Best Harness for a Shih Tzu – (Our Top 6 for 2020)

Are you looking for the best dog harness for your Shih Tzu? Shih Tzus are excellent little companion dogs that love nothing more than relaxing with their owner, preferably in their lap or a similarly warm place. Though they are undoubtedly amongst the smallest breeds around, Shih Tzus (also sometimes called Chinese Lion Dogs or Chrysanthemum Dogs) are stout, alert and can be pretty energetic if they’re in the mood.

Harnesses are often necessary to prevent your Shih Tzu from injuring its small neck while it buzzes about on a lead.

Small dogs are still pretty strong for their size, and they can put a lot of force through a regular collar – harnesses eliminate the risk of injury to your Shih Tzu’s neck and throat and are preferable in the vast majority of situations, even when your dog is well lead trained.

This article will review the best harness for a Shih Tzu – our top eight picks. We will discuss the breed, the Shih Tzu harness types available, sizing, measurement and some tips for happy harness walking with your dog.

The Best Shih Tzu Harnesses

1. Julius-K9, 162P-MM, Powerharness

Recommended Shih Tzu Size (Adult): Mini-Mini - (Puppy): Baby 2

Julius-K9 is a household name amongst dog owners, and this top brand unsurprisingly delivers a top harness.

This is a relatively simple rear-clip harness, but it provides superb stability and comfort.

The material is tough, breathable but water-resistant also, meaning your Shih Tzu is less likely to overheat in it.

Once your dog is secured in this harness, they are unlikely to get out, but at the same time, this harness isn’t constrictive and will suit dogs that need fewer straps around them to feel at ease.

This harness has interchangeable hooks and enables you to attach velcro patches – Julius-K9 stock over 1000 patches with popular dog names.

Headline Features

  • Superb quality material
  • Many sizes available
  • A huge array of colours
  • Interchangeable patches

2. RUFFWEAR – Front Range Dog Harness

RUFFWEAR - Front Range Dog Harness, Reflective and Padded Harness for Training and Everyday, Blue Dusk (2017), X-Small Ruffwear is another top brand, and this harness delivers stability, control, flexibility and comfort to you and your dog.

It had 4 points of adjustment which is perfect for really fine-tuning the fit, and it also means this harness offers a high level of coverage meaning greater control.

There are two lead attachment points, one on the front and one on the back. This allows you to use a double-ended lead if necessary to deter pulling.

This harness features reflective strips for visibility, an excellent added touch.

Overall, this harness from Ruffwear is ideal for dogs that pull relatively hard and require a higher coverage harness.

Headline Features

  • Strong, durable and flexible material
  • High coverage harness for strong pullers
  • Reflective strips for low-light visibility
  • 4-point adjustment

3. Puppia Authentic RiteFit Harness

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Puppia Ritefit Harness, Medium, Pink Puppia Ritefit Harness, Medium, Pink No ratings yet

Authentic Puppia RiteFit Harness with Adjustable Neck, Pink, Medium This harness is a sort of hybrid between a soft harness and a more durable fully-adjustable harness.

It’s pretty simple and wouldn’t be suitable for dogs that pull very hard, but for general casual use, it’s very comfortable and hard to beat.

This harness is flexible and easily slipped on most dogs, but it also features an adjustable neck system that enables you to fine-tune it to your dog’s neck. This is ideal for dogs with very fluffy necks or otherwise short, stocky or particularly strong necks.

The material is high quality, breathable and soft; it won’t feel too constricting or irritating for your Shih Tzu.

With a range of colours available, this is an awesome harness for regular use.

Headline Features

  • Very soft material
  • Fine tunable to different neck sizes
  • Simple yet comfortable harness
  • Many colours available

4. Rabbitgoo No Pull Dog Harness

Rabbitgoo Dog Harness No-Pull Pet Harness Adjustable Outdoor Pet Vest 3M Reflective Oxford Material Vest for Dogs Easy Control for Small Medium Large Dogs (Black, S) This harness is optimised for dogs that do pull a fair bit.

It’s sturdy and has two clips, one on the front and one on the back.

This enables you to either use a lead as standard, connected to the back clip, a lead only connected to the front clip to encourage your dog to walk beside you, or a double-ended lead connected to both to allow you to choose when you restrain your dog and turn its head.

