Types of Dog Leashes and How to Choose the Right One

The girl held a wiggling, very young puppy as she stared at the display of different types of dog leashes. The clerk approached and asked what kind of dog leash she needed. She answered, “A red one … with a collar to match.”

This situation happens countless times every day in pet stores around the world. New dog owners don't understand the proper uses for the different types of dog leashes. They are just looking for an accessory that will make their furry bundle of joy look adorable when they show her off to friends and family.

Being aware of the different types of dog leashes and their proper uses will save you a lot of hassle. The right leash can help you train your dog easier and faster and will prevent the tugging and pulling that so many owners deal with.

You may not be able to use the most fashion-friendly leash at first, but you'll have a well-behaved dog that doesn't embarrass you at the dog park.

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Types of Dog Leashes and How to Choose the Right One

8 Types of Dog Leashes and How to Choose the Right One

Types of Dog Leashes and How to Choose the Right One

Uses for a dog leash

How many of us know the proper uses of the different types of leashes (or leads, as they’re also called)? The most important use of any leash is for safety.

A properly constructed and properly used leash allows you to control your dog, which can protect him from cars, kids, and other pets. It also calms those kids, adults, and pets who are scared of dogs.

A leash prevents your dog from doing those things that irritate your neighbors: “doing their business” in the neighbor’s yard, investigating and rearranging their flower beds, exploring their garbage, teasing their fenced-in dog, terrorizing their pets, and so on.

A very important use for a leash, in my opinion, is for fun. Whether you’re walking your dog around the block or walking him in a dog show, the proper leash allows your dog to join you comfortably and safely in public places. Even training leashes, which are used to teach a dog how to act in public, lead to fun, interesting activities for you and your pet.

Another use for a leash is to keep the dog’s owner from being charged with a violation of a law or ordinance. Most states have leash laws or dog-control requirements of some type. A handy place to start looking for the laws in your locality is the law school website I found.

The website contains a list of state laws as of 2015, which is a handy place to start, but it’s advisable to check with your county and city officials to make sure there aren’t local requirements you have to follow as well.

Each type of leash is designed for one or more activities – not only for general walking of dogs on a leash – and there are choices as to size, color, and material for each type of leash. All of these variations will figure into your decision.

Right about now, you’re probably feeling like there are way too many variables to keep in mind, and you’ll just get the red one, but this article can make it easier for you.

FULL GUIDE: How To Train A Dog To Walk On A Leash

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What Dog Leashes Are Made Out Of

It makes more sense to me to start with what the leash is made of. That can make your decision simpler. There are four basic materials, out of which leashes are made: leather, nylon, chain, and fabric. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Leather dog leashes

Logical Leather 6 Foot Dog Leash - Best for Training - Best Water Resistant Heavy Full Grain Leather Lead - BrownLeather is a beautiful and ageless material and, if properly made and used, is a safe, reliable, and long-lasting choice. Leather, however, is costly and very attractive to the dog who chews, which, over time, will cause a leather leash to lose some of its safety and reliability qualities.

Nylon dog leashes

Strong Durable Nylon Dog Training Leash, Traction Rope, 4Ft /5 Foot /6 Feet Long, 5/8 inch 3/4 Inch 1 Inch Wide, for Small and Medium Dogs Nylon, probably the strongest material used, is less expensive, comes in varied sizes, can be easily cleaned, and doesn’t shrink. This is the most common material used to make dog leashes. Due to its roughness, however, it can damage your hand or your dog's neck (if his collar is also made of nylon). It frays, so it needs to be checked often.

Fabric dog leashes

Lionet Paws Dog Leash ,Handmade Dog Training Leash Pet Supply Fabric leashes, while attractive with their many colors and patterns, tend to fray quickly and have to be constantly checked and then, after a very short time, discarded when they begin to weaken. These are also the least safe type of dog leashes, as they can be easily broken.

Chain dog leashes

Hamilton 4' Heavy Chain Dog Lead with Black Nylon HandleChain leashes are sometimes used to control bigger, stronger dogs, but they can be too heavy for a puppy or small dog. Persistent chewers can damage their teeth by chewing on the metal.

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Types of Dog Leashes

Now you probably have a good idea of which material you want. Let’s go on to the types of dog leashes and what the leash is going to be used for.

