How to Choose the Right Leash so You Don't Lose Your Dog

How to Choose the Right Leash so You Don't Lose Your Dog

I had a dream I was writing a Facebook post because I lost my new dog.

I’d been wrapping her leash around my wrist, a hook snapped, and off she went.

I’m weeks away from bringing our new dog home and I’m nervous about lots of things. I’ve spent oodles of time researching products. I've pummeled friends for their opinions, since many of them are long-term dog owners. I've even picked the brains of professional sitters, walkers, and trainers.

Tomorrow is our first visit with our potential dog... nerves: meet EXCITEMENT! If that goes well the shelter will put a hold on her. Then, I can FINALLY click “checkout” on my massive cart of items.

That cart is missing one item, though:

A leash!

So, I’m going to spare you the hours of reading and second-guessing that I went through this week. Here’s a summary of the main types of leashes available, all in ONE place, so you can decide which one is best for your dog.

Let’s begin!

Standard Dog Leash

The standard leash is the most common choice among dog owners, and it comes in a few different materials:

  • Nylon: these leashes are affordable, comfortable, and easy to clean. A nylon leash is a great choice for quick trips to the vet or potty walks. If your dog loves to chew on leashes and you’ve been unable to break the habit, nylon might not be best for you.
  • Leather: high quality leather leashes will last a long time and are comfortable in your hand. This is a great choice for strong pullers or leash chewers, but leather can be hard to keep clean. You’ll need to follow instructions for leather treatment so it doesn’t dry up and crack.
  • Rope: the mix of comfort and durability have made rope leashes more popular over the last year. There’s a tiny bit of “give” in these leashes which protect your arm and shoulder during walks with strong woofers!

Standard leash lengths vary between 4 and 8 feet, with 6 feet being the most common.

Retractable Dog Leash

The word on retractable leashes is that they’re convenient and give more freedom to dogs. These leashes work like a measuring tape, with a cord that extends from 4 to 30 ft. Releasing the mechanism retracts the leash into the handle.

You may see this leash a lot, but consider these points before you choose one:

  • The handles can be bulky or uncomfortable
  • The cord isn’t very durable; it can break with sudden, strong pressure
  • Cord can tangle around legs, cause rope burn

One of the biggest misconceptions is that a retractable leash will combat pulling. Instead, your dog is learning that pulling works: she’s rewarded with more freedom. This can lead to more pulling and unhappy walks whenever you lock the mechanism.

Adjustable Dog Leash

You’ll get a good mix between standard and retractable leashes with this option. It adjusts between 3 and 6 feet by adding or removing loops along the length. Some styles come with built in clips to make instant adjustments.

You can shorten the leash for training or walking in busy places or lengthen it to wrap around your body. These are great leashes for:

  • Going for a hands-free run with your buddy
  • Temporarily tethering to a pole or tree
  • Walking multiple dogs: extend the length, attach each end to collar or harness

You'll find most adjustable leashes in nylon or nylon/polyester blends.

Chain Dog Leash

This is a great option for dogs who love to chew through leashes, although it’s not the most popular choice. Some people mistakenly associate them with unpopular training methods.

Hey, if this is the right leash for your dog, who cares what they think? They aren’t living your life! Plus, this leash attaches to your dog’s collar or harness like normal. You won’t be hurting your dog.

Most dogs will learn that they can’t chew through the chains and will stop chewing. If your dog won't stop chewing, you’ll have to work on training methods to deter the behavior or he’ll hurt his teeth!

Keep these things in mind when choosing a chain leash:

  • Choose the right thickness/weight for the size of your dog
  • If using with a puppy, understand that you’ll need to upgrade as they grow
  • Make sure it’s got the right clips for your dog’s harness or collar

Martingale Lead (Slip Leash)

If you’re like me and never heard of this type of leash until now, think of a choke collar. The only difference is instead of an end-clasp on one side, there’s a ring that you pass the handle through. This creates a "slip knot" loop around your dog’s neck. Most slip leashes come in rope or leather, while others have a collar with two rings that the leash passes through.

Slip leashes are recommended for temporary use only, for dogs who are not pullers. You’ll most commonly see a martingale lead used for:

  • Temporary capture of a loose dog
  • Short-term control of dogs in vet clinics or shelters
  • An emergency harness

It’s not advised to use a martingale lead to correct leash pulling or other behaviors.

Hands-Free (Umbilical) Leash

If your dog is your running partner, your adventures will be easier when you’ve got a hands-free leash. The adjustable belt goes around your waist, and there’s a handle near the end if you need to gain control of your dog.