The Rabbitgoo harness has a durable but padded breathable and water-resistant construction, and the 4-way adjusters allow you to tailor-fit it to your dog without much hassle.

Reflective threads top it all off, and overall, this is a top-quality harness that grants flexibility and comfort.

Headline Features

  • Durable, water-resistant material
  • Two clips for different lead setups
  • Excellent for strong pullers
  • 4-way adjusters

5. BARKBAY No Pull Step-in Reflective Dog Harness

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BARKBAY No Pull Dog Harness Large Step in Reflective Dog Harness with Front Clip and Easy Control Handle for Walking Training Running(Red,S) This is another great harness that offers comfort, control and flexibility to both owner and dog.

It’s simple and effective with a low-ish coverage front chest section and low-profile rear pad.

This makes this harness quite unrestrictive, perfect for dogs that don’t enjoy high-coverage harnesses.

It’s highly adjustable and features awesome reflective strips for low-light visibility.

There are two lead hooks, once on the front and one the back.

This allows you to choose whether you connect a lead normally, or at the front to deter pulling, or across both hooks.

Headline Features

  • Easy step-in fitting
  • Relatively low coverage
  • Reflective strips
  • Two lead hooks

6. CollarDirect Rolled Leather Dog Harness

CollarDirect Rolled Leather Dog Harness Small Puppy Step-in Leash Set Walking Pink Red White Blue Green Black Purple Beige Brown Yellow (Brown, S) This harness is very minimalist and suits dogs that don’t have any serious pulling issues.

It’s essentially as low-coverage as it gets, formed just from leather ropes that harness your dog’s chest to prevent pulling at the neck.

This is the perfect harness when other higher-coverage harnesses simply aren’t necessary.

It’ll cause virtually no hassle to your dog, is extremely easy to fit, and the thin leather straps have as little contact as possible keeping your dog free and easy to breathe and sweat naturally.

This harness looks incredible too!

Headline Features

  • Minimal and unrestrictive
  • Simple design
  • Ideal for trained dogs
  • Comfortable and strong genuine leather

7. Zellar No Pull Dog Harness

Zellar No Pull Dog Harness, Adjustable Breathable Reflective Soft Padded Dog Vest Harness with Handle for Training Outdoor Activities, Black, Small This no-pull dog harness is perfect for dogs that are lively on the leash or still need to make progress with leash training.

It has reasonably high coverage and features a very soft and spongey chest section that is very comfortable to most dogs.

This harness is highly adjustable and features excellent reflective strips for impressive low-light visibility.

An extra awesome and unique feature is a rear-mounted LED light that allows you to keep track of your dog easily in any level of darkness.

Headline Features

  • Strong and adjustable
  • Awesome LED navigation light
  • Two lead hooks
  • High-coverage chest section

8. Voyager Step-in Air Dog Harness

Best Pet Supplies, Inc. Voyager Step-In Air Dog Harness - All Weather Mesh, Step In Vest Harness for Small and Medium Dogs by Best Pet Supplies - Pink Base, Small (Chest: 14.5" - 17") (207-PKB-S) Here we have an ultra-simple harness purpose-designed for small dogs and even cats!

It’s simple and designed for comfort, the super-soft material feels great, and there are no straps or seems that can dig into your dog.

This harness features just the one top-mounted lead hook, and it’s simple yet effective step-in fitting means you won’t need to mess about with clips.

The material is stretchy to give your dog plenty of room, and there are tons of sizes available and almost 20 different colours.

Headline Features

  • Super simple step-in design
  • Purpose-made for small dogs
  • Comfortable material
  • Lots of sizes and colours available

About the breed

Shi Tzu translates from Chinese literally as ‘little lion,’ but these small dogs were bred specifically as companion pets, and there is nothing ferocious about them or their temperament.

Belonging well and truly to the toy group of dogs, Shih Tzus are essentially a piece of Chinese history. They have been loved and valued by the Chinese for over 1000 years and are held in very high regard as royal dogs, sacred even that deserve to be treated with the utmost care and respect.

They will follow you and look up to you, are trustworthy and social with most people, if a little shy and possessive! Shih Tzus are quite active and are surprisingly sturdy; they’re stout and not as fragile as they might look.

The Shih Tzu breed, as small dogs, are quite easily injured. Yep, they’re more robust and more durable than they look, but that means they can pull badly on their leash and strain their neck and larynx.

