The German Shepherd may be most well-known as a service dog and a faithful home protector. These dogs are very intelligent, are able to learn multiple skills, and do exceptionally well in agility competitions. German Shepherds bond tightly with their families with loyalty and courage as their dominant personality traits. They do best when living in close quarters with their people but do require a lot of exercise.
Standing just about 2 feet tall at the shoulder for both males and females, German Shepherds are not an exceptionally large breed though they can seem very imposing at the upper end of their averages. The average weight for a male is between 65 to 90 pounds and females around 50 to 70 pounds. They possess a lot of strength, so a strong, durable harness is necessary to make sure they don’t get away while out on a leash. Fortunately, they learn very quickly, and with appropriate training and obedience classes, they will make a great walking or running companion.
What are the Best Harnesses for German Shepherds?
- Best Overall: Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness
- Best Value Harness: Sporn Mesh No Pull Dog Harness
- Best No-Pull Harness: Frisco Padded Nylon No Pull Dog
- Best Front Clip Harness: PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness
- OneTigris Tactical Vest Nylon Front Clip Dog Harness
- Best Pet Supplies Voyager Black Trim Mesh Dog Harness
- Kurgo Journey Air Polyester Reflective No Pull Dog Harness
- Frisco Small Breed Soft Vest Step In Back Clip Dog Harness
- PetSafe Gentle Leader Nylon Dog Headcollar
- Mighty Paw Padded Sports Reflective No Pull Dog Harness
- Chai’s Choice 3M Polyester Reflective Front Clip Dog Harness
8 Different Types of Harnesses
- Back Clip – One of the most common types of harnesses, the back clip is usually found between the shoulder blades and allows for good control over their movement by evenly distributing the pressure across their body. Some back clips are two rings at the end of side straps that meet in the middle. This is for an extra closure layer to help with escape artists; others just have a ring attached directly to the harness.
- Car Safety – Harnesses with back clips are frequently listed as able to be used for car rides, and many will work fine to contain your dog, but if you take your dog in the car often you may want one that is specifically designed for the car. These should say they have passed a car safety test with the relevant crash data listed. There are third party groups that provide this testing for extra reliability. Some of these harnesses can be used for both walking and in the car, while others are designed to be left attached to the car.
- No Pull – German Shepherds have a lot of muscle, and if they want to go somewhere, you may be hard-pressed to stop them. A no-pull harness is a category of harnesses that focus on curbing their desire to pull by directing their bodies or heads towards you instead of forward. You will find the main kinds are front clip, front clip with a martingale loop, and a headcollar. Each has its merits, and finding the right one may take some experimenting.
- Front Clip – Harnesses that have a front clip are usually intended to help prevent pulling or jumping. Some may have a martingale loop as well that the ring is attached to that curbs pulling by gently squeezing the shoulder straps tighter together when they pull and releasing when the dog relaxes. These harnesses can be very helpful with a strong breed like the German Shepherd, but a front clip harness with an extra backstrap or loop to hold onto for greater control can be of even more help.
- Headcollar – Also referred to as gentle leaders, the headcollar harness type fits over the muzzle and behind the ears rather than around the torso. Rather than apply pressure to the throat, these harnesses apply the pressure to the stronger area in the back of the neck. They are primarily used to curb pulling, as when a dog pulls forward, the pressure instead gently turns their head down and towards you instead.
- Handicapped Support – When a dog becomes older or has an injury, they may need some assistance with walking or getting up and down the stairs. Handicap support harnesses are designed for nearly any type of support that may be necessary from an easy lift of the hind legs, forelegs, or to be attached to a wheelchair apparatus. They will usually have long straps for you to hold onto rather than a leash, so be sure to check on the lengths to make sure it will be a comfortable reach.
- Tactical Harness – For an active working dog, like the German Shepherd, who was bred for strength and endurance, a tactical harness can be a perfect fit. They usually have reflective straps, have heavy-duty buckles, and areas where additional bags and pouches can be attached to carry supplies. Frequently used with service dogs, they tend to have areas where badges or patches can also be attached to signify they are working or for easy identification.
