Harnesses are a great way to walk your dog, they prevent any strain around the neck and are a comfortable alternative to being walked on a regular collar. For service, therapy and other working dogs harnesses can be a valuable tool to attach important patches, badges and other equipment necessary for the dog's job. Unfortunately decent harnesses can run well over £30, particularly if they're for a working dog, and they usually come in a fixed set of colours and style.
This Instructable is for a low cost "patrol" style harness that can be customised to your heart's content with different webbing, patches, D rings and accessories. This style harness is also suitable for attaching light saddle bags for pet or service dogs, or for a training harness for dogs that pull.
If your dog pulls then a harness probably isn't the most suitable tool for walking them. Why not have a look at my tutorial for a martingale training collar, or a head halter. If you'd like a customised leash to go with your new harness, check out my leash tutorial here.
Step 1: Items Required
You will need:
- Appropriate thickness nylon webbing*
- Metal D rings** appropriate for the nylon width
- Buckle appropriate for the nylon width
- Triglide fastener appropriate for the nylon width
- Needle and thread OR sewing machine
- Fabric tape measure OR tape measure and string
- (Optional) Fleece or other padding material
- (Optional) Velcro
- (Optional) Decorative ribbon
* I recommend 1/2"-5/8" for small dogs, 1-1.5" for medium dogs and 2"+ for large dogs, strong pullers, or if you will be attaching saddle bags
** You will need at least 1 D ring, but the number depends on how many leash attachment points you want. I used 4; 1 front, one either side and one on the back.
Step 2: Measuring
Points to measure:
- A- is taken just behind the front legs, snugly around the entire chest circumference. Add a few inches to account for padding, stitching, and adjustability.
- B- is taken from just behind the front leg, around over the breastbone to just behind the front leg the other side. Add 1"+the width of your nylon to allow for stitching and any padding.
- C- is optional and depends if you want to add a belly strap that will go between the legs to connect the front strap and chest strap. Measure from the breastbone, between the legs to just behind the front legs where the chest strap will sit. If you want this strap to be adjustable, add at least 3". If you don't want it to be adjustable, then add 1" to allow for sewing and padding.
Step 3: The Chest Strap
Take your chest strap and cut to the size of A, remembering to burn the edges to prevent fraying.
The strap is made the same way as a collar, first of all remember to stitch on any decorative ribbon, padding or velcro and then add the hardware.
Tip: always add hardware with safety pins before sewing and carry out a test fit. Ensure you do at least 2-3 lines of stitches and use good quality thread to make sure that it can withstand any pulling.
- Thread one end over the middle of the triglide slider, fold it over and sew into place.
- Thread the loose end through the buckle, then back up through the triglide slider.
- Take the other end of the webbing and thread it through the other side of the buckle, sewing into place.
You should be left with what looks like a giant collar, make sure it can be easily adjusted.
Step 4: Front Strap and Assembly
- Place the chest strap around your dog and tighten it to the required size. Slide the buckle so it's underneath them, and mark on the webbing the points just above their shoulders where the front strap will join. From there measure and cut your front strap and pin it into place before you carry out a test fitting, adjust as needed.
- If you want a D ring on the front strap (perfect for training) then fold the front strap in half (image 2) and slide on a D ring. Then, sew a strip of webbing over the back of it securely to keep it in place. From there, sew on any padding that you want.
- Take your front strap and sew it onto the chest strap at the points you marked on there. If you want D rings on the side, then remember to slide the D rings into place before sewing (image 5).
- Tip: if your dog is growing still, don't stitch the front strap directly onto the chest strap. Instead, sew the ends down so that they form a tube around the chest strap and are able to freely slide around on it.
Now you're probably wondering where the back D ring is, and why we didn't attach it when we made the chest strap. It's easier to attach this now, as then the D ring will be facing the correct way and you can ensure that it is centered for your dog.
- Take a strip of webbing that is twice as long as the thickness of your chest strap webbing, then add 1/4" or so.
- Fold the webbing in half, slipping the D ring into the center and then stitching this onto the chest strap so that it is centered on your dog's body.
Step 5: Customisation and Finish!
The harness is now finished, fit it by slipping it over your dog's head and tightening the buckle under your dog's chest. It should fit snugly but comfortably and not rub anywhere.
Ideas to improve comfort and function:
- If it rubs at all, feel free to add fleece.
- If the chest strap slips down, or just for extra strength and comfort, you could add a strip of webbing diagonally across the top of the shoulder to connect the chest and front strap.
- Sew velcro across either the front strap or sides of the chest strap to connect patches.
- Create a short double ended leash that fits between the two side D rings to create a convenient, removable handle.
- Couple the front or back D ring with a head halter for training purposes. Haven't got a halter? Check out my tutorial here.
- Create a DIY collar and leash to match the decoration of your harness, if you used decorative ribbon.
- Attach saddlebags to the side D rings or by velcro.