I got sick of the so called “best” harness recommendations for german shepherds online – they’re trash I’m sorry.
I knew you guys deserved an accurate list of stuff that’s actually been tested on a German Shepherd, who’s tested some of the biggest names on the market, and has adequate knowledge to give a decent recommendation. Not just fluff that receives “good reviews” on amazon – because did you know you can buy those reviews in bulk? Oh yeah.
I figured I’d give you a proper list of recommendations for german shepherds and then a few I would never recommend for the breed (which you might see on some other lists…) as a german shepherd owner, and a professional dog trainer.
Harnesses are definitely a good idea, and when compared to a collar, they’re the better choice as they protect your dog’s throat (specifically the trachea). The best harnesses tend to be a y-shape, meaning they go over the dog’s shoulders, join at the breast bone and down the chest, creating a y-shape.
So let’s take a quick look at how I came to my top picks for your dog.
(P.s. These also work for most big dogs!)
How these were tested
I test all of these on my own german shepherd, he’s 90lbs, and given I know his stride and his comfort levels, I can pretty quickly tell when he is or isn’t comfortable. They’ve all been tested through: Hiking, walks
I also work with a lot of large breed dogs (primarily German Shepherds!) and find that they have a lot of similar needs, which allows me to really quickly isolate which sorts of harnesses are going to do the best job for this magnificent breed of dog.
Features to look out for
High Strength & Quality.
- Steel Attachment points Ideally we’re looking for D ring or sometimes v ring is really important as that is your point of connection (i.e. back clip or chest clip usually). For this list, I’m only selecting harnesses that have Steel, Stainless Steel or Forged steel attachment points as their primary leash attachment point.
- Quick-release buckles are always preferred. This means (simply put) that the harness does not have to tighten to release the dog. The most common items used are cobra clips and plastic pinch clips.
- Stitching. High quality harnesses need high quality stitching. Durable materials all by themselves are not enough. A harness must be held together! And stitching is always a part of that. I’ve actually looked into all of these and how strong the stitching is, to give you the best insight into which of these are actually a good harness and which are actually … just hype
- Strap Width. the nylon webbing for these dogs should always be a wider strap. Wide straps allow for a less impactful, or a more evenly distributed pressure. For comparison, think about if you were to crash your car, would you prefer to be held in by a strap that’s 3 inches wide, or a cord of equal strength? Instinctively we know that that cord is going to hurt more. So when were dealing with large dogs and strong dogs, you can absolutely
- Strap Strength. Strong nylon is absolutely required (or sometimes Biothane, or a leather harness too), and is not negotiable when it comes to large breeds, and contrary to logic perhaps, it’s often the case that not all nylon is of the same quality.
- Front clip This one is very much an item of personal preference. These can be referred to as no pull harnesses, and give better control for when a dog pulls or lunges (e.g. if you’re struggling with reactivity), and helps you contain them to the best of your ability.
- Handles. I’m not a huge fan of handles, I don’t see the necessity, but, if you like them, then you’ll also be able to see which of these best dog harnesses have a handle on the back of the harness. Personally I’d always suggest you opt for one that runs with your dogs spine, and not across it.
Sizing & Comfort
- Weight. All these harnesses weigh different amounts, and whilst your german shepherd is a big, strong dog, some of these harnesses weigh over 10 times that of others, and if your dog is young, or old, you may choose to go for something lighter as your best option.
- Adjustability. Adjustable straps are a must! To achieve the perfect fit, the right harness must have to ability to mould and shape to your dog’s unique size. Different harnesses have different points of adjustment. I.e. some are only adjustable around the girth, and others are adjustable around the neck, down the chest, down the back and around the girth. These are pretty important to make them of a proper fit for your dog to ensure safety.
- Harness Length. If you have a dog who tends to be an escape artist, you may elect for a longer harness on their body which includes a tummy strap.. Or, if you’re looking for a harness they will be running in a lot, you may elect to go for a “long body” harness, which simply means it gives their shoulder a wider range of motion.
