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When you hit the sidewalks or the trails with your dog, the right leash isn't just a restraint, but instead the best way to communicate with your pet. A good leash helps guide your dog and keep them from bolting in an exciting or scary situation.
Leashes come in different configurations of materials, sizes, and features, like added handles for maneuvering or loops for hanging poop bags. This makes different leashes appropriate for different scenarios.
Dog trainer Erin Gianella, a Certified Training Partner of the Karen Pryor Academy (KPT-CTP) and owner of Denver's Perfect Pals Dog Training, often recommends two different leashes, beginning with a heavy-duty nylon leash for regular walks or training.
“They're durable and safe and don't get tangled as easily,” she told The Spruce Pets. “The 10-foot leash allows our dogs to sniff and explore without feeling restricted, but also keeps them close enough so they are not able to run too far ahead, into the street, or to get into anything dangerous. The shorter the leash, the more you see pulling.”
She also suggests a longer leash for more relaxed “decompression” walks.
“This is when our dogs have the space to explore, sniff, and go in any direction they want,” Gianella says. “These decompression walks help reduce stress, lower heart rate, and keep them mentally stimulated.”
Here are the best dog leashes, covering a variety of walking scenarios.
Best Overall: Max and Neo Dog Gear Nylon Reflective Double Dog Leash
Two padded handles
Sturdy and durable
Lots of color choices
This leash has no clear negative qualities
This double-handled leash is a sturdy choice for everyday walks or for more rugged hikes. It has what is known as a traffic handle—a second padded handle about 18 inches from your dog. This makes it easy to get control of your pup quickly, like when you’re crossing the street or in a crowded place. The leash comes in seven colors two sizes: a standard 6-foot length and a shorter 4-foot option, which is good for training.
There’s an added D-ring near the top of the leash where you can attach a poop bag holder or other gadgets. Plus for every leash sold, Max and Neo donates an item to a rescue.
Best Budget: PetSafe Premier Nylon Dog Leash
Lightweight and soft
Lots of colors
Three widths and two lengths
Easy for teething puppies to gnaw
Many trainers suggest a lightweight, basic leash like this without any extras, which lets you take your dog out on walks without any added weight or complications. The nylon of the PetSafe Premiere leash is soft, with a comfortable loop handle. Plus, the metal clasp is on a swivel to prevent tangling.
The PetSafe nylon leash comes in seven colors, three widths, and two lengths, so you should be able to find a combo that works for you and your dog. Options include 4- and 6-foot lengths, plus variations from its standard 3/4-inch width, including a 3/8-inch version for small dogs and a 1-inch for large breeds.
Best Rope: Ruffwear Knot-a-Leash Dog Leash
Only available in 5-feet
This simple rope leash is lightweight and durable, making it easy to pack on hikes or camping trips. It comes in assorted interesting colors and has a sturdy locking carabiner attachment for extra security, which can come in handy if your dog is a bit of a Houdini Houdogi and escapes traditional clasps. There’s an additional loop near the webbing handle where you can tie poop bags or other accessories.
The Ruffwear Knot-a-Leash is only available in a 5-foot length, placing it on the shorter side of the leash spectrum. It does come in two different widths, however, with a thin version that's 7 millimeters wide, and a heftier, 11-millimeter model which is more appropriate for large or strong dogs.
Best for Pullers: 2 Hounds Design Freedom No Pull Dog Harness
Two attachment points
Lots of colors
If your dog pulls when you go for a walk, a harness won't be a magic solution and training your dog to walk nicely beside you will still be necessary. However, a no-pull harness is a good tool on the way to better behavior.
The 2 Hounds Design Freedom No Pull Harness comes with a double-connection training leash that attaches on both your dog's chest and back One end is hooked to a spot on your dog’s chest and another on their back, for more precise and gentle guidance. There’s also a floating handle, so you can use the leash in a 3-foot training configuration or as a more standard 5-foot leash.
Best Leather: Logical Leather Dog Leash
Soft, but strong
Several sizes and colors
May have a chemical smell from dyes
Made from a single piece of full-grain leather, this leash looks high-end, with nice stitching and a nickel-plated brass clasp. But it’s not all for show. The maker says it has been tested to withstand more than 245 pounds of pulling force, yet it’s still lightweight at only about 6 ounces.
The leash comes in classic colors like brown, tan, and black, as well as a rainbow of interesting shades ranging from yellow to purple. It is available in 4-foot, 5-foot, and 6-foot lengths, in addition to heavy-duty and braided versions. The leash is resistant to stains and water, but might still require occasional treatment with a leather conditioner.
Best Hands-Free: Kurgo Quantum 6-In-1 Dog Leash
Lots of colors
Can be bulky as a short leash
This very versatile leash has six different ways to use it, depending on where you hook the carabiner. You can go hands-free by looping it around your waist for running, or loop it over your shoulder for walking. It can also become a tether to hitch your dog, or can be used as a standard leash or training leash in 6-foot or 3-foot lengths. Its length is adjustable too, from 48 to 72 inches.
The Kurgo Quantum 6-in-1 is reflective for easy visibility and is available in six bright colors. The nylon is durable but it comes with a limited lifetime warranty, just in case.
