By: Erin Wigginton, CPDT-KA
Part Three: Leashes
How many types of leashes are there? Too many to describe in this short post, but I will do my best to highlight some of my favorites and warn against those I would stay away from.
Nylon leashes are, by far, the most popular choice for dog owners. Durable and inexpensive (usually under $15), leashes made of nylon are available everywhere in a rainbow of colors and with a variety of clasps which are entirely a matter of preference. Most often they come in either a 4’ or 6’ length, either of which is perfectly acceptable depending on the size of your dog.
While nylon leashes are the favorite of most dog owners, if you look at the leashes used by dog professionals or enthusiasts, you’ll see a different material…leather. The leather lead is a tradition among those of us who live our lives around our dogs. There is nothing like picking up a well-worn leather leash and feeling its soft, supple strength in your hand. Leather leashes can last decades when cared for properly and can tell stories of all the dogs they have helped to train and keep safe. Their durability and strength make leather leashes both more expensive (thin, short leather leads can cost around $20) and very much worth it. I, personally, adore leather leashes but do not recommend them for puppies under the age of six months since that is when puppies are teething and are most likely to chew my beautiful (and expensive) leash to pieces in a shorter time than you’d imagine! For a teething puppy I always recommend nylon since it is easy to replace. If you’re looking for a leash that will stand the test of time and reward you in its age by becoming ever softer and more flexible, leather is definitely the way to go!
Now that I’ve discussed two of the most popular styles of leash which I would recommend, allow me to touch on a popular style of leash that I absolutely abhor: retractable, or Flexi, leashes. Oh, even thinking of them makes me cringe. Unlike fixed leashes made of nylon or leather, retractable leashes are not typically comprised of a band of material but, instead, are constructed of a thin cord which is attached to a plastic housing and ends in a bolt snap-type clasp.
Not only do these leashes rely on your dog pulling against you in order to work (most trainers would hate them simply for encouraging a dog to pull on a leash since we spend so much time and energy teaching dogs NOT to pull on the leash) but when the cord of the leash is extended it allows very little control over the dog attached to it. This results in a wandering dog, often 10’-16’ from its owner, wrapping itself around obstacles, approaching strangers and their who-knows-if-they’re-friendly dogs, or exploring into a busy street. There is little else that frustrates me as much as seeing an owner walking with their dog on a retractable leash and paying little to no attention to what their dog is doing – especially at a dog event! Think for a moment on how rude that is to every other owner and dog attending that event. Not every dog likes other dogs and not every person likes dogs. Allowing your dog to wander up to any person or other dog is not only rude but potentially dangerous! If that wasn’t bad enough, these leashes are extremely prone to breaking which leaves a loose dog possibly trailing a dangerously long cord. Last (and perhaps chief) among my complaints, retractable leashes result in frequent injuries to people and dogs. We’ve all had a rope burn at some point in our lives but imagine a rope burn from a cord thin enough to, not only burn but cut into your skin. I know many people who bear the scars of deep lacerations from Flexi leads gone awry. This can happen to dogs as easily as to their owners and the results can be devastating. I cannot think of a single situation or occasion which would persuade me to use a retractable leash. If I wanted to give my dog additional freedom to run I would either take them to a fenced, off-leash area or would use a long-line (long leash made or nylon, leather, or other material usually between 15’ and 40’ in length). Please consider the safety of yourself and your dog while being courteous to other people and their dogs and don’t use a retractable leash. Ever.
Leashes are meant to keep our dogs under control and safe. A good leash in the hands of a responsible owner will do just that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part series on accessories for your dog and how to choose the right one for your life style. Of course, I barely scratched the surface of this all-but-infinite topic so if you have additional questions or comments, please feel free to add them below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing about your favorite harnesses, collars, and leashes and wish you all the very best in choosing the perfect style for your dog!