9 Reasons on Why Does My Dog Hates His Harness?

why does my dog hates his harness

About the Author: Nettie Finley, the Professional Dog Trainer at MyPetDoggie. Specializing in behavior rehabilitation, Nettie leads our team with her effective training techniques. As a certified canine behaviorist, she brings transformative change to challenging behavior cases. Her experience and expertise elevate our content, providing practical, insightful training advice for our readers. Also, she loves her Cavapoo!

Wondering why does my dog hates his harness? Well, lucky for you, you are not the only one.

It’s not unlike dogs to hate their harness. People often struggle with dogs trying to put a harness on them. Even if you have bought one of the best harnesses for your dog out there, still your dog keeps running off, there can be several reasons behind it.

Typically, dogs are over the moon at the sight of their owners with a harness in their hand ready for an outdoor adventure, but some dogs don’t respond well and try their best to run or even hide. It is their way to send a message that he hates his harness and prefers not to wear it.

Your dog hate his harness because the harness is unfit for him, he had a negative experience or your dog feels restricted in it. Remember, instead of being frustrated with your dog’s behavior and forcing him to wear a harness, try your best to calmly and rationally treat him.

The best is to seek professional help to cope and understand your dog’s behavior. This post will help you figure out exactly why your dog hates his harness and how you can make your dog love it.

9 Reasons on Why Does My Dog Hates His Harness

harness (1)
A little dog wear harness while going in the park

Previous Negative Experience

Our experiences help to shape our personality. The same goes for dogs as well. Your dog might have had a previous negative experience. That’s why he’s always making a run whenever you are near with a harness. 

A rescue dog usually has past negative experiences with a harness. That’s why they hesitate before putting a harness on. So, it is important to recognize their fear and encourage them to put on the harness. 

But rescue dogs aren’t the only ones facing this problem. Sometimes, just simple things can trigger your dog and they develop a fear of not wearing. To help him cope with it, you have to spend some time and work on their fear. 

Restriction of Movement

 Another reason why a dog might hate his harness is that he feels that a harness has restricted their movement and confided their mobility. 

They see harnesses as a way to restrict their comfort zone. Some dogs just freeze and refuse to move. Even though you have invested in one of the best harnesses, your dog might still feel restricted in their harness. 

Fit Issue

Everyone wants their clothes comfortable with proper fittings. Likewise, dogs want their harness comfy and with proper fit. If the harness is too tight for your dog, it may cause breathing problems for the dog. If it’s too loose dogs can stumble over or escape easily. Consult the sizing chart and go for the best according to the size of your dog’s chest and neck. 

Remember, the harness should not have too tight fitting or too loose. It should be well-built and strong enough to provide a comfy outdoor adventure. 

Fear and Anxiety

It can be a terrible situation for anyone when someone wants to put a restriction on you and limit your access. Some dogs feel that way too. Your dog might feel that the harness is going to hurt him. That’s why dogs hate harnesses and run away because they have fear or anxiety.

Lack of Positive Associations

Unlike humans, dogs don’t possess the ability to remember, but that doesn’t mean they can’t recall a moment at all. They have their special way of remembering joyful or traumatic experiences such as developing either a negative or positive association with the harness according to their past experiences.

So, it’s important that your dog develops a good association with the harness and jumps at the sight of the harness. They should have the feeling of an outdoor adventure, but sadly not all dogs feel the same way.   

If your dog was frightened or hurt by wearing a harness or had been attracted by some pack of dogs, he may develop a negative association with a harness. He wants to run the next time you try to put on a harness or just he tries to avoid having the same experience.

Sensitivity to Touch

Dogs have different natures. Some dogs loved being embraced while some just avoided being touched. The key is to keep an eye on his behavior and observe whether or not he likes the harness.

Also, your dog might hate the harness because he has some physical health issues and it causes a great deal of pain to put on. Always go for a harness made of nylon or leather as these materials are easy to clean and comfortable for the dogs with any physical difficulty. 

Lack of habituation

Lack of habituation is another important factor in why a dog hates his harness. Introducing a harness for your dog can prove very helpful in preventing him from escaping, but it is important to have a routine with a harness.

Make a daily practice to put a harness on your dog whenever he’s out otherwise lack of habituation can lead him to avoid the harness or he may even develop an unfamiliar sensation while wearing it. Make sure to combine this daily practice with fun activities otherwise a dull or boring routine can make your dog hate his harness. 

Loves to Stay at Home

Usually, we consider that talking dogs out along with us, even just to go and have a chat with your next-door neighbor, is one of the best times for the dog in a whole day. But not all dogs feel the same way.

Like humans, some dogs are just introverted and loves to stay and have fun at home. In their head, a harness means to have an outdoor adventure which they try their best to avoid. That’s why they create a fuss as soon as they see their owner with a harness. Sometimes a health problem can make them stay home. In such cases, it is best to seek professional help. 

 Harness Material

Many dogs might have allergic reactions to materials that have been used to make harnesses. Usually, harnesses are made up of leather or nylon which can cause allergic reactions in your dogs. Even the chemical dyes can cause rashes on your dog. 

