What Does a Harness Designer Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2019
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A harness designer creates custom harnesses or patterns for mass-produced pieces. Knowledge of animal anatomy and physiology is required, particularly for therapeutic harnesses. It is also usually necessary to be familiar with different styles of training and handling, as well as different careers for working animals. A guide dog, for example, needs a different harness than a pet. Harness designers typically focus on a specific species, like horses or dogs.

Custom harness designers meet with their clients to discuss the specific needs and take the measurements of the animal to ensure an appropriate fit. They may have some base designs and patterns to use as a starting point, or could work from scratch. For working animals, the way the animal will be used is an important consideration. In other cases, the harness may be designed to provide support for therapeutic purposes, in which case the veterinarian may need to be consulted.

Considering the needs of the animal, the harness designer also thinks about wishes expressed by the owner regarding aesthetics and materials. With this information in hand, it’s possible to design an appropriate solution. Drawings or computer renderings may be sent to the client for approval before the designer starts fabricating the piece or sends it to a leatherworking partner who will construct the actual harness. This process can take weeks or months.


For mass-produced products, the harness designer thinks about a general family of functional and aesthetic needs to create the best possible product. For example, someone who works for a firm that supplies carriage harnesses for horses might develop lines that vary to match different carriages and aesthetic needs. These are fully adjustable to allow handlers to fit the harness to the horse, and thus must include some leeway in their design for adjustability, like extra holes and extenders to accommodate large animals.

In the process of thinking about mass production, a harness designer may consider how to use materials efficiently and must weigh sourcing costs and other factors. Some may work with veterinarians and other experts to make sure harnesses will fit properly, provide adequate support, and be comfortable for the animal. A harness designer may also think about any legal requirements or common concerns for customers. For example, service dogs often wear capes while on duty, and it can be helpful to have a slot on the harness to attach fittings for a cape, making it easy to change the cape or remove it as needed.


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