How to Pick the Best Dog Leash for Your Pooch

By: Catie ParrishUpdated:

how to choose best dog leash - dog leash buying guide
Chewy Studios

How to Pick the Best Dog Leash for Your Pooch

You probably find yourself grabbing the leash multiple times a day. And while you might not give it much thought, a dog leash is actually a pretty important piece of equipment. Keeping your dog by you when you’re outside of your home protects your pet, other animals and people. It also saves yourself the hassle of cleaning muddy paws, because you can steer your canine away from those puddles. (Hey, at least you can try!) But do you have the right leash for the job?

Dog leashes come in a variety of materials and styles, from leather and nylon to retractable and hands-free. Does your dog pull? A shorter leash might be a good option because it will allow for more control. Going for a run? A hands-free leash will allow you more mobility while keeping your dog by your side.

To help you pick the best dog leash for your needs, we’ve broken them down into different categories, highlighting which types of dogs they’re best for.

What to Consider Before Buying a Dog Leash

Before pressing that “buy” button, there are some things to keep in mind. Here are questions Irith Bloom, a certified dog trainer, certified dog behavior consultant and owner of The Sophisticated Dog in Los Angeles, California, recommends thinking about prior to picking the best dog leash.

  • What’s the law where you live? Many communities have local ordinances about where and how dogs need to be leashed. Look up what the rules are (which may be specific about leash lengths) and make sure the leash you buy complies.
  • How big and strong is your dog? A good rule of thumb, according to Bloom, is the bigger the dog, the heavier the leash they can handle. The leash material, thickness, and clip will all affect the weight of the leash. You also want to think about your own strength relative your dog. “The longer the leash, the more likely you are to get pulled off your feet,” Bloom explains. If your dog pulls, or the dog walker is weaker, such as a child or an older person, a shorter leash is safer.
  • How much freedom do you want your dog to have? If you walk your dog on a busy sidewalk, or you’re still training your dog to walk well on a leash, a shorter leash will give you more control. If your dog is well behaved on a leash, and you like to walk in nature or where there aren’t many other people or animals around, you may feel more relaxed giving your dog the independence of a longer leash.
  • What styles feel good to you? As the one holding the leash, don’t forget your own comfort. Every material has its own set of pros and cons, and it’s highly personal which is a good fit for you. For example, nylon leashes are popular and super durable, but with a strong dog who pulls a lot, it can give you a rope burn. Leather leashes, which are soft yet strong, feel great in your hand, but do require a bit more care if they get wet. Besides the material, make sure the leash loop is the right size for your hand. Then look at the leash clip, which also comes in a variety of styles. If you have any manual dexterity issues, pick one that’s easy for you to manage.

Now that you know your general needs, let’s dig into the types.

best dog leash - standard

Standard Dog Leash

Often, simple is best! A standard leash works well for the average dog. They come in a variety of materials, including leather leashes, rope leashes and chain leashes. Nylon leashes, such as this classic one from Frisco, are the most popular type because they’re durable and come in lots of colors and sizes. Standard leashes measure between 4 and 8 feet, but 6 feet is the most common length. This length gives your dog some freedom, but is short enough to keep you in control. 
Best for: Most dogs
Frisco Reflective Rope Dog Leash, 6-ft
Soft Touch Collars Leather Braided Traffic Handle Dog Leash
Frisco Outdoor Heathered Nylon Dog Leash, Shadow Purple
best dog leash - long dog leash

Long Dog Leash

For the dog who isn’t ready to be off leash, but would love a little extra room to run and play, try a long dog leash. They’re generally 10 feet or longer, but this one from Downtown Pet Supply is 50 feet, giving your dog loads of freedom! Bloom says the additional length makes them feel like they have no leash on, so it’s a good way to practice commands. Head’s up: It can take a little time getting used to handling the lead so it doesn’t get tangled or drag on the ground.
Best for: Puppies, or dogs who just can’t resist following a scent
Mendota Products Trainer Check Cord Rope Dog Lead, 30-ft
PetSafe Cotton Dog Training Lead, Black, 20-ft long
Hertzko Nylon Retractable Dog Leash
best dog leash - retractable

Retractable Dog Leash

A retractable dog leash feeds out from the handle, allowing your dog room to roam. Most styles, including this soft-grip version from Flexi, have brake and lock buttons. Many pet parents enjoy the convenience of letting their dogs roam but that also means you don’t have as much control as you would with a standard leash. For that reason, they’re best for well-behaved, calm dogs. Consider the leash’s length, strength, lock and weight limit before you buy.
Best for: Well-trained dogs in large, open spaces, such as fields and beaches
Flexi Classic Nylon Tape Retractable Dog Leash
TUG Nylon Tape Retractable Dog Leash
Frisco Nylon Tape Reflective Retractable Dog Leash

Temporarily out of stock

best dog leash - slip lead

Slip Leads

A slip lead has a loop on one end that’s used as a collar. Because they tighten around the dog’s neck when pulled, Bloom doesn’t recommend them for dogs who do well with traditional leashes and collars. Instead, slip leads are handy for emergencies, such as rescuing a stray dog who may bite. They let you get around the dog’s head while avoiding their mouth. This Frisco one has reflective accents that make it ideal for nighttime use. Because of their convenience, they’re also common at vet clinics and shelters.
Best for: Emergencies, dogs you don’t know, or at vet offices and shelters
Mendota Products Slip Striped Rope Dog Leash, 6-ft
CollarDirect Rolled Leather Dog Slip Lead
EzyDog Luca All-In-One Dog Slip Collar & Leash
best dog leash - double leash for two dogs

Double Dog Leash

If you’re a pet parent with multiple dogs, a double dog leash can simplify things. It lets you hold one handle that separates into two leads. This one from Pet Fit for Life is equipped with a double-ringed swivel to keep the leashes from tangling, allowing your dogs more freedom and less complications. Imagine the freedom of having one hand available for holding an umbrella or travel mug. 
Best for: Two dogs who are well trained on leashes, walk at the same pace, and get along.
Pet Fit For Life Dual Dog Leash with Bowl
Mighty Paw Nylon Reflective Double Dog Leash
Kurgo Double Dog Leash Extender

Temporarily out of stock

best dog leash - hands free

Hands-Free Dog Leash

Hands-free leashes, aka dog running leashes, let you exercise with your dog without constantly jerking on your dog’s collar as you swing your arms. “Your core, versus your hand, can send a much more stable message to your dog,” Bloom explains. While it’s more common to find one that goes around your waist, this one can be configured six different ways, including an over-the-shoulder option. Bloom suggests experimenting with the fit of a hands-free leash so it feels stable and doesn’t stress your back.
Best for: Dogs who love runs or hikes
Kurgo Reflect & Protect Quantum Nylon Hands-Free Running Dog Leash, 6-ft

Temporarily out of stock

Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash
Hertzko Nylon Reflective Bungee Hands-Free Running Dog Leash

Temporarily out of stock

It’s important to know why you’re buying a leash, the material you prefer, and the best length and width for your dog. Although safety and convenience are the two most important factors to consider when searching for a leash, it’s also an opportunity to reflect your personal style. When you shop with all these things in mind, you’re sure to end up with the best dog leash that will make walking your dog more enjoyable for both of you!


By: Catie ParrishUpdated: