When you're out and about with your dog, to have him attached to you by means of a leash is important for his dog's safety as well as for the safety of others. Even if your dog is well trained and normally well behaved, he may still occasionally become distracted by outdoor goings on, forget his training, and wind up a dangerous situation.
In such a situation, a leash can give you that guarantee of control so crucial to the prevention of tragedy. Besides, most communities require dogs to be leashed unless you're in a controlled environment, such as an off-leash park.
But which leash is best? It depends on your dog. Leashes range from a few dollars to the jewel-encrusted monstrosities reserved for people like Donald Trump. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a leash, but you certainly should look carefully for the right kind.
Leashes are made of chain, nylon, or leather. Some trainers recommend nylon because of its elasticity, and supposed comfort for the dog and for the owner. Also, some believe that dogs may be less likely to chew nylon, as opposed to leather. By the way, if you expect to walk your dog at night, you may want to buy a nylon lead made of reflective material, to keep you and your dog visible in traffic. Leather leashes have their protagonists, too. Leather softens with use and, when flexible with age, is kind to hands and easy to grip, yet it remains strong. Many professional trainers recommend leather over nylon, which can sometimes chafe or cut into the skin.
Two-handled leashes. If your dog is not well behaved or is young and rambunctious, the leash should be shorter, so he is closer to you and under more of your control. In such a situation, a two-handled leash may be the one for you. A two-handled leash has one loop at the end and one nearer the clasp attaching the leash to the collar or harness. This eliminates the need to wrap the leash painfully around your hand.
Standard walking leashes. You can get the standard leash, with just one handle. They come in different lengths – usually 4 feet, 6 feet, and 8 feet.
Kennel leashes. Used by veterinarians and kennel operators, kennel leashes give even greater control over dogs to move them short distances. They are used to move dogs without a collar from the house to the car, or from pen to pen.
Training leashes. A much shorter leash than the others helps teach dogs to heel. For larger dogs, a 1-foot leash is optimal. Two-foot leashes are designed for medium-sized and smaller dogs.
Leashes for city life. Some products are specifically designed for the city. "The Ultimate City Leash," designed by the manufacturer Raven's Watch, allows owners to tether their dog to a post or parking meter without detaching the snap from the collar. However, animals should never be left unsupervised – it takes only a second for someone to steal a dog. The leash has other city advantages: the hand loop adjusts from a 14-inch to a 26-inch loop. It can also be worn around the waist when carrying parcels or rollerblading. The leash portion adjusts from 3 feet to 6 feet to keep your dog where you want him.
Retractable leashes. These leashes have become popular in recent years. They allow a pet to walk farther from his or her owner while still under some control. The line can be shortened or lengthened at the owner's will. But there are dangers to this. A dog that is not under control can attack a person, cat, another dog, or run into the path of a car before the owner can "reel" him in.
There is one leash to beware of: the show leash. These leashes are designed for the show ring at dog competitions. They are thin, attractive devices that are designed to help guide a well-behaved dog to the ring without messing up his or her hair. They should never be used as a walking or training leash because they are unsafe.