Form, Function & Top Picks
Standard Walking Leash / Lead
Slip Leads (Kennel Lead)
Long Lines (Training)
Chew Resistant Leashes
There are several things to consider when selecting a leash or lead and I use these terms interchangeably. Leashes, leads, and lines are made for specific uses and they come in a variety of material selections and hardware choices.
Regardless of what leash or lead you use it’s important to always inspect anything you use looking for signs of tearing or excessive wear. Webbing breaks and friction will contribute to the wear of the hardware resulting in loosening of the swivel, thinning of the metals, and even stretching of the snap on the head or the swivel. Rust and the environment can also result in the snap bolt trigger starting to stick or becoming rigid. Having a leash snap/break while attached to a 150 lb dog was enough reason for me to always check leashes and collars after that experience. Fortunately the dog was friendly and just wanted to run and greet a neighbor, all be it a little too enthusiastically.
Standard Walking Leash / Lead
Leashes are made with all types of materials and some of the popular ones are; leather, nylon, rope, hemp, soy, and biothane. Some biothane leashes could be considered as a leather alternative (but not by true leather fans) but some just have the feel of plastic coated webbing and lack the same flexibility and feel as leather. I don’t recommend leashes with heavy padded or rubber handles, and large “traffic” handles. When holding a leash it should not look like we are water skiing. A lite leash permits you to feel where your dog is and sense the slightest movements.
My ideal leash is 6’, lite weight, soft and subtle which increases handler awareness of the dog’s movements and location. My favorite leash is the Super-Soft Premium Nylon Snap Leash from Genuine Dog Gear weighing in under 3.3oz. This leash is strong and is the softest leash I have seen and it’s easy on the hands even with strong pullers. Behind the Super-Soft leash my favorite leashes are made with hemp and soy. These are both easier on the hands than nylon. I’m not a fan of rope leashes since they are bulky and heavy, nor am I a fan of paracord leashes which have become more common in recent years. Paracord leashes although strong are one of the most uncomfortable leashes on the hands.
Various Leash Size and Weights
Standard nylon 6’, 1” leash 4.5 oz
Standard nylon 5/8” leash 2.5 - 2.8 oz
Leather 6’, 5/8” leash 5.9 oz
Leather 6’, 1/2” leash 5.0 oz
Genuine Dog Gear Super-Soft Nylon Snap Leash (Top Choice)
Pros: Softest leash, Strong nylon tube webbing, 6’ x 3/4”, Lite weight (3.3 oz), Made in the USA
Caninus Collar Nylon Leash
Pros: Strong nylon webbing, available in 3/8”, 5/8”, 3/4”, and 1”, Made in the USA
Coastal Pet Soy Lead
Pros: Softer than nylon, 5/8” width
Earth Dog Hemp Leash
Pros: Made from hemp, Softer than nylon and easier on the hands, Made in the USA
Cons: Only available in 1”, The snap hook is thin and harder to manipulate due to its design.
High Quality Leather Leashes from Suzanne Clothier & John Rice
Leather leashes have been a favorite of trainers for years. I can highly recommend the quality leather leashes from Suzanne Clothier and John Rice. All of their leads are hand crafted from top quality English bridle leathers and brass hardware. Edges are beveled, smoothed & lovely to the hand. Braids are tight and precise. Created with attention to detail, these leads are beautiful to the touch. A handful of quality!
If you are one of those people who tie knots in your leash so you are concious of it length, they have a beautiful leash called the “Awareness Lead” made with the same English bridle leather but with added subtle lacing, designed for increased awareness & sophistication in your handling. The leads come in various widths from 1/4” - 3/4” so there is a size appropriate for every dog.
SLIP LEAD / KENNEL LEAD
Slip/Kennel Leads are useful for several purposes. Keep a couple in the vehicle for emergency situations and when walking dogs so you have a way of capturing a loose dog. They are a good management tool in the home. Place strategically around the home they can be used to quickly control a dog at the door to prevent them from running out or jumping on guest. The flat webbing leads fold up nicely and carry well in a pocket. Use a good nylon slip lead if there is any concern a dog may mouth or attempt to chew through the lead. There are economical nylon leads like below but be aware these are a thinner nylon which is easy to chew through. If chewing and cost is not a big concern the hemp leads although expensive are soft on the hands. The British style slip lead is bulky but does maintain a head loop making them easier to use to lasso a dog. They are often made with a soft, solid-braid, polypropylene rope so they are often favored by rescues. There are also 5’ braided poly slip leads which are common in veternarian offices and vet clinics. These are thin and hard on the hands and dogs neck so they would not be the slip lead I would grab if given the option.
