- What Is a Lift Harness?
- Why Do Dogs Need Lift Harnesses or Slings?
- Is There a Difference Between a Harness and a Sling?
- Which One Does My Dog Need?
- Top 10 Best Dog Lift Harnesses and Slings
- Top 5 Best Dog Lift Harnesses
- Top 5 Best Dog Lift Slings
- What to Look for in a Lift Harness or Sling
- How to Use a Dog Lift Harness
- Final Thoughts
What Is a Lift Harness?
A lift harness allows you to support some or all of your dog’s weight, either to help them walk or lift them entirely off the ground. There are plenty of harnesses and dog slings for handicapped, paralyzed, or injured pooches with the front leg, rear leg, or full-body support. We’ll help you find the best dog lift harness for your pup’s size and mobility needs, focusing mostly on rear-end support.
Why Do Dogs Need Lift Harnesses or Slings?
Dogs may need lift harnesses for a number of reasons. Dogs with long backs and short legs like dachshunds and basset hounds are often prone to back problems like intervertebral disc disease, or IVDD. In its more severe form, IVDD can cause mobility issues, so you may need to help your dog get around by supporting some of their body weight. Similarly, spinal injuries can weaken rear limbs, as can joint problems like hip dysplasia and arthritis. Simple old age can reduce mobility, as well, and rear harnesses for senior dogs are somewhat common.
However, permanent health problems aren’t the only reason for purchasing a harness or sling. If your dog is recovering from an injury or surgery, it may need some extra stability while they heal. You can aid in this process with slings for dogs to help walk or go outside to use the bathroom.
Is There a Difference Between a Harness and a Sling?
The words “harness” and “sling” are often used interchangeably in this context, though they can refer to different things as well. A sling may refer to a piece of fabric with handles to provide dog back leg support. In other words, you wouldn’t lift the whole dog with a dog hind leg sling, just provide a bit of support to hips and rear legs as they walk. Slings are also sometimes called rear or back-end harnesses.
On the other hand, a harness may refer to a partial or full-body dog harness with a handle for lifting. This type typically has straps beneath your dog’s shoulders and hips, and potentially under their belly, as well. This allows you to lift the entire dog to put them in a car, carry them upstairs, or offer whatever assistance they need. However, as you look at the different models available, you may see harnesses referred to as slings or vice versa. Just make sure that the product you purchase fits the function you need it for.
Which One Does My Dog Need?
Determining whether your dog needs a harness or a sling will depend on their size and the mobility limitations they have. If they have strong forelegs but weak rear legs or hip problems, they probably need a sling. Additionally, if you have a very large dog, picking them up entirely might be too difficult, even with a full-body dog harness, so a sling may be more appropriate.
However, for smaller dogs or dogs with weakness in all four limbs, a carrying harness may be more useful. You can lift the dog’s entire body weight at once for challenging movements like going up a set of stairs or getting in the car.
Top 10 Best Dog Lift Harnesses and Slings
Here’s a quick overview of our favorite products.
|Peak Pooch Heavy-Duty Harness||Multi-use||With three adjustable straps, a lifting handle, and a leash clip, you can use this all-purpose harness for walking as well as lifting your dog.|
|RuffWear Webmaster||Small breeds||This harness is available in sizes as low as XXS and is designed for heavy-duty outdoor use, so it’s extra durable.|
|Coodeo Dog Lift Harness||Front support||Supporting your dog at the shoulders and chest, this harness can also provide full-body support to short-backed breeds.|
|PetSafe CareLift||Lifting large dogs||Lifting a large breed dog requires more than one handle, so this harness has two: one at the shoulders and another at the hips.|
|Doggie Stylz Full-Body Harness||Adjustability||Another two-handled harness, this model provides maximum customizability in every strap at both the chest and hips.|
|Walkabout Back End Harness||Hip support||For the best in rear leg support, this sling offers a patented no-slip design you won’t find anywhere else.|
|Loobani Portable Dog Sling for Hip Support||Easy on/off||All you have to do to put this sling on is slide it under your dog’s belly and hold onto the handles, no fastening or adjusting necessary.|
|Rozkitch Pet Dog Support Harness||Affordability||This sling offers all the support and comforts your dog needs at the best price.|
|GingerLead Dog Support Sling||Going on walks||The rear-leg harness of this sling connects to your dog’s collar or chest harness to form a leash, perfect for walks.|
|Max and Neo Dog Lift Harness||Large breeds||Providing maximum durability for the heaviest and largest of dogs, this sling will stay on even if you’re not holding the handles.|
Top 5 Best Dog Lift Harnesses
In this section, you’ll find full-length dog back support harnesses with lifting handles. These harnesses have straps under the front and back legs for better weight distribution. If you want a harness to carry a dog upstairs, this is the type you need.