- Escape-proof – Some dogs can find their way out of anything. Escape-proof harnesses are for those who like to wiggle their way out when they can. Most of these harnesses will have multiple closure points, be highly adjustable to provide the most secure fit, and will be made from durable material that can take some strain and wear.
6 Key Considerations When Looking for the Right Harness for your German Shepherd
- Adjustability – German Shepherds have wide chests that can taper down behind the ribcage to a narrow stomach and hindquarters. Harnesses for this size dog need to be adjustable to find a good fit as breeds of a similar size and height may not taper down this way.
- Durability – A working breed, German Shepherds can put a lot of wear and tear on their harness, so it needs heavy-duty straps and to be made of a durable material. Buckles and clips should be made of high strength metal or wear-resistant plastic. Most harnesses will list a weight limit for what they can handle.
- Purpose – German Shepherds like having something to do, which is why they are a popular choice for canine units, search-and-rescue, and as service dogs for emotional or physical support. If you don’t need your dog to perform any of these actions, using a tactical type harness that lets them carry supplies can help settle them.
- Lifestyle – This type of dog needs a lot of exercise and does well when they take part in agility courses or competitions. Even if they have access to a yard to stretch their legs in, they will still benefit more from one-on-one exercise with their person.
- Escape Proof – Any dog can have the impulse to try and get out of their harness, especially as puppies or when first wearing one. Hopefully, they grow out of it and learn to walk calmly beside you, but when just starting out and you want a little extra security, or if they have a tendency to want to get away to chase something, then an escape-proof harness is the best way to go.
- Pulling – German Shepherds have a lot of strength in their shoulders and if they like to pull or jump on people and other dogs, then finding a good no-pull harness is a must. Also, look for harnesses that have a back strap or loop that you can grab when you feel they are getting ready to lunge.
The Overall Best Harnesses for German Shepherds
|Our 2020 Picks: Overall Best Harnesses for German Shepherds|
|Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness
|Sporn Mesh No Pull Dog Harness
|Frisco Padded Nylon No Pull Dog Harness
|PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness
|OneTigris Tactical Vest Nylon Front Clip Dog Harness
|Best Pet Supplies Voyager Black Trim Mesh
|Kurgo Journey Air Polyester Reflective No Pull
|Frisco Small Breed Soft Vest Step In Back Clip
|PetSafe Gentle Leader Nylon Dog Headcollar
|Mighty Paw Padded Sports Reflective No Pull
|Chai’s Choice 3M Polyester Reflective Front Clip
- Adjustable at five points
- Good option for car trips with a safety rating up to 75 lbs
- Comes with a carabiner and belt loop to attach to a car restraint belt
- High durability with steel buckles
Best Overall – The Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness is a good choice for a frequent car passenger as it comes with a carabiner clip and 10″ belt loop that can double as a backstrap while walking. It has a car safety rating for up to 75lbs, which is the high end for female German Shepherds and mid-range for males.
Designed for large, active breeds, the heavy-duty steel buckles and its overall design are based on human rock-climbing harness stress points. Dual purpose, it can be used in the car and as a comfortable walking harness.
- Rated for car safety
- Four heavy-duty steel buckles
- 10″ belt loop included that doubles as a back strap for extra control
- Highly adjustable to find a good fit
- Will not work well for a dog that pulls
- Comes in various sizes, but it can be difficult to determine which is appropriate
- Design is based on a dog’s natural movement
- Curbs pulling and jumping
- Slip-on design, there are no buckles or clips
- Elastic mesh chest piece and straps provide the pulling deterrent and was designed by veterinarians
Best Value – The Sporn Mesh creates a “tickle” effect in the sternum, which curbs pulling. This is a veterinarian designed and approved method to deter pulling and jumping in a gentle way. There are adjustment buckles on the straps to create a secure fit, and it slips on over the head with no buckle or clip closure points.
Available in sizes that can handle a dog from 2lbs up to 200lbs. German Shepherds can weigh between 50 and 90 pounds, so it is important to check each size’s recommended weight. However, neck size determines what size will fit as the neck strap is where most of the adjustments can be made.
