dog lifting harness

How to Choose Dog Lift Harnesses and Slings For Aging And Disabled Dogs



A dog lift harness, also referred to as a lifting sling, is a sling with a long handle that wraps around your dog’s body. Once it is wrapped around your dog’s body, you can use it to reduce some of the weight off your dog’s hips, spine or legs, by gently pulling up on the handle.

There are several ailments and conditions that make it necessary for you to use a dog lift harness for your dog, some of the most common being:

  • Hip dysplasia, when the hip joint does not develop properly, causing pain and decreased mobility
  • Traumatic injuries, from broken bones to sprained knees, all of which can put limitations on a dog’s strength and stability
  • Arthritis caused by long-term overuse or some type of autoimmune disease
  • Recent surgery that could cause your dog to have mobility issues, strained muscles, or even breaking his stitches while he heals
  • Spine Injuries
  • Missing Limbs
  • Old age, often the cause of reduced mobility in dogs

Even though there are countless ways you can use a lift harness to makes your dog’s life easier, the following are the most common ways in which it will help your dog:

  • Getting in and out of a car
  • Negotiating stairs
  • Walking, if your dog is semi-mobile
  • Carrying him around if he is unable to walk at all
  • Going outside to relieve himself

Different types of dog lift harnesses and their benefits

There are several different types of dog lift harnesses available, each of them providing their own unique advantages. They include:

Front Carrier Lift Harness

Front Lifting Harness
— as the name implies, this type of lift sling can be used to provide support for your dog’s legs by reducing the weight off the front of his body and help with his mobility and walking. The front harness will also help your dog to walk and exercise better, as well as reduce pressure on problematic joints, if any.  

Top-Rated Amazon Recommendation: Front Carrier Lift Harness

Rear Lift Harness

Rear Harness
— works the same as the front harness by offering the same benefits to dogs with paralysis or weakness of the hind end, by allowing you to lift your dog high enough to prevent his hind legs from dragging along the ground.

Recommended on Amazon: Back End Harness Dog Lift

Front and Rear Combo Harness

Front and Rear Combo/Multi-functional Harness — a complete harnessing system that can be used as a full support rear harness but can also be connected to a front harness in future if necessary. It can also be used to give support to the entire body. Since it is wheelchair compatible, your dog can use the same harness, the one that he is used to, should he need a wheelchair later in life. This harness is comfortable, completely safe and can be worn full time, should your dog need plenty of assistance.

Recommended on Amazon: Front & Rear Combo Harness

Lifting Harness

Support sling for mid-section — this is a wide strap that goes under the abdominal area of your dog. It is attached to handles and like the rear-end support leash, eases the downward pressure on that area when the owner pulls the handles upwards. This type of sling is designed specifically to provide therapeutic effects for dogs suffering from general weakness in the legs as well as those healing after surgery.

Recommended on Amazon: Lifting Harness

Lifting Harness

Lifting harness — the lifting harness/sling fits around the dog’s mid-section, providing support that needs help to climb stairs or get in and out of cars, even though he is still able to walk on his own. It is especially beneficial for those dogs recovering from surgery or that suffer from severe arthritis.

Recommended on Amazon: Lifting Harness

Dog Amputee Harness

Amputee harness — designed especially for three-legged dogs, this harness provides extra support to the torso where canine amputees need it the most.

Full Body Harness

Full Body Harness — this system provides support for a dog’s shoulders and hind end when you lift them, so is excellent for dogs with end stage paralysis and dogs recuperating after surgery.

Recommended at Amazon: Full-Body Lifting Harness

How to measure your dog for the best fitting harness

Proper sizing is essential when purchasing a dog lift harness. It should not be too tight, hard to clip or buckle and should not rub under your dog’s armpits or anywhere else. Dog lift harnesses are usually available from extra small to extra-large, with the size being determined by the measurement of your dog’s chest and rib cage.

Should you not be able to take your dog to try on a lifting sling, measure his rib cage and chest and add two inches. If your dog is between sizes, then buy a harness the next size up. These measurements are normally in line with the following sizes:

  • 8 to 14 inches — Extra small
  • 10 to 20 inches — Small
  • 16 to 28 inches — Medium
  • 26 to 40 inches — Large
  • 40 plus inches — Extra large

With the many dog lift harnesses available on the market, you are almost guaranteed to find one to fit your dog, no matter what size he is.

How to choose a harness for a male/female dog and how it may affect urination and defecation

Defecating with a dog harness is no issue for male or female dogs, since the support straps that pass between their hind legs are kept apart by their tails. This means that there is constant clearance when they need to defecate.

Urinating poses no problems for females for the very same reason. Most males can urinate with a conventional harness, as their penises are usually in front of the belly strap, giving them more than enough clearance if they need to urinate.

However, there are some dogs whose penises start further back between their rear legs, so the belly strap might cover part of their penis. There are harnesses especially designed for these dogs, with a cut-out provided for penis clearance.

Which dog lift harness is beneficial to small and large dogs?

The “Help ‘Em Up Dog Harness,” is thought to be the most beneficial dog harnesses on the market today and is suitable for extra small dogs weighing 8 pounds to extra-large ones weighing up to 220 pounds.

Are dog harnesses easy to wash?

It is safe to hand or machine wash most dog lift harnesses available, but it is best to air dry them, since dryers tend to dry out them out over time, which does reduce their lifespan.
How easy is it to put on the various styles?

Every style of lift sling has its own unique set of techniques when putting it on a dog, with some of them being slipped over the dog’s head and others needing the dog to step into it. It is important though, with any style, to allow your dog to get used to it first, to make the process as stress-free as possible, for both you and your dog.

Tips on how to introduce your dog to a lift harness

It will take a little time and patience to get your dog used to wearing his lift harness, but once he is trained, he will be quite happy to wear it for long periods of time. With a few treats on hand to reward him, do the following:

  • Show your dog the harness and let him sniff it
  • Place some treats on the harness for him to eat
  • Introduce him to the sounds of the harness, like fixing the buckle
  • Touch him gently with the harness
  • Get him to eat treats through the harness
  • Ease him into the harness slowly, without fastening the buckles, then take it off him again
  • Once he is comfortable doing this, you can put the harness on him and fasten the buckles
  • Let him roam around in familiar surroundings while he has the lift sling on before taking him out on his first walk

You might have to go through these steps a few times, depending on how timid your dog is, but it is essential to not rush things.

Can the harness be left on permanently?

Dog lift harnesses can be worn for long periods, but the experts agree that dogs should have a break from wearing them now and again. If possible, dogs should be allowed to sleep without it, or if it is a dog that normally goes outside to relieve himself during the night, then the lift sling should be taken off afterwards.

If you do leave the harness on your dog for long periods, it is advisable to check for overheating and hot spots which could cause him plenty of discomfort. A good indication that he is uncomfortable, is if he starts chewing on his harness when he is alone.