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A leash is one of the most basic, yet critical pieces of equipment you use with your dog. It can make the difference between a relaxing, enjoyable outing and a frantic tug-of-war. The proper leash for you and your dog should be strong and well-made, but doesn’t need to be expensive. Consider the size and training level of your dog, the activities you’ll be sharing, and the comfort of dog and handler.

Types of Dog Leashes

Since leashes are so important, it’s a good idea to keep more than one. That way you’ll be prepared for whatever environment, activity, or training stage you and your dog experience. Plus, leashes get wet, dirty, chewed on, and worn out. No matter what type of leashes you choose, be sure they have a sturdy metal clip to attach to the collar or harness.

Standard Flat Leashes

Standard flat leashes are the kind you see most often. They’re usually made of a tough nylon weave and are 4-to-6-feet long. Plus, most of these leashes are inexpensive, strong, waterproof, and washable. Standard leashes with an extra handle closer to the dog are useful when you’re walking in traffic or areas crowded with people and other dogs.

Dachshund waiting to cross the street on a walk.
©Javier brosch -

Chain Leashes

A chain leash has a nylon or leather handle and a chain that comes in a variety of thicknesses. Dogs who are chewers shouldn’t be able to destroy a chain leash.

Retractable Leashes

The retractable leash contains a nylon tape or cord and will allow you to extend the length — sometimes up to 30 feet — and then retract it. The plastic handle usually has a lock, so you can control the length of the extension.

Long Line Leashes

Similar to a retractable leash, a nylon long line gives your dog more room to move. However, it doesn’t extend based on the pull of the dog. The handler lets out the leash and loops it back in.

Hands-Free Leashes

Hands-free leashes come with an adjustable loop that’s worn around the handler’s waist, while the other end is clipped to the dog’s collar or harness.

Adjustable Leashes

Adjustable leashes can be used as a hand-held or hands-free leash. You can adjust the length and clip the leash around something stationary, such as the leg of a picnic table or playground bench.

Double Leashes

If you’re walking two dogs and don’t want to juggle two separate leashes, the double leash is a good option. There is one leash for the handler to hold and a coupler with two separate sections to attach to the dogs’ collars.

©Tatiana Katsai -

Martingale Leashes

A martingale leash is handy for reducing pulling. The leash combines a martingale collar with a standard nylon leash.

Slip Leashes

This is a loop collar combined with a leash. The slip leash is often handy at dog shows. It’s easy to slip on and off the dog and should only be used with well-trained dogs who aren’t likely to duck out of them.

Matching the Leash to the Dog

There are many factors to consider when determining which dog leash would be best for your dog’s particular needs:

Dog Size

If you have a toy breed, you’ll find it difficult to use a very short leash. However, a narrow-width, light-weight leash will be strong enough to hold a small dog. Big dogs and those who aren’t yet leash trained will require a thicker, wider, and heavier leash with a padded handle to prevent you from getting injuries, such as leash burn.

Training Level

Dog trainers recommend beginning leash training with a 4-6-foot nylon leash. A long line is useful when you’re teaching recall and to give your puppy a chance to explore. If your dog isn’t leash trained, avoid using a retractable leash because they’ll quickly learn that pulling is the right thing to do if they want more space.

Senior dog laying next to a leash indoors.
©Sue Harper -

Activity Level

During activities like running or hiking, when you may need to use two hands, hands-free leashes are helpful. Long lines also give you and your dog more freedom during hikes and in uncrowded areas.

Dogs who provide animal-assisted therapy in schools, libraries, or healthcare institutions are best walked on short nylon or leather leashes that always keep the dog under the handler’s control.

If you walk your dog at night close to a road, a leash with reflective material is a safer option. Thin retractable cords are difficult to see in the dark.

Handler Comfort

Some people believe that leather is the most comfortable type of leash to handle, while others prefer the padded nylon or neoprene grip versions. Retractable leashes can allow the dog to move while the handler is stationary but can cause rope burn if you try to hold onto the cord or tape.

Brussels Griffon standing in the grass on leash.©otsphoto -
©otsphoto -

Keeping Leashes Clean

Leashes get dirty and smelly and eventually need to be washed. Some nylon leashes can be placed in a mesh laundry bag and put in the washing machine, but only if the manufacturer’s tag says so. The safest way to wash nylon leashes is in a bowl of hot water with a little dog shampoo. Soak it, scrub off any especially dirty spots, rinse thoroughly, and air dry.

Leather does not benefit from a water bath. If your leash is leather, wipe dirt of with a damp, soft sponge. You can soften the leash with a leather cream, but make sure it’s a cream that’s safe for dogs.

Benefits of Leashed Walks with Your Dog

How does your dog react when you pick up a leash and ask, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

Most dogs love to get the physical and mental stimulation of the outdoors, especially when they can experience it with you. Leashes help us train our dogs, keep them safe, and prevent interactions with unfriendly dogs.

Leashes benefit dog owners, as well. Being connected to our dogs makes us more aware of their reactions to the environment and strengthens our bond. Research shows that regular physical activity such as dog walking has health benefits for humans, makes us happy, and increases socialization and our sense of community.