12 Leashes That Check Every Box on the Experts’ List
The dog leashes recommended by experts based on their very specific criteria.
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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?)
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.
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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.