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Leaving a Harness on Your Dog All Day: Is It a Good Idea?

By Aviram K.
December 21, 2021
5 min read
Leaving a Harness on Your Dog All Day: Is It a Good Idea?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Harnesses are one of the many tools dog owners frequently use for their pups, and you might find it a lot more comfortable than a collar.

From quickly picking up or grabbing your pup to not worrying about a collar choking them, harnesses have quickly found their way into homes worldwide.

With the convenience that harnesses grant you, there comes the question of whether or not dogs can wear one all day. Well, can they?

Although harnesses were designed for long periods of wear, it is not advised to leave a harness on your dog all day unless you absolutely have to. Harnesses can cause sores and skin irritation, discomfort, and sometimes pain.

For that reason, you must follow safety guidelines if you plan on leaving the harness on all day.

In this article, I will go into more depth into how long your dog should wear a harness and why it’s not the best idea to leave a harness on all day long.

But, if you happen to have a dog that needs a harness for a long period, I will disclose the best safety guidelines to follow to ensure your pup is happy, healthy, and comfortable.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents
01
How Long Should Dogs Wear a Harness?
02
Why You Shouldn’t Leave the Harness on Your Dog 24/7
03
If You Choose to Leave the Harness On, Use These Guidelines

How Long Should Dogs Wear a Harness?

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Generally speaking, harnesses are intended for dogs to wear while walking or being outdoors rather than just lounging around the house!

Officially companies state that harnesses can be worn 24 hours, but this is not advisable.

Originally created for sled dogs for pulling, harnesses were repurposed as a dog walking tool once owners began to realize their benefits in day-to-day use. With this newfound use, harnesses began to change in a few varieties:

  • Back-clip harness
  • Front-clip harness
  • Dual-clip harness
  • Step-in harness
  • Safety harness
  • Day-pack harness

The different types of harnesses have different comfortable wear times.

Day-pack harnesses feature two little carry pockets on either side. They are only intended for outdoor hiking use so that your dog can carry their own belongings!

Back-clip, front-clip, and dual-clip harnesses are also intended for only outdoor use.

Front clips can put pressure on the dog’s chest when not in use and would not be comfortable for long wear, while the harnesses with back clips can be used for longer periods.

Step-in harnesses are also more comfortable as they do not feature a clip in the front.

A safety harness is often used to buckle the dog into your car on road trips but can be used for walking. These would be the most comfortable for longer wear due to the padding and coverage.

Service Dog and Working Dog Harnesses

Service and working dogs tend to use a specialized harness (a vest), which has different rules for harness wear duration.

These dogs can be in their harnesses for prolonged periods and are usually adjusted for the dog’s comfort.

Service dog harnesses are used to indicate to both the dog and any human passersby that it’s work time, to help an owner with mobility if the dog is a mobility aid, and to carry any necessary belongings for the dog.

Working dogs, such as police K9s or personal protection dogs, may also wear a harness for similar reasons to a service dog. These dogs tend to be large in stature and use a comfortable harness intended for long periods of wear time. The harnesses can be grabbed by the handler and help to control the dog.

Why You Shouldn’t Leave the Harness on Your Dog 24/7

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Just because companies state that you _can _leave harnesses on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, doesn’t mean you should!

There are a few big reasons why prolonged wearing of a harness is a bad idea.

Skin Irritation and Infections

Think of it this way, leaving a pair of jeans on against skin without taking them off for days would cause some chafing and irritation, would it not?

For dogs, this can be even more the case with a harness.

Wearing a harness for too long can cause your dog’s skin to become irritated and inflamed, especially in dogs with more sensitive skin.

If the harness happens to get wet, whether it be a water bowl spilling or the dog got caught under some rain, that can lead to skin infections.

The fabric that harnesses tend to be constructed from can hold moisture for long periods. This created a breeding ground for skin infections, such as yeast infections.

As well, harnesses can be itchy. If dogs start to scratch and itch, the opening of skin can be a breeding ground for various bacteria. Thus, leading to infections!

Soreness

Ill-fitting harnesses or those on the tighter side can lead to soreness, especially under your dog’s armpits.

If you watch how your dog lays down, you can see just where the harness begins to push up (because most harnesses are on the stiffer side) and can imagine the soreness that takes place over time.

Matted Fur and Fur Loss

Going hand in hand with the chaffing is fur loss and matting.

Repeatedly rubbing the same spot will cause the fur to come out, and it may not grow back.

This phenomenon is called frictional alopecia, and it’s especially something of concern for those that own show dogs in which the coat quality is essential.

For longer-haired dogs, the matting is also caused by wearing a harness for too long.

Matting is a term that refers to the dense tangles and knots that can appear in your dog’s coat. These mats can be very painful for dogs, leading to bruising if not brushed out.

Severe matting can even cut off circulation and require veterinary assistance!

Movement Restriction and Permanent Damage

No-pull harnesses only work because one of the harness straps goes across your dog’s shoulder blades. This restricts movement and changes the dog’s gait.

This shoulder constriction can cause uncomfortable movement restriction and permanent damage when left on for too long!

It’s similar to a human having part of their body, like their shoulder, bound for extended periods, leading to the bound body part never returning to normal. As a result, muscles begin to form improperly around that area, and the dog can be left with a bad gait.

Choking Hazard

If you think your dog can’t reach the harness with their mouth, you are thoroughly mistaken!

It is more of a problem with younger dogs than with older ones; dogs can get a hold of harnesses and begin chewing them. This presents a genuine choking hazard.

As well, if your dog is wearing a harness unsupervised in your home, they could get the harness caught on something and become stuck.

Dogs in panic tend to flail, and the harness could twist and turn on the dog and choke them if trapped on something.

If You Choose to Leave the Harness On, Use These Guidelines

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There are some pros to leaving a harness on in the home.

For example, if you have a rambunctious puppy under your ample supervision, a harness can make it much easier to grab them if the puppy is causing some trouble or getting into something.

Dogs with shorter necks like pugs can struggle to wear a collar with an ID tag, so a harness can be a great solution.

So, if you find that your dog does need to wear the harness for extended periods, here are some guidelines to help you do so safely.

  • Make sure the harness fits well. An ill-fitting harness can cause lots of discomfort and potential pain. You want to ensure that the harness isn’t so tight that your dog is constricted but not loose enough to fall off. Watch how your dog walks in the harness to make sure the shoulders and lower abdomen are not squeezed too tight. A golden rule is to keep the back of the harness about three inches behind the dog’s front legs.
  • Avoid front strap harnesses (no-pull harnesses) and harnesses that clip in the front. Instead, look for padded harnesses.
  • Make sure to frequently check the skin for sores, irritation, or hair loss due to rubbing.
  • Feel the harness periodically to ensure it is not wet. Leaving a wet harness on leads to skin infections.
  • Clean the harness frequently; make sure to disinfect it! Have more than one harness so you can alternate.
  • When it’s bedtime, or you aren’t home, remove the harness. A harness should not be left on the dog unsupervised.

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