Ruffwear harnesses are strong and stylish, but more importantly, they're extremely adjustable which means a large majority of dogs will get a good fit. Don't get us wrong, there isn't a harness out there that is suitable for every dog when you consider how many shapes and sizes our furry friends come in, but we really do have a great success rate with these products.
We've toured the length and breadth of the UK, meeting thousands of your dogs along the way. We've met all sorts of dogs on our travels, and picked up quite the skill for fitting these harnesses. Unfortunately, over the internet, we can't fit them for you, so here's our top tips for those of you fitting your own dogs.
General measurements & the size chart
The sizing charts are 100% accurate and factual - Ruffwear harnesses adjust both in and out to their provided measurements.
First, establish your dog's girth size by looping a tape measure just behind their front legs to get the measurement. (Pro Tip: you can get these free from your local Swedish Furniture Labyrinth)
Ensure you are measuring this at the widest point. This is especially relevant for greyhound/whippet type dogs who generally have a larger, deeper rib cage compared to breeds such as Labradors or Spaniels.
Top Tip: Go by your measurement rather than gut feeling - sizing between different brands is inconsistent. 'He's a large in XXX brand' doesn't help I'm afraid.
Once you have a girth measurement, compare that to the size chart below/on the product page to establish the likely size. All Ruffwear harnesses have the same size banding. For example, if you measured 60cm girth, you can comfortably expect a small (which fits 56cm to 69cm) to be the size you should try first.
If however your dog measures on the border of two sizes, we recommend choosing the larger of those two sizes or if you'd prefer, buying both sizes to try, and return the one that doesn't fit for a refund.
Rarely (but it does happen), a dog that measures comfortably for one size may benefit by trying the next size up as well. Don't try this first time, go with the guidance above, but occasionally this does solve a problem if the initial size is ill-fitting and can result in a good fit for an irregular shaped breed.
Top Tip: for those that choose to try a size up note that this brands girth straps will adjust down below the lowest size they publish. If you end up getting your desired fit in this unconventional way you will have to shorten or manage the longer straps to keep them out of harms way.
For puppies our advice is unless you are happy to replace the item pretty quickly we recommend that you wait until they are nearly full size before investing. The best time to buy is just as they near bottom end of the size banding so that you can adjust upwards as you go.
It's arrived, what now?
The item will arrive fitted for the card it is mounted on, usually this means the neck is set quite wide but the girth straps are on a smallish setting and are fully doubled over.
Firstly orient yourself with the harness after removing from the card. The picture below shows the Front range with the neck on the right and the girth straps on the left.
The following picture from our surveillance drone shows the girth straps at the top and the neck at the bottom:
Next, and before putting the item anywhere near the dog, familiarise yourself with the webbing straps on the girth (the straps with the buckle) and how they adjust.
Just like a rucksack there is a rectangle shape plastic slider that when moved towards the male buckle loosens the strapping to allow it to be fed further through the buckle.
Sliding and feeding, will eventually mean you are at full length. You may need some patience if you haven't done this before. Top Tip: Sticking your tongue out of the corner of your mouth improves concentration during this process.
When fully adjusted out it will be mostly a single strap with the rectangle slider virtually on top of the male buckle.
When adjusted smaller the straps will be doubled over and if needed you can keep adjusting down if needed.
Here are some images showing different stages of adjustment
Girth strap at smaller setting (dog is lower in fit range) - adjustable both sides
Girth strap at longest setting (dog is higher in fit range) - adjustable both sides
Girth strap adjusted well below manufacturer guidelines (generally not required unless fitting a larger harness on a smaller dog) - adjustable both sides
Next, check out how to adjust the neck.
Top Tip: when the slider is near the body of the harness (the bit with the Ruffwear logo on) - it is at its smallest setting. When the slider is near the chest plate (the bit with the fabric loop on it), it is at its largest aperture.
Neck Adjustment (Minimum) -adjustable both sides
Neck Adjustment (Maximum) - adjustable both sides
Fitting to dog
Although we are showing the Front Range harness in the images the principles of adjustment also apply to the Hi & Light, Web Master & Flagline too.
Further notes for these other products are at the foot of this guidance.
Mountain Dog method
Now we're going to let you in on our not-so secret method, the one our colleagues use when fitting these harnesses in store and at events.
