||Icefang Tactical Dog Operation Harness||SEE IT||
This harness maximizes breathability and durability for long-term use.
||OneTigris X Destroyer Dog Harness||SEE IT||
An affordable option that exceeded expectations by being extremely adjustable, even over other options.
||LBT 1608K-9 Military Working Dog Harness||SEE IT||
A professional-grade harness made for military and police canines, this will stand up to the harshest environments
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Service animals are indispensable for many people, especially those with health conditions, ranging from seeing eye dogs to canines trained to respond to epileptic seizures, and they often wear specialized high-visibility service dog vests. Emblazoned with “service dog” patches, these vests not only allow the dog to be easily identified as a specially trained animal, but are also more animal-friendly for any dog, since, unlike collars, they don’t concentrate pressure on the animal’s throat if they strain against the leash. Due to this fact, many people prefer these dog harnesses as more humane training tools over collars, especially for particularly rambunctious dogs
However, it must be stated that identifying your dog as a service dog without proper certification or training is illegal in many places in the United States, and moreover, unethical. Simply having a MOLLE dog harness for your dog does not make them a service animal, and the question of a real service dog vest versus a fake one ultimately boils down to avoiding any sort of marking or tag on the vest that says “service animal,” or anything that could be construed as that through wordplay. Knowingly misrepresenting your pet as a service dog carries penalties of fines or worse.
With that being said, we partnered with service dog-in-training Sprinkles to test the options on this list and make sure that they work for their intended purposes. The vests today were chosen not only based on which helped Sprinkles in her training but also based on which one she liked the best, ensuring that our picks for the best service dog vests are puppy-approved.
- Best Overall: Icefang Tactical Dog Operation Harness
- Best Budget: OneTigris X Destroyer Dog Harness
- Best Tactical: LBT 1608K-9 Military Working Dog Harness
- Best for Hiking: Chai’s Choice Retriever Harness
“Icefang” is probably the coolest company name on this list, but this isn’t just a cool-sounding cute service dog vest with no functionality. This dog harness blends durability with functionality, and at a good price. The Icefang dog harness makes use of things like bar-tack stitching, featuring a mesh backing for cooling and comfort, and metal buckles at key stress points. Best of all, we could get a slightly larger size so that when Sprinkles grows, she can keep wearing the same dog harness.
Dogs are rambunctious creatures, and especially for those being trained to be around humans or other animals, they can get scared. The Icefang dog harness prepares for this by focusing on durability and features metal buckles on the shoulders so that they won’t break when the dog invariably strains against the harness, or when climbing over obstacles while hiking. Another point of durability is the use of bar-tack stitching on every high-stress point on the buckles and leash points. Most importantly, the top and front leash points mean that you can attach a leash to the front of the harness for particularly rowdy dogs, which will cause them to turn if they rush forward, rather than jerking them back, as with a top-mounted leash.
The issue with the leash points is that Sprinkles liked to bite her leash in excitement whenever she went out for walks, so a leash point at the rear of the harness would have been useful since she could easily bite a front- or top-mounted leash. Another issue is that the adjustment straps hung loose, so we had to tape them like ruck straps. Finally, the under-body support for the dog isn’t great, which is a problem when you have to pick up a smaller dog to get them over obstacles or into a vehicle if they’re being stubborn.
- Materials: Nylon fabric, metal shoulder buckles, plastic torso buckles, mesh backing
- Medium: 16-22 inches (neck); 25-31 inches (chest)
- Large: 18-24 inches (neck); 28-35 inches (chest)
- X-Large: 20-28 inches (neck); 32-39 inches (chest)
- Colors: Black, coyote brown, gray, reflective black, reflective brown, safety orange
- Country of manufacture: China
- This service dog vest balances cost-effectiveness with durability and fitment, as well as comfort for the dog, ensuring that long hours of wear don’t hurt or tire an animal.
Chest and back leash points
Plastic buckles still used
Adjustment straps aren’t captive
Less chest support for the dog
When Sprinkles’ human gave me his recommendations for dog vests, and I saw OneTigris on the list, and I’ll admit that my biases were in full effect. OneTigris mostly makes airsoft-grade gear, so I didn’t find this very promising at all. However, in testing, this harness performed admirably, even outdoing more expensive options in several cases.