Small dogs can be packed with energy on walks; they might want to chase insects, roll around in the grass and scurry about the undergrowth. That’s all well and good, but as we all know, there are times dogs have to be kept on a lead to prevent them from running into danger.

Collar or Harness for Shih Tzus

When it comes to keeping your dog on a leash, there are two options:

Collars

Collars are the traditional go-to option for attaching a lead to a dog. Collars are simple to attach and detach, that’s their greatest asset. For dogs that don’t pull on leads and have no problem walking calmly beside you on a collar, they do the trick under most circumstances.

However, the downside of collars is that any dog pulling in a collar is quite simply choking itself. Even if you think your dog is calm on the lead, something might spook it, and it could suddenly thrust itself forward or lurch, and with a collar, this can be very dangerous.

This can be a problem for all dogs, strong and large dogs can put enormous force on their neck, but small dogs have weaker necks and throats and might be very vulnerable to choking injury.

As a breed, Shih Tzus can suffer from Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS); this makes it especially important that you don’t put too much pressure on their delicate throats.

Harnesses

Harnesses are essential for any dog that has issues continually pulling on the lead. They allow you to control your dog better and restrain them while protecting the throat and neck.

Harnesses are comfortable for most dogs, they might cause some minor annoyance at first but nothing compared to nasty larynx, neck or back injuries.

Harnesses have no real downside, and while it might take a couple of minutes getting your dog in and out of one, the benefits are clear and distinct.

Pulling Habits of Shih Tzus

Though they’re ‘little lions’, a Shih Tzu is pretty unlikely to cause you real strain by pulling on a lead. Still, these dogs, despite being excellent companions, are known to be quite stubborn. That means lead training might be difficult if they do happen to pull too much.

Shih Tzus are friendly and like their comforts but actually, they’re very alert, and this can translate into high-energy outdoor habits like chasing movement, darting through the undergrowth and interacting with other dogs willingly.

Of course, when you’re able to, you should let your Shih Tzu enjoy free reign to roam and enjoy the outdoors, but when you need to keep them on a lead, harnesses are very beneficial.

Shih Tzus are small and though they probably pack more muscle than many might think, this only increases the chances of them straining their neck or back by pulling.

Collars might be an option for extremely calm Shih Tzus that remain close to their owner with the lead very slack. Still, most of the time, a harness is vital for eliminating the chance of your excited and energetic Shih Tzu from running off on lead and choking themselves badly.

What Makes a Good Shih Tzu Harness?

It depends on your dog’s needs and general tolerance of harnesses. Dogs that tolerate harnesses very well and pull little can go with a minimal Y-shaped harness that covers lesser parts of the body. This won’t make them feel constricted and will protect against the occasion pull or lurch on the lead.

If your Shih Tzu pulls on the lead a lot, a harness dual-clip harness can help gently remind them to leave some slack on the lead. These use double-ended leads that are attached to each clip. The front clip pulls your dog to the side when they pull forward, tilting their head towards you. This allows you to get their attention, ultimately culminating in less pulling.

Shih Tzus that are super-alert and bouncy might benefit from a more comprehensive harness that covers the front of the body and shoulders.

This might seem unnecessary, but the greater surface area a harness covers, the higher level of protection it confers. It’s also worth mentioning that larger, thicker harnesses can also double up as an extra layer in cold weather.

Types of Harness and Clipping Positions

Soft Vest Harness

Soft vest harnesses are simple, comfortable and lightweight. They’re relatively basic and are suitable for adding a level of protection against pulling injury for a dog that is already pretty well-trained for being on a lead. Soft vests are the simplest form of harness, they’re safer for your dog than a collar, but there are other harnesses available if your dog is still lead training.

Front Clip Harnesses

Having a clip at the front of your harness may seem bizarre but actually, attaching a lead to the front of your dog has quite a few benefits. Of course, there’s the benefit of preventing choking and neck strain, but also, front clipped harnesses encourage your dog to walk in a position where their body is comfortably angled for walking with you, typically by your side.

Front clipped harnesses are essential for dogs that need to be trained specifically for walking directly by your side and not out in front, e.g. in law enforcement. Front clips are positioned below your dog’s head, which means they have a lower centre of gravity that leads to more natural control for powerful dogs.

