Dog leads, or leashes as they are called in the US, come in all manner of lengths, materials, colours, and ways of attaching to your dog, so deciding which one is most suitable for your pooch is sometimes a bit of a minefield. This article shall look at the pros and cons of different leads and guide you through picking the most suitable lead for your dog.
Why would you need a dog lead?
Firstly, why do we need a dog lead? In the UK currently, there is no blanket law requiring dogs to be kept on a lead in public places unless the breed is subject to The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991(as amended 1997). However, there are a series of Public Spaces Protection orders which mean that you have to leash your dog in certain places within your local authority area, such as children's playgrounds, and some areas exclude dogs completely. The Highway Code also says that dogs should be kept on a short lead along roads and on paths shared with cyclists or horse riders (rule 56).
What are the benefits of a dog lead?
The benefits of using a dog lead are numerous and include preventing your dog from running off and getting lost or running into the road causing an accident or an injury to themselves, providing a safe and effective way to communicate with our dogs during training, preventing your dog from lunging at or chasing after other dogs/people, and ultimately, having control over your dog, which is particularly important if your dog has aggressive tendencies.
What are the different types of dog leads?
There are several types of dog leads to choose from, each with pros and cons depending on your lifestyle and the type of dog(s) you have:
Extendable/Retractable Dog Leads:
These allow your dog to explore further away from you, so are great for using in open spaces whilst the retractable cord means that you still have some control over them, and so would be suitable for those dogs who are confident, but not so good at recall. The level of control they allow is also pretty low grade, and so this sort of lead would not be suitable for those dogs who may have an excitable/aggressive streak, or for puppies until they have learnt good lead etiquette! They can even be detrimental to training dogs, as they can teach a dog to pull.
Training Line Leads:
These are also known as long lines as they are often 10 meters in length or more and are typically stronger than regular leads. They are great for recall training, as they allow your dog to venture slightly away from you whilst you still have a decent amount of control over them.
These leads are usually less than 2 meters long and are suitable for walking in built-up areas, and for training dogs to walk to heel. They normally have a looped, strong handle to put your hand or wrist through, and the shorter length means a greater degree of control of your pooch. They vary in materials from very strong rope to perhaps more stylish nylon with patterns - the perfect accessory!
Hands-free dog leads:
Just as it sounds, this sort of lead allows you to walk your dog with a lead which is attached around your waist, or attached to the frame of your bike, and is ideal for active dog owners with similarly like-minded dogs! Training a dog to run alongside you in this way may be tricky and take time, but eventually, it does allow you both to enjoy a faster pace of exercise together.
Perhaps a sort of lead which doesn’t necessarily spring to mind, but a harness is indeed another type of leash, and it gives the owner firmer control over a dog which requires guidance. They are also thought to be more comfortable for dogs and easier to get used to, and a harness which prevents pulling is a great option for big dogs who may be over-eager and tend to pull. They generally have either/or front/back clips, with the latter being better for well-trained dogs. When a front clip harness is partnered with a head halter, this would be a sensible option for a more nervous/aggressive dog.
What material should my dog lead be made from?
Nylon is strong, hard-wearing, relatively cheap, and available in all sorts of patterns and colours. It has the added benefit of not shrinking after getting wet, meaning that leads of this material are usually machine-washable too. However, they are not the toughest to chew through, so may be unsuitable for a pup/chewer, and can also cause nasty friction burns to your hands if pulled through them, so may not be the best material for an over-exuberant pooch.
Leather leads are generally more expensive than Nylon options, tend to be very durable and hard-wearing and are less likely to get chewed through. Unfortunately, they are not machine washable and do not recover well if frequently get wet, so would not be a good option for swimmers, however, the fact they can change shape means that the handle can adjust well over time to fit the shape/grip of your hand comfortably.
Nylon or leather leads also come with reflective strip options - very useful for safely walking your dog at night.
Metal Chain leads are not very popular these days, and they do tend to have a rather “tough”, or unfriendly look to them, but sometimes they may be just about the only material a dog is unable to chew through, so may be necessary in certain circumstances. Be sure to use a weight-appropriate one, depending on the size and build of your dog.
Does width matter on a dog lead?
Yes, it can be important. For a chewer, you want a wider-width lead as it will be harder to demolish. The same is true for pullers as a thinner lead is more likely to snap, but do remember that for puppies or small dogs, generally the wider the lead, the heavier it is, so do take this into consideration when choosing the appropriate lead for your dog.
Is the type of clip on a dog lead important?
The clip must be strong and reliable and therefore needs to be of good quality. There are two common types of clip: the bolt clip, and the trigger-snap clip. A bolt clip has a small spring inside the shaft which slides open allowing the collar ring to pass through. They can be pretty reliable, but the springs have a tendency to weaken over time, working loose and thus allowing your dog to escape without too much effort. For this reason, I personally prefer the trigger-snap type of clip which is again spring-loaded with a little trigger to lever the clip open, but these tend to be more robust and so don’t weaken with age as readily.
So in summary, before deciding upon a lead for your beloved best friend, consider what sort of activity you wish to do with your dog, the temperament of the dog, activity levels, and size of bodyweight/strength of your dog before rushing into making that decision!