- Great choice for dogs that pull or jump
- Has a flexible design that gently corrects behavior
- Slip-on design goes on easily without having to hold them still to do the clips
- Little to no strain on the body, the gentle approach is good for skittish dogs or those new to harnesses
- A wide range of sizes are good for nearly any breed
- Should not be left on unattended as it can twist without the tension of a leash
- There are a lot of sizes available, but little adjustment can be made to the harness, so getting the right size initially is very important
- Multiple adjustment points make it easy to get a good fit
- Front O-ring to curb pulling
- Dual-purpose back clip can be used as a walking harness or attach to a car restraint belt
- Over the head design makes it easy to put on
Best No Pull – The Frisco Padded Nylon harness has closure points on the side straps with a neck strap that goes over the head. This can be easier to put on for people who may have difficulty getting your dog to lift their feet to step into a harness. This is a dual-purpose harness, with both a front clip to curb pulling and a back clip for car rides or regular walking.
It has a padded chest piece and is easily adjusted to make a comfortable, secure fit. It is not recommended for swimming or water-related activities as it is not waterproof, and the padding may become heavy from water.
- Extra-long chest piece that makes a comfortable fit that disperses the effects of pulling
- Easy to adjust on multiple straps
- Front and back clips, it can easily switch between uses as a walking harness or as a car harness
- Intended for strong pullers
- Should not be left unattended as it is not chew-resistant
- Not a good option for frequent swimmers
- An escape-prone dog may find it easy to pull it off by pulling hard backward
- Has one color for the straps that go over the back and sides and a different color on the strap that goes underneath
- Deters pulling with a martingale loop in the front
- Adjustable at four points for a good fit
- Corrects pulling and jumping by applying gentle pressure to the shoulders
Best Front Clip – The PetSafe Easy Walk harness helps to curb pulling by using a martingale loop and leash clip in the front of the harness. A martingale allows for gentle correction while preventing the harness from twisting around the body. This is an excellent option for a strong working breed like the German Shepherd that has a lot of strength in the front shoulders.
Larger sizes have proven durable; however, the small sizes have had issues with the clips breaking. This is a good option for active hikers and swimmers as it is waterproof and made from a durable material.
- Will fit most size breeds with a range to choose from
- Waterproof straps, but the clips and buckles may still experience water damage from heavy exposure
- Quick-release clips make it easy to put on and take off
- Gently corrects pulling
- Small dogs may slip out of it easily
- Not recommended for chewers
- Not a dual-purpose harness with a front clip option only
- Easy to adjust for a good fit
- Has an extra-strength V-ring on the back for the leash attachment point
- Can attach bags and pouches for carrying supplies
- Heavy-duty nylon, lightweight, and water-resistant
Best Tactical Harness – The OneTigris Tactical Vest is a great option for the working dog who needs extra supplies, space for identification badges and is comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The durable yet lightweight material and heavy-duty V-ring make it a very strong option for those who are active for hours at a time.
Along the sides, there is webbing for MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) for the attachable bags and pouches. There are three open spaces for service dog identification or badges and patches to customize the harness.
- Comes with a back strap for additional control or an extra place to hold up close
- The back clip design allows it to be attached to a car restraint belt
- Additional strips provide space for badges and patches
- Durable and lightweight for comfort
- Reviews indicate the sizes run large
- Recommended for adult dogs only, cannot be adjusted small enough for training puppies to carry supplies
6 Other Top Rated German Shepherd Harnesses
The Best Pet Supplies Voyager harness is an excellent starting harness for young German Shepherd puppies who are learning to walk on a harness. It is made of lightweight material that is machine washable and provides a snug, secure feeling. There are multiple closure points, with a hook and loop fastener plus a clip between the shoulders that bring two D-rings together for the leash attachment.
It comes in multiple sizes, from a small toy breed size to an x-large. However, even the largest size will not fit a full-grown German Shepherd but make excellent training harnesses for young dogs as they grow. They have a low price point, which comes in very useful when needing to replace them.
