​The Long and the Short of Dog Leashes

Dog Harness November 22, 2021

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​The Long and the Short of Dog Leashes

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The leash is at the top of the list of things you need when you bring home a new dog or puppy. Not only is a leash necessary to keep your new companion from running away during your walks but in most places dogs are required by law to be on a leash (and under your control) when they are off your property. A leash is also an important way for you to communicate with your dog.

Whether you are taking an easy walk with your dog or training him in the backyard, the leash allows you to have a physical connection with your friend. Your thoughts and feelings travel down the length of the leash, helping your dog sense your mood and wishes.

​What kind of leash is best for you and your dog?

With more people owning dogs today, the market for leashes is constantly growing. Which kind of leash is best for you and your dog?

Leashes come in a wide variety of styles and materials including leather, nylon, and metal. Leather is traditional. Good quality leather will become softer with age. It’s also comfortable in the hands. However, puppies love to chew leather leashes and it is often more expensive than other leash options.

Nylon is also reasonably comfortable and durable. It’s easy to wash. However, nylon leashes are also easy for puppies and dogs to chew. And, a nylon leash can produce a burn if your dog suddenly yanks it through your hands.

Metal chain leashes are chew-resistant but they are generally heavier than the other leashes. They can be cumbersome to work with in some cases.

Leash length also varies. Length can depend on the size of your dog and the kind of activities you will be doing together. There is no absolute requirement for leash length but you want to be able to control your dog when he is on the leash.

When choosing a leash it is important to consider both yourself and your dog. Many people like to get a leash that will match or fit with the dog collar they purchase.

​The most common types of leashes

Fixed Leashes: As the name implies, a fixed leash is made of a precise, set length. The shortest fixed leashes are used on city streets. They are normally about 12-18 inches long and made to allow you to keep your dog close to you as you move through crowded streets. Elsewhere, leashes that are 4- and 6-feet long are more popular for walking dogs. If you are taking your dog to a park or other area where people and dogs mingle, a fixed leash is usually required. These leashes normally have a clip on the end that attach to the dog’s collar or harness.

Retractable Leashes: Retractable leashes use a thin cord or a thin, flat belt housed in a plastic spring-loaded handle. The owner can push a button on the side of the handle to lock the leash at a certain length. Some retractable leashes extend over 20 feet while others allow small dogs to exercise up to 10 feet. There are pros and cons to using retractable leashes. They are sometimes prohibited in parks and at dog shows. You should not use a retractable leash with your dog unless you are skilled at doing so and the leash is in good working order.

Slip Leash: Slip leashes are a combination leash and collar. They range from elegant, almost jeweled combinations that you might see at dog shows to very useful combos used at veterinary offices. If you tend to pick up lost or homeless dogs, it’s a good idea to keep a slip leash in your vehicle so you can easily catch a loose dog.

Long Leash: Long leashes are often used for training the recall command. Bird hunters also use the long leash (or check cord) to train bird dogs. Long leashes are sold in different lengths. Some of them can be as long as 50 feet. They can be used in open fields and other places where you don’t have to worry about obeying leash laws.

You and your dog may need more than one kind of leash, depending on what you do and the activities you enjoy together. You will probably find that you use one leash on a regular basis but have other leashes for training or going certain places.

Carlotta Cooper is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine DN Dog News. She's the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, a Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) award winner. In addition, she is an American Kennel Club Gazette breed columnist and the author of several books about dogs. She has been reviewing pet foods and writing about dog food for more than 10 years.
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