As every dog parent knows, a leash is literally your furry family member’s lifeline. That single strip of material can mean the difference between a safe and protected pooch and imminent danger—running astray, coming snout to snout with an aggressive hound or sprinting into traffic. Which is why it’s so important for your pup’s leash to fit properly. Sure, you may want one that looks nice, but every other feature of a dog leash is more important than fashion.
Finding the best leash depends on a few crucial factors, including your dog’s size. For example, you’ll want a lightweight leash for a small dog, says certified dog behaviorist Juliana DeWillems, owner and head trainer at JW Dog Training & Behavior Consulting in Washington, D.C. And this includes the leash clip, the metal piece that attaches to the harness. On the other hand, if you have a large dog, you want a sturdier leash to withstand any pulling, DeWillems says.
Keeping your dog’s age in mind is another must from both a growth and behavioral standpoint. “A 5-pound puppy can quickly become an 80-pound adult, and using the same leash for each stage is not advisable,” says Kremmling, Colo.-based Julie Burgess, a certified dog trainer at Senior Tail Waggers, which offers advice about older pets.
The other big thing to consider is length. While 6 feet or under is ideal for crowded spaces when you need to keep your pup close, DeWillems says “longer leashes can improve the quality of walks for both the dog and the guardian.” She suggests using an 8- or 10-foot leash for neighborhood walks, which gives your dog more space to sniff and strut, and for hikes or romps in nature, DeWillems suggests lines over 20 feet.
While they may allow more freedom, nearly every expert we spoke with advised against retractable leashes (also known as flexi-leads). “These come with a risk of burns or lacerations if the leash rubs against or wraps around your or your dog’s skin,” DeWillems says. They can also be challenging to reel in quickly in case of an emergency. And if your dog pulls suddenly, you can easily lose your grip on the leash, Burgess notes.
Written By Jennifer Tzeses
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