The biggest advantage of the X Destroyer is that it makes use of large fields of Velcro (instead of straps) under the dog’s rib cage, allowing for fine adjustment, which takes into account many breeds of dog, dog growth, and other factors. Another excellent touch that other vests totally forgot was the addition of a rear leash point, which was great for Sprinkles’ aforementioned love of chewing her leash and being a terrorist. Finally, this vest has many handles, allowing for easy, humane control of a dog, and for picking the dog up in emergencies.
The leash points are well-placed, but they’re unfortunately made of cheap metal that’s neither steel or aluminum, which doesn’t bode well for long-term durability, especially if you use a leash with a harder steel clip. The nylon material of the vest itself feels cheap, and the stitching isn’t the best, especially along the edges of the vest, which could lead to issues with abrasion over long-term use. Finally, and most crucially for Sprinkles and her thick coat, the vest is not mesh-backed despite being nearly full-coverage, and she overheated more quickly, relative to other options.
- Materials: 1000D nylon, metal, and plastic buckles, metal leash points
- Medium: 16-23 inches (neck); 24-32 inches (chest); 15 inches (back)
- Large: 18-25 inches (neck); 27-36 inches (chest); 17 inches (back)
- X-Large: 20-29 inches (neck); 31-40 inches (chest); 19 inches (back)
- Colors: Black, brown, green, gray
- Country of manufacture: China
- This sleeper hit proved fantastically adjustable, durable, and comfortable, and even achieved some things that higher-priced picks could not, especially in terms of fitting Sprinkles perfectly.
Front and rear leash points
Cheap leash points
London Bridge Trading, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, has been a mainstay in tactical equipment for certain end-users (it’s the SEALs, guys) for decades. Its reputation for solid, hard-working gear is well-earned, and proven in blood, sweat, and tears on the battlefield. Its military working dog harness is great for people who have a very large MWD-breed dog that they love to take on their most active adventures, or for that one guy in your unit (you know the one) who has a Belgian Malinois, and maybe a kid named after a gun. Whatever the case, this is an indestructible, official service dog vest, except in this case the service is military-related tasks. Sprinkles wasn’t big enough for this vest, but she might be someday.
LBT gear costs a pretty penny, but what you get with that cost is top-tier workmanship and materials, made in a small shop in Virginia. The biggest advantage of this system is that it’s designed to be used for working dogs that accompany members of Naval Special Warfare on missions, so it’s got things like stretch material in crucial high mobility areas, a combination of zippers and buckles for maximum security, mounting options for every possible leashing preference, rappelling and parachuting mounting points for tandem jumps or rappels, and more. Due to these characteristics, this harness has seen official use by many different branches of the military in combat zones around the world.
The downside to LBT’s exacting manufacturing standards is that the cost is, by many peoples’ standards, astronomical. Coming in at well north of $600 before military discounts, this harness is designed for people who are issued it by work, not people who pay their own money for it. LBT also doesn’t make these in large quantities, so you could find yourself in the unlucky position of having to go on a waitlist. Finally, this is made for a full-size purebred military working dog, so for those of you who want your Chihuahua to have a mall ninja vest, you’re out of luck.
- Materials: 1000D Milspec Cordura, mesh, aircraft aluminum buckles, zipper, elastic binding
- Sizes: One size for dogs 75-85 pounds
- Colors: MAS grey, multicam, black, coyote brown
- Country of manufacture: USA
- This ultra-durable vest, made in Virginia Beach, is for the person who wants a professional working dog harness for their fully-grown dog, and who prioritizes quality details over cost-savings.
Hand-made in the U.S.
Officially used by military working dogs
Huge mounting flexibility
Only made for large dogs
The issue with many dog harnesses on this list is that they look overtly tactical, and some owners just want a cute service dog vest that is none-the-less durable. Chai’s Choice is a rebrand of Chinese brand Winhyepet, which uses quality materials like Dupont fabric and 3M reflectors to ensure that, despite the country of origin, it’s a quality vest that can keep up. This is also one of the best service dog vests for hot weather, due to its minimal excess coverage and use of mesh.
