How to pick the best dog leash, for everyday use or training

Photo credit: © / ikostudio

There are so many different leashes available and so many factors you need to consider when buying that I decided to write a guide to buying the best dog leash. A guide to help you through the process and make sure you have the right leash to suit your intended use.

For everyday walks and exercise, just about any leash is as good as any other, but if your dog has a certain behavior or you’re trying to train a specific skill there are particular leashes tailored to suit what you’re trying to achieve.

There are different lengths, widths, styles and types of dog leash available to suit different breeds, temperament of dog and for different uses in everyday life and training.

But essentially all dog leashes have the same basic purpose, to keep your dog safe and under control while out in public and as an aid for you to manage your dog during training.

This article discusses all the factors you need to consider when buying a leash.

Contents & Quick Navigation

  • 4 Dog Leash Materials
  • 4.1 Nylon
  • 4.2 Leather
  • 4.3 Chain
  • 4.4 Reflective
  • 5 Other Factors to Consider: Length, Width and Type of Clip
  • 5.1 Choosing The Right Length
  • 5.2 Choosing The Right Width
  • 5.3 Deciding On The Style Of Clip
  • 6 So Which Is The Best Dog Leash To Buy? – Tips and Recommendations
  • 7 Leashes Recommended By Us
  • 8 Getting Your Puppy Used To A Leash And Collar
  • Why Do We Need a Dog Leash? What’s the Purpose?

    First of all, in many places around the world it’s a legal requirement for owners to have their dog on a leash when out in public. This is for safety reasons as a loose dog can cause accidents or if it was to become aggressive their owner has some form of control.

    But there’s many other benefits that come from using a dog leash such as:

    • A simple and effective way to control your dog during training sessions.
    • Prevent your dog from chasing and scaring other animals, children or perhaps people with a phobia of dogs.
    • Prevent your dog from wandering into and going to toilet in inappropriate places.
    • Prevent running into the road injuring themselves and perhaps others if they were to cause an accident.
    • A means to temporarily tether your dog so they’re safe if you cannot give them your attention for a few minutes.

    A leash is an essential tool to use during the early days of puppy-hood to keep them safe and aid you in training. And it’s a convenient tool for control and management of your dog throughout the rest of their lives.

    What Is The Best Dog Leash For A Labrador? – How To Choose

    When deciding on a leash, the things you need to consider are: The purpose you’re going to use it for, the material it’s made from, the most suitable length and width and of course the style and type of fastener the leash has to attach it to your Labrador’s collar.

    There’s a quite a lot to consider and that’s why there’s literally thousands of choices available.

    Let’s go through each of these important points so that by the end of the article you’ll know exactly what style, type and size of leash you need and why. Then you’ll be able to buy the right leash with confidence.

    Different Types of Dog Leash

    Not taking into account different materials used, lengths, widths, colors and more, dog leashes can be grouped into just a few major types as described below.

    The Standard Dog Leash

    This is the most common type of dog leash used for everyday walking and basic training.

    A standard dog leashThey’re usually made from Nylon or leather, although other materials are available such as cotton and rubber but these aren’t as durable and so are far less common.

    Nylon and leather are both tough enough to restrain an adult dog, yet lightweight enough for use with a puppy.

    They measure between 4 and 8 feet in length with 6 foot being the most common. This length allowing plenty of room for freedom of movement while being short enough to afford the handler complete control of their dog if necessary.

    To see our favorite ‘everyday leashes’ that we’re happy to recommend, please click here.

    Retractable Dog Leashes

    Retractable leashes allow you to vary the length of leash you allow your dog for freedom of movement.

    A retractable dog leashThey work much like a measuring tape with a nylon cord that can extend anything from about 4 to 30 feet, with a locking mechanism in a plastic handle that allows you to lock the leash at varying degrees of length.

    They then automatically collect up any slack in the leash when you release the mechanism, retracting the line into the handle.