  • Are you going to walk your dog around the block?
  • Are you going to the park?
  • Are you showing your dog in a dog show?
  • Are you training a puppy?
  • If training, training for what?
  • Are you jogging or biking with your dog?

Once you’ve decided the activities you want to enjoy with your companion that require a leash, chances are you’re going to need more than one kind.

Standard dog leash

Strong Durable Nylon Dog Training Leash, Traction Rope, 4/5/6 Feet Long, 3/4 Inch 1 Inch Wide, for Small and Medium Dogs (1'' x 4 FT, Black) If you simply want to walk your dog around the block, a standard leash is fine. They are the most common leashes. The leash is looped at one end for you to hold, is four to eight feet long, and connects to the dog’s collar with one of three or four different kinds of hooks.

Although it’s not advisable in most circumstances, you can wrap the leash around your hand several times to keep your dog close while in a crowded or dangerous area, such as a narrow walkway close to a busy street. A safer option would be to keep one hand in the loop of the leash and one hand closer to the collar to reign your pet in.

Retractable dog leash

FLEXI New Classic Retractable Dog Leash (Tape) 26 feet, Large, Black These leashes have more uses, but there are fewer choices in the material they are made of. A retractable leash gives a dog more room to explore — up to twenty feet or so — but it can also teach your dog that if he pulls, he is rewarded with more territory in which to roam.

The most dangerous aspect of retractable leashes is that the thin nylon cord that allows the dog to roam farther away has been known to wrap around the dog, the human, or both, causing severe skin lacerations and in a few cases, amputation.

Martingale dog leashes

Realtree Soft Martingale Quick Release APC Pink Camouflage Dog Leads, 6-FeetThese are all-in-one leashes used in the show ring or in emergencies when a regular leash and collar aren’t available. They are dangerous for the dog, however, because he can pull out of the collar. This isn’t too much of a problem in a controlled environment like a dog show, but it can be fatal on a city street.

Training dog leads

Guardian Gear Cotton Web Dog Training Lead 50'x5/8", Black Training leads are used to train dogs for various behaviors and tasks. Depending on the purpose of the training, the leads can be of varying lengths — short for teaching a dog to stay close under any conditions and long, sometimes more than 50 feet, to teach a dog to come, stay, or any other command that requires that the trainer be a long distance from the dog.

Now that you know what leashes can be made of and used for, you probably know which leash(es) you need. Didn’t I say I could make the decision a little easier?

RELATED: 9 Resources on Leash Training Dogs

Types of Dog Leashes and How to Choose the Right One

Dog Leash Accessories

There is a variety of specialized items to supplement a leash used for certain activities. A coupler, for instance, has a strong O-ring that connects two or more leash-like arms to your dogs and to which a regular leash can be attached, allowing you to walk a number of dogs at one time.

Many advertise that they are tangle-free, but my dogs proved them wrong almost immediately. Of course, I have seven dogs, which might strain any advertising claim to the breaking point.

If you like to bicycle with your dog, you can clamp a special metal tube-like extension just under your bike’s seat and attach a leash to it. This device requires a short leash to keep your dog close to the bike, while the unbendable metal tube keeps your dog a safe distance from the bicycle wheels. This allows your dog to participate in an activity you enjoy, making it all the more pleasurable.

Here's a list of the best dog leashes for bicycles to take your pooch with you.

There are leashes with multiple loops arranged along with the leash, allowing you to shorten or lengthen the leash as necessary. If you attach your end of the leash to a loop located farther down the leash, the loop you’ve created can be arranged over your shoulder and across the front of your torso to keep the dog close and free your hands off the dog leash.

Seat belt attachments allow you to secure your dog in the car, and you can make your dog more visible at night by using reflective tape or lights that can be attached to his leash or collar.

When looking at the different types of dog leashes at the pet store, remember your needs and your pet's needs. Think about what you'll be doing with your dog, and make the best selection. Remember that one leash may not be enough. With these things in mind, you can easily choose the leash(es) that will work best for you and your Fido.

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Catherine is a writer and editor living in Memphis, TN. After working for a state supreme court justice, she retired to write and work with her dogs, six papillons and a rescue. She has been a foster parent for abused children, using her love of dogs to teach them the benefits and responsibilities of loving something dependent on them.