Step 1 - Adjust neck fully out on both sides (See pictures above)
Our reasoning for this is that if you fully adjust the neck out this gives you maximum flexibility to decide on where the harness sits on the dog's back. By not doing this step you may fit the harness too far forward.
Step 2 - Adjust the girth straps out (See pictures above)
Adjust the girth straps to approximately the sizing of the dog's girth, you can use a tape measure to get it nearly right off dog or if you are reckless just adjust them out most of the way and tighten them on the dog later. Wiggly dogs prefer the first method, people who haven't acquired a free tape measure from the meatball vendors the second.
Step 3 - Place over dog's head
It's like awarding them a gold (or blue ,red...) medal at the Olympics, playing national anthems is an added option - we particularly like Advance Australia Fair currently
Once over the dog's head you can now see where the harness naturally sits on their back. Our goal is to sit the harness centrally on the chest and the harness body (the bit with the logo) slightly back from the neck to place the girth strap a little distance behind the front legs. This approach avoids rubbing.
Due to the neck being fully adjusted you may feel the whole harness it is sitting too far back so to remedy place it nearer the neck allowing the girth straps to naturally fall a few cm behind those front legs.
Do note depending on doggo's physique those straps could just be a few cm from the front legs and not as far back as shown on our very well behaved model dog below.
Step 4 - Adjust girth straps
Once you are happy with the harness placement use the sliders to tighten both girth straps. Try to balance the adjustment so it is similarly set on each side i.e. try to avoid one being much longer than the other.
The goal here is to have the straps fitted but not too tight. Loose straps cause a lot of harness movement and sores which is not good for you or the dog when you routinely start to use the harness.
Top Tip: One to two fingers gap between the strap and dog is often accepted as appropriate (Ladies, think bra straps!, Men, stop it...)
Step Five - Final adjustment to the neck
Once the girth straps are closed you may now find that the neck is too baggy, especially if you have moved the harness forward, adjust these whilst on dog to a gap of one to two fingers. We personally are less concerned if the neck is slightly looser than the girth straps but this is personal choice.
Top Tip: Sometimes adjusting webbing straps with sliders are counter-intuitive to adjust alongside new fabric putting up a fight to adjust. If you are finding this is the case and to reduce stress to the dog steps 4 & 5 can be done off dog but it will take a little longer and a few on/off/adjust attempts to get exactly right.
Your first fitting is done!
As you start to use the harness in every day situations you may need to tweak its sizing a little bit. Getting those adjustments set 100% right first time is rare so adjust as you go.
Pro Tip: We find a cup of tea or something stronger helps in every part of the process we describe. Hob Nobs (Other biscuit products are also available) help as well we are reliably told.
If the above steps didn't work out, fitting guidance from Ruffwear themselves can be found on You Tube. They make it look oh so simple, congratulations if you quickly achieve these results and as simply as is portrayed - you are a Ruffwear Jedi and we will offer you a fitting job at our next show :-)
Seriously, if it doesn't work out, it's possible (not likely) you could just own one of those dogs who doesn't do Ruffwear, a rare but somewhat enigmatic beast indeed.
Sometimes switching to between a more rigid harness (Web Master or Front Range) to a more flexible one like a Flagline or High & Light can yield positive results as well
Of course if all else fails we have our 30 day return policy. We can exchange or refund as required as often a change of brand changes the results.
Do please ensure any tried on harness hasn't been used in the wild and is in as new condition.
Other Harness Models
For the other harnesses, follow the same principles but here are some small tips for each:
Hi & Light & Flagline Harnesses
Top Tip: Some of the straps are hidden in little pockets on the underside of the harness. These straps are naturally shy and like to blend in, so lure them out of the pocket with spare dog treats and a calm cooing voice and then when they are found you can fully adjust the harness as above - be sure to tuck them back in afterwards they don't like to dangle or become too cold!
As these have two girth straps it is always good practice to try to place the second strap (the one at the back of harness) behind where the rib cage gets smaller. If achievable this approach helps keeps your Houdini impersonator where you need them whilst distributing the weight further over their body.
Note for the Web Master there is only one buckle on the forward girth strap so your dog will need to have their front right leg fed in when putting the harness on.
(Pictures to follow as this blog gets updated)
Finally, thank you for getting to the final sentence of this rather long guide, it's been emotional for us, hopefully helpful for you and if you want (or need!) to continue the discussion do ping us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org - we will always try our best to help.
Thanks for being a Mountain Dog customer