    Although these leashes are quite popular there’s a few things to consider before you opt for using one. Rope burns, possible strangulation due to so much excess line and other problems can occur such as described in the article: Dangers of retractable leashes from the Dogington post.

    These dangers aside, the biggest problem I see with retractable leashes is they can actually train your dog to pull on the leash!

    A retractable leash almost always has tension on it unless the dog is walking toward you. When walking away, they are pulling on the leash to extend it and get rewarded for this pulling by getting to where they want to go. And as we know, anything rewarding your dog learns to repeat!

    So when all of a sudden when you want them on a short leash, you call them in, lock the mechanism and ask them to stay close by without pulling.

    How confusing is this for the dog? Most of the time if they pull on the leash, they get to go where they please. Now you’re trying to say they can’t. And faced with this confusion…again and again…they will go for the most rewarding option which of course is pulling! So a retractable leash trains them to pull because they get rewarded.

    So personally I don’t recommend the use of such leashes except for dogs who are already trained to walk nicely on leash. Because only then are they a useful happy medium to use between control for you and freedom for your dog.

    You can see our pick of the best retractable leashes available by clicking here.

    Adjustable Dog Leashes

    Adjustable leashes try to fill the gap (if there is one) between standard leashes and retractable leashes by offering you a leash that you can adjust the length of.

    An adjustable dog leashAdjustments are usually available from between 3 and 6 feet by the addition or removal of loops, or extra clips along the length.

    These can allow you a shorter leash to use for training such as heel work when you want your dog very close, while giving the option for more freedom if out on a walk.

    Chain Leashes

    This type of leash is a replacement for the standard leash, very useful for dogs that tend to chew and destroy their leashes.

    A metal chain dog leashThey’re available in various weights and thicknesses so are suitable for all sizes of dogs.

    You do need to keep an eye on your dog if using a metal leash. The reason they’re usually bought is also the reason they can be problematic: Although most dogs soon learn a chain leash is indestructible and stop chewing it, some will continue to chew the lead, even to the point of damaging their teeth!

    The Martingale Lead

    This type of leash is an all in one combination of a standard style leash and a martingale collar.

    A martingale dog leashThey’re used as a training aid when trying to prevent a dog from pulling. It tightens around the dog’s neck when it pulls, not choking your poor dog, but putting just enough pressure on their neck to act as an aversive, making it uncomfortable if they do pull and therefore discouraging the behavior.

    Multiple Dog Leash

    This type of leash is used to walk multiple dogs on the one single leash.

    A dog leash for two dogsYou have the one handle and a leash to your first dog, with a second leash (and maybe more) coming off from a coupler to allow you to attach another dog.

    For well-trained dogs that walk nicely and don’t jump around or pull, these are quite effective and useful for owners with multiple dogs.

    Seat belt Safety Leash (SBSL)

    Seat belt safety leashes are a short leash with a clip one end to attach to your dog’s collar and a seat-belt clip the other end so you can secure your dog in the back seat of your car.

    A seat belt safety leashThis prevents them from climbing around and distracting you when driving. It also prevents them wandering off in case of an accident as they’re secured to the car.

    It’s always better to have your dog travel in a crate in your car, but if this isn’t a possibility, then a seat belt safety lead is your next best option and certainly better than not securing them at all.

    Dog Leash Materials

    Dog leashes are available in many different materials that each have strengths and weaknesses. I’ll quickly discuss what these are below.

    Nylon

    Nylon has the benefits of being a relatively cheap material, yet hard-wearing and strong. So for a very reasonable price you get a good, durable leash.

    A nylon dog leashBeing a man-made fiber, it’s available in a wide variety of colors and even multicolored patterns so nylon leashes offer a buyer the biggest scope for individuality if you fancy a leash that looks a little different.

    Nylon doesn’t shrink when wet and dries out fairly easily. It’s also easy to clean, so it’s a good all round material.

    The drawbacks of nylon leashes are they aren’t the toughest to chew through and they can be quite harsh on your hands causing friction burns if your dog is a puller and it rubs against your skin.

