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Can You Use a Retractable Leash With a Harness?

There’s a lot of controversy around retractable dog leashes, with some people claiming that retractable leashes are dangerous for dogs, but one of the most popular questions people ask about them is: “Can I use a retractable dog leash with a harness”?

The short answer to this question is, “Yes”, and the long answer is “Yes, but it also depends on what type of harness you’re using.”

This article will explain how to properly use a retractable leash with a dog harness, informing you about the pros and cons of using them together so that you can make up your own mind about whether or not this is a good idea for you and your dog.

Why Consider Using a Retractable Leash With a Harness?

The reason people want to use a retractable leash with a harness is the same reason that they want to use a retractable leash with a collar; retractable dog leashes are better than traditional leashes!

What makes them so much better than standard leash? The fact that a retractable dog leash makes walking simpler, easier, more convenient and more fun for both the dog and their owner!

There are many benefits to using a retractable leash, and if you want to look at those specifically, then be sure to view our post on the pros and cons of retractable dog leashes.

But when it comes to using a retractable leash with a dog harness, we need to look at one additional variable to determine whether or not a retractable will be best for you and your dog.

To decide if you should be using a retractable leash with a harness, the first question you should ask yourself is: what type of harness are you using?

Which Harnesses are Good for Retractable Leashes?

The “standard” dog harness, which has a clip ON TOP of the dog’s shoulder area, is the one you’ll want to use with a retractable leash.

This is because those harnesses don’t exert any real pressure on dogs, even when they’ll pulling, as it doesn’t make things too uncomfortable for them, but simply gives you better leverage over them than a traditional collar would, since your control point is closer to their sense of gravity.

These harnesses are also much less likely to hurt your dog than a collar, especially on a dog who pulls, because it doesn’t have the potential to pinch your dog’s threat, injuring their trachea or cutting off their airflow.

If you use a standard, traditional dog harness, which loops around their legs and then has it’s leash attachment on top of their back, near the shoulders, then you can use a retractable leash with it and you don’t have to worry about any major dangers.

Which Harnesses are Bad for Retractable Leashes?

Not all harnesses are good to use with retractable leashes.

In fact, if your harness has its leash attachment point IN FRONT of your dog (under their head and in front of their neck) then you will NOT want to use it with a retractable leash!

Why? Because these types of harnesses were created to make walking uncomfortable for a dog who pulls on their leash!

When a dog pulls on this type of harness, the harness pinches the dog’s shoulders together to give them an uncomfortable walking sensation.

This uncomfortable sensation teaches the dog to stop pulling, as giving up tension on the leash means the harness relaxes, and that uncomfortable sensation disappears, allowing the dog to walk free and easy, without any negative sensations.

Hooking up a retractable leash to this type of harness means that you’ll be putting constant tension on the front of harness, since the leash line for a retractable never goes slack.

So if you hook up a retractable leash to a harness meant to stop pulling, you’re basically forcing the dog to experience the negative sensation associated with pulling, even when they aren’t doing it!

Therefore, using a harness that has a front attachment point with a retractable leash is likely to give your dog an uncomfortable walk, which may make them even more likely to exhibit bad walking behavior.

I Have the Right Type of Harness – Which Retractable Leash Should I Use?

Assuming you have the standard-style harness with an attachment point on top, we definitely do recommend using a retractable dog leash, as there are so many benefits to them compared to traditional leashes.

Some people argue that retractable leashes are bad for dogs, but we disagree completely with than sentiment, as all of the potential “dangers” of retractable leashes can easily be minimized simply by paying attention to your dog during your walk, and using the leash properly.

However, one thing we do want to suggest is that you pick the RIGHT retractable leash, as getting a poorly made one COULD lead to dangerous walking conditions.

How to Pick the Right Retractable Leash

Here’s some pointers on how to pick the right retractable dog leash for your needs:

  1. Get a leash that’s rated properly for your dog’s weight. If you’re walking a 20 pound dog, then get a leash rated to 25-35 pounds (it’s always good to give yourself some wiggle room). If you’re walking a 125 pound dog, then get one rated from 135-150 pounds or so.
  2. Pick a leash made with durable parts, and a rugged, but comfortable handle. Look at what the handle is made of, consider it’s angle, and think about ergonomics. How do you prefer to hold your dog leash? Find one that looks like you’d ENJOY holding it during your walks.
  3. Get a leash that’s only as long as you really need. If you don’t plan on giving your dog more than 15 feet of walking distance, then don’t buy a 30+ foot length leash! If you’re only going to offer them 10 feet, get one in the 10-15 foot range.

For additional details, including a full breakdown on all of the elements you should consider when purchasing your next retractable, be sure to look at our Guide to the Best Retractable Dog Leashes.

Or, to make shopping much easier, simply buy your next retractable from Pet & Cuddle! Our top-rated retractable leashes offer a safe, comfortable and reliable walking experience, each and every time.

Shop Pet & Cuddle’s retractable dog leashes, dog collars and dog harnesses here!