Most hands-free leashes have a bungee built into the length, which helps with shock absorption any time you start or stop jogging.

Not a runner? No problem! An umbilical leash also works great for:

  • Pushing a stroller
  • Holding an umbrella, bag, or phone
  • Potty training/in-home training for your dog

Split (Multi-Dog) Leash

Hey dog walkers, I’m lookin’ at you!

You can walk two dogs on a single leash — or more if you add another coupler. It looks like a standard leash except it splits into 2 shorter leashes at the end. Each "leash" has its own clasp to attach to a collar or harness.

With a split leash, you’ll need to consider a few things:

  • Weight variance between each dog
  • Odd vs. even number of dogs
  • Collared dogs vs. harnessed dogs

As long as everyone you’re walking with is well trained on the leash and doesn’t pull or jump, you won’t have trouble walking with two dogs.

Remember that the more couplers you add, the more chance there is for tangling. It’s best to use two split leashes if you’re walking more than two dogs and some are better behaved than others.

Seat Belt Leash

What? This isn’t an actual leash...

No, you don’t use it for walking your dog, but it’s the next best thing if you don’t have a crate that can be properly secured in your car!

You need to use a dog seat belt with a harness, so make sure you’ve got a no pull/no choke harness that’s crash test certified and correctly fits your dog.

Whether your trip is two miles or two hours, a seat belt leash and harness will:

  • Prevent your dog from jumping around and distracting you
  • Prevents them from running off if there’s been an accident or you had to pull over
  • Works in almost every kind of vehicle

When you’re more relaxed behind the wheel, your BFF will be more chill for the ride!

By the way… CHECK THE CLIP!

To keep my dream from becoming a reality, I read up on the different kinds of clips used on today’s dog leashes. Here’s the three you’ll see the most:

Bolt Snap Clip:

This kind is the most typical, relying on a spring that slides the bolt open and closed. It’s the easiest to use, connecting quickly to any collar or harness. They’re reliable, but over time the spring can weaken. Always make sure to check your clip regularly. If your dog is a puller, sometimes the bolt can get bent.

Trigger Snap Clip

This is a spring-loaded clip that you push inward to attach to a collar or harness, rather than up and down. It’s known for withstanding lots of pressure and are usually bigger than bolt snap style. With that said, it’s great for large, strong dogs, but could be too heavy or clunky for smaller pups.

Carabiner Locking Clasp

There’s NO breaking out of this kind of clasp! While they’re becoming more common, they’re not found on most standard leashes yet. They may be bulky and take a little longer to attach and detach, but they’re they most secure option. Plus, you can attach things to these clasps, like a portable water bottle for your dog!

Some Final Tips

Some extra help never hurts when trying to make the right decision!

  • As long as your dog isn’t a chewer, you can’t go wrong with a standard nylon leash. Most of these leashes include extra materials, like webbing for more durability and reflective tape or stitching.
  • Pick the right width and strength for your puppy or dog, especially if choosing a chain leash. Remember that as your puppy grows, his leash needs will change.
  • Regularly check your dog’s leash for wear and tear. This includes the clip!
  • KEEP A SPARE LEASH ON HAND. It’s always good to have backups in case your dog’s leash is gets damaged or lost.


You’re probably wondering what leash I chose...

I’ve narrowed down my choices based on my needs. Until I get to meet our girl and take her for walks around the shelter grounds, I’m not ready to make the call. But I have talked with lots of people, from long-time dog owners to professionals.

Kelly Domerstad, a dog walker with Pompton Pet Sitters, recommends the Beyond Control leash by Canine Equipment. It’s great for regular and hands-free walking, it works as a temporary tie out, and it becomes a coupler if you’re walking multiple dogs.


You also can’t go wrong with the 6-Way Multi-Function Leash by Doggie Design, either. Endorsed by professional dog trainer Linda Jovic, CTDI, this leash switches between short, medium, and long lengths as fast as you can attach a clip. It can work as a temporary tether, a double leash to walk two dogs, and can even be used over your shoulder if you need your hands free.

This is MY top choice. I’ve got two sitting in a cart I'm ready to buy, based on how this weekend goes!

If your leashes are wearing out or you want some fresh gear for the season, make sure you check out this full collection of leashes, couplers, and seat belts before you go. Spring is here, the urge to get outside and play is budding, and choosing the right leash for your dog is a solid step against writing the dreaded LOST DOG post!

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