Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Dog Training: The Best Dog Leash for the Job


Pip posing with latigo leather leash

Pip posing as a T-rex during a park walk. That’s the leash I use.

Many thousands of dogs have taught me what dog leash works best for me when training. Here is what I use and why:

99% of the time: 4 foot x 1/2 inch wide latigo leather, braided-ends leash, ideally with a medium sized brass clip.

  • Why leather? Easier on the hands. Easier to grip. They don’t, usually, burn your hands.
  • Why braided-ends? Less breakage. No rivet to pop.
  • Why 1/2 inch? Actually, I love a 3/8 inch leash but they can be harder to find. A 1/2″ is fine for most dogs. If you have a toy breed pup or dog, get a thin nylon puppy leash with a small clip.
  • Why brass clip? Stronger. Best leashes have brass. Stainless steel is fine but if I can get brass, I do.
  • Why medium-sized clip? Oh, here’s a pet peeve of mine: Big Clips. Big clips swing around to smack dogs in the face or under the jaw. Often this goes unnoticed because it happens when the dog is behind the person. But if you have a dog who walks away from your side, it may well be the pain of the clip sending them there.
  • Why 4 foot? Because for My Smart Puppy Games, which is how I train, 6 foot is too long. There is too much chance to move forward toward a distraction and too much time between the dog focusing and my input. For years I thought it didn’t matter, but that was only because I used a four-foot leash exclusively. One day I used someone else’s 6 footer in a demo I was giving and things didn’t work as usual. Now I know why.Four foot is plenty long for most dogs and people. Even small dogs and tall people. If you are 48″ tall at the hip, then use a 5′ leash but I’ve never, personally, seen that be necessary.

Second Choice: 4 foot cotton leash or hemp.

Third Choice: Single layer nylon Nylon can burn your hands, which is why it ends up here, but you have many choices and tons of options so enjoy!

Leashes that mess up training:

  • Bungee or any shock-absorbing leash: These muddle your communication with your dog. They reward your dog for pulling by allowing them to get a bit closer to whatever they are attempting to haul you toward. I never want that behavior to be rewarded and it always will be, a tiny bit, with any leash that has give.
  • Full braided leash: Too much give is the same reason I don’t use the gorgeous and lustable braided leashes. As a girl, I nearly lived at stables; that infected me with a life-long adoration of beautiful leather things. I adore these leashes but don’t train with them.
  • Chain: Here we have the opposite issue. A leash with no give at all. It is harsh on the dog, I find. Hard on the hands, heavy so it is always tugging on the dog a little. And that, again, muddies the info I am trying to give my dog. Also, from time to time a doggy tooth can get caught in the links.
  • Double thick nylon: These are overkill. Their bulk makes them difficult to handle or fold in your hands. They are, like the chain, heavy on the collar.
  • Retractable leashes: I cover my thoughts in the blog: Retractable Leash Dangers: Do You Know the Risks? While I might use one for certain house training situations and off leash work with advanced teams, these are not for the casual or general commonly used and a major hazard with an untrained person or dog at either (or both) ends. Educate yourself about these!
  • Around-the-waist leashes: Oh do not get me started on these! These look great, right? Hands free! Well, good thing so they are available to catch you when you fall. If your dog is trained, you do not need this and if your dog is not trained, you should not use it. No, Non, Nein, Niet, Nai

Now you know!


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