The Labrador Retriever has a long, wonderful history as a beloved family dog, hard-working search-and-rescue hero, and the devoted service dog for physical and emotional support needs. A Lab makes friends easily, and bonds with the whole family but is equally protective of all of his charges. They are bright, easy-going, and energetic and love a good long walk, run, or round of fetch.
Male Labs run to about 65 to 80 pounds and females, 55 to 70 pounds. Both stand at just about 2-feet tall at the shoulder. That can make for quite a bit of dog to keep a hold of during a walk, and they do need training, preferably from a young age, to walk nicely side-by-side with you. They can be prone to pulling; as they are scent-driven dogs, they can be easily distracted and want to explore what has caught their attention. However, what makes them such excellent service dogs is their ability to laser focus during training and their commitment to their human.
A strong, durable harness of the right type for your needs can make all the difference in your walks. There are harnesses to help curb pulling, suitable for car travel, hiking, and more. You may find you need more than one at hand if you do a variety of outings with your Lab, and below is a list of the best options found for harnesses for Labradors.
What are the Best Harnesses for Labradors?
- 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 – The back leach clip is perhaps the most common type of leash attachment. With the clip placed between their shoulder blades, this allows for control over their motion by distributing the tension over both the chest and shoulder straps. These are also good for a car harness; the back clip easily attaches to most car safety restraints, but not all back clip harnesses have been tested for car safety.
- Car Safety – These harnesses have been specifically tested and rated for car safety. It is important to note whether they have passed a crash test, not just been tested. There are third party groups, such as the Center for Pet Safety, that work to rate dog harnesses for car-riding, and they are a strong point in favor of those harnesses that have passed. Some can also convert easily into a walking harness, but others are made specifically for use just in the car and are designed to stay attached to the car when not in use.
- No Pull – When an 80lb Lab has decided he wants to go left, your options become limited if you haven’t planned ahead. The best plan you can make is to find a good no-pull harness. There are a few kinds that fit on your dog in different ways but all respond the same way to pulling; they guide the dog towards you instead of letting them pull away. Front-clips, with or without a martingale loop, and headcollars are the two most popular types.
- Front Clip – For a Lab that wants to pull or jump, a front clip harness curbs those impulses by applying pressure, not on the neck like a collar, but to their chest and shoulders, gently guiding them towards you. Some front clip harnesses also have a martingale loop that works by tightening the straps around their shoulders gently, applying pressure that tells them to stop, releasing them when they halt.
- Headcollar – The headcollar, also referred to as gentle leaders, works by applying pressure to the back of the neck and gently pulls down the muzzle turning the dog’s head down and towards you. They have one loop that fits over the nose and sits high up so they can still open their mouths and have full movement for eating or drinking. The other straps go around their head and have a buckle or clip that sits behind their ears high on the back of their neck. The leash is attached to a ring under the chin where the nose loop and neck straps meet.
- Handicapped Support – If you have an older dog or one that has been injured, they may need some extra support when walking or being lifted in and out of a car. Harnesses made specifically for this can help support the whole body, front legs, back legs, or can be attached to wheelchairs. A good handicapped support harness should have long adjustable straps that you can easily hold on to it without a leash and are adaptable to fit around any bandages or casts your dog may also have.
- Tactical Harness – Labradors have long been a favored breed for working in search-and-rescue, hunting, and support and need a harness that provides some extra options. Tactical harnesses allow for additional pouches and bags to be attached to carry supplies. They also usually have open areas where badges and reflective strips can be added or removed as needed to signify they are working or to personalize the harness. These types of harnesses usually have a back clip, extra back strap or loop, and are made to be extra durable.
- Escape-proof – An escape-proof harness usually has multiple closure points, and some will have additional straps that go around the back legs as well as the front. They should have several adjustability points because a secure, a snug fit is the best way to keep your Lab from pulling out of her harness. Labradors are not really known as escapists, but any dog that is unfamiliar with harnesses or becomes excited or distressed may try to pull it off.
6 Key Considerations When Looking for the Right Harness for your Labrador Retriever
- Adjustability – Labradors have wide chests and long bodies that do not usually taper down behind the ribcage to a very concave stomach, unlike other breeds like hounds or pit bulls. Because other large breeds do taper down, harnesses for this size dog need to be adjustable to find a good fit.
