BLD’s specialty service dog harness is designed to provide balance and stability support for people with balance or mobility impairments, as well as for anyone needing good communication and contact with their service dog. We have designed this harness with the dog’s physical structure and movement in mind, and then added features to make it user-friendly and truly accessible.
Guided by a veterinary orthopedic surgeon, canine sports medicine experts, and canine physical therapists, BLD’s unique harness design allows the dog to move, breathe, and work with minimal impact from the equipment. Weight and pressure are properly distributed across the dog’s body for optimal performance of physical assistance tasks.
BLD’s innovative harness design has benefitted thousands of people around the world since 2009.
Every harness is custom made by hand in our own Colorado workshop. A variety of handle options and features are available. Crafting each harness to order is how we are able to provide the right fit for the dog, while meeting the user’s individual needs.
How long does it take?
Please allow 4 weeks for completion. Rush options may be available for an additional charge. Some special requests may take a little extra time. Please remember each harness is made to order! We will start making your harness once ALL the measurements and details have been received. Delay in getting this critical information to us will delay your order.
How do I order?
We try to make it easy—what is best for you? You may call (303) 856-3012, email, order online, by mail, or make an appointment to visit our workshop to order. Our friendly team is here to help with any questions you have before, during, and after placing your order. Our harness experts will review all the details to help you get the equipment you need and to ensure the best fit possible.
Can you ship the harness? Do you ship internationally?
Yes! We ship to our customers worldwide! We collect detailed information when you place your order so we make the harness to your specifications and assure a perfect fit. We can ship anywhere. If you happen to be in the Denver area, we can meet in person, but it is not necessary.
This is too much information to handle. I’m confused! Help!?
Don’t worry! This is what we do, we completely understand ordering custom gear can be overwhelming. We are here to help! We can guide you to videos, pictures, and/or information that will help you understand your options. Our goal is to get you what you need. The harness specialists at BLD will review all of the details and will contact you if we have questions about your order or measurements. We may make recommendations based on the measurements you provide. Please accept our experience and suggestions for the most functional equipment options.
How much does the harness weigh? Will my dog be comfortable in it all day?
Our harness is deceivingly light—it only weighs about 2.5 pounds for the standard size, and around 3 pounds for the giant size. It is as light as possible while still providing the support and comfort necessary. Because the harness is flexible and fully padded, your dog will be comfortable wearing it for extended periods. Dogs can work, nap, travel, or play comfortably all day.
My dog is rather short! My dog is really big! Will it fit?
Yes! We work with your dog’s real measurements to craft a harness for a perfect fit. Our harnesses will fit dogs that fall within the recommended weight and measurements listed in the harness information. The measuring instructions will guide you through how to measure your dog.
As long as your dog is physically suited for the task of mobility or balance work, and falls within the size recommendations for the harness you order, we can make it fit! Proper fit is assured by our Great Fit Guarantee. Our famous Lifetime Warranty, plus BLD’s excellent customer support, is standard with everything we make in our workshop.
What harness style should I order?
This answer depends on many factors, mostly a combination of the individual’s needs and the dog’s size and ability–which is unique for each service dog partnership! First, what kind of assistance do you need? Each harness option and handle choice have been designed to address specific needs. Harness users should consult a physician and physical therapist to determine what medical equipment is appropriate for their mobility needs. We’ve created detailed descriptions to explain the benefits of each option on our harnesses. We realize that YOU know your own needs best, and trust that you’ll select the right options for both you and your dog.
Can you tell me if my dog will be a good service dog for me?
No, we cannot. BLD cannot assess a dog’s suitability or appropriateness. We are unable to provide medical, veterinary, behavioral, or therapeutic opinions.
Consulting a qualified veterinarian (orthopedic specialist or canine sports medicine physical therapist) is highly recommended for all service/assistance dogs that perform physical tasks. Fit and performance of the equipment can only be assured if the dog meets the minimum recommended standards, the user and trainer have reasonable expectations, and when the equipment is used responsibly for the purpose it was designed. Likewise, harness users should consult a physician and physical therapist to determine what medical equipment is appropriate for their mobility needs. Our equipment is designed to allow an appropriately selected and trained service dog to reasonably assist a person with a balance or mobility impairment. BLD harnesses are not intended to serve as, or to replace, a durable medical device such as a cane, walker, or crutch. User assumes all responsibility for the safety, health, and care of the animal and human alike.