Best Long: Downtown Pet Supply Training Dog Lead
Lots of colors
Can tangle easily
A very long leash is great for teaching your dog "recall"—coming when you call their name. It’s also a safe way to let your dog go exploring while still keeping track of your pet. This cotton lead comes in several lengths, starting at 15 feet and going up to 200 feet long. It comes in a rainbow of colors, including reflective black, in case you go on adventures when there isn’t a lot of light.
The lead is 5/8-inches wide and has a swivel-style hook which helps keep it from twisting. A very strong or very determined dog could chew through or break this leash, so be sure to use it just as a training tool and not to tie out your pet.
Best Retractable: Flexi Neon Nylon Tape Reflective Retractable Dog Leash
Tape instead of cord
Safety issues with all retractable leashes
FIrst, a disclaimer: Most dog trainers will advise against using a retractable leash. They offer little control over your pet, especially in startling or dangerous situations. The cord can get wrapped around your pet, your legs, or burn your hands if you try to grab it. The handle can scare your pet if you drop it and it races clattering after your dog.
That said, if you're certain a retractable leash is best for your needs, then the Flexi New Neon is your best pick, with a one-handed braking system that’s easy to use, plus smooth-rolling tape and a neon handle for better visibility. It comes in several sizes and either a 10-foot or 16-foot length. Just be mindful to keep your hands away from the tape and don’t let it wrap around any part of you or your dog.
The durable nylon Max and Neo Double Handle Heavy Duty Reflective Leash (view at Chewy) is a great overall choice with reflective stitching, a second handle, and a D-ring to hang poop bags and gadgets. Another option is the lightweight PetSafe Premier Nylon Leash (view at Chewy) that comes in three widths, two lengths, and so many colors.
What to Look for in a Dog Leash
Length and Weight
The type of leash you choose should depend on your dog’s size, says Marissa Sunny, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and senior dog lifesaving specialist for the Best Friends Animal Society.
“The first thing to think about when choosing a leash is your dog. Smaller dogs do best on a lightweight, 6-foot leash, whereas a large dog would do better on a thick 4-to-6-foot leash,” Sunny says.
Leashes can be made of nylon, rope, leather, or other materials. Sometimes they can take some time to break in and feel comfortable.
“You want it to be something that is comfortable to hold and won't cause scratches or blisters if you are walking holding it for long periods of time,” says Sunny.
Some leashes also have padded handles that can help make them more pleasant to use.
You can find leashes with extra handles to help control your pet or spots to hang poop bags, lights, or other gadgets. They’re not always necessary, Gianella says.
“I think the more simple, the better! You don't want anything weighing you or the doggy down,” she says. “The harness is the most important so they are safe. Loops for poop bags can be helpful though so you can keep your hand free for reinforcing any behavior you like on walks!”
How do you stop your dog from biting their leash?
Dogs sometimes bite and chew on their leash as a way to play or when they’re overstimulated, says Sunny. There are different things you can do to stop the behavior.
“If your dog is an avid leash biter, I would recommend to first work on teaching them that biting the leash means we don't go for a walk,” Sunny says. “Start inside in a secure area, put the leash on the dog, and start to walk towards the door. As soon as your dog bites the leash, drop the leash and walk away. This will indicate to the dog that they won't get to go for a walk if they continue to bite the leash.”
Another option is choosing a leash that isn’t fun or easy to chew like one made of chain or coated wire, Sunny says. She also suggests covering the leash in something that tastes bad, like apple cider vinegar.
Biting the leash can also mean the collar or harness is uncomfortable, Gianella says.
“I would first make sure the leash is not too heavy for the dog and the harness and the collar are fitting correctly. You should be able to fit two fingers under the collar and harness and it still be a little snug,” she says.
If your dog is chewing on the leash out of excitement or frustration when you’re walking, she suggests rewarding the good behavior and not the unwanted activity.
“You can mark and reinforce them for attention on you, being by your side, sniffing, or doing anything else other than chewing on the leash,” she says. “The more they are reinforced for everything but chewing on the leash, the less you'll see it.”
Can dogs hurt themselves by pulling on the leash?
Yes, they can, both dog trainers we consulted told The Spruce Pets.
“This is why I always recommend a well-fitted harness. If a dog pulls on leash and is only wearing a collar, they can do a lot of damage to the neck or spine,” Gianella says. “I also like to do a lot of training where I am reinforcing them when there is a loose leash, when there is no tension on the leash or when they are by my side.”
Many trainers will recommend using front-clip harnesses that will turn dogs around when they pull on the leash. Sunny likes “Y-shaped" harnesses that don't inhibit the dog's range of motion.
“Dogs can hurt themselves pulling on a leash and this can happen even more easily when they are pulling while being walked on a slip collar, flat collar, or a slip lead,” Sunny says. “Constant pressure on a dog's neck can be painful and dangerous and could even potentially lead to a collapsed trachea.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
For this story, we consulted with several dog trainers including Erin Gianella, KPT-CTP, owner of Perfect Pals Dog Training in Denver, and Marissa Sunny, CPDT-KA, senior dog lifesaving specialist for Best Friends Animal Society. We also talked to many dog owners, fosters, and rescue workers to see what they consider when selecting leashes.
Mary Jo DiLonardo has been writing about pets and animals for several decades. She has a rescue dog and has fostered more than three dozen dogs and puppies so she’s tried lots of different leashes. Pet health and safety is very important to Mary Jo and she’s always researching the latest products to keep the dogs in her care healthy and safe.