    Leather

    Leather leashes are more costly than their Nylon counterparts. But with the price tag comes a little more class and style (if you like that sort of thing) and a very durable and long-lasting leash.

    Video: How to Use a Training Lead

    A leather dog leashNylon leashes have the tendency to fray over time whereas treated leather leashes can literally last a lifetime.

    They aren’t impervious to chewing but are very strong. But with this strength comes a nice little fact that they soften and change shape with age to suit the hands of the handler that uses them. This makes them far more comfortable to grip. And leather isn’t as abrasive on your skin as nylon either.

    High quality fabric and leather leashes are the ones we most highly recommend. You can see our pick of the best by clicking here.

    Chain

    Leashes made of metal chain are the least popular of leashes available but are well suited to those dogs that just will not stop chewing their leash.

    a metal chain dog leashThey can be quite heavy depending on their size but this isn’t a worry to such a strong breed as a Labrador.

    But consider the weight if using with a small puppy. Make sure the chain is as thin and as light as can be. But you will have to upgrade to heavier tougher ones as your dog grows so it will not break when they pull as a strong adult.

    Reflective

    A reflective dog leashLike a standard leash (which in effect they are), reflective leashes are usually made of leather or nylon but with the addition of a reflective material embedded into the leash.

    These leads, in combination with a reflective collar, are good to use for owners that walk their dogs along country roads at night that have little in the way of wide pathways but have cars and cyclists going past but close by.

    Other Factors to Consider: Length, Width and Type of Clip

    Once you’re decided on the type of leash and the material you’d like there are three other factors you need to consider before you make a purchase:

    • The length of the leash
    • The width of the leash
    • The clip / fastening to attach to the collar

    Choosing The Right Length

    The most common length of leash is 6 foot which is just the right length to allow your dog room to explore when walking, without there being so much slack that the bottom of the loop drags on the floor or gets tangled around you or your dogs legs.

    Those in busy towns and cities may prefer a shorter leash so their dog cannot wander so far, getting in other Peoples way or constantly going the wrong side of poles and lampposts. The 4 foot leash is perfect in these situations.

    You’ll want to buy one or more longer leashes for use in training so there’s a little more distance between you and your dog…but not too much. An 8 to 10 foot leash is perfect. You’re able to keep control of them but not have them so close that you’re on top of each other.

    Then there’s the ‘long line’ leash. These can be 50ft, 100ft or even 150ft long! These are used when training distance commands such as long sits, long stays and recall commands, as well as being used for specialized tracking training.

    You don’t want to go straight from a short leash to no leash when training distance commands or recalls as there’s a danger your dog could wander off, ignore you and find their own rewards for doing so which increases the behavior.

    A long line allows you to practice distance commands while you still have a connection and hence some control of your dog at the end of a leash.

    Retractable leashes come in 3m, 5m, 8m etc. There is a variety of lengths available. If you decide to use one, pick whichever you’d prefer, although for the reasons stated earlier, I feel it’s best not to use one at all.

    Choosing The Right Width

    To most people the width of a leash may not seem important, but it really can be.

    If your dog is a chewer, or strong and a puller, the last thing you want is them to snap through the leash. And this could and does happen, especially with thinner leashes. So get a leash that’s wide enough to be strong enough for your dog.

    On the flip side of this, if you have a little dog or young and small puppy, you don’t want a very wide leash as they’re often heavy and a bit restricting for them.

    Deciding On The Style Of Clip

    The clip must be strong and reliable because the best and strongest leash in the world is useless if it doesn’t stay attached to your dog.

    You want to buy a leash with a good quality metal clip. And because the leash will regularly get wet, it will preferably be made of stainless steel or brass to resist corrosion and avoid weakening over time.

    The clip must be strong enough to withstand a good deal of force because there may come a time when you and your dog are pulling in opposite directions with all your strength. For instance when they try to bolt. The clip must never break!

