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12 Leashes That Check Every Box on the Experts’ List

The dog leashes recommended by experts based on their very specific criteria.

by Avery Felman
September 15, 2021
Person with white blond hair and tattoos wearing a blue muscle t-shirt and white pants and a hands-free blue leash connected to a black shaggy haired dog
@satie_san / Courtesy of Found My Animal

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Whether you’re adopting a new pup or outfitting your dog in the latest and greatest in pet fashions, there are endless options when it comes to kitting them out. Choosing a leash is no exception. Beyond just finding a leash that’s stylish, durable, and your dog doesn’t totally despise, there are a lot of other factors to consider, including your and your pets’ lifestyles, size and weight, and your dog’s level of reactivity.

Vera Murri, of physical and virtual training schools DogLife Hoboken and Dogs Life Inc, emphasizes that a leash isn’t a replacement for proper training. “They’re not born knowing what the leash is, what the harness is,” she says. “We have a lot of expectations for our dogs.”

If you’re just getting started, veterinarian and The Wildest Collective member Dr. John Iovino recommends “matching the size with the dog” when selecting the length of a leash. This becomes particularly important when introducing your pup to strangers, other animals, or new surroundings. It’s not about controlling the dog; it’s about “teaching them how to switch attention from the trigger back to the handle,” Murri adds.

While trainers and veterinarians may have varying opinions about the materials, length, and safety of using certain leashes based on their own experiences, we spoke with a few to get a well rounded understanding of what to look for. No one wants to browse 10 pages of options anyways, right? We covered the best leashes for chewers and pullers, seniors and adolescents, and big and small dogs. Below, everything you need to know about the right leash for your dog (before you make an impulse purchase on Amazon).

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

Safety

The goal of leash training a dog is to be able to walk without any tension at either end of the lead. Training plays a huge part in your dog’s comfortability on a leash, but the best leashes are designed to be pet and human safe. The veterinarians and trainers we spoke to clued us in to the most unpopular leash among them: retractable leads. “Retractable leashes aren’t heavily in favor. If you have a dog that you’re doing work with, and you want them to heel properly or walk properly, it’s just going to be more difficult to execute that,” says Dr. Iovino.

Beyond making executing commands more difficult for dog and dog parent, the leashes also have a reputation for being dangerous. “I tend to suggest avoiding retractable leashes,” says Annie Grossman, professional dog trainer and owner and founder of School For the Dogs. “If dropped, they can snap towards a dog, which can be both dangerous and scary.” Not only can they frighten pups who are noise-sensitive and cause them instinctually to run while being chased by the heavy plastic handle, but they’re also a danger to humans. “Whenever I see a retractable leash on someone’s hallway table, I tell them to throw it out,” warns Murri. “If you just Google injuries retractable leashes, you will see a lot of different stories.”

Sizing and Fit

The greatest indicator of safety and comfort is going to be size and fit. “For your average walking scenario, what you want is just a short durable lead that isn’t too long, but isn’t too short,” Dr. Iovino advises. “The going length is 4 to 6 feet.” Aside from length, you should also be aware of width and weight specifications. A tiny Terrier won’t be able to tolerate as heavy of a lead as a Doberman. “I also see people using leashes that are a little too heavy for their very young and small puppies,” Murri says. She recommends using a carabiner on the smaller side, “especially if you have a puppy under 10 pounds.” 

For larger dogs, the opposite issue presents itself. Without a heavy enough leash, bigger dogs can easily pull a lightweight lead out of your hand even if they aren’t a tugger. Murri recommends “using an inch [thick leash] for dogs that are bigger than 20 pounds.” 

A leash’s clasp is just as important as its dimensions and weight. Grossman shares her preferred clasp type, which is a trigger snap: “[It] has more overlap and is therefore safer than a simple pull-back clasp.”

Durability and Materials

While you likely won’t need anything stronger than a nylon material for the average dog, Grossman shares her other preferences: “I also like the Mendota braided leashes, which are very sturdy but not heavy.” This makes them an excellent choice for dogs of any size, as they come in multiple lengths and widths. If your dog is a chewer, you’d be better suited with a leather or leather-alternative leash.

Grossman offers a tip for chewers: “You can attach a simple chain between the end of your leash and the dog’s collar if you have a dog who bites a leash.” Another option she recommends is the VirChewLy Indestructible Leash, which is made from rubber-coated metal and will keep your pup from destroying your main point of contact.

Best Colorways

the Wild One All-Weather Leash in blue

Just because the leash experts recommend following a fairly specific formula, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with your choice. After all of the necessary safety precautions, durability testing, and clasp scrutinizing, “it comes down to color, length, and material,” Dr. Iovino says. Millennial cult-favorite brand Wild One has popularized adding a pop of color in your dog’s walk kit. Since it meets your rigorous standards, we don’t see a downside to adding it to your pup’s wardrobe.