The Kurgo Journey Air Reflective harness has both a front clip and a back clip. The back clip can be used to attach to a car safety restraint, but the harness overall has not been rated for car travel. The front clip deters pulling with a padded chest piece that distributes the pressure of the leash over the shoulders and chest. It also comes with 4 rust-proof buckles plus reflective trim, making it a great option for hiking in the woods and walking at night.
For a full-grown German Shepherd, the large and extra-large sizes should fit, but be sure to check the chest girth measurement and the recommended weight.
The Frisco Small Breed Soft Vest harness is a great option for your growing German Shepherd puppy. The available sizes, measured in chest girth, can fit up to a nearly full-grown puppy and have a low price point to help with transitioning sizes. It provides a secure fit with a hook and loop closure, a fast release buckle, and two D-rings above the buckle for the leash attachment. The padded chest piece allows for a comfortable fit, and it doesn’t have clips or buckles near the fur that might pinch and make a puppy fear putting a harness on.
The PetSafe Gentle Leader has a loop that goes over the muzzle and two side straps that go from under the chin and clips behind the ears. It allows a full range of motion for their mouths and deters pulling by putting light pressure on the muzzle and the strong area at the back of the neck. This takes all of the strain off of the throat, making it a great option for a German Shepherd who has most of his pulling power in his shoulders. This type of harness pulls the head gently down while not allowing them to get their body weight and strength behind them.
If a dog’s head is smaller than or the same size as their neck, this type of harness can be easy to push. The shape of the German Shepherds head should prevent this, but it is an important measurement to take before purchasing. There is only one place for adjustment, which is along the side straps. It also comes with a training DVD to help learn how to use this type of harness.
The Mighty Paw Padded Sports harness is an excellent choice for active dogs that will be outside hiking, swimming, or working in rough terrain. It deters pulling, is waterproof, and comes with reflective strips for easy visibility at night or off-leash. There is also a back clip for regular walking or attached to the car restraint belt. The back strap allows an easy place to grab onto for better control or, in the case of a service dog, a more convenient hold.
Not recommended for young dogs or puppies as a training harness as it does not come in a small enough size. The closure points are on the side straps with buckles for adjustment in various places.
The Chai’s Choice harness comes in various bright colors and has highly reflective straps making it easy to spot while hiking or in an off-leash area. The neck opening slips on over the head, which means a large head on a thinner neck may require it to be adjusted each time it is used. The closure point is on the straps that go around the front legs. Some owners have found this design can chafe behind the front legs so if you have had trouble with this in the past it should be taken into account.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I start training my German Shepherd to walk with me instead of pulling? If you already know your dog is a puller, investing in a good no-pull design harness is the first step. A headcollar or front-clip option will gently correct the behavior by turning their head or body towards you. Using small treats is also helpful; walk a few steps, then wait for them to come stand by you to receive the treat. When walking, if they get ahead of you, stop, wait, and repeat the treat method until they learn to stay by you.
- How big does a German Shepherd get? Males are typically 2 feet tall at the shoulder and run between 65 to 90 pounds. Females can be a couple of inches shorter and weigh about 50 to 70 pounds. They typically have wider rib cages near the spine that taper down between the front legs. They have a lot of strength in the front legs, with the hind legs providing running power. That can be a lot of dog to maneuver; fortunately, they are easy to train and love to do a good job for their person.
- How much exercise does a German Shepherd need? Two hours a day is the recommended amount, which can seem like a lot in one block of time, but a couple of good runs or walks combined with very active sessions of play or fetch can take care of what they need. German Shepherds are a working breed and like to be doing things, so an example of a good game for them would be teaching them to find hidden objects by scent. This lets them use their mind and body together.
German Shepherds make excellent family dogs and are loyal protectors of the home. They do require a fair amount of exercise so make sure the harness you choose for them can stand up to some wear and tear. If possible, start training them to walk calmly on a harness as a puppy, but with their high intelligence and work ethic, even older German Shepherds will respond well to learning to wear a harness as long as it is a comfortable fit that has been properly adjusted.