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The Leash Matters – When To Use What Type

| Published on August 23, 2016

Why did you chose the leash you did? Maybe based on color or because a friend or trainer recommended it? Many of us don’t take a lot of time thinking about the leash. We just fasten the nearest one to our dog’s collar and go. But the leash is very important. It keeps your dog under control and affects the safety of you, your dog and other animals or people nearby. So next time you reach for the leash, stop and think about where you are going and what you are doing, then chose the leash that best fits. It’s like choosing shoes – you wouldn’t wear high heels to hike or track cleats to the mall.


Traditional 4 to 6 Foot Leads

These leashes come in almost every type of material you can imagine, from chain to cotton. Material is more of a personal preference than anything – but if your dog likes to chew on leashes, a chain or paracord may be best. Parcord is also nice if you are looking for something light weight for a smaller dog.

Whether you choose 4 or 6-foot really depends on the size of your dog – a tiny Chihuahua may need a 6’ leash so it reaches him comfortable from your arm height. 4′ also gives you more control so if you are in a busy area, you may prefer the shorter leash so you dog stays closer.

These leashes are best any time you are in public. They keep your dog fairly close to you and helps you keep control of your dog, which includes keeping them from greeting other dogs and people. Because they are shorter in length, they are less likely to get tangled in a bike, skateboarder or pedestrian.


Long Lines

Long lines can be made in almost any length, with standard being 10’, 15’, 20’ or 50’. They are usually cotton or nylon and can be flat or round. I find the flat are easier to hang onto than the round. For smaller dogs, you may have to make one by buying some small gauge cord and attaching a snap – most of the commercial long lines are heavy with big snaps that would be cumbersome for a tiny pup.

While great for training, they pose real risks when out in public. You cannot reel your dog in very quickly if something happens and they are 30 feet from you. On the other hand, at least you can pull them back you if necessary, unlike a retractable leash. So, between the two, long lines are a better choice for practicing your stays and recalls in public or open areas.

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Be sure to keep your hand on your long line. If your dog bolts, you will not be quick enough to reach for it or step on it. Also beware of rope burns. Wearing gloves while walking a dog on a lead line is a good idea, if that rope gets pulled through your hand, it will burn!

Retractable Leashes

Retractable leashes are great for giving a dog freedom. Most extend around 20’, more or less. The biggest drawback is you cannot reel your dog in, you have to wait for them to come toward you. This can cause a lot of problems in public areas if your dog is headed toward traffic, an unfriendly dog, or is getting tangled in bikes, people, etc. For this reason, they are not a good leash for your neighborhood walks.


They are great for hikes up in the mountain, or in fields, where you know you can safely give your dog freedom and it’s okay if they only come back when they want to and/or your dog has a solid recall. Even here, be sure you know the area and that it’s safe for your dog to wander – i.e. no poisonous plants, hidden holes or cliffs, hunters that may mistake your dog for wildlife, etc.

Specialty Leads

There are a number of specialty leads that can help make your life easier with your dog. Here are some of the most popular:

Hands-free leashes are great for walking around town when you know you may be carrying groceries, running, or training and need both hands free. Not recommended if you have bad hips or back. Can also be dangerous if you have a large dog that bolts.

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Double handle leashes are an amazing invention. Sometimes called a “traffic leash,” they have a second handle close to where it attaches to your dog’s collar. This allows you to have rapid control of your dog when needed. It’s very handy for urban walking in big, crowded cities and for dogs that may be reactive or are overly friendly.

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Dual leashes are made for walking two dogs at once. It makes your life easier because you only have one handle. But, if your dogs are not properly leash trained, you may find you and your dogs in a tangled mess. Only use with dogs that walk nice on leash and are similar is speed and stride. Imagine walking a 9 month puppy that’s attached to an arthritic 15-year old – the senior dog would not be happy.

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