    The two most common types of clip are ‘bolt snap’ and ‘trigger snap’.

    A bolt snap dog leash clipThe bolt snap clip has a little spring inside a shaft that you slide open to create a hole to pass a collars ring through.

    Video: E Collar Training For Everyday Dog Owners | Pak Masters Dog Training Nashville

    These are a quite reliable clip, hence their popularity, but over time the spring often weakens and the clip can start to work loose resulting in your dog being able to escape the leash.

    For this reason, I find the ‘trigger snap’ more reliable.

    A trigger snap dog leash clipA trigger snap clip is also spring-loaded, with a little trigger you use to lever the clip open.

    But these clips tend to be bigger and more robust with a larger spring than a bolt snap clip so don’t become weak as easily.

    Also, because they open inwards, when your dog pulls, the tension created actually holds the clip closed with more force. So they’re far less likely to come open and have your dog escape his leash.

    So my recommendation would be a trigger snap clip, but bolt snaps are very common and are a fantastic clip, just check the strength of the spring every couple of weeks to make sure it’s still strong and will remain closed.

    So Which Is The Best Dog Leash To Buy? – Tips and Recommendations

    When choosing a leash, first think about where and how you will be using it. Is it for every day use? For training indoors or outside? Are you considering a leash to help in beginning distance command training?

    When working indoors: The best dog leash is a long, thin, rounded nylon leash is the most suitable because it’s very light and is the one least likely to get stuck under the furniture in your home.

    For outdoor training: I recommend a good 8 to 10 foot Nylon leash. Unless training distance commands for which you should get a 30 to 50 foot long line. In both cases a nylon webbing leash is best but a good tip is to wear gloves so you can avoid the possibility of ‘rope burn’ if your dog pulls and you grab the leash, it slipping through your hands.

    For every day use: The best dog leash to use is a traditional, 6 foot Nylon or leather leash. 6 foot is long enough to provide freedom of movement while keeping your dog close and under your control. Whether Nylon or leather…that choice is up to you. But avoid other materials such as cloth and rubber as they aren’t as strong or durable.

    Nylon leashes are a good choice for the money conscious and are great for use in wet wintry conditions. You can use a leather leash in all types of weather too but you’ll have to occasionally apply leather conditioner to keep it from perishing and help make it last.

    Pick the right width and strength of leash for the dog or puppy you have. This may mean having to upgrade when your puppy grows, but this is to be expected. Get a light leash for smaller dogs so it doesn’t impede their movement, and a nice thick strong one for your fully grown larger dog.

    If your dog likes to chew on their leash, consider a chain leash or you’ll be replacing them often. Like nylon and leather they’re available in different thicknesses so match it to the size of your dog or puppy.

    Be sure to pick a clip that’s going to be strong enough according to the size and strength of your dog and how much power they have if they were to pull at full strength. You cannot afford to have them break free.

    You should always buy at least one spare leash so there’s always one available in case the regular one gets damaged, breaks or is lost.

    Try to keep your leashes clean and if they get wet, hang them up instead of throwing them in a drawer so they fully dry out as quickly as possible. This will help to make them last longer.

    Regularly check the leash for any damage and ensure the clip is strong and secure. Replace the leash at the first sign of any fraying, tears or the clip becoming weak.

    A final tip that I recently read but admit to not yet doing myself (though I do on plan on buying one very soon!) is to attach a carabiner to the handle to make tethering your dog an incredibly simple task.

    You can simply loop the handle around any pole or post and use the carabiner to attach the leash to itself. This is so much better and easier than tying and untying knots and there’s no way your dog will be able to break it and come free like with some knots.

    Leashes Recommended By Us

    We’ve put together a selection of the highest quality leashes suitable for use with Labradors, during training and everyday use, that you can see by clicking here.

    Getting Your Puppy Used To A Leash And Collar

    Finally, if you haven’t done so already, I’ve written a guide to getting your Labrador puppy used to a collar and leash that you may useful. You can find that by clicking here.

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