1. Peak Pooch Dog Carry Harness
We’ve already identified the Peak Pooch Heavy-Duty Harness as the best harness for dachshunds with back problems. If your dog is still mostly mobile on their own but needs to avoid jumping, this is an excellent choice. Since there’s a leash clip on the back of this harness, you can use it for walks as well as lifting. It features three adjustable, padded belly straps and a built-in, reinforced lifting handle. However, if you have a dachshund or similarly long-backed dog, you should use one hand in the handle and use the other to provide support to the dog’s rear end.
Sizes: XS (17”-23” chest circumference) – XL (32”-46” chest circumference)
- Superior full-body support
- Doubles as leash harness
- Excellent value for money
- XS might not fit smallest dogs
- May encourage bad habit of one-handed lifting
2. RuffWear Webmaster Support Harness
The RuffWear Webmaster is another heavy-duty harness built to allow you to lift your dog’s entire body. Although it’s meant to stand up to adventurous outdoor conditions, it’s well-designed to support your dog’s weight when lifted, so it’s also appropriate for indoor dogs who just need a bit of help. Like the Peak Pooch, this harness has a chest strap, a belly strap, and a hip strap for maximum support, though these straps aren’t as padded as some others.
Sizes: XXS (13”-17” chest circumference) – L/XL (32”-42” chest circumference)
- Durable construction
- Long harness length for dachshunds
- Wide range of sizes available
- Full coverage may be too hot for the summer months
3. Coodeo Dog Lift Harness
Dog harnesses to support back legs aren’t the only models available. If your dog’s joint issues are present in their front legs, the Coodeo Dog Lift Harness provides excellent support for a dog’s shoulders and chest. Short-backed breeds like bulldogs may even receive full-body support. Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be used to lift a long-backed breed like a dachshund one-handed; you must support their rear end with your other hand or risk causing injury.
Sizes: S (10-20 lbs.) – XL (61-90 lbs.)
- All straps are adjustable
- Full-length belly panel to better distribute weight
- Breathable fabric
- Not ideal for long-backed breeds
- Not much padding
4. PetSafe CareLift Support Harness
Sometimes large breed dogs need lifting, too. If your large dog needs help, you’ll want a product like the PetSafe CareLift that has two lifting handles: one at the dog’s shoulders and another at their hips. In fact, a two-handed lift provides better support than a one-handed lift for any size of dog, though customers report more difficulty fitting this harness to small breeds. The support straps are padded and sturdy, and the entire harness is machine washable.
Sizes: S (7-35 lbs.) – L (70-130 lbs.)
- Two handles for lifting heavier weight
- Special protection shield for male dogs
- Highly durable
- Doesn’t fit small dogs as well
- Product doesn’t come with instructions
5. Doggie Stylz Full-Body Lifting Dog Harness
Similar to the PetSafe CareLift, the Doggie Stylz Full-Body Harness has both front and rear lifting handles for maximum stability. A full chest harness connects via nylon straps to a dog harness for back legs, with handles on both to give your dog support as they need it. All harness straps are adjustable, allowing you to customize the fit for your dog. Simply measure the girth of your dog’s chest to find the right size.
