Buying a dog leash at a pet store can feel overwhelming, but choosing the right leash can make a world of difference in your dogs walking, training, and hiking.
The right leash for your pup is ultimately a personal preference, but there are some things you can look for to make sure that what you're buying is a high quality product.
Most dog leashes belong in one of two categories: standard or retractable.
Standard leashes come in an unlimited palette of colors and styles and can be made from natural materials like leather or rope as well as synthetics, like nylon or biothane. These are what most people think of when you say "dog leash" and typically range from 4' to 8' in length.
Standard leashes are the optimal choice for most dog owners. Whether you just got a new puppy and are buying a leash for the first time, or you're looking for a new leash for training, a standard rope, leather, or nylon leash is a great choice.
Retractable leashes on the other hand, are specially made to retract inside of a plastic handle without putting too much slack on the line. These leashes are somewhat controversial, as grabbing the leash while your dog runs away has been known to cause severe rope burns. Similarly, retractable leashes can slow down your dog's leash training by confusing them about how long the leash actually is, and can hurt them if stopped too suddenly.
They are convenient for walks where you'd like to let your dog explore, but as with any leash, supervision is required to make sure nobody gets hurt or tangled. Retractable leashes are better for adult dogs and dogs with good leash manners.
No matter if you're buying a leash for training or for a quick walk at the park, there are some simple things to look for to make sure that what you're getting is of high quality.
First, take a look at the hardware, and by "hardware" we mean the snap that connects your dogs leash to his collar. There are many types of snaps, from simple swivel bolts to fancy "U-sleeve" and spring loaded snaps, but what really matters (especially if you're the owner of a large dog) is the metal the snap is made from.
We prefer leashes that use brass or aluminum hardware over nickel. Brass in particular resists corrosion much better than other metals and holds up well against moisture and salt.
Cheap snaps can bend or break (and often do) at the worst possible times, so if you want a good leash it's good advice to start with good hardware. Second to hardware is the material used for the leash itself. While there are some practical benefits to quality materials, it really comes down to what you like - so we've put together a list of benefits for some of the most common leash materials.
Biothane is a synthetic material and a great alternative to leather with none of the upkeep! Biothane doesn't crack if it gets wet and wont pick up thorns like natural materials and is a favorite among police officers, dog trainers, and search and rescue teams for it's durability.
Leather leashes wear beautifully, but can be expensive. Leather is also a favorite chew for young puppies, and for that reason we recommend waiting to buy a leather leash until your dog is older. Make sure the leash you buy is advertised as "genuine" leather, and not "PU Leather" which is a leather-like plastic, not the real thing!
Nylon is a great choice for new puppy owners and the owners of small dogs. They're the go-to synthetic leash for just about every occassion, but care is required to make sure they don't knot or harden if exposed to water. Nylon comes in different textures, and while flat nylon is more popular, braided nylon is preferable for its strength and softness.
Rope leashes are an excellent choice for hiking and walks, and often feature upgraded hardware and features like adjustable o-rings. Rope leashes are soft and usually resistant to water and debris but may pick up burrs in deep grass, depending on how its made.
Adjustable leashes can be clipped in different places to make them shorter. This isn't a true retractable leash, but for many dog owners it provides all the same benefits. Adjustable leashes can be made of any material, but are most commonly made of nylon or rope.
"Flexi" is a brand of retractable leash that is often used interchangeably to refer to any leash that has a plastic handle with a button that can lock the leash, and retract it automatically. Flexi-leads are great for well-trained dogs that need a little bit of extra space on their walks, but we recommend basic & leash training to introduce your dog to the flexi-lead.
In addition to quality make sure to take into consideration how you want to use your dog leash. For example, if you plan on taking your dog hiking a lot in the summer, you may not want to get a leather leash, which will crack if not properly conditioned. On the other hand, a flexi-lead may not be appropriate for a dog training class where dogs are expected to stick close by and pay attention.
If this is your first dog (or your first dog leash) we recommend sticking to something simple, like a 6' nylon or rope leash. Standard leashes are suitable for every occasion and a quality one will be sure to last many years.