Whether your pooch is large or small, active or mellow, young or old, a dog leash is an essential tool. Pint-size Chihuahuas to giant Great Danes all require a leash at some point in their lives, regardless of how infrequently they leave home. Without a proper leash, you risk losing your dog or watching them dart into a dangerous situation.
Since a leash can save your dog’s life, choosing the best one to suit their needs is essential. Follow our guide to determine the purpose of your dog’s leash and key characteristics.
Purpose of a Dog Leash
When deciding what leash to buy, first determine its purpose. Will this be an everyday leash for strolls? Are you planning on training your dog to perform off-leash? Maybe you’re looking for a leash that allows you to hike with your dog. Knowing the purpose of your dog’s leash will help you find the correct one.
A simple nylon leash will do if your dog walks calmly by your side and you’ll use their leash for daily walks. Not only is it one of the most cost-effective options, but it also is sturdy enough to hold up to everyday use. A hands-free leash may be a better option if you plan on jogging or running with your dog.
Whether hiking through the woods or up steep hills, you may need your hands free to push aside thick brush or grab handholds to help boost you up. In these situations, a hands-free leash is ideal. Otherwise, a regular flat leash will help prevent your dog from becoming entangled in vegetation.
Teaching your dog a reliable recall command can be lifesaving. However, before your pup has this skill mastered, a long leash is a good idea for safety reasons. Use a 50-foot flat leash for training sessions—not a retractable one.
If your pooch is a power puller, a robust and shock-absorbing leash is the way to go. You also may want to pair a durable leash with a head collar, such as a Gentle Leader, to help prevent your dog from tugging you down the block.
Dog Leash Characteristics to Consider
Once you’ve determined your dog’s leash’s purpose, you can focus on the needed features. Here are some critical characteristics to look for in the perfect dog leash.
Standard leashes typically come in 4- or 6-foot lengths, while retractable or off-leash training leashes are much longer. A shorter leash is best if you are walking your dog through areas with heavy traffic or working on heeling and obedience. However, a long line is better if you want to give your pup room to roam.
When choosing a leash, most of the focus is on the clip end; however, the handle end also needs to be considered. For dogs who are still learning leash manners and who have an issue with lunging to the end of their leash, a padded, shock-absorbing handle made of foam material can save your hand. Additionally, a leash with two handles—one at the normal leash end and one closer to the collar—provides better control of your dog in overwhelming situations.
In most cases, a simple loop handle will do the trick. Opt for a leash with a comfortable handle and grip so you can enjoy walking your dog.
Your dog needs a leash for many reasons, and an equal number of styles are available to match these purposes. Some of the most common dog leash styles include:
- Flat — A flat leash is simply a piece of material with no fancy bells and whistles, designed to connect you to your dog. Flat leashes can be braided or formed from a rope-like material, but they are made to be a fixed length. These leashes are best for everyday walks and training sessions.
- Retractable — Retractable leashes are made of either a leash tape or a cord that winds back up within the handle mechanism when your dog is close by your side. As your dog pulls on the leash, it unwinds, granting them more freedom. However, most dog trainers disapprove of retractable leashes because they teach a dog that they can pull to get to where they want. Additionally, this leash can break, be ripped from your hand, or cause serious injury to you or your dog if you try to grab it. If you have a small dog or one with low energy, though, a retractable leash may be sufficient to control them safely.
- Double — A double leash can help you walk two dogs at once, provided they are already leash-trained. Double clips attached to a single handle can keep both your pups under control if they walk well together, but you will need to teach them to walk calmly on a flat leash first.
- Reflective — Reflective or LED-light leashes are great for walking your dog in the dark. Whether you regularly walk your dog early in the morning or in shady nature preserves, reflective coating or a lighted leash will make it easier for you and others to spot your pup.
- Bungee — A shock-proof bungee leash has an elastic bungee worked into the leash length. This style works well for dogs who are excessive pullers, especially if they lunge to the end of the leash and jerk to a halt. As you work on teaching your dog leash manners, you may need a bungee-style leash to prevent them from tugging the leash out of your hand or causing jarring shocks.
When choosing the best leash for your dog, consider the clip used to attach the leash to the collar. After all, a leash is only as strong as the clip, so you want to find an appropriate one to meet your dog’s needs. Some of the most common clip types include:
- Bolt snap clip — The most widely used clip, a bolt snap clip lets you quickly attach a leash to your dog’s collar. While these clips are generally sturdy, over time, the spring mechanism within the sliding bolt can weaken, and strong dogs can bend or break the clips.
- Trigger snap clip — A spring-loaded lever that you push inward to open the clasp allows you to secure your dog quickly. These clips are typically bigger than bolt snap clips and can withstand more pressure, making them ideal for more muscular dogs.
- Carabiner locking clip — While a carabiner clip is the most secure attachment, it is bulkier than the other types. The locking clip ensures your dog cannot push open the clasp on their collar attachment. Plus, you can add carabiners to your dog’s leash to hold your keys, waste bags, and more.
The material of your dog’s leash is another factor, especially if you have a teething puppy or a dog who enjoys getting dirty. Common leash materials include:
- Nylon — Nylon is the most common leash material and comes in various colors, styles, and lengths. Nylon leashes are typically the most affordable, but they can become dirty easily and hold that wet dog odor if your pup swims a lot.
- Leather — Leather leashes provide an air of sophistication and are generally just as durable as nylon leashes. They soften over time and are easier to grip if your dog decides to pull. Invest in a leather cleaning solution to keep the leash in good shape, but forgo leather if your dog enjoys chewing on their leash.
- Rope — Rope leashes are often made from marine- or climbing-grade rope, making them durable, strong, and possibly water-resistant. Braided or rolled rope options come in a variety of colors and typically are paired with a padded handle.
- Chain — Although durable, chain leashes can be challenging to hold and can become tangled or knotted easily. This option may be ideal while your puppy is teething, but once they learn to stop chewing on their leash, you may want to switch to a different material.
- Steel cable — Dogs who chew on everything or those who are powerful pullers need a leash that can withstand them. A solid, durable leash made from vinyl-coated steel cable is lightweight but virtually chew-proof and unbreakable and perfect for your mischievous pup.
Since a leash can save your dog’s life, it makes sense to put a lot of thought into choosing the best one. With the tips in our guide, we hope you find the perfect leash to suit your dog’s needs.