Can you make a harness for a miniature horse?
Sometimes! Mini horses can make excellent mobility assistance animals. A few minor modifications may be necessary, but the harness has successfully been made for several mini horses. You’ll measure your horse according to our standard measuring instructions for dogs. Since horses and dogs are proportioned differently, we’ll also ask for a few additional measurements to be sure we get the right fit. Katrina was a “horse person” in her younger days! In fact, many BLD products, including our harnesses, are inspired by her experience working with horses.
My dog is young and growing, will the harness still fit when he fills out?
Yes. Every harness is adjustable by several inches on each strap to accommodate a dog that still needs to fill-out. The straps are interchangeable: you can purchase a new replacement strap anytime. However, PLEASE be sure your dog is physically mature before starting harness work. See next question.
How old should a dog be to start working or training in a harness?
Dogs must be physically mature and of appropriate size, fitness and soundness for the work you would like them to perform. We cannot stress the importance enough. Recommended minimum age is 18-24 months, but it depends on your individual dog.
Please know that mobility, stability, and balance assistance work is physically demanding; a service dog must be in prime physical condition. The dog’s growth plates must be closed before beginning harness work. Consulting a qualified veterinarian (orthopedic specialist or canine sports medicine physical therapist) is highly recommended for all service/assistance dogs that perform physical tasks.
“Full grown” and “physically mature” are not the same thing. Some breeds will appear to be “full grown” at about a year old but are NOT physically mature, and others will continue to gain mass up to 3 or 4 years of age after growth plates have fused. Please be patient and allow your dog to mature before beginning any harness or weight bearing work; this is usually a minimum of 18-24 months depending on the breed.
The dog’s growth plates should be fused/closed before performing any harness or weight bearing work. This recommendation is based on the fact you don’t want to stress a dog’s growth plates, which are vulnerable until the dog is physically mature. Since different breeds mature at different rates, your veterinarian would be able to provide specific advice for your dog–an orthopedic vet is highly recommended. Starting a dog too young, before the growth plates have fused (whether he/she is “full grown” or not), may cause stress to the dog’s bones and joints, possibly causing injury or requiring the dog to retire early.
How tall should my handle be? How much weight can the harness take?
Basically, a mobility handle’s height is the difference between the user’s hand and the dog’s back. Follow the measuring instructions to determine the handle height. For the Mobility Support Harness (MSH), handles 6″ or less will be the most stable. Taller handles are available, but know that the longer the handle, the more torque and pressure may be applied to the dog due to the laws of physics. We can make MSH handles up to 10″ because so many people have asked for them, but know that anything over 8″ is considered to be a very tall handle and is not ideal; it indicates that the dog is short and possibly too small for the user’s needs. Please remember that ANY balance or mobility harness is for light duty assistance and stability support only, and should never be expected to take a lot of pressure, heavy weight-bearing, or continuous force. One must be conscious of the amount of pressure applied to the handle. Ideally, only a few pounds of pressure is needed for balance assistance, as the dog can help maintain the user’s balance, not hold the person upright. A dog should never be expected to replace the heavy-weight-bearing-capacity of a cane or crutch.
Unfortunately there have been no scientific studies or solid research into this question. Please be mindful of the dog’s size and weight in relation to the user’s needs when expecting any physical task. Our harnesses are very sturdy and are designed for weight bearing, but it is always the user’s responsibility to use any equipment correctly, in the dog’s best interest.
Can I use the harness on more than one dog?
Yes. If the dogs are of similar size it should be no problem. You can always order additional straps to fit the harness to a different dog at any time. We’ve designed the harnesses with interchangeable parts for the greatest flexibility. All straps and the handle can be changed out. For example, a standard size harness will fit any dog within the standard size measurement range; you may just need to buy new straps or a handle for the new dog. However, if you are changing from a 70 pound Labrador to a 140 pound Great Dane, for example, then you’ll need new XL size harness for the new dog, since the new dog is substantially different in size. Compare the new dog’s weight and measurements to the sizing guide to know if the original saddle will fit.
I need a different handle. Can the handles be changed from the rigid Mobility (MSH) to the leather Basic (BAH) or vice versa?
No, sorry. Our harnesses are built with one handle or the other; that is the difference between the Mobility Support and Basic Assistance harnesses. Mounting a handle is the very first thing we do when we are building a harness to order. It cannot be changed after the harness has been made.