- Full Range of Movement. You might be surprised to know that some harnesses do compromise the range of motion your dog can do. And, as we want to make the best choice for our dogs, I know we’re not going to want to include those, because even casual walks need a full range of motion
- Additional Features, from reflective material to handles, paddingand breathable mesh, MOLLE systems, and coming in different colors, all of this has been assessed! I will warn you though, because German Shepherds are kind of deemed a military/police breed, people assume we don’t want cool colors and that we’ll live with black and gray… which is kind of sad! Usually the really strong harnesses just don’t come in the biggest range of colors.
Best German Shepherd Harnesses
Best Overall: Perfect Fit
Best Tactical: Ray Allen Nomad IHS
Best Affordable Tactical: One Tigris Metall k9
Best Lightweight: Ruffwear Front Range
Best For Hiking: Modern Icon Tracking Harness
Best Harness With A Handle: Ray Allen Guardian Harness
The perfect fit harness is a modular harness, purchased in three parts. It can be confusing to fit, but of all the harnesses we've tried, this has the best hardware and overall fit for it's price bracket.
It's quite minimalistic in it's style, comprising of nylon straps, pinch clips, some fleece lining and stainless steel D-rings.
Indie and I tested this harness pretty thoroughly, and even now, it's very much our "Go To" harness for pretty much any occasion. It seen Indie through much of his reactivity, and it didn't even drop a stitch.
In all honesty, this is the most practical, strong harness I've ever tried.
- Wide Nylon
- NOT overhead only
- Two Connection points (Chest & back)
- Stainless Steel D-ring
- Difficult to size initially
Ray Allen are one of my favourite dog brands. They definitely specialise in larger dogs, which means for my trio, they're a wonderful brand.
The IHS (Interchangeable Harness System) is not only a phenomenal choice at what it is, but this is more than just that, it's a system. Built to adjust to whatever you need it to, whether it's a hike, protection work, or a casual walk around the park.
This is a seriously expensive harness, but if you can stretch to it? This harness is warranted and if you respect it? There's no reason this should last less than a lifetime.
- Steel Attachments
- High quality
The metall k9 is a solid harness with some wonderfully durable materials for the price. It doesn't inhibit movement at all, and holds up well to all sorts of walks and exercises.
It's not as strong as some, but overall it's perfectly adequate and offers everything I'd like to see from a tactical harness, the one thing it doesn't really thrive on is longevity. It frays a little and catches on thorns and things, but it doesn't make it unusable!
- Steel Attachments
- High quality
The Ruffwear Front Range is kind of my basic harness that works for almost every dog.
We used this harness all through Indie's reactivity, so I can totally believe that it's strong enough to handle a german shepherd at their best and their worst.
- Not ideal materials.
I love the extra length on this harness, and it makes it a wonderful choice if you're hiking. The harness itself is incredibly strong, it uses velcro to turn the main frame into a perfectly fitted cage around your dog. The handle is strong and sturdy, and the forged steel V rings scream quality.
Personally? I love this harness and use it for pretty much everything.
Use Code REMARKABLE for a 5% discount!!
- Highly adjustable
- Light weight material to support the heavier frame
I love this, it really surprised me because the pictures online don't do it justice. This harness may not have a whole bunch of features, but what it offers is quality and flexibility.
It's adjustable along the chest, neck and girth which is wonderful when you have barrel-chested dogs like I do.
The handle? Is a wonderful addition too because it feels fully integrated into the harness, not just like a tick box exercise. With really rugged metal attachments - except for a plastic cobra-style buckle - the guardian harness is a phenomenal choice.
- no reflectors
Other Awesome Choices
This harness was a delight to test. It's sturdy and strong, the fixtures and fittings are really high quality and the price point is wonderful too. The light padding gives a snug fit without it seeming bulky, and the extra security of cobra style clips makes this harness one of my favourites for sure.
I was totally unexpecting of this harness, in all honesty.
Whilst it’s incredibly simple, the nylon is the softest I’ve felt, whilst not compromising strength, it’s pure quality.
Handmade in Italy, these harnesses can fit pretty much any dog and provide comfort and inhibited movement – no matter how oddly shaped.
Personally, I love how light this harness is. It’s bright, it’s reflective trim is phenomenal, it feels tight and secure, and do you see the space it provides around the arms? Gosh, I’m really impressed with this harness.
This harness is very strong, despite having slim straps (which aren't my favourite for large breeds), it is very solidly made which makes me happy.
