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What is the best lead for a dog?

jack russell holding blue lead in mouth

Choosing the right dog lead is essential for your pet's welfare!

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There are so many dog leads on the market today that choosing one for your pet can be overwhelming. But don’t worry, we’ll help you pick the best one for your pet’s lifestyle!

By Justine Seraphin

Updated on the

If you’re getting a dog soon, you may be looking to buy the essentials, such as a collar or harness, a dog bed, and most importantly, a dog lead! But once you get to the pet store, you are faced with so many options that it can be very difficult to make a decision on what to purchase.

Not to worry - we can help you! The truth is, every dog lead has its purpose, so it’s important to think of your dog’s lifestyle before you purchase one. In fact, many dog owners opt for several dog leads so they can be well equipped in a variety of situations. So, if you’re looking for the perfect dog lead for your pet, here’s what you need to know:

Everyday-use dog leads

If you’re just going for a walk around the block or taking your dog with you to the city centre for example, you’re going to need a simple, practical lead. If your dog is already lead trained, here are the perfect options for you:

Standard dog leads

Standard dog leads are the most common type of dog lead. They come in a variety of styles and colours, which can be nice if you like to accessorize your dog’s looks. Standard leads are super simple: They have a clasp on one end and a handle on the other. They are usually 4 to 6 feet in length and are most commonly made out of Nylon, although some are made of of rope, leather, chain, or even hemp! 

Standard dog leads are fine for everyday use. Because they’re usually quite short, they’re perfect for walks in busy areas when you want to keep your dog close and under control. However, they’re best used with dogs who are well behaved and know how to walk on a lead properly - for pullers, you may need a different type of lead.

Retractable dog leads

Retractable dog leads work a lot like a tape measure would. A long, thin lead is held inside the handle, and is pulled out when the dog pulls forward. This enables dogs to have more freedom at the end of the lead and to be able to explore a wider terrain without having to be off-lead. 

These leads are heavily criticized because the thinness and retractability of the lead can cause injuries to both humans and dogs. They’re also not great for controlling a dog, so wouldn’t work well for boisterous or large dogs. Plus, they’re not a great training tool since they teach your dog that pulling works!

However, for the right type of dog, retractable leads can work perfectly! For example, small dogs can still be easily controlled even from a distance. Dogs who are calm or already trained won’t pick up any bad habits from this lead. And as long as handlers are careful when using it (and not letting youngsters or seniors use it) - the lead won’t cause harm to anyone. 

Training dog leads

If you have a puppy or rescue dog at home, your new pet may need some training. This would include proper lead training, heeling, and recall. All of these commands can be taught more efficiently with the help of the right leads. If you’re looking to train your dog, here are the perfect options for you:

Long dog leads

Long dog leads look like very long standard leads (some can be up to 100 feet long!). These leads are good when you are training a dog to heel or to respond to recall. Indeed, the length of the lead means you can let your dog walk freely, but also have the option to step on the lead to restrain them in case of an emergency (e.g. they are not responding to recall and getting dangerously close to a road). In most cases, you can stop using the long lead once your dog is perfectly trained, but some dogs may need to use them permanently.

Learn more about loose-lead training

Slip leads for dogs

Slip leads or martingale leads are essentially a lead with a collar built in. Instead of a clasp on one end of the lead, the lead makes a loop which can go around your dog’s neck and will tighten if/when they pull. This lead is often used in rescue situations because it is very effective in controlling jumpy dogs. It’s sometimes used for training a dog not to pull as it applies pressure to the neck when pulled on - which can discourage your dog from repeating the behaviour in the future. However, if your dog is already lead trained, there is probably no need for a slip lead. It can, however, be a good option for dogs who don’t usually wear harnesses or collars because of their fluffy coats (e.g. Rough Collies).

Tough dog leads

You might be looking for tough or strong dog leads because your dog is extremely powerful and likes to pull, or because your dog is a lead chewer! 

For the chewers, the best option is a chain lead. Because the material is basically impossible to destroy, most dogs will stop trying. However, be careful when purchasing a chain lead. These are not very comfortable to hold and can even cause quite serious injuries to your hands if your dog is a puller. Chain leads are also heavy, so they wouldn’t suit a very small dog or puppy. Finally, some dogs won’t be deterred by the metal and will continue chewing the lead anyway, which could lead to serious dental problems. In any case, handle with care.

Rope dog leads and leather dog leads are both durable and comfortable for both handler and dog. The only thing to consider is that leather tends to be more expensive than other materials. Neither of these materials will deter a serial chewer, either.

Multiple dog leads

If you have two or more dogs at home, walking your pooches could be quite a challenge. Luckily, there are leads out there specifically geared towards owners with multiple dogs. So if you’ve got more than one dog at home, here are the perfect options for you:

Adjustable dog leads

Adjustable dog leads could look like standard dog leads from far away, but they are actually much more complex. They typically have a clasp at each end and a series of rings at different parts of the lead. This enables the handler to use the lead in many different ways. For example, it could be used to handle two dogs at once, to tether a dog to a post, or to switch from a very short hold to a longer one very easily within the same walk. Basically, this lead is perfect for unpredictable outings that may require different attachments for your dog.

Split leads or dog lead splitters

These leads have one handle attached to two separate leads. The best split leads are those with a tangle-free lead coupler which will ensure that your dogs don’t get tangled together during walks. These leads are perfect if you have two dogs (or more) at home. Just make sure both of your dogs are properly lead-trained before you attempt to use this type of lead!

Athletic dog leads

If you’re the adventurous, outdoorsy type, and got a dog specifically so they could accompany you on your sporty excursions, the following leads are great options for you:

Dog leads for running

If you’re a jogger, you might want to opt for an umbilical cord or hands-free lead. This type of lead has a waist-band attachment for the handler, enabling you to keep your dog restrained while having full use of both of your hands. 

Dog leads for biking

This type of lead attaches to the frame of your bike and gives your dog an adjustable amount of distance from the bike that they can move. This is perfect to ensure your dog keeps up with you and doesn’t go wandering off to follow distractions while you’re out cycling!

Reflective dog leads

If you like to get out and about at dawn or on the contrary, at night, after a long day at work, you’ll probably be walking or running with your dog in the dark (especially during the winter!). For this reason, it could be a good idea to purchase a reflective dog lead so you and others around you are always aware of your dog’s whereabouts. Some dog leads are completely reflective and others have reflective components built in - either is fine, as long as you keep your dog’s safety in mind. 

Dog leash laws in the UK

There is no blanket law in the UK which requires dogs to be on a lead in all public spaces. However, most city centres require it as a safety measure - you wouldn’t want your dog running onto a busy road! Some parks or natural areas will also require you to keep your dog on a lead to protect wildlife. This information can usually be found on signage before you enter said park or other. In the absence of any restrictions, if you’re in a secluded and safe area far from any roads, it should be fine to let your dog off the lead.
 
Remember, the number one thing to ask yourself is: What is my dog’s lifestyle going to be like? Keep your pet’s safety and comfort as your number one priority - and remember it’s ok to choose several leads! 

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a dog leash and a dog lead?

Is it better to walk a dog with a harness or collar?

What kind of clip should my dog lead have?

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