Need a different rigid Mobility handle? This is possible! The Mobility Support Harness (MSH) handles are interchangeable with another MSH handle of similar size. If you have a standard height handle MSH, you can put any handle 8″ or less on it. If you have a TALL MSH (8″ or taller, made with the heavier gauge metal), you can put any ANY height MSH handle on it. To clarify: You can put a shorter handle on a TALL harness; but cannot put a TALL handle on a standard height harness. Always be sure the handle is the right width for your dog’s body and the right height for your needs. Both height and width are critical for a handle fit correctly.
Basic Assistance Harnesses (BAH) with the fixed handle option are permanently mounted.
Why do you use a straight breastplate instead of a Y-shaped breastplate?
The debate over the straight vs. Y breastplate is interesting and we have studied this extensively. We use the straight breastplate option because it offers the most stability and support for the brace handle and distributes pressure in the correct place on the dog. Every strap on BLD’s harness design is carefully designed to offer the most stability possible while fitting the dog correctly. To our knowledge, dogs have not had issues with the straight breastplate interfering with movement (when properly fitted, of course).
Y plates do not support the brace handle correctly (the harness tends to shift and wobble), so we don’t use it. Feeding cumbersome straps between the dog’s legs is difficult for many of our clients. Also, balance and stability harnesses with Y breastplates often sit too far forward and place a strap right over the withers and even at the base of the neck. This is not good for weight bearing work because it pinches sensitive nerves in the shoulder blades and can impede movement. This can also shift the girth strap forward so it pinches the armpits. Y plates are necessary for other types of harnesses. They are the best choice for tasks such as for heavy weight pulling or tracking. The canine sports physical therapists we work with, and our many years of experience with thousands of clients, has confirmed that this breastplate is correct for the support required in this particular type of harness.
Do you offer colors?
For over 9 years we followed the Model T theory: any color as long as it’s black. This leather is the right weight and consistency for optimal functionality and durability. I have not been thrilled with other colors, even in the same leather. Our leather is black throughout, which minimizes the appearance of any scuffs or scratches it may incur during normal use, keeping the harness looking great throughout it’s lifetime. Additionally it does not bleed, stain, or fade with age, maintaining a cleaner finished look than with other color options.
In 2018, due to popular demand, we introduced a lighter colored London Tan bridle leather option. Bridle leather color and shades will vary; each part of harness may be a different shade. Tan leather may show scuffs and wear over time; color may darken with use over time.
(However, it is possible to customize a harness to address a user’s material sensitivities and allergies. Inquire if you have limitations, and we’ll discuss some options.)
How do I maintain my harness? Does the sheepskin wear out?
Keeping your harness in good condition is easy! Check out our Leather Care page for detailed information, including a video showing you how to clean and condition the harness. Condition the leather regularly, and keep your dog clean and well-groomed, and you won’t have any trouble at all. The shearling sheepskin is easy to maintain with a brush and vacuum to remove dog hair and restores the loft of the padding, it can even be washed when needed. We assure you it is very durable and long lasting!
It’s hot where I live. Will my dog get too hot?
No, natural materials like leather and real wool do not build up heat like synthetic materials. Sheepskin breathes and insulates from heat beautifully. In fact, many of our customers tell us their BLD harness is their coolest piece of equipment in the hot sun! Despite some research on working dogs, there is little evidence to indicate a harness affect’s a dog’s core temperature.
I live in a wet climate. Will the rain, snow, or grime hurt my harness?
Simply keep your harness clean and well-conditioned, and you won’t have any trouble at all! Good quality materials, like ours, will not be damaged by the elements under normal use. Just don’t let it stay wet, be sure the harness can dry out thoroughly. We don’t recommend swimming in the ocean, since saltwater can be corrosive. But even if you do on rare occasion, just wash and condition the harness to remove the salt and restore the leather.
I have limited dexterity; will I need help using the harness?
You shouldn’t. We’ve designed our harness to be easy to use—this was a priority. Quick release clasps make the harness easy to put on and take off the dog without fumbling with buckles. The handle can be folded with one hand. If in doubt, tell us about what you need and we can discuss the options. After all, if you can’t use it, what’s the point?
My dog is uncomfortable in a harness from another harness maker. Will this one be better?
Yes. Definitely. Time after time, clients have told us how much happier their dog is in our harness. Many dogs that were refusing to work regain confidence very quickly in the new harness. Our design minimizes pressure points and the soft leather straps don’t pinch or rub. Even very sensitive dogs take to our harness immediately. We can even fit “hard to fit” dogs with odd body shapes with no problems!