Sizes: S (20”-25” chest measurement) – XL (31”-43” chest measurement)
- Both front and rear end support
- Sturdy and durable construction
- Easy to clean
- Adjusting all straps can take time
- Small size may still be too big for small breeds
Top 5 Best Dog Lift Slings
These slings represent the best hind-leg harnesses for dogs. To properly use them, you must walk alongside your dog, using the handle straps to help support your dog’s weight.
6. Walkabout Back End Harness
Walkabout Harnesses is a superior manufacturer of a number of dog support and assistance products, including braces, harnesses, and slings. The Walkabout Back End Harness is sturdy but padded with neoprene for maximum comfort. The harness goes around the rear legs, so it won’t slip or bunch. Your dog’s weight is distributed across four points on the pelvis, allowing for a secure lift that doesn’t put pressure on the bladder. You can leave the harness on all day, and your dog will be able to use the bathroom without making a mess.
Sizes: XS (6-12 lbs.) to XL (90-170 lbs.)
- Wide variety of sizes available
- Patented supportive, no-slip design
- Soft padding
- Handle length is not adjustable
- Leg holes may be too small
7. Loobani Portable Dog Sling for Back Legs
The Loobani Portable Dog Sling is a simple, easy-to-use rear end support sling that slips under your dog’s hips. There are no buckles, only a fleece-padded body attached to adjustable handle straps with comfort grips. The straps are heavy-duty nylon with reflective stitching for night-time visibility, and the entire sling is machine-washable. Customers report that the body of the sling doesn’t bunch up, yet is comfortable for their dogs.
Sizes: S (4-25 lbs.), M (20-80 lbs.), and L (50-100+ lbs.)
- Simple but sturdy construction
- Must be removed to let male dogs urinate
- May not have enough structure for dogs over 100 lbs.
8. Rozkitch Pet Dog Support Harness
If your dog only needs support while they’re recovering from surgery or an injury, you might not want to pay top dollar for a sling. In that case, the Rozkitch Dog Sling offers exactly what you and your dog need at a low price. Instead of just slipping under your dog’s hips, straps go around their back legs, meaning the sling won’t slide out of place or put pressure on the stomach as your dog walks. The handle strap is adjustable so you can support your dog’s weight at a height that’s right for you.
Sizes: S – XL
- Belly strap won’t slip
- Doesn’t put pressure on the dog’s abdomen
- Not appropriate for small or short-legged breeds
- Low marks for durability
9. GingerLead Dog Support & Rehab Sling
Just because your dog is dealing with rear leg weakness, paralysis, or injury doesn’t mean they need to stay cooped up inside. The GingerLead Dog Support Sling is built to provide the support of a dog sling for walking that also acts as a leash by integrating with a collar or, preferably, a chest harness. Neoprene padding cushions both the dog’s hip strap and your handle for extra comfort. Note that some sizes are unisex, while others have separate male and female versions to allow for easier urination.
Sizes: XS – Tall
- Acts as both a sling and a leash
- Comfortable neoprene padding
- Works well for all sizes of dog
- Chest harness not included
- Relatively expensive
10. Max and Neo Dog Lift Support and Rehab Harness for Large Breeds
The larger the breed, the more weight you’ll have to support with a dog harness for weak back legs. Thus, you’ll need something extra-sturdy and durable for large breed dogs, and the Max and Neo Dog Lift Harness is your best bet, maximizing both stability and comfort for you and your dog. There are no rivets or inner Velcro on the support pad that could irritate your dog’s skin, and both the body of the sling and the handle are padded with neoprene. Perhaps best of all, for every customer who purchases a Max and Neo Support Harness, the company donates one to a dog rescue organization.
Sizes: M (20-40 lbs.) – XXL (90+ lbs.)
- Reinforced reflective stitching for extra durability
- Top Velcro closure keeps sling in place
- Easy to put on and take off
- May get in the way of urination for male dogs
- Less padding than some slings
What to Look for in a Lift Harness or Sling
Whether your pooch needs a dog assist harness or a rear-leg-only sling, there are a few factors you should keep in mind.
