Because I’ve always had big dogs, I’m well versed in how to handle heavy, energetic dogs who love going on multiple walks a day. But this week, I’m visiting my in-laws in California. They have two toy dogs: Walter, a Maltese; and Rosemary, a Yorkshire terrier. These dogs are tiny—Rosemary only weighs 3 pounds! And even though they’re small dogs, they adore their daily walks. Because Walter and Rosemary are so tiny, they have to wear harnesses every time they go walking. If you just snapped a leash onto a collar, you could unintentionally injure a toy dog’s neck.
Walter (right) and Rosemary (left) all harnessed up and ready to go walking.
Even though they’re tiny, toy dogs do need exercise. They enjoy twice-daily walks for the same reasons bigger dogs do: the opportunity to stretch their leg and heart muscles, and the excitement of exploring the outside world.
So what special dog-walking products can you use with your toy or smaller dogs to make the experience a joy for everyone?
- The Right Harness
- Finding the Right Leash for Small Dogs
The Right Harness
It can be tricky to find a harness that fits a smaller dog. Walter’s bigger than Rosemary, so finding him a harness wasn’t as hard. But Rosemary’s so tiny, we had to go through several harnesses before finding one that fits her. And she’s full-grown! Harnesses are important because they keep pressure and tension off a dog’s neck and instead distribute it between their shoulders, chest, and back.
Let’s take a look at the best harnesses for smaller dogs, from tiny to less tiny.
Snazzi Pet Soft Mesh Step-In Harness for Tiny Dogs
One of the only harnesses on the market that’s made for dogs under three pounds, this harness is made of breathable mesh and can fit dogs as small as two pounds. If we hadn’t found such a perfect harness for Rosemary (see the next harness!), we would’ve ordered her this one. And we still may. It’s special when you find a product that fits your teensy dog, who at full size is smaller than most puppies!
Top Paw Comfort Harness XS
We found this harness for Rosemary after much searching, and while it’s a little loose, it does the job. It’s made from a combination of mesh and straps, so it’s more comfortable than an all-strap harness. The straps have reflective tape running down them, which is perfect for Rosemary because she enjoys nighttime walks with Walter. (Note that Rosemary has a slightly different color than the one pictured here—but it’s the same harness.)
Rosemary on a nighttime walk.
Metric USA No-Pull Small Dog Harness Vest
Does your small dog love to lunge and pull? While it’s not as annoying as a bigger dog who can’t stop yanking you along on the leash, this no-pull vest can help your pup learn to stop tugging so much, which is better for his own small body. You don’t want him to strain his muscles too much. This vest is specially designed for dogs 25 pounds and under.
If your small dog seems to escape from every other harness you’ve ever tried, she’ll meet her match with this no-pull vest, which is pretty much impossible to get out of. But it’s padded and comfy, so your dog probably won’t even want to slip out! Note that this harness is best for cooler temperatures, as it’s not breathable mesh. Or, if you live in a hotter area, take your dog walking early in the morning or late in the evening with this vest to prevent overheating.
Voyager Step-In Air Harness, All-Weather Mesh
If you live somewhere rainy or snowy, you and your small dog will benefit from this harness. Its all-weather mesh wicks moisture away from your dog’s fur, keeping her dry and warm in the colder months and fresh and cool in the hotter months. You can purchase the vest for dogs who weigh anywhere from 5 to 30 pounds—just remember to take all the recommended measurements first so that you order the right size on the first try!
Ruffwear Multi-Use Support Dog Harness
Ideal for small dogs who love challenge and adventure or who have special needs (think an amputated limb), this harness features not only a lead clip but also a handle on the section that goes over your dog’s back. Because this harness features three different straps for optimal body support, you can safely and easily use the handle lift your dog over creeks or rocky, rugged terrain while out hiking or trail running.
The straps are padded to provide a comfortable hold, and the material is moisture-resistant. This harness will be ready to tackle whatever you and your adventurous little dog encounter together.
Are Walter and Rosemary adventurous enough for the multi-use support dog harness from Ruffwear? You be the judge!
Finding the Right Leash for Small Dogs
Now that we’ve looked at the best harnesses on the market, we’ll take a look at the best leashes to go with the harnesses. Smaller dogs may or may not need leashes that are 6 feet or longer—it all depends on the dog and the type of walk. Rosemary has a shorter leash than Walter because she’s so tiny. Because she and Walter always walk together, Walter’s longer leash allows him to trot in front, keeping Rosemary safely behind him.
Walter walking in front of Rosemary. He’s bigger, so it’s safer if she’s just a little behind him.
Vivaglory Two-Handled Dog Leash
This 4-foot lead is ideal for a smaller dog who’s walking with a larger (but still small) dog, as in the case of Walter and Rosemary. It’s got two handles, too, which makes it easy to maneuver your little dogs through crowded areas or quickly pick them up (as long as you’re using a harness and not a collar) to save them from getting into a tussle with big dogs on your street. You can also order the leash in a 6-foot length; order the 4-foot one for your smaller dog and the 6-foot for your bigger dog, and you’ll be set to enjoy your daily walks.
Flexi Classic Small Retractable Leash
You know how much I love the Flexi leash for Eira, and the good news is that Flexi makes leashes for little dogs, too. Because little dogs aren’t as strong and forceful as big dogs, this Flexi is made with a cord, not a tape leash material, and it extends 16 feet. With the same locking capabilities as the bigger Flexi leashes, this small leash will give your dog room to explore the world.
Now that you know which products work best to enjoy walking with your small dogs, go enjoy fresh air with them at least twice a day! You’ll both benefit greatly from the exercise and companionship.
Walter and Rosemary enjoying each other’s companionship while out on a walk. Or maybe it’s just Rosemary who’s enjoying this particular type of companionship!