Make Your Own Dog Harness

If you don’t want to pay custom fees for your harness, especially with extra large, extra small or otherwise out of standard size dogs, make your own. This page will help you make a recreational sledding, weight pulling, carting or walking harness. If you have a very large/very small dog you’ll have to adjust the patterns accordingly, but these should get you started. (Larger dogs might need wider web- 1 1/2″ and smaller dogs narrower- 3/4″, for instance.)

I have made each of these harnesses, minus the walking harness. I took the pattern off one I bought. Sizes given are for an ‘average’ sized dog- ie, my Lucy. She is about 55 lbs and 19.5″ tall. You’ll want to make adjustments for your individual dog. The best way to do it is by making a mock up harness out of strips of old sheets or something. You’ll be able to make the most perfect harness for your dog.

Patterns for the first three are based almost entirely on the ones found in Your Dog in Harness by Mel Fishback Riley.

For best results materials should be the closest to what I have listed here as possible. Mine aren’t pretty, but all are perfectly functional.

Recycling is great. I got a large amount of nearly new fastex buckles for free- all I had to do was remove them from some nylon web…. Fleece padding can be from an old blanket or pullover. I pull all the hardware off old bookbags, collars, leashes- anything I can get my hands on. Ask school kids around May or June for their dead bags. You can get lots of goodies (buckles, straps, snaps, rings, slides) off those sorts of things. You get the idea. Try to make it as comfortable as possible for your dog.

Watch for problems- if your dog rears up, coughs or gags, his elbows seem forced away from the sides, walks pigeon toed in front, his coat develops worn spots from daily use, harness slips back over shoulders, cramping legs, racing harness pulls down over rump, kicks hocks on spreader bar (freight harness), etc. you should revise your harness.

This is the proper angle for joints on the recreational and weight pull harnesses. The carting and walking harnesses will be right angles.

This is how to put the sliders in the straps for the carting or walking harnesses. It will also be used in some of the collars.

Recreational Sledding Harness

Materials needed:

  • 1″ nylon webbing (about 4 yards)
  • Polyester fleece (1/2 to 1 yard)
  • polyester thread, dental floss or woven fishing line
  • needle
  • 1/4″ solid braid nylon rope, 12-18″

For best results, pin all joints at first to allow for adjustments as you move around the dog. A dog who stands still or a helper to hold him while you work is great.

Start by folding the web right in the middle of the length at the angle shown above. You should sew this with just enough room for your nylon rope to fit through. This goes right at the base of the dog’s tail. Lay each side of the web along the dogs flanks and rib cage as shown in the illustration. Cross them under the front legs for 3-4″, pinning them with safety pins. The neck needs to be snug, but remember to leave room for padding. The shoulder straps should lie just above the shoulder blades and cross again at the base of the neck. Let them continue to the pieces of web on the dog’s ribs. They should join right about at the bottom of the rib cage.

The backstrap can be a piece of web that is there simply to keep the harness from pulling down over the dog’s rump. You can to an ‘X’ variation, as seen in most commercial harnesses these days.

Padding the harness- measure from the joint at the base of the neck, under the legs and to the arm pits. Add at least 6″. This is how much fleece you need to cut, about 10″ wide. Fold it in a flat spiral about 2″ wide and 4-5 layers thick (this depends on the thickness of the fleece you have, make sure it’s padded thickly to prevent the straps from digging into his shoulders). Sew this tube down the center to hold it in place when you attatch it to the harness. Follow the straps as you attatch to the harness, sewing each edge of the web to the padding. You might want to cut a pice out where the straps overlap at the breastbone, but it’s up to you.

Notes:

  • The breast strap should start at the breastbone and extend back to behind the elbow.
  • Pull on the shoulder straps (top and bottom) must be even.
  • Make sure the sides of the harness don’t pull up under the arms. The rubbing will make it so the dog won’t want to pull.
  • Run the nylon cord through the space you left at the tail of the harness. Tie it in a strong knot (I use a fisherman’s eye) You need this loop for the gangline to attach to the harness.

Congratulations! You just made a racing harness!