- Durability – Labs are active and want to be playing, hiking, or out exploring, so their harness needs to be rugged, durable, and made of heavy-duty straps that can take a lot of wear and tear. Strong clips and buckles are also a must, so they don’t break apart when a 75lb Lab tries to pull away.
- Purpose – Some breeds like to have a job. They have been bred for hunting, herding, or protecting and they take it very seriously. Labradors are one of the most popular breeds for support and guide dogs and are frequently used for search-and-rescue teams. Even if you don’t plan to have them do any of these things, giving them a harness that lets them carry supplies like extra food and water can settle them and make them feel purposeful.
- Lifestyle – A beloved family dog for generations, Labs are still a big breed that needs frequent exercise. If you are a hiker or traveler, getting the right harness that can stand up to that kind of activity is important. Even living in the city, you will still want a durable harness that can take some wear as you will find yourself out in the dog parks and going for long walks where there may be heavy traffic.
- Escape Proof – While not prone to be escape artists, when learning how to walk on a harness, a lab puppy, no matter how adorable, will still try to wiggle his way out. Escape-proof harnesses are good options for the early training days. Of course, the possibility that they are an escape artist always exists, and teaching them early on they can’t get out will make it a lot easier to switch to another kind later on.
- Pulling – Labs like to explore new scents and interesting parts of the world and can pull on you pretty hard while walking along. Labradors are very friendly and can be prone to jumping on new friends they meet along the way. If you find your dog tends to pull or jump, be sure to invest in a strong no-pull harness. A back strap or loop for additional control can also be helpful.
The Best Harnesses for Labradors
|Our 2020 Picks: Overall Best Harnesses for Labradors|
|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
- Five adjustment points to make a secure fit
- Crash tested up to 75lbs for car safety
- Compatible with car restraint belts, it has a 10″ dog seat belt loop and carabiner for easy attachment
- Rock-climbing harness based buckle system design is made for durability and strength
Best Overall – The Kurgo Tru-Fit Smart Harness has a chest pad to reduce stress, multiple adjustment points, and has been tested for car safety. The seat belt loop can double as an extra strap for control while walking if your Lab is a jumper or puller. The buckle system is made from heavy-duty steel designed from human rock-climbing harnesses.
This is a harness designed for large, strong breeds. The steel buckles add some weight to it, but Labradors will find them comfortable to wear, unlike some smaller breeds. This is not a harness designed to curb pulling or jumping but can easily switch between a car harness to a walking harness.
- Designed specifically for car safety
- Steel buckles are extra-durable
- Switches easily between car and walking
- Carabiner and back loop come included
- Highly adjustable and comes in multiple sizes
- Not intended to curb pulling and can twist around the body when a dog pulls hard
- Difficult to determine the correct size and may need a lot of adjusting to get a secure fit
- Reduces strain by working with a dog’s natural movement
- Specifically intended for strong pullers and jumpers
- Easy to put on with no buckle or clips
- Comfortable and flexible with padded straps and an elastic mesh for the chest piece
Best Value – The Sporn Mesh deters pulling by creating a “tickle” effect that makes them want to stop. This harness was designed by veterinarians and provides a gentle approach to curb pulling. It can be adjusted around the chest piece and the neck to tighten or loosen the straps but has no closure buckles or clips. It is intended to slip over the head with the front legs threaded through the front straps.
Multiple sizes for dogs from 2lbs up to 200lbs are available. Labs average between 55 and 80lbs, so a medium to large will work best, however, they are measured in neck sizes as that is where the harness can be adjusted. Labs carry a lot of muscle in the front of their body and can develop thicker necks, so it is important to consider both weight and neck size.
- Controls strong pullers
- Lightweight and flexible design
- No closure points make it easy to step in to and slip-on
- No strain or stress on the body
- Appropriate for nearly any size and breed
- Not meant to be left on unattended
- Not tested or rated for car safety
- Limited adjustment options, the numerous size options help with this
- High degree of adjustability
- Padded piece for comfort with a front clip O-ring to deter pulling
- Additional back clip for a leash or car attachment
- Slips on over the head
Best No Pull – The Frisco Padded Nylon harness is a dual-purpose harness that can be used as a regular walking harness with the back clip and to deter pulling with the front clip. The closure points are on the side straps, and it slips on over their head. Some dogs are alright with over the head harnesses, and others can shy away from them. They may need a little time to become comfortable with it.