I use a bungee leash on occasion for loose leash walking training when I’m working with exceptionally strong pullers and large dogs to minimize/eliminate unintended corrections. A dog hitting the end of the leash will get a large correction so I will often work with the leash shorten and/or a bungee leash to minimize unintended corrections.
I prefer bungee leashes that just have a small section of stretch like the Kurgo leash but I would not expect this or any other leash to hold up over an extended period to time to constant pulling. The one exception to this is the Howling Dog “Leash With Bungee” which is made from 1” tube webbing and shock cord. This is a strong leash and great for heavy pullers and for those who run with their dog. This is a 5 ½’ leash unstretched with a brass snap hook. I have an older version of this leash which is 6’ and it weighs in at 5.9 oz. One big downside to the Howling Dog bungee leash is the nylon webbing is the roughest I’ve seen and it is hard on the hands. I’ve used this leash for ex-large dogs for loose leash walking training and for running dogs by hooking it to my Rigger’s belt with a quality carabiner.
For the vast majority of dogs I prefer to use a standard nylon leash like the Caninus Collar leashes above especially with young puppies. For larger dogs that mouth or grab the leash a double-ply nylon leash will generally prevent a supervised dog from being able to chew through the leash. With these dogs the focus should be on working on the dog’s arousal levels and teaching self-control.
In extreme cases (which is more than rare) and for short-term use I will use a leash that discourages holding or chewing. But it should be rare that this type of leash should be used. My first choice is a lite weight 2mm chain leash. The 4’, 2mm version I have weighs in at 4.3 oz.
Alpine Outfitters the makers of great harnesses also makes chew-proof leashes made with galvanized aircraft cable sheathed with a reflective poly rope in a 5’ length. They make a heavy-duty and a medium-duty versions. I can’t imagine ever needing anything more then the medium duty leash weighting in at 5.6 oz.
One leash/lead I never recommend is the retractable type for a multiple of reasons. One big reason and the least of the concerns is that you cannot feel or sense the dog’s movements unless they are pulling but that is the least of the problems. The absolute worst use for a retractable leash is when it is attached to a dog wearing any type of a head halter. It’s bad enough for a dog to receive a sudden stopping jolt when they hit the end of the leash but when wearing a head halter type device you are really endangering the dog.
It’s not unusual to have retractable leashes break when a dog takes off at full speed. There is no shortage of stories of people getting tangled up in the line of retractable leashes and suffering cuts and burns as a result of the line wrapping around a leg or other parts of the body. Another issue is a timid or fearful dog can be terrorized and chased when retractable leashes are accidentally dropped.
One of the biggest problems with retractable leashes is dogs learn to pull on leash since pulling results in the lead extending. The goal when walking a dog is to maintain no tension in the leash. Do an informal survey. Look to see how many dogs are being walked with a retractable leash walk with constant tension in the leash.
Snap Hooks / Snap bolts
Snap hooks/bolts are available in a variety of configurations and metals. Each has their own strengths and weakness. I believe the breaking strength or Working Load Limit (WLL) of most available snap hooks/bolts are more than sufficient for working with dogs. Quality snap hooks/bolts will have stainless steel springs. I generally prefer the traditional snap bolt made from nickel plated zinc die cast metals due to its lighter weight.
I have found flat carabiner type gate spring snap design (pictured below) is the quickest and easiest to attach to a collar or harness D-ring. The downside of this design is that a 1” or smaller D-ring can twist and work free from this snap thereby creating a safety concern. I have not found this to be the case with the larger 1 1/2” - 2” D-rings. The thinner boat snap/carabiner type gate design like on the Earth Dog leashes does not have the same issue. But I find this design the least easiest to use, but that may be due to a longer history using a traditional snap bolt.
Listed in order of strength.
Stainless Steel is strongest and most weather resistant. (Rust proof) However it is expensive and generally weighs more then everything but brass.
Nickel Plated Malleable Iron - Malleable iron although it can be harder than steel will not necessarily be stronger due to it being more brittle. (Rust resistant)
Nickel Plated Zinc Die Cast - economical and it’s rust resistant.
Brass holds is rust proof, but heavy and expensive. It is less likely to break because it’s a more malleable metal.
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