However, there are some ways to check whether your dog is allergic or not. For instance, see the areas where the harness has touched the skin. Don’t forget, there are good chances that other areas of the body can also show some symptoms.

These signs commonly include excessive loss of hair in one particular area, small bumps on the skin, or excessive licking of a particular area that has the potential to lead to more damage to your dog. The best way to overcome allergic reactions is to talk to a vet as they will professionally deal with the condition.

How To Get Your Dog To Love Their Harness?

With time, trust, and practice you can make your dog love their harness. Several ways can help your dog to make a positive association with the harness.

new harness
A dog wears a beautiful harness while going for walking

Choose a Comfortable Harness:

A harness can provide a more pleasing experience for your dog, unlike collars which can bring annoyance and discomfort. Harnesses are available in a vast range of materials which includes breathable mesh and padded options to make them satisfactory for all kinds of weather conditions.

Moreover, harnesses are available in different styles for the comfort of your dogs like vests, front clip options, and step-ins.

 So mostly it is appreciated if you chose a harness made of cotton weave, which is a natural fiber and is soft. It is flexible and your dog will move comfortably. As dogs come in different sizes for the sake of your dog’s comfort you should choose a fully adjustable harness.

Design is fundamental too. For the dogs to have free shoulder movement the design of the harness should allow them to run, walk, and play freely without any kind of restriction. Lastly, a harness should be of such a design that it is easily put off and on in any case of an emergency. 

Positive Associations 

Positive associations with the harness can be made by different methods such as rewarding them with treats whenever they show interest towards the harness. Forcing them to wear it or doing it harshly can have negative effects so it is advised to be patient and take baby steps. 

Firstly, introduce the harness to them, let them play with it, sniff it, and explore it so they can become familiar with it.

Secondly, If they are comfortable with the idea of a harness then make them wear it and make sure it’s not too tight as this can create a sense of panic and anxiety in them. They might start considering it as an evil object.

Be patient with them. Lastly, praise and reward them each time you put their harness on as they will get comfortable and relate the harness with positive reinforcement.  


By desensitizing, it is meant to let your dog get used to new things and help them overcome their fears and phobias. It is a great way to get your dog used to a harness. Once you have put on a harness, you should leave your dog to wander in your house garden or any other play area.

This will help the dog to get used to the feel or sensation of having a harness on them. They won’t associate it with fear. Usually for this kind of activity a particular time of 2 to 3 minutes is decided but it can also depend on the nature or mood of your dog. 

Scent familiarity 

Dogs connect scent with familiarity. So using a particular harness can create a sense of familiarity to the dog as it is imbued with the dog’s scent. It can provide a soothing and noticeable aroma. 

This scent-linked familiarity can reduce anxiety in dogs while outing as they feel secure and comfortable with the harness.

This can help them to be more adventurous and happy. The dog can have a strong bond not just with the harness but with the owner and the outside world. A well-worn harness can provide a sense of assurance to the dog. They can move freely and cheerfully. And they might look forward to wearing it daily. 

Touch familiarity 

Touch familiarity with a dog’s harness is paramount. The contact and pressure of the harness frequently can establish a solid connection with the dog; improving their comfort and trust in the harness. They start relating the harness with adventurous walks and fun times. 

The dog’s sensitivity to touch allows them to relate the harness with effective experiences and the presence of their owner, enhancing their comfort and trust. This can increase the interest of your dog in outdoor activities as they might be eager to engage in practical activities.

Which can be helpful in reducing their apprehensions and trepidations towards the harness. The harness’s touch then becomes like a bridge, which links the dog’s notion of safety and the happiness of traversing through the soothing embrace of physical contact. 

Harness as a Game: 

Changing the harness into a game can make wearing it an exciting experience for your dog. Initiate by dispensing the harness and pursuing them to sniff it by using positive tones Swing the harness and encourage them to play with it. This will create a comfortable environment for them.

When they’re captivated with the harness, put it on them. Now if the dog is comfortable then start a fun game like fetching or tug of war. Increase the harness-wearing time during play sessions and reward your dog with treats. This cheerful approach transforms the harness into a game, relating it to fun and joy.

Short introductions: 

Short introductions play a prime role in making a dog love their harness. Suddenly putting a harness on a dog without a heads up will make the dog run away and start fearing the said object. A proper introduction is fundamental. The dog should be allowed to investigate it, sniff it, explore it, and play with it for the time being. 

You should gently place it on the dog and reward them with treats, praises, and kind comments so they can start associating it with a positive experience. Increase the duration of time of wearing a harness so the dog can get used to the feeling but ensure the dog’s comfort.

Through all these positive associations the dog will consider the harness as a normal part of their routine and feel secure and get attached to the familiarity of wearing a harness daily. 

Positive Reinforcements: 

To create a positive association of a dog with a harness; use positive reinforcements. If they wear it obediently then praise them, treat them, and appreciate them as the dog will look forward to wearing it again. Because they will be eager to be rewarded again. They will consider wearing a harness as they know their owner will be satisfied and will treat them on wearing it.