I love the fact that it's simple, I love the fact that blue-9 focus on the strength behind the harness as opposed to fancy designs or bright colors.
I’ve been using this harness for quite a while, and it’s a great, reliable harness that is a valuable long body harness (no escape!).
It’s not as well finished as the flagline, but it’s still a great quality harness in it’s own right. Though, there’s no instance (in my mind) where it would be beneficial to have this over the flagline.
7 Harnesses I Do Not Recommend For The German Shepherd Dog
The chest strap made famous by the Julius k9 harness is just a no. Whilst they're really quick and easy to put on, they aren't the best for your dog's mobility, and worse? They're really easy to slip.
Which in total makes it a big no-no from me.
The Rabbitgoo tactical is not the worst tactical harness on the market, but to me, this one isn't made strongly enough for me to openly recommend it for german shepherd parents.
Both affordable and better quality than others in the same price bracket, this harness seems to be better constructed and offers all the same features as others in this category. But, weirdly, our one? Wasn't symetrical at all - which was weird. The stitching isn't the best either and the fixtures are pretty low quality aluminium which isn't all that strong.
A fiddly design with a lot going on. And there’s a lot of … excess stuff?
This harness is pretty basic, it's low production value, and it's not a harness I have a lot of trust in. It has a MOLLE system, which apparently makes it a tactical harness, however it just doesn't make any of the other grades as far as I'm concerned.
Affordably produced, these harnesses don’t necessarily fit the best for any of my dogs, They do come in a wide range of colours and it has good reflective trim.
The hardware is not that strong and even the stitching isn’t done with strength in mind.
All in all though? What this harness does well is it’s different sizes and cost effectiveness, so if you're looking for a puppy and need a harness you're happy for them to grow out of in a few weeks? This may just work.
I've received emails from others agreeing with me on my disparaging review of the Icefang harness. It's not that strong. It is marketed as a tactical harness, but it's not been made equally to other tactical harnesses.
I also find this one really limits movement because of how far down the shoulder it goes.
How Do I Get The Right Fit?
The right size comes from taking appropriate measurements. A soft tape measure around your dog’s neck and chest will do the majority of this, but longer form harnesses that go further down the rib cage or tummy, may require you to make additional measurements when you compare it to the brand’s sizing charts.
If you want help seeing if your current harness is at it’s best fit, check out how to fit your dogs harness!
Does “Tactical” Make A Difference?
Believe it or not, not necessarily. The only standard I can see that makes a harness branded tactical or not is whether it has MOLLE system functionality – which does not constitute a tactical harness to my mind, or likely the mind of the average consumer. If you want my full rank of best tactical dog harness then head over to that piece! There’s a few that overlap, but I do warn you the truly heavy duty harnesses with high-quality materials tend to be quite pricey. There are some mid-range ones, but just make sure that they’re not compromising the safety features and high-quality harness build that has made tactical harnesses famous over the years.
But if you are looking for an awesome Tactical harness, head to Best Tactical Dog Harnesses.
Do Harnesses Make German Shepherds Pull?
Nope! There are some specific pull dog harnesses that assist in dogs pulling, there are also a harnesses labelled as a “no pull dog harness”, this typically just means that they have a front attachment point. Because let’s remind ourselves, gear doesn’t make our dogs pull, we allow it.
The only way to stop your dog from pulling? Is to teach them.
German Shepherds have high intelligence and are a powerful dog. Whilst the latter can make your daily walk tough, it doesn’t have to. All you need is the right approach to make the most of that awesome brain of theirs and remember that a secure harness is never intended to teach, it’s just there to keep them safe. If you want to teach your german shepherd to walk on a loose leash, pick one of these awesome harnesses and sign up for Loose Leash Challenge.
Harnesses Are A Secure And Fantastic Part Of Our Dog’s Lives
Teaching our dogs to be comfortable on a harness is not only really practical, but it’s also really important. So, if you’re struggling with your dog’s on leash behavior, don’t feel like you need to escalate to different equipment. Instead try taking it back a step. Pick a good harness, and practice in a low distraction environment. It’s totally doable, I promise!
And if you’re looking for a harness for medium-sized dogs, or small dogs, then try the full Best harnesses list!
Need help? Book In!
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!