$58 at Wild One

Best Hands-Free

blue leash

With great power comes great responsibility. According to Annie Grossman, owner and co-founder of School For The Dogs, “You shouldn’t be using leashes or collars or harnesses to control your dog. Ideally, they’re only for emergencies.” If your dog isn’t properly trained, is reactive, or is just learning to walk on the leash, beginning with a hands-free leash may not be the right option. If your pup follows your commands and is ready for an upgrade to a hands-free experience, Fable’s Magic Link leash is an excellent choice. Made from an industrial-strength brushed cord and custom matte black aluminum hardware, it’s water-proof and easy to clean, making it a favorite among busy pet parents.

$65 at Fable

Best Rope

ombre blue dog leash

If you’re looking for a brand that combines trends in fashion with utility, look no further than Found My Animal. Beloved by pet parents and trainers alike, its staying power has been solidified through the rave reviews their rope leash has received. “For leashes, my favorite is the Found My Animal nylon rope leash,” Grossman shares. “The leashes are long enough that they can be worn around the waist, leaving hands free for giving treats.” Plus, they’re hand-crafted to be incredibly durable and come in tons of adorable colorways.

$62 at Found My Animal

Best For Strong Dogs

yellow rope leash

Not many people are a match for a pulling dog; whether they’re 100 pounds or 30, it’s tough to get a determined pup to reign it in. Although this behavior can be managed through training, having a leash that addresses the issue doesn’t hurt either. Bungee style leashes, while in favor as a hands-free option for dogs who know their commands, can actually have an adverse effect on training by encouraging a dog to tug when they have more leeway. Made from a climbing rope, the Atlas Lifetime Leash is extremely durable and made to stand up to the strength of heavy pullers both big and small. Whether you’re hiking or taking a stroll down the block, this leash will keep your pup from toppling you over.

$68 at Lifetime Leash

Best Adjustable 

the leash in camel

Balancing walking your pup with seven unsent texts and a cold brew is no easy feat. That’s why hands-free leashes are so appealing — especially those that are adjustable. The key to a successful hands-free walk is to make sure the leash is at the proper length for your dog and in the most comfortable place for you (around your shoulders or waist). Maxbone’s Go! Leash can be worn in three different ways, so you can walk the way that is most comfortable for you. The only watch out to going hands-free? According to Dr. Iovino, “The hands-free leash only works well if the dog knows how to heel properly. If the dog is not good on a regular leash, they’re probably not going to be good on a hands-free leash.” If you’re good to go on the training front, opting for this practical, secure, and adjustable lead is a safe bet.

$55 at Maxbone

Best For Reactive Dogs

the pink leash

For reactive dogs, the best thing you can do for them is set them up with the tools for success. One of of those tools: ensuring you’re in control of their behavior at all times. “I really love the leash with two handles where you have one regular handle and a handle that is closer to the dog, because it helps you control them better in tight spaces, going past distractions,” says Murri. This helps point their eyes, ears, and nose in the direction you want them to, rather than allowing them to get overwhelmed by outside stimuli.

$9 at Chewy

Best Sustainable Pick

green leash

A leash that’s functional, stylish, and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in your entryway is hard to come by. One that meets all that criteria and ticks the sustainability box? That’s even more rare. Fortunately, Wanderruff matches all of the above. Made from recycled water bottles, the Lola Leash is 6 feet long, which makes it a sensible choice for most pups, comes in two widths for small and larger dogs, and is shipped using eco-friendly materials. Plus, the brand donates one percent of its profits to eco-causes, which we can all get behind.

$50 at Wanderruff

Best For Recall Training

rainbow lead

When it comes to recall training, the leash itself isn’t as important as the physical space you and your pup are occupying. “You need to work in a big open space,” saying Murri, who suggests practicing recall training in low-density areas, such as a local park. “Central Park is going to be great, because [you] can have a 20-to-30-foot-long leash and work on their recall, and you’re not afraid that your dog is going to take off on you.”

$10 at Amazon

Best Outdoorsy

leather leash in brown and black

Having to clean your pup after they take a sandy walk on the beach or roll in the mud on a hike is difficult enough without worrying about their accessories. If their brand-new leather leash gets caked in dirt on its first wear, it won’t make for a happy scene. Hunting Pony mixes style and convenience, with its vegan rubberized base that doesn’t stain and is easy to clean. All you’ll need to ensure that it stays pristine is a wet cloth. If you ask us, that’s pretty low maintenance.

$70 at Hunting Pony

Best For Small Dogs and Puppies

Best Customizable

Best Budget

purple dog leash

More often than not, your first thought is your best one — the same is true of leashes, so don’t overthink it. Dr. Iovino says the best options available have a few things in common: “It seems like all of them are made from a good durable nylon material (some of them are even made of leather), and it seems like all of them have a really sturdy buckle.” As they say on Love Island, this one is ticking a lot of our boxes.

$9 at Amazon

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Avery, editor at The Wildest, and her cat, Chicken

Avery Felman

Avery is an editor at The Wildest. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her fiancé and cat, Chicken, and has high hopes that one of them will let her adopt a dog.