Pay attention to the materials of the straps, the body, and (if applicable) the handle. Straps and handles must be strong enough to support your dog’s weight and flexible enough to move with them. If your dog will be using the harness or sling frequently, you’ll probably want a material that’s machine washable. Nylon fits this bill, though make sure that any strap that rests against your dog’s skin is padded with fleece or foam.
The body of the sling or harness should also be washable. It must be both sturdy and reasonably breathable. Cotton is a natural fabric and the least likely to cause skin problems, though many harnesses and slings are made out of nylon or polyester. Finally, the handle, particularly on a dog lifting harness for stairs and general carrying, should be comfortable for you to hold. Look for covered or ergonomic grips to make your life easier.
A good sling or harness spreads your dog’s body weight over a larger area so that straps don’t dig into them when you lift. A harness for lifting your entire dog off the ground should feature multiple secure straps that distribute weight evenly without putting undue pressure on the shoulders or hips. The sling or harness shouldn’t slide while in use. Finally, for your sake, the harness should be the right height to allow you to support your dog comfortably without straining your arms.
A close fit is a good fit. Loose harnesses or slings that slide or slip will chafe skin or even put pressure in the wrong places, potentially causing muscle and joint strain. However, too tight a fit can restrict blood flow and cause skin irritation or worse. If it’s not possible for your dog to try on the harness before you buy it – and for online purchases, it obviously isn’t – make sure you measure your dog according to the manufacturer’s specifications for picking out the right size. Also, consider getting an adjustable harness to ensure a customized fit.
How to Use a Dog Lift Harness
The exact method of using the dog support harness you buy will depend on the specific product, but they all work in basically the same way: one or more straps loop under your dog’s chest, belly, or hips, and you pull up on the handles to help support your dog’s weight. Here are some basic steps to follow to get the most out of your harness.
- Measure your dog to ensure you purchase the right size harness or sling.
- Fit is very important. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to adjust the harness or sling properly.
- Some harnesses are only meant to be used when you’re actively supporting your dog’s weight; others can stay on all the time. Make sure you know which you have.
- Know your own limits as well as your dog’s limits. How long can you comfortably support their weight?
How do I measure my dog for a harness or sling?
Some harnesses or slings are sized by weight, but if you own a dog like a dachshund, you know that can be a deceptive measurement. Better slings will often ask for chest/girth measurements, which you can take by wrapping a tape measure around the broadest part of your dog’s chest. A dog support harness for rear legs may require you to measure around the broadest part of your dog’s thighs. If the manufacturer provides measuring instructions, always follow them as closely as possible.
Will this take the place of physical therapy for my dog’s hind legs?
Although no harness or sling can or should replace physical therapy if your vet recommends it, it’s often a good idea to use a harness alongside such therapy. Your dog will be more comfortable when walking, and you’ll reduce stress on the area of injury or weakness. Talk to your vet about whether a sling or harness could help your dog’s recovery.
Are there permanent alternatives to a paralyzed dog harness?
If your dog’s rear legs are permanently paralyzed but they have substantial mobility and strength in their forelegs, you might consider getting them a dog wheelchair. These assistive devices are more expensive than slings and disabled dogs harnesses, but they allow greater freedom of movement for your dog. They also free you from having to constantly support your dog’s weight.
Dog lift harnesses and slings can give dogs with limb weakness or injuries and even paralysis the chance to get up and out. For long, low-to-the ground breeds like dachshunds that suffer from back problems, they can also help protect the spine by allowing you to lift your dog safely and keep them from needing to jump.
As you’re making your choice, consider the kind of support your dog needs, as well as your own comfort and the length of time you expect to need the harness or sling. Make sure you measure before selecting the proper size, and follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for customizing the fit. With these things in mind, you can help your dog overcome mobility impairments and enjoy walks and other fun activities with you.