Back Clip Harnesses

Back clips are more common and allow your dog to stride out normally in front of you. It’ll feel like walking your dog with a collar; the pulling point will be over your dog’s head. Of course, the fact the clip is attached to a harness provides much greater control as you can restrain a dog’s core and front legs, not just its neck and head.

Front and Back Clips

Many harnesses come with front and back clips so you can choose which one you use, or you can combine the two with a double-ended lead. Double-ended leads attach to each clip which allows you to pull your dog to the side when they pull via the front clip, so you can avert their gaze or grab their attention.

The back clip will be the usual supporting clip, so your dog can still stride out in front of you as normal, which wouldn’t be the case if you’re only using a front clip.

Control/Pinch Harnesses

In problematic pulling cases, control or pinch harnesses deter a dog from pulling by pinching their neck. It’s the last resort, and they’re avoided at all costs. While they won’t harm a dog, they will hurt them, and this can cause worsening behaviour as a dog associates the pain to the harness and lead.

How to measure your Shih Tzu and Sizings

There are very few dogs smaller than Shih Tzus, so you’ll usually need the smallest harnesses available. Shih Tzus very rarely grow beyond 12 inches or 30cm in height and have chest sizes of around 12 inches to 18 inches, or 30 to 45cm.

The only breeds typically smaller than them on average are Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Maltese and Griffon Bruxellois. However, Shih Tzus are the heavier and stronger of the toy breeds, and larger ones can weigh up to 10kg! And then you have to consider their thick coats.

However, generally speaking, these little lions will still nearly always require the smallest harnesses available for grown dogs, smaller if your Shih Tzu is still a puppy.

To measure, simply take the height and chest circumference of your dog and compare it against sizes available. Height is taken from floor to the top of the head whereas chest width is taken around the widest part of the ribcage.

Tips for Shih Tzu Harnesses

  • Shih Tzus Like to Jump off Things

Shih Tzus think they can fly! Many owners report them being pretty audacious with what they can jump off so a harness is advantageous just in case your over-zealous Shih Tzu decides they can jump off a ledge or other high platform. They’ll be secure, and their neck and body will be protected.

  • Shih Tzus are Prone to Heat Exhaustion

Because of a Shih Tzu’s size, coat and nose length, they are exceptionally vulnerable to heat exhaustion. A harness could exacerbate this problem in hot weather so be aware and choose a lightweight, thin and relatively loose Shih Tzu harness if you need to.

  • Shih Tzus Should Tolerate Harnesses Well

Shih Tzus love their owners and as companion dogs, will usually be very accommodating. It’d be rare to have serious problems with a Shih Tzu rejecting harness, and they should make life easy for you!

  • Remember your Tags

In many countries, keeping tags on a dog is a legal requirement, and in the situation your dog escapes somehow, it is vital you ensure it has tags that may normally be attached to a collar. Often, you may need to lead a collar on your dog loosely as well as the harness to ensure it has its tags.

This also means you’re unlikely to forget – if you take the collar off with the tags, then you may not remember to attach them to the harness.

Summary

Shih Tzus are loving, sociable and agreeable with their owners who are their world! Usually, Shih Tzus are relaxed on a lead, but their energy and audacious behaviour can lead to some pulling and peril, and so, a harness is a great choice to keep your Shih Tzu safe from injury.

Also, while they are very small, Shih Tzus are quite stout and strong compared to other toy breeds so they might be more liable to hurt their neck if they thrust or lurch on the lead.

Shih Tzus, as a trusting breed, should be easy enough to fit into a harness and will likely not mind at all, maybe even enjoying their soft warmth! Still, it’s crucial to be aware of overheating, and while the harnesses here are breathable and take this into account, you do need to be extra careful with your Shih Tzu.

It’s impossible to pick one harness from this impressive lineup. If your Shih Tzu is prone to pulling then, a higher coverage two-hook harness might be best. You won’t always need to use the front hook; it’d be unlikely a Shih Tzu would pull so much that he or she needs more intense leash training.

We hope you found this article on the best harness for a Shih Tzu helpful. You can check out more dog harness articles here. Don’t forget to comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Co-Founder of Collar & Harness, there's little he doesn't know about dogs. TopDog loves agility but is far too unfit to keep up. Offers advice and articles on dog harnesses, collars, travel, food and temperament. Has featured articles in Huffington Post, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and others. Is woeful at speaking foreign languages.

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