The Chai’s Choice harness is a great choice for those who couldn’t care less whether or not their beagle-lab-husky mix looks like a military working dog in a tactical MOLLE vest with Punisher skull patches. Name-brand materials like Dupont Cordura, 3M reflective material, and SBS zippers mean that this isn’t going to be like other options on Amazon which won’t even list what “metal” is used in their buckles. The use of reflective strips on the vest, transparent plastic buckles, and the inclusion of colors like purple, clearly signal that this is for going to the dog park, not outside the wire. Still, it features MOLLE webbing for mounting the included pouches to fit things like snacks, Velcro space for patches, and robust Cordura material.
Some design elements of this harness don’t bode well for particularly energetic or strong dogs, despite the quality materials. There’s no rear or front leash point on this vest, meaning that the only one is the one behind Sprinkles’ head, where she immediately started biting. The use of plastic buckles is another thing that many might find concerning, especially with particularly strong dogs like pit bulls who might wear these out. Finally, the lower portion of the harness and the shoulder straps are joined by a single metal ring that will likely create a hotspot or friction point on the dog’s chest after long periods of use.
- Materials: Cordura fabric, 3M reflective material, Duraflex plastic buckles, SBS zippers
- Sizes: 22-42 inches (chest)
- Colors: Army green, black and red, purple
- Country of manufacture: China
- This slim harness covers only what’s necessary to stay on, uses name-brand material, features reflective strips for road safety, and doesn’t try too hard to look tactical.
No rear leash point
Metal ring on chest causes pressure points
Things to consider before buying a service dog vest
When buying a service dog vest, the key consideration is to make sure the vest fits the animal on which you intend to put it, and then consider intended use, your dog’s temperament, and any relevant safety considerations.
Most of the harnesses on this list come in multiple sizes, fitting the most popular breeds of dogs. Most vests are sized for the dog’s chest, which is measured at the deepest point of the ribcage and over the back of the dog. However, others are measured with considerations for neck diameter and back length, which is important for particularly lanky or stout dogs that fall outside the popular dog breeds.
Some dogs are big boys and girls, and we love them all, but to make sure that they don’t go anywhere, especially when acclimating them to being around people or other dogs, it’s important to ensure that your harness is ready for your dog. For extremely strong dogs, it’s a good idea to choose load-rated harnesses that have features like front leash points to ensure that if the dog does strain against their leash, they’ll turn, rather than jerk against the leash.
If you want to take your dog with you during extreme activities like climbing, rappelling, or anything else, you’ll need to make sure your dog’s harness is load-rated and specifically designed for these features. Similarly, if you enjoy taking your dog for a walk when it’s dark, it’s a good idea to purchase a harness that either has reflective material sewn in, or has Velcro space for retroreflector patches.
FAQs about service dog vests
Q: Does the color of a service dog vest matter?
A: Not in the U.S. There is no prescribed color, however, it’s a good idea to make sure that the vest is high-visibility in all conditions. Red and blue are the most common colors.
Q: Does a service dog have to wear a vest?
A: Not in the U.S. However, when taking a service animal into a business that only allows service animals, it’s a good idea to have any relevant paperwork handy.
Q: Do service dogs fly for free?
A: Many airlines will allow passengers to fly with an accredited service animal at no extra cost, but may require documentation up to 48 hours in advance. As always, make sure that the animal in question has all relevant paperwork, and you know the relevant laws at your destination. For more information, check ADAta.org.
Q: What does a purple dog harness mean?
A: Some dog owners use color-coded harnesses to indicate how their pets should be approached. Purple usually denotes a dog that you shouldn’t feed anything to — or the dog is just a big Prince fan.
Q: Why do Marines name their dogs after guns?
A: Same reason you’ll inevitably meet some Major or Lieutenant Colonel with five kids named Ruger, Colt, Barrett, Gunner, and John (Moses Browning).
Dog harnesses aren’t just tactical accessories for people who buy their entire personality out of tactical catalogs — they’re also a superior option in terms of security, safety, and humaneness for your dog. Collars may be easier and cheaper, but dogs can choke themselves if they buck against the collar. In any case, Sprinkles the dog seemed very happy with the chosen options on this list, and she’ll likely be in the Icefang harness for a good while. She’ll have to hit the puppy protein if she wants to fit into the LBT harness, though.
The harnesses on this list were selected from a pool of six or so options, some of which did not make the cut, either because Sprinkles hated them, or because they lacked necessary features. Options from Goat Trail Tactical and Laopaw were not selected for this list despite our testing them, because of either a lack of distinguishing features above other brands or durability issues that came up in testing, respectively.
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