How To Choose a Harness for your Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniels are well known for their exuberant nature and their love of exercise. They could walk all day long without getting tired. In fact, you are more likely to get tired than they are! 

One of the key pieces of equipment you need for taking your Cocker Spaniel out for a long walk is the correct and appropriate harness. There are lots of harnesses available on the market today and this guide will help you decide which one is best for your beloved Cocker Spaniel.

This guide comes from practical experience. We spent a lot of time and money trying to find the perfect harness for our Cocker Spaniel and, above all, we hope this guide to the best Harness for a Cocker Spaniel, so you don’t have to. This guide will help you to:

  • Understand what to look out for in a Cocker Spaniel harness
  • Understand the types of passes available
  • Choose the right harness for your dog
  • And lots more…

What Do You Need To Consider Before Purchasing A Harness For Your Cocker Spaniel?

  • The size of your dog. Cocker Spaniels come in various sizes and you need to make sure your harness is as tight as possible whilst being comfortable for your dog.
  • Your Cocker Spaniel’s age. If your spaniel is a puppy, you will need to make sure you purchase a suitable harness and make sure that it is a comfortable fit. Also bear in mind that it might well be your puppy's first harness, so it will take some time to get used to how it feels. It’s probably worth going to a pet shop to try a harness on before finally committing to any purchase.
  • Your Cocker Spaniel’s temperament. If your Cocker Spaniel is skittish or a little bit flighty you might want to make sure that you purchase a harness which will give you maximum control over how your dog behaves on the lead.
  • Does your Cocker Spaniel pull when walking on the lead? Cocker Spaniels are notorious pullers when walking on the lead. They love nothing more than following a scent trail and therefore will pull you along with them. My shoulder can attest to the fact that this is the case with our Cocker Spaniel! Remember that this is a natural behaviour for a Cocker Spaniel - it’s what they were bred to do and shouldn’t be discouraged, but rather managed.
  • What type of exercise do you plan to do with your Cocker Spaniel? If you are planning to do more vigorous or active exercise with your dog, you will need to get a harness which is appropriate for that particular activity. As an example, if you are planning to run with your dog which many owners do you’ll need to make sure that the harness is comfortable, tight and appropriate for running alongside your dog.

Harness vs Collar: Which Is Best For Your Cocker Spaniel?

Firstly, every dog should have a collar. This is simply to aid identification and make sure that, if lost, your dog can be identified. In fact, this is actually a legal requirement in the United Kingdom.

So what is a dog harness? A harness is a structured piece of equipment which wraps around your dog's body to which you can attach a lead or leash. It is designed to distribute the weight and force from the lead across the dog rather than just around the neck which is the case with a dog collar.

Harnesses come in many different shapes, sizes, types, materials and colours you can pretty much find a dog harness to match any type of dog breed shape or size.

A correctly fitted and sized harness is much more comfortable for your dog and will make your life easier when you are taking your dog for a walk. It will give you more control over your dog, will allow them to walk more comfortably and will overall be a much better experience for you both.

One of the main benefits of a harness compared to a colour is the fact the white and forces are distributed around the body as opposed to just the neck and throat. All instances when colours can cause damage to the neck or throat of the dog in some severe instances can cause tracheal collapse.

If you are planning to run with your dog you should definitely use a harness. A harness will be significantly more comfortable for your dog and the angle of the lead when connected to a running belt will be significantly better than with a collar.

How To Measure The Size Of Your Cocker Spaniel

Taking accurate measurements of the size of your dog, prior to selecting an appropriate harness is key. Harnesses should be tight and a snug fit, but importantly, comfortable for your dog and should give them enough room to perform the normal range of movements

There are two measurements that are required prior to the purchase of your harness.

  1. Around the neck. Simply take a tape measure and measure around the widest part of the neck making sure that you will leave at least two fingers between your dog's neck and the tape measure.
  2. Around the chest. Take a tape measure and measure around the dog's torso and the widest part of the body. If you are struggling, you can take the measurement around the dog's shoulders and under the pits of the front legs. Again, make sure that it’s not too tight and that you have room for a minimum of one or two fingers.

As mentioned before for puppies and younger dogs, it’s might be sensible to take them to a pet shop to get them fitted. Most pet shops are happy to help you make sure you get the right correctly fitting harness for your dog.

How To Choose The Right Harness For Your Dog

There are a number of factors that need to take into account before committing to the correct harness. Each dog is different and you need to make sure you match a harness to your specific Cocker Spaniel.


As we’ve mentioned before correctly sizing and measuring your dog prior to buying a harness is super important. Harnesses come in many different sizes and it’s important to make sure that you find the appropriate size of harness for your dog.


Making sure that your harness is comfortable for your dog is key and therefore choosing the right material is of paramount importance. There are many different material types to choose from you just need to make sure that your choice is comfortable for your dog.


The choice of whether you purchase a harness with padding really depends on the seasons and the weather. As an example, if your dog is susceptible to getting cold or has very very short fur like a whippet greyhound you might want to get a harness with additional padding as a way of keeping warm. 

The Various Types of Harnesses Available

Back Clip Harness

A back clip harness positions the clip for the lead or leash in the middle of the dog's back. One of the main benefits of this type of harness is for dogs that are prone to pulling, which is certainly the case in many Cocker Spaniels.

Front Clip Harness

A front clip harness positions the clip for the lead on a leash on the dog's chest, underneath the collar. A front clip harness is great for dogs who are going through training. It helps provide them with some lead discipline and helps to make sure they are walking on the lead correctly. Ultimately it gives the dog owner more control over their pulling and behaviour.

Step-In Harness

A step-in harness is one that your dog steps into with both front paws with the harness fastening on the dog's back. Step-in harnesses are often better for dogs that are nervous about having their harness put over their head.

Dual Clip Harness

A jewel clip harness offers you as an owner a great deal of flexibility. It works by either attaching a lead to the top or to the chest of the dog or both in certain circumstances. A dual clip harness is particularly useful if your dog is very active or when you are training your dog to walk on the lead.

How To Check That Your Cocker Spaniel’s Harness Fits Correctly?

It is essential to make sure your dog's harness fits correctly before going for a walk. The rule of thumb is that the harness should sit comfortably on the dog's chest. You should be able to place two fingers comfortably between the harness and your dog. If the strap harness is too loose, the dog may be able to get out of the harness and if the strap is too tight, it will be uncomfortable for your dog.

Can My Cocker Spaniel Get Out Of Its Harness?

The simple answer to this question is yes! It’s very unlikely for you to find a harness that will be 100% secure and If your dog really wants to, they will always be able to get a harness. 

However, there are things that you can do to mitigate that risk. Make sure the size of the harness is appropriate for your dog and fits comfortably on its chest. A dual clip harness might be most appropriate for dogs that are likely to be escapologists, and there’s obviously training you can do to mitigate the risk of them getting out of the harness.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right harness for our dog was a great deal of trial and error and unfortunately time and money. We do hope this guide to choosing the right harness for your Cocker Spaniel means that you don’t have to spend the time in money that we did to ensure that your dog has a comfortably fitting harness.

A correctly fitting harness will make your and your dog's life significantly easier.  Walks will become more of a pleasure and your dog will ultimately be better behaved. We have created a guide to the best dog harnesses for your Cocker Spaniel if you're interested.

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