Freighting Harness

Materials needed:

  • 1″ nylon webbing (about 5 yards)
  • Polyester fleece (1/2 to 1 yard)
  • polyester thread, dental floss or woven fishing line
  • 1-1/4″ steel ring
  • 1″ hardwood dowel, approximately 18″ long (adjust for the width of your dog)
  • 1/4″ screws, 1-2″ long (2)
  • 1/4″washers (2)
  • needle
  • drill with 3/16″ bit
  • nail

Start by running the web through the ring and then folding the web right in the middle of the length around the ring at the angle shown above. Sew the ring in place. Give 8-12″ on each side of the ring and peirce with the nail heated with a flame (pliers would help to make sure you don’t get burnt for this one). Drill a 3/16″ hole in the center of each end of the dowel. Place a washer on each screw and screw it through the hole you made with the hot nail and into the dowel. The dowel needs to be a minimum of 1-2″ from the dog’s hind legs while he’s pulling so he doesn’t kick it with his hocks. You’ll have to estimate this while he’s standing. My experience is about 6″ Lay each side of the web along the dogs flanks as shown in the illustration- they should be straight forward from the spreader bar to the arm pits. Cross the straps under the front legs for 3-4″, pinning them with safety pins. The neck needs to be snug, but remember to leave room for padding. The shoulder straps should lie just above the shoulder blades and cross again at the base of the neck. Let them continue to the pieces of web on the dog’s ribs. They should join right about at the bottom of the rib cage.

The backstrap is two pieces of web crossed exactly on the dog’s hips. On the first harness I made I didn’t do this, but you should. Take the dowel out of the harness and secure the bottoms of the backstraps over the holes for the screws. Make holes in those pieces with the nail as well. Put the dowel back in. The tops should be halfway between where the straps cross at the neck to where they meet again at the bottom.

Padding the harness- measure from the joint at the base of the neck, under the legs and to the arm pits. Add at least 6″. This is how much fleece you need to cut, about 10″ wide. Fold it in a flat spiral about 2″ wide and 4-5 layers thick (this depends on the thickness of the fleece you have, make sure it’s padded thickly to prevent the straps from digging into his shoulders). Sew this tube down the center to hold it in place when you attatch it to the harness. Follow the straps as you attatch to the harness, sewing each edge of the web to the padding. You might want to cut a piece out where the straps overlap at the breastbone, but it’s up to you.

Notes:

  • The breast strap should start at the breastbone and extend back to behind the elbow.
  • Pull on the shoulder straps (top and bottom) must be even.
  • Make sure the sides of the harness don’t pull up under the arms. The rubbing will make it so the dog won’t want to pull.
  • A very snug neck is a must for heavy pulling. Make it fit the dog, not his hair. It will probably be hard to put on and take off.
  • The back strap must support the bar. If you tweak the design don’t mess with this part.

Congratulations! You just made a freight harness!

Carting Harness

  • 1″ nylon webbing (about 2 yards)
  • 1-1/2″ nylon webbing (about 4 feet)
  • Polyester fleece (1/2 to 1 yard)
  • polyester thread, dental floss or woven fishing line
  • 1-1/2″ D-rings (2) or 1-1/2″ flat eye snaps (2)
  • 1″ slide release buckles (2)
  • 1″ nylon or steel triglide sliders (2)
  • needle

As you can see, my harness is almost exactly like the one in the drawing above. I used buckles with tongues in them (recycled from old collars) for the buckles, but will definitely use fastex ones next time. Lucy’s is a great fit for her, but due to her conformation it’s snug in the neck for Beau and comes to the wrong place on his chest (you can kind of see this in the color photo). It’s still perfectly functional… or I can make him his own once he fills out.

Make a tube of padding like the ones for the above harnesses. This time, however, make them 2-1/2″ wide and the distance from the back of one shoulderblade across the chest (just above the breastbone) to the back of the other shoulder blade long. Sew it, centered, to the 1-1/2″ webbing.

Insert one end of the 1-1/2″ web into a D-ring (or snap- I used rings on mine) and bring it back out on the side opposite the padding. Leave about 1-1/2″ gap and sew it in place- both sides of the gap. You don’t want the D-rings moving around. The gap is for the belly band to move through. Repeat with the other side.

Cut a piece of webbing about a yard long. Sew the female part of the fastex buckle into one end of the strap. Weave the other end through one slider, around the center slider of the male part of the buckle and back to the center rung of the slider. This is the belly band. Thread it through the gaps you left in the 1-1/2″ webbing. Try it on your dog and mark where the collar strap needs to go.

Sew the female end of the other buckle into the end of a piece of web about 4″ long. Sew the other end to one side of the 1-1/2″ webbing. Sew about 18″-24″ of the remaining web to the opposide side of the 1-1/2″ webbing. Weave it through a slider and the male part of the buckle like you did before. Make sure you give yourself plent of room to adjust- just like you did for the belly strap.

That’s it! You just made a carting harness!


Walking Harness

  • 1″ nylon webbing (about 3 yards)
  • 1″ nylon or steel triglide sliders (3)
  • 1″ slide release buckle (1)
  • 1″ O-ring or Triangle ring (1)
  • 1″ D-ring (1)
  • polyester thread, dental floss or woven fishing line
  • needle

Cut about a yard of web. Sew the female end of the buckle into one end of the web. Weave the other end of the web through the male end and a 1″ sider. This is the strap that goes around the dog’s chest (girth strap).

Cut another piece of web a yard long. Weave one end through a slider and around the O-ring. Repeat with the other end. This will be the part that goes around the dog’s neck.

Cut remaining web in half- you should get two pieces about 18″ long.

Take one 18″ piece and fold it around the O-ring, between the two ends of the collar piece. Secure the web around the ring with about 2/3 of the web on one side of the fold and 1/3 on the other. Fold the 2/3 length in half on itself and secure it to the 1/3 piece with a loop of about one and a half inches open on the end opposite the O-ring. Sew everything but the 1-1/2″ loop closed (a series of X’s work well for this). This is the piece that connects the collar to the girth strap on the chest side.

This is similar to what you just did. Instead of going around a ring sew one end around the center of the collar piece, opposite the O-ring, between the two sliders. This time, the 2/3 piece will fold on itself, but loop the D-ring through it before sewing the loop in place. You don’t need to secure the D-ring in place, it’s not going to move much and it’s easier to use like that anyway. This is the piece that connects the collar to the girth strap on top and where a leash can clip on.

Slide the girth strap through the loops in the top and bottom straps.

That’s all there is to it! You just finished a walking harness!

You can pad the collar, if you want. You can do other things to customize it to your dog as well. I’d like to put a special handle on one sometime, but really the top strap does that just fine for me. Clips to attach packs or other gear would be pretty neat as well. Imaginations can be wonderful things.

Thankyou very much for these
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 2011-01-05 11:03.
Thankyou very much for these fantastic instructions, I’ve got a young pup that I really want to start introducing harnesses to but didn’t want to buy an expensive harness every few months as he grows out of them, I have now made both a freight harness (for pulling) and a racing harness (for canicross practise) out of some soft material I had been planning to throw away so he can get used to the idea of harnesses, this way as he outgrows them I can just make bigger ones to fit, I’ll also use stronger material later once hes developed enough to actually pull but for now a nice soft comfy harness is just what I needed! Thankyou!!!

Another idea for webbing: seat belt material
Submitted by Tyson Baldwin (not verified) on Wed, 2009-12-02 10:53.
Seat belt material can usually be had for cheap or free at your local scrap yard. Look for the seatbelts that are already cut or frayed, as they can’t be sold anyway. Just cut the bad parts out and you will end up with lots of decently long pieces for all kinds of projects.

freight harness
Submitted by Lisa (not verified) on Sun, 2009-08-30 18:37.
I thought for fun I would make the weight harness and enter my dog in a contest last winter. I had enough nylon to make the harness and a matching lead rope. The people at the weight pull were very friendly the kind of told me my dog may not pull. He did a great job! The first day he came in second in his weight class and the next day he came in first! I thingk next year I will try it again! I was very proud of the harness I made with your directions! Thanks! They were easy to follow and worked perfectly!

We were warned away from
Submitted by Jamie (not verified) on Sun, 2008-12-21 09:14.
We were warned away from cart harness’ because of the strap rubbing on the shoulders and/or sliding up to the neck. We were shown a design(your assembly is nicer though, lol) similar to the recreational harness. The harness started the same at the chest but ended at the intersections on the sides at the ribs, with no ‘v’ going to the rear. There might have been an extra support strap wrapping around the dogs midsection but the idea was the same. I was wondering what you thought of this? And if it might be a good idea to try out? Or is there a specific reason for the cart harness being the way it is? Thanks! Great Site!

Harness.
Submitted by Dan Peters (not verified) on Mon, 2009-06-01 13:59.
DogWorks.com has the Siwash harness, witch sounds like what you have described. I am looking for a pattern to make that harness right now. I’ve made the cargo harness, but thought the Siwash would be more comfortable. I am trying to find a good quality harness material, like the pros use, soft, and strong. If anyone knows where i can find it, let me know.

harness
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 2009-10-16 23:45.
I found some great nylon webbing on www.ebay.com. It is used for parachutes, so it is very strong. Those people don’t have any listed right now, but some other webbing is listed.

im so excited !!
Submitted by Kristen (not verified) on Tue, 2008-12-16 15:53.
Hi Amanda, im so excited to have found a site that has so much info!! As soon as possable i will be trying to make the freight harness that you featured here .I have been conditioning 4 dogs for freighting over the past year and cant wait to get them into their new harnesses and start some real work with them . I will keep you posted on our progress from time to time …. Thank you so much for the welth of information you have given so freely!! tata for now , Kristen & the Kalevra Crew.

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