 This behavior will allow the dog to associate the harness with pleasant experiences and they will be enthusiastic about wearing it daily. Use toys, verbal encouragements, pats, treats, praises, and kind comments as a source of positive reinforcements. Over time, your dog will relate the harness with fun outings, making it more comfortable and attached to it. 

Play and distractions: 

By including play and distractions you can make your dog comfortable in wearing a harness, introduce the harness in a playful manner, as told earlier; and swing it in front of your dogs playfully. Allow them to touch it so that it can pick their interest. Let them play with it.

 They might find it exciting and will be content to wear it. Reward them with treats to make it an exciting experience for them. Increase their playtime and give them different toys to play with. Initiate little distractions like throwing a ball and commanding them to get it while weaning their harness.

So with the help of play and distractions, your dog will get used to wearing the harness and relating it with an amazing activity. This will increase their association and happiness with the idea of wearing a harness daily. 

Outdoor exploration: 

First, get your dog used to wearing a harness indoors. As explained earlier, through different activities and fun activities, make your dog get comfortable with the idea of weaning a harness indoors. Once they are comfortable, take them outside for a walk. Allow them to lead and explore the surroundings with a harness on as this will provide a safe and secure exploration. 

This activity will create a strong bond between you and your dog. Slowly introduce to them new places and environments. Let them find comfort in these places. This outdoor exploration will create a positive bond of the dog with harness, wandering, exploring, and finding new sights and scents.

Don’t forget to reward your dog with treats and praise as this will make them more happy and cheerful and they might get comfortable with the idea of exploring the outside environment. 


Patience is the key. A dog can show resistance and annoyance while wearing a harness. For a positive experience with your dog, start by putting the harness nearby on the floor and allowing them to approach and sniff it at their own pace. Let them handle it with curiosity. Give calm and gentle appreciation without forcing them or rushing the process. 

Cautiously, pursue them to hold the harness close to their body. But if they show resistance then don’t force them. Take a little break and try again later after some time. As told earlier, ensure that the harness is comfortable and of the right size, so when you are making your dog wear it they don’t find any discomfort regarding the harness.

This whole process might take time but it will be worth it in the end. Over time, your dog will associate the harness with comfort, trust, and patience and wear it without showing any fear or anxiety. 

Avoid Negative Associations: 

Being patient requires being positive. But if you are impatient and scold or force your dog to wear a harness, they might start despising it. This will create a negative association with the harness for your dog. Always start by relating the harness with cheerful activities and walks, reinforcing the notion that wearing the harness leads to only positive experiences. 

Encouragement of good behavior and patience are the key to initiating a successful harness experience. If your dog shows any signs of distress then immediately stop and give them space.

Completely restrict any kind of forceful action. To avoid the negative association with the harness, make sure to reward your dog with treats and toys as it is crucial that they associate the harness with joy and comfort. 

Common Question:

Do dogs dislike harnesses?

It’s not unlike dogs to hate their harness. People often struggle with dogs trying to put a harness on them. Mainly dogs don’t like their harness because it has a poor fitting or the dog might have a negative association with the harness. However, it’s important not to be frustrated with your dog’s behavior

How long does it take for a dog to get used to a harness?      

It is always recommended to teach your dog to wear a harness at the younger stage. With older dogs, it might take a few days and patience to get them used to wearing a harness.

 Why does my dog grow at me when i put his harness on?

Your dog can express anger or even protest if you force your dog to wear a harness when he might not feel comfortable wearing one. This can also lead him to growl or even in the worst case, he may bite you. Try to approach him calmly and train him to wear one.

Why does my dog act weird with a harness on?

Usually, dogs act weird if the harness is not a proper fit for them or if they have any traumatic experience with the harness. In order to cope with this, have a training session with him.

Why does my dog run away when i put his harness on?  

Some dogs might show a positive response for the time being, but after a while, something triggers their fear. You might not be even aware of his fear. They have developed the fear of going out So they make a run even at the sight of a harness.

What kind of harness is best for dogs? 

It is recommended by professional trainers to go for a harness made of nylon or leather as these materials are easy to clean and comfortable for the dogs. One of the best options for a harness is a Back-Clip harness. It helps to distribute the weight of the body evenly.

Can harnesses be uncomfortable for dogs?

It is normally observed that dogs feel more comfortable and have easy harnesses on their outdoor adventure. But an important thing to remember is that a harness should have a good fit for the dog or otherwise it can cause a lot of trouble for the power.

Conclusion on Why Does My Dog Hates His Harness

Harnesses are very helpful in preventing your four-legged best friend from escaping into a dangerous or unsafe zone, but some dogs see a harness as a way to leave their comfort zone.

However, it can be troublesome if he hates it. So, try your very best to understand why your dog hates it in the first place.

Have short sessions and don’t force your dog as the comfort of your dog is the most important. Harness training takes a lot of time so again for the comfort of your dog you should be patient and work at your dog’s pace.

Make sure to consult a vet for professional advice. Keep a keen eye on his behavior and rationally and calmly train him to love the harness.

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