sure there is enough flex in the tape to accommodate the movement of the ribs when taking deep breaths.

The girth needs to be tight enough to stop the harness sliding around from side to side but again not restrict the dogs' ribs to allow them to breathe fully

The girth needs to be tight enough to stop the harness sliding around from side to side but again not restrict the dogs’ ribs to allow them to breathe fully

Length: This is usually the distance from the shoulder blades to base of tail, it can be easy to measure if your dog stands straight as in the picture above, or difficult if your dog wriggles around, as the tape needs to be as straight as possible to get the correct length! This distance is where you would expect the harness to sit behind the neck and if a long design, where the harness should ideally end.

There is another length measurement generally used for x-backs which runs from the breastbone, through the front legs and then up the side of the dog to the base of the tail. The only harness we sell which this applies to is the Zima x-backs.

This picture shows the measurement along the side of the dog for length in an x-back harness.

This picture shows the measurement along the side of the dog for length in an x-back harness.

Other measurements: The Non-stop Freemotion and Nansen Nome harnesses refer to a front strap measurement for their size guides. This is taken again from the breastbone to just behind the dogs’ front legs where the harness would sit on the dog and Non-stop recommend if your dog is particularly deep chested then you should go up a harness size based on this measurement.

Weight: Very often a weight is given as a guide too, this just gives an indication of the size and can be helpful if you’re struggling with the measurements, as most people can get an accurate weight from their dog at the vets or dog groomers.

Other considerations:

Coat, if your dog has a double layer coat then the size and shape of your dog may change through the seasons and this will affect how the harness will fit. You might find you measure in winter and your dog is a whole harness size larger than in the summer, when the under coat has been shed.

Breed –  Some breeds of dog will just find it hard to fit into standard sized harnesses and although many have adjustment in them, most will not have any adjustment on the neck, which may mean you need a custom made harness. We can get the Zero DC harnesses custom made, so if you need any help or advice contact us: info@k9trailtime.com

Case Study: I’m going to give you an example of the measurements of one of my dogs and the harnesses he fits in as a guide, he is a fairly lean collie cross but quite tall and weighs about 21 kgs (46 lbs)

Judo is a fairly standard size but even he doesn't quite match the size guides for some harnesses!

Judo is a fairly standard size but even he doesn’t quite match the size guides for some harnesses!

Judo 

Neck (base of neck, most used measurement) 18 inches 46 cms

Collar 15 inches 38 cms

Ribs 26 inches 66 cms

Length 25 inches 63.5 cms

X-back length 27 inches 68.5 cms

Front strap length 24 cms

Harnesses (a selection of our most popular)

Non-stop Freemotion – Size 6 – 25-32kg Neck opening 39-44cm Front strap 24cm Nb: Although the neck would appear too small and weight too big, I find he fits comfortably in the Size 6

Non-stop Nansen Nome – Size 6 25-32kg Neck opening 44-49cm Front strap 24cm (Inches 17.3-19.3 9.4) Nb: Although the weight is too big again, he fits this harness beautifully

Non-stop Half – Size 5 Neck opening 46cm  Ribs 65 – 80cm 20-26kg

Zero DC Short – S/M Neck 40 – 44 cms Chest 65 – 80 cms Back 45 – 55 cms Nb: Although neck would say too big and length too short, this fits perfectly

Zero DC Long – Medium:  Neck 39-43 cm, Chest 64-70 cm, Back 52-57 cm Nb: Although neck would say too big and length too short, this too fits perfectly

Howling Dog Alaska Tough Skin – Medium: Neck 19.5-20 inches (50 – 59 lbs.) All this would say it was too big but the small is too snug!

Manmat Shoulder Harness – Small: Neck 20 inches (approx) Again just on this neck size it would suggest too big but it’s fine

What this shows is that although you can measure very accurately – you still might need to exchange it for a different size! We have a very simple exchange policy at K9 Trail Time, if you need to exchange it, as long as it’s only been tried on we will exchange it for you. We would however, prefer to try and get it right first time, so if you need any help please do check out the measuring guides on the website: http://www.k9trailtime.com/information/measuring-guides and e-mail us with your dogs’ measurements for any additional help at info@k9trailtime.com

We are always happy to help fit your dogs' harness so you are completely happy with it, free of charge

We are always happy to help fit your dogs’ harness so you are completely happy with it, free of charge

 

 

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One comment on “How to measure your dog for a harness

  1. […] Ok, so you’ve decided to take the plunge (yay!!!!). The good news is that you don’t really need to buy much gear to get started and any investment will be well worth it as it will last you a very long time. There are a couple of companies I would recommend buying your kit from; K9 Trailtime (they sell a few different makes, including the popular Non Stop range) and Kisi. Just make sure you have checked the measurements for your dog to ensure you get the best fit for the harness. K9 Trailtime have a good write-up about this on their blog; https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/how-to-measure-your-dog-for-a-harness/ […]

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