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How to Give Your Dog a Good Leash on Life

Find out what kind of leash is best for your dog

  • The right kind of leash can make walking your dog more enjoyable for both of you. iStockphoto

  • The Gentle Leader headcollar manages excessive pulling, jumping and lunging with gentle and humane control. Humane Domain.

Like collars, leashes are available in many colors and designs from charming to chic. They are made of a variety of materials ranging from leather and nylon to hemp and metal.

Size matters

As with collars, size is important. Make sure the leash is the proper size for your dog and for his collar. A thin, lightweight leash designed for a little dog may not be strong enough to control a rambunctious Labrador retriever. And the clip on the end of a small leash might break from the pressure of the metal ring on a large dog’s collar, which would allow your dog to run off.

Several styles of leashes are available. Some are made for convenience, and some have special purposes.

Basic leash
Retractable leash
Bungee leash
Long line
Slip lead


Basic leash

Your basic flat leash is 6 feet long. A basic leash is quite versatile. Not only can you use it to walk your dog, in an emergency, you can use it as a slip lead or even make a muzzle out of it.

Retractable leash

A retractable leash consists of a thin cord wound onto a spring-loaded device inside a plastic handle. As your dog walks away from you, the cord unwinds. When he walks toward you, the cord retracts. A button on the handle allows you to control how much of the cord can be extended.

People like retractable leashes because they give dogs more freedom to explore their surroundings on a walk, but these leashes have many drawbacks and can even be dangerous.

Drawbacks to a retractable leash:

  • You have minimal control over your dog. Even if you pay close attention to your dog, he may still get far enough away from you on a retractable leash to run into traffic where he may be injured or killed, or rudely jump on people or other animals.
  • The cord can break. If you have a strong dog who suddenly takes off running at full speed, the cord can snap. If that happens, your dog will escape, or you may be injured by the cord as it whips back toward the leash handle. You and/or your dog could become entangled in the leash, resulting in cuts, burns and more serious injuries.
  • Retractable leases could also cause your dog's body posture to send the wrong signal to other dogs. His pulling at the end of the retractable leash may appear to approaching dogs as a sign of aggression, leading to a confrontation between the dogs.
  • The handle of a retractable leash is bulky. Your dog could easily pull the handle out of your hands and escape. He also might be scared if the handle hits his body as it falls or bounces on the ground behind him.

If you walk your dog at night, stay safe by being more visible: Wear reflective clothing and outfit your dog with a leash and collar made of reflective material.

Bungee leash

Bungee leashes stretch. They may be made of rubber tubing or may just have an elastic section. Bungee leashes are marketed as a way to help control a dog who pulls on a leash.

These leashes are designed to minimize the risk of injury to your dog's neck as he pulls. However, the best way to get your dog to not pull is to train him to walk politely on a loose leash.

Long line

A long line is a very long leash. It may be a thin cord made of nylon or plastic, or it may be flat and made of leather, nylon or cotton like a basic flat leash.

Long lines vary from 10 to 60 feet in length. They are typically used for training your dog. You can be some distance from your dog and still have control over him so he can't run away. For example, as your dog learns the "come" command, you'll want to call him from greater distances—perhaps from across the yard instead of across the living room. Be sure to limit the use of a long line to safe areas like a field, not near a busy city street.

Slip lead

These leads can be helpful when you don't have another leash available, but shouldn't be used on a day-to-day basis. A slip lead looks like a regular flat leash, except it has a metal ring on one end instead of a clip. You pass the handle end of the leash through the metal ring to form a loop. Then you put the loop over your dog's head. Pulling on the handle tightens the loop around your dog's neck. A slip lead allows you to walk your dog on leash when he's not wearing his collar.

Caution! Only use a slip lead when a regular collar and leash aren't available. Because you can't control the tightness of a slip lead, don't use it as your regular leash. You don't want to risk damaging your dog's windpipe or neck, or even strangling him.

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