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Choosing a Dog Leash or Lead

Updated on September 13, 2012

Buying a dog Lead or Leash

Choosing a dog lead or leash to buy would seem straight forward enough until you are faced by the bamboozling range on offer at your average pet shop. All of a sudden you start wondering 'which dog lead should I buy?' and 'What is the difference between all these leads' or 'Why are some of the leads really long and others barely more then a handle?' or 'Is their a difference between a leash and a lead?' The last question is easily answered. Americans tend to use the phrase dog leash and the British tend to use the phrase dog lead for exactly the same product i.e. a length of some material, such as chain, which you can attach to your dog's collar at one end and hold by the other end to keep your dog walking within a prescribed distance from you.

Here are six factors to consider

Leather Lead

Cassie, collie spaniel cross, modelling a lead in ordinary leather with single stitching attaching the clasp.
Cassie, collie spaniel cross, modelling a lead in ordinary leather with single stitching attaching the clasp.

Strength of the Dog Lead

The lead you choose needs to be strong enough to hold your dog if it pulls. Even the best trained dog could take fright at something and pull away, but for most owners, some pulling from your dog is inevitable and a poor quality lead will wear or break far too easily.

Unfortunately few lead brands state the weight of dog they can safely take, so you need to inspect each lead type closely and make your own judgements. If you use an anti-pulling device, such as a head collar, on your dog, it should have less pulling power and you can select your lead accordingly.

Some rules of thumb:

Width and Weight – In general a wider or heavier lead will be stronger.

Metal Clasp – weightier ones are usually strongest, check the thickness of the neck of the swivel as this is prone to wear from rubbing as the dog moves and turns it.

A Good Leather Leash

Leather dog leads – Bridle leather (from cowhide) is strong having been originally developed for horse bridles. Softline leather goes through additional oiling processes to produce a leather which is very comfortable to handle. There is even a range of leads made from Kangaroo leather which is apparently especially good for plaited leads.

Leather leads can be flat or round (rolled). You may find one of the other more comfortable and visually appealing. My preference is for flat leather. When selecting a lead look for double stitching and supple leather. Quality hand stitched leads are most expensive but should repay you in terms of years of usage.

Cotton Webbing Lead

Bob the terrier models a cotton webbing lead
Bob the terrier models a cotton webbing lead

Rope dog leads - Nylon is stronger, but often less comfortable for the handler then cotton rope. Look for double stitching around the handle and clasp.

Webbing dog leads - available in cotton, nylon and other synthetic materials. Again, the cotton ones are often more comfortable in the hand, some of the nylon ones are very hardwearing and stand up to wet conditions well although they can become slippery to hold when wet.

Both cotton and nylon leads come in a wide range of colours to appeal to everyone.

Length of the Dog Lead

This is a matter of personal preference, height of the dog and how close control you need. Standard lead lengths are between 12 inches to 48 inches. Many dogs are more relaxed if they have some room for manoeuvre, but if you have a long lead your dog may become a hazard by wandering out on to the road or wrapping itself round you or a lamppost.

Comfort of the Dog Lead

For the dog’s comfort consider clasp weight as this will pull down on the neck a little if attached to a collar, particularly relevant to toy breeds.

For your comfort consider the handle. Leads designed for small dogs or puppies often have a similarly small handle which won’t fit a stocky adult hand comfortably. A very thin handle, especially in nylon, can leave wheals on your hand if your dog pulls. Conversely, a thick handle with a lot of extra padding can be surprisingly uncomfortable and cumbersome, especially if you are walking more than one dog.

Since you may fold the lead in to your hand to shorten it at times when you need closer control of your dog, consider how comfortable this will be – chain leads really fall down here. Having a chain lead wrapped around your hand when your dog is pulling will hurt!

Extending Leads and other Tips

A tip for if you walk more than two dogs at once - you might find it helpful to have different coloured leads for each dog – especially when you get into the almost inevitable lead tangle.

Extending leads – these usually do state what weight of dog they can safely be used with, so weigh your dog before buying the appropriate one. Bear in mind that the cords on some extending leads can be narrow and result in rope burn if they inadvertently get wrapped around the dog’s leg or your hand.

As with anything, lead strength will deteriorate over time and with wear from use. It is important to check your lead regularly for evidence of stretching, fraying, worn metal and damage to stitching. Ideally replace the lead before it breaks rather than waiting for the moment after your dog has lunged after a cat, snapped the lead and raced across the road dodging traffic.

Nylon Rope Lead

Scrappy - Dogue de Bordeaux, wearing a 'Canny Collar', to reduce his pulling strength, models a nylon rope lead.
Scrappy - Dogue de Bordeaux, wearing a 'Canny Collar', to reduce his pulling strength, models a nylon rope lead.

Purpose of the Dog Lead

If you are a serious dog walker and spend hours each day out in all weathers it is important to have a lead that still handles comfortably when wet. You may also find a lead with additional D rings usefully versatile as it can be adjusted to a variety of lengths.

If you often walk in the dark, consider a reflective lead which will help make you more visible to traffic.

If you are showing dogs; slip leads, where the lead and collar are combined, are commonly used.

If you are training your dog to track, a long line or tracking lead of 30 to 45 feet may be used.

A Good Chain Leash

Hamilton 4' Heavy Chain Dog Lead with Black Nylon Handle
Hamilton 4' Heavy Chain Dog Lead with Black Nylon Handle

An excellent leash if you have a persistent lead chewer.


Chew Resistance of Dog Leads

In the early stages a puppy may chew the lead a little but this is usually easily corrected by a mild vocal reprimand and positive reinforcement when it stops chewing. However if you have a dedicated lead chewer, perhaps one who can chew through a leather lead in the minute your attention is directed elsewhere, then a chain lead may be useful for occasions when you are less focussed on training and you can practise with other leads when you can focus fully on the dog.

Hunter MFG Michigan Wolverines Dog Leash
Hunter MFG Michigan Wolverines Dog Leash

Show support for your favorite team with a themed dog leash


Appearance of the Dog Lead

Your dog won’t mind what the lead looks like so long as it gets regularly used for walks! However you may be keen for the lead to match your Dog’s collar or contrast with its coat colour. You may like diamante sparkles on the lead, zebra stripes or to have the dog’s name embroidered down it. You can even support your favourite team or state with a themed dog leash.


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    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you Deviousone - it's especially good to know that you came across it via a google search.

    • DeviousOne profile image


      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Coming across this through a Google search, it has some useful information. Good hub =)

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      This is a very belated thank you for your comment Angela - I hope you found a lead that you are comfortable with for your active dog.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      6 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Great information I am needing to find a a lead for my active little friend so stumbling across this article was great! Great HUB!


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