By: Orvis Staff
Your dog’s leash—long or short—influences the daily rhythm of your life with him. Whether walking your dog is peaceful, controlled, or unruly depends, at least in part, on the length of his leash. In certain scenarios and with particular dogs a short leash is your best bet, but in other situations you and your dog will appreciate the freedom of a long leash. Here’s the long and the short of it:
What Are the Different Types of Dog Leads?
- Standard dog leashes are usually a fixed length of six feet. This is the type of dog leash you’ve probably used and seen around the most. A standard leash is often a flat woven nylon, but also commonly comes in leather or a roped material. Standard dog leashes, and the leashes listed below, will also include a comfortable loop for your hand so you can maintain control and hold your dog while you pick up after him.
- Short dog leashes are four feet or less. These are sometimes called traffic leashes or city leashes. Short leashes are also often used on service dogs.
- Rope slip leads combine the collar and leash in one slip-over piece, and are often used for dog training. If you use a slip lead during training, your dog will still need to wear his regular collar with dog ID tags and contact information in case he gets loose.
- Long nylon leashes come up to 30 feet or longer, and are most often used for dog training.
The Trouble With Retractable Leashes
No discussion of leashes should overlook the popular, but highly problematic retractable variety. Many dog trainers and veterinarians warn that retractable leashes teach dogs to pull, don’t offer enough control and, worst of all, pose a danger to dogs, their owners, and others. One of the most common problems is owners who can’t lock the retracting mechanism fast enough when their dog runs towards traffic, another dog, or people. The thin cords themselves can be a hazard when they wind and tighten around dogs and people, causing lacerations and falls. Finally, the hard plastic retracting mechanism can break, or drop and hit people and dogs.
When to Use a Long Dog Leash
Long dog leashes are often used as a tool for training. Using a long lead, you can train your dog to respond to the commands ‘come,’ ‘leave it,’ ‘sit,’ and ‘stay’ when he is farther from you. This increases the chances he’ll listen in unexpected situations, such as escaping from the yard.
Long leads can also give your dog a taste of off-leash freedom to wander and explore where he likes without constraint, while keeping him and others safe. Your dog should be highly trained in controlled situations before you walk him on a long lead. Using a long lead on your dog requires constant attention to prevent the leash from dragging on the ground where it can catch on stones, wrap around a tree, or around his or your legs. You’ll be adjusting the lead length throughout your excursion. As your dog walks towards you, pick up the slack as you would loop a rope, and then let it out again when he walks farther away. Long dog leads are ideally attached to the back clip of a dog harness.
When to Use a Short Dog Leash
Short dog leashes give you better control over your dog than standard or long leashes. These are perfect for dogs who always pull, or those who can be unpredictable around other dogs or people. Short leashes are also beneficial when you walk your dog in an urban environment, where there is always a lot of car traffic nearby and the sidewalks are crowded.
When to Use a Slip Lead
Use a slip lead to train a dog who is having difficulty learning to walk without pulling, or when you need to maintain his attention. The positioning of a slip lead should always be just behind your dog’s ears and under his chin to indicate corrections to him. Never position the collar part of the lead over his windpipe, or yank or pull it too tightly. Slip leads are not meant for everyday walks.
When to Use a Standard Dog Leash
The standard six-foot dog leash, whether it’s made of flat nylon, rope, or leather, is the go-to walking lead for most dog owners. It offers plenty of control, while also giving your dog some room to roam. It’s smart to have several on hand, including one made with a reflective material for walking your dog in low light or at night.
Leash length isn’t dogmatic: whether you choose a long or a short dog leash mainly boils down to the situation, and your best friend’s temperament. Once you’ve got a couple of strong, appropriate options there’s only one thing left to do—get out there and enjoy walking with your dog.