How to Make Harnesses for Sled Dogs

By Catherine Holden Robinson

In times of inclement weather, it's just as important for you to spend quality time exercising your dog. You may not have a full team of sled dogs, but if your single canine pal is adept at pulling a sled, he'll need a proper harness. Nylon sled dog harnesses can put a good dent in the winter paraphernalia budget, but with a little time and patience, you can customize one for your best friend.

Fold the 4-foot nylon webbing in half and create a loop for the braided rope. To do this, leave just enough room in your loop for the rope to fit through. The rope will connect your dog or team to your sled.

Sew the loop closed using the heavy duty needle and thread. Use a stretch stitch, which is created by stitching one stitch forward and two back.

Rest the loop at the base of your dog's tail. You may need a partner to do this step.

Lay the webbing diagonally on each side of your dog's body, beginning at the tail and running under the dog's front legs as if through his arm pits. Cross them diagonally a few inches below his neck and the top of his rib cage, and pin this crisscross closed. The webbing should be snug but not too tight as to allow for fleece padding applied in later steps.

Pull the wedding from the crisscross at the dog's neck, around the dog's neck and crisscross again and the top of his shoulder blades. Pin the webbing closed.

Measure the webbing that runs along the dog's flank from the base of his tail to below his front leg. Mark the halfway point with a pin. Repeat on the other side of the dog's body. This mark should be near the bottom of the dog's rib cage.

Pull the webbing from the crisscross at the top of the dog's shoulder blades, and run each end of the webbing down the dog's side to the mark you make in Step 6. Do this on both sides of the dog's body. Cut away any excess with the scissors and pin the webbing where it meets the mark.

Add a small piece of nylon webbing to connect to two pieces running along the dog's flank to keep the harness from slipping down over the dog's rump. Remove the harness from the dog. This connector piece can be sewn straight across from one side to the other, or in an "X" pattern, as seen in some commercially made harnesses. Start at the loop and measure off 2 or 3 inches. Connect this additional piece of webbing at this point using the needle, thread and stretch stitch.

Measure the harness from the crisscross at the base of the dog's neck to his arm pits on both sides. This is the area you will cover in fleece to provide proper padding.

Cut your fleece the length of the measurement you took in Step 9. Cut the width of the fleece 10 inches so that it can be folded five layers thick for maximum padding.

Fold the fleece inward as if you were rolling it. The finished width should be 2 inches and you should have 5 layers of thickness when done.

Slide the fleece beneath the harness at the location you measured out in Step 9. Doing this before you sew the harness will ensure the harness is not too tight on the dog with the fleece padding attached.

Sew each pinned crisscross using the heavy duty needle and thread using the stretch stitch.

Using the needle and thread, sew the fleece onto the harness, along the outer edges of the nylon webbing and across the width of the nylon webbing where the fleece padding ends.