There is an extra-long chest piece that goes further towards their stomach than most. Which means the side straps sit a little further down than most as well. This can allow for a long body type that Labradors are known for and may make for a more comfortable fit.
It is not waterproof and is not recommended for swimming: Labs are water dogs and can find it hard to resist and are popular as boat dogs to go out on the lake.
- Additional coverage over the torso with the padded chest piece
- Multiple adjustment points
- Dual usage front and back clips
- Designed specifically for pullers and jumpers
- It can be attached to car restraints but has not been explicitly tested for car safety
- Not waterproof or chew-resistant
- Not a good option if your Lab will be off-leash and unattended
- Some dogs have found it easy to slip out of by pulling backward
- Alternating color on the belly strap for easy identification
- Martingale loop in the front helps deter pulling and keeps the clip from twisting
- Four adjustment points for a secure fit
- No pressure or strain on the neck while correcting pulling and jumping
Best Front Clip – The PetSafe Easy Walk harness made for strong pullers, the front clip with martingale loop provides pressure on the shoulders, pulling the dog to you instead of forward. A good option for larger breeds with a lot of power in the front of their bodies. Labs are strong swimmers and runners; though they may not have the strong pulling muscles of a sledding breed, they can still put a lot of force into pulling forward.
The smaller harnesses have had reported issues with the clips breaking, but the larger sizes have not had this issue. While it is waterproof, the metal buckles and clips can become damaged from excessive water exposure.
- Size options for most breeds
- Waterproof, good for swimmers
- Easy on and off with quick-release clips
- Martingale loop for gentle pressure against pulling
- Not recommended for small breeds as some find it easy to slip off
- Not chew-resistant, and the chest strap can be easily reached to chew on
- Front clip only, not usable as a car harness
- Adjustable straps around the neck and chest for a secure fit
- The leash attachment is an extra-strong V-ring
- For carrying extra supplies, there is MOLLE webbing along both sides to hold additional pouches
- Water-resistant and lightweight with a heavy-duty nylon shell
Best Tactical Harness – The OneTigris Tactical Vest is made to be durable and provide a snug, secure fit for all-terrain hiking. Along with the extra-strength V-ring leash attachment, there is a back strap to grab onto for more control when needed. The MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) webbing allows multiple extra bags and pouches to be attached so they can carry additional supplies.
There are strips on three sides for a little extra customization where patches and badges can be easily added to show they are ready to go. It also comes in three colors, Ranger Green, Coyote Brown, and Black.
- Extra-strong V-ring for the leash and a back strap for more control
- Can be attached to a car seatbelt attachment, though it has not undergone car safety testing
- Space to attach patches, good for adding high-visibility strips when out in the woods or service dog identification
- Made of heavy-duty nylon for extra durability
- Sizing runs a little big according to reviews
- Adult dogs only, this is not a good harness to train growing Labs how to carry extra weight
6 Other Top Rated Labrador Harnesses
The Best Pet Supplies Voyager harness is great for active dogs in high-heat areas as it is made from a lightweight, breathable material. A secure, snug fit comes from multiple closure points with a hook and loop closure, quick release buckle, and two D-rings for the leash attachment.
It also has multiple adjustment options and comes in various sizes for different breeds. The back clips allow this harness to double as a car harness, though it has not been tested or rated for car safety.
The Kurgo Journey Air Reflective harness has a padded chest plate and dual clips. A front clip to deter pulling, and a back clip for calmer walkers. There is also a back handle for greater control over rough terrain or to hold them back if they tend to jump when excited. There are four rust-proof release buckles, but the harness itself is not waterproof. It is also made from a lightweight, breathable material that is good for active dogs in high-heat areas and has strips of reflective trim for night walks or out in the woods.
While it can be attached to a canine car seatbelt, it has not been rated for car safety or crash tested and may not be the best option if you plan to take your dog in the car frequently.