I have a harness from another harness maker, and the handle is wobbly. Will this be more stable?
Yes. Absolutely. Our harness and handle design is completely different. There really is no comparison. You will notice the difference immediately. The handle is properly supported and mounted; it will NOT loosen with age and wear. Our harnesses are engineered from the ground up to perform the function they are made for. Compare to others that may simply add a handle to a cheap piece of equipment that does not have the structural support to function correctly.
Why is the cost so high?
Mobility devices can be expensive, we understand this. The RIGHT equipment is an investment toward greater independence. Equipment that does NOT meet your needs or fit your dog properly is not worth any money you spend on it. We truly believe we offer the best VALUE for your money by crafting items that meet your needs now and in the future, and promising to be here if you need us. We keep our prices as reasonable as we can while offering nothing short of the best quality, dependability & service. We urge you to invest in gear that will meet your needs in the long run and not waste money on cheap fixes that will only have to be replaced. Don’t forget about our lifetime warranty!
Can I make payments on my harness?
Yes you may. We know the right equipment is a big investment. Although payment must be complete before orders are delivered, we gladly welcome payments. Talk with us directly a about creating a payment plan that works for you. A personal conversation by phone is the best way to address your financial needs.
I need financial assistance. Can you help?
Yes! Well, sort of. BLD is a small craft business so we cannot offer direct assistance, but we can point you in the right direction. We want to help you and don’t want finances to be a barrier to your independence. We have had many clients find funding sources to get the equipment they need. We know about lots of great nonprofit organizations and creative ways to get the funding you need; email us and ask for some fundraising suggestions! If you are or have been in the US military, see below.
Here’s an article about this topic! Dog Fancy, November 2014, “Getting a Paw Up” article about financial assistance.
Do you offer discounts for Military Personnel/Veterens?
No, but we can point you in the right direction to get the assistance you need.
I am a veteran. Do you have VA benefits?
The VA does cover service dog equipment for mobility dogs. Especially if you have a dog that was certified by an accredited organization (ADI), you should qualify.
Recently, the VA’s insurance provider called TruPanion covers service dog related expenses, from veterinary services to equipment. This is done by prescription by your physician and also your veterinarian. This may be something that your veterinarian’s office can assist with. TruPanion should cover all needed equipment for your service animal! When you are ready to go this route, contact us with the items you’d like to order, and we’ll forward you an estimate you can submit to get your claim started. They usually pay us directly in a timely fashion.
If you are working directly with the VA, Mobility Support Harnesses are coded as a prosthetic device: contact the prosthetics department of your VA. It may not be an easy road, and you may need to fight to get the benefits you deserve, but your equipment should be covered by prosthetics. BLD is a registered as a government contract vendor, so once your case is approved, the VA can contact us for the information they need to complete your order.
Are you on active duty?
There is a great non-profit group called Hope for the Warriors. They provide funding for equipment for active duty, post 9-11, combat or deployment related needs for all branches of the military, nationwide. Contact Hope for the Warriors for an application!
Please read and follow all information provided when ordering your harness and after receiving your harness.
Dogs must be physically mature and of appropriate size, fitness and soundness for the work you would like them to perform.
Mobility, stability, and balance assistance work is physically demanding; a service dog must be in prime physical condition. The dog’s growth plates must be closed before beginning harness work (recommended minimum of 18-24 months of age). Please allow your dog time to grow and mature.
Consulting a qualified veterinarian (orthopedic specialist or canine sports medicine physical therapist) is highly recommended for all service/assistance dogs that perform physical tasks. Fit and performance of the equipment can only be assured if the dog meets the minimum recommended standards, the user and trainer have reasonable expectations, and when the equipment is used responsibly for the purpose it was designed. Likewise, harness users should consult a physician and physical therapist to determine what medical equipment is appropriate for their mobility needs.
Our equipment is designed to allow an appropriately selected and trained service dog to reasonably assist a person with a balance or mobility impairment. BLD cannot assess a dog’s suitability or appropriateness. BLD harnesses are not intended to serve as, or to replace, a durable medical device such as a cane, walker, or crutch. User assumes all responsibility for the safety, health, and care of the animal and human alike.
The owner’s manual that comes with your harness has instructions for proper use and care of the equipment, as well as safety precautions. Please follow our recommendations.