The Frisco Small Breed Soft Vest harness may not seem like a good option for a Labrador, but what it does have is multiple closure points, fits safely and securely, and is an excellent option for your Labrador puppy. While puppies are growing and just learning to use a harness, they are going to want to try and escape out of the new contraption they have on. The Velcro strap, fast release buckle, and two d-rings at the end of the side straps for the leash make this a very secure harness for a wriggly puppy. This is a step in harness with a padded torso piece that fits snugly to the chest and makes it more comfortable while your puppy becomes accustomed to it. There are no clips or buckles to pinch or pull on fur to give a bad experience.
The PetSafe Gentle Leader is a headcollar style of harness that goes over the muzzle and clips behind the ears. This is not a muzzle; it allows their mouths to have full range of motion for eating or drinking and barking if they like. One loop goes over the nose. Then two straps, under the chin, are pulled back around the neck and clipped high on the back of the neck. This takes the pressure off of the throat and applies it to the back of the neck instead.
This harness can be used by any breed or size dog, though dogs with a larger neck than their head may find it easy to push off. The nose strap is padded for comfort and tightens or loosens as it is being placed on or taken off. The side straps are the only point where the length can be adjusted. The PetSafe Gentle Leader does come with an instructional training manual as there can be a learning curve to using it.
The Mighty Paw Padded Sports harness is great for Labradors who like to swim and are likely to be out in the woods or out hiking. It is waterproof with highly reflective bands and is durable enough for hard wear and tear outdoors. It comes with both a front clip to help prevent pulling and jumping and a back clip for non-pullers and to be used to attach to car safety restraints. For hiking or dogs that like to jump, a back strap can be held onto for greater control.
This harness is made for larger breeds and does not come in small enough sizes for training puppies. The harness straps come up on each side and with the closure points on the harness’s sides. You will need the chest measurements for your Lab to get the proper fit but it does allow for quite a bit of adjustment, which can help.
The Chai’s Choice harness is made for night-walks and being out in the wilderness with highly reflective straps and multiple bright color options for the harness itself. The side straps can be adjusted and it is put on by slipping it over the head. The closure point is behind the front legs. This can lead to chafing in some dogs. If yours has had an issue in the past with chafing behind the front legs, this may not be the best option. As it is a slip-on harness, a large difference between the size of their head and a thinner neck may mean the neck strap has to be adjusted each time to be taken on and off.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What size do I need to get to fit a Labrador? Labradors can have thick necks and broad chests, so it is always important to determine how the sizing is done on the harness. Some only allow adjustments around the neck-straps. Others can have five points where the straps can be adjusted. Start with getting some of the usual measurements and have them on hand; height at the shoulder, weight, around the neck, around the chest at the widest point, and around the chest at the narrowest point. These will give you most of the information that sizes are based on for harnesses.
- What kind of harnesses will work in the car? Front-clip and headcollar harnesses will not work in a car, but those with a back clip can usually be attached to a car safety restraint system. A head collar can be left on while another more car-appropriate harness is used, which can make it easier to clip on the leash at your destination, keeping them secure while taking them out of the other harness. If you plan to drive a lot with your dog, the best option would be a harness specifically rated for car safety, and if you find it isn’t a comfortable walking harness, you may need multiple types.
- My Lab wants to go swimming. Should I leave the harness on? If you want to take your Lab out to the lake and let her swim around, she will probably enjoy it very much, and there are several good waterproof harnesses. Keep in mind, though, the buckles and clips are probably still going to end up with wear and tear more so than the harness material, especially if the buckles are metal so look for ones that also have rust-proof buckles. A harness that restricts movement around the legs is not a good option to leave on them for swimming, nor would a harness that has a padded chest piece that will absorb water.
Labrador Retrievers are ranked number one most popular breed by the American Kennel Club. They love being the family pet but can also learn to be hard-working service dogs in a variety of areas. Loyal, affectionate, and easy-going, they make excellent pets for any type of owner. Choosing the right harness for their body type and size can require some trial-and-error. Make sure you take both your needs and theirs into account when looking their all of the options. A durable material, snug fit, and probably waterproof are the main points to look for in particular for your Lab.