Updated: Nov 18
Leashes, collars, and harnesses, oh my! Here's Animal Insight's guide to choosing your gear.
Most dogs do well with a 6 foot lead for general use and walks on the street.
This gives them some room to sniff and do dog things, but not so much length that they can get fantastic momentum if they see something exciting!
Toy breeds and very young puppies may benefit from a 5 foot leash.
Material and style are up to you! Some factors to consider are ease of cleaning, comfort of handle and material, and whether you want add-on options like a hand loop to easily hold the leash shorter. Here's our low-down on top materials and styles:
Nylon: Moderate durability. Vulnerable to chewing. Tends to be most affordable. Difficult to clean well. Tends to hold odor if not cleaned well.
Biothane: Moderate durability. Moderate vulnerability to chewing. Moderate price range. Very easy to clean and sanitize.
Leather: Great durability and long life. Moderate vulnerability to chewing. Tends to be more expensive. Easy to clean. Tends not to hold odor.
Hands-Free: A leash attached to a waist belt. Fabulous for multi-dog households and strong dogs, as well as tethering pups while housetraining. A personal favorite is the Buddy System, which is simple, durable, compatible with the Doggone Good treat bags, and reasonably priced. Another great option for comfort and more security is the High Sierra Walk-A-Belt. Ruffwear's Roamer bungee leash can also be worn as a hands-free. (Both the Buddy System and the Roamer can be found on Amazon most of the time as well.)
How I chose my lead: My choice for walking and daily use is a 6 foot soft, braided leather lead. A high-quality leather lasts a very long time, is a good length for my medium and large dogs, and folds up nicely in my hand. I hate having something big and bulky, so I always choose a 5/8" wide lead.
Long Leashes (for the woods/sniffaris/training outdoors)
A leash anywhere from 10 feet to 20 feet is great for times when you want your dog to have more space for training and on hikes
Biothane provides an easy-to-clean option and we recommend this for long leads because they see a lot of dirt, mud, grass, and other pieces of nature that normally get caught in nylon or cotton.
Keep in mind that a longer leash also carries increased risk along with its benefits. Be mindful to use it where your dog can't tangle others or walk into traffic. Also keep in mind that, should your dog see something exciting, a longer leash means more momentum before you feel the pull.
What about Extendable/Retractable/Flexi Leashes? In general, we recommend these only for use in fenced-in or low-traffic areas. The number of brake failures, injuries to both dogs and people, and accidents that occur with this popular type of leash makes it riskier to use.
Here are a few different collar types and what you might use them for!
Flat Collar: This is what you probably picture when you think of a dog collar. These have either a plastic/metal snap or a belt-style buckle. Great for dogs who don't pull much on leash. Also handy for nearly any dog to safely hold their ID tags. While most come in 1" width and thinner, wider collars (1.5" to 2") are available and encouraged for large breeds.
Martingale Collar: AKA "Greyhound collar". A collar with a limited-closure loop. These can be a good choice for dogs who don't pull much on leash and/or who have an easy time slipping out of traditional collars. Also great for holding ID tags. Choose between a traditional (over the head, no buckles, good for sound-sensitive dogs) and a buckle model.
Choke/chain/training collars and prong collars: If you already use one of these and like it, great! (We're not here to fix what isn't broken and it's important to us that you are using something you feel comfortable with.) These types of collars can cause significant injury to dog's necks, and can sometimes exacerbate aggression, fear, and reactivity. There are safer, equally or more effective pieces of equipment to try! (Speaking of which, let's check those out!)
Harnesses can be a fantastic choice for puppies, tiny dogs, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds and any dog with a sensitive trachea or long back. Some types are also handy to help dogs who pull!
Harnesses can alter a dog's gait, and that's not great! Be sure to choose a well-fit harness that doesn't regularly impede the motion of your dog's front legs.
Traditional Body Harness: These generally have a leash attachment on the back. They come in a huge variety of styles and materials.
A great choice for tiny dogs, puppies, and brachycephalic dogs.
Make sure your harness fits well and that your dog can't slip out of it.
A personal favorite is the Ruffwear Front Range Harness. (Which is advertised as a front-clip, but has a great back clip!)
Front-Clip Harness: Body harness where the leash attaches at the front of the dog’s chest.
Great for dogs of all sizes who are light to moderate pullers, dogs who weigh more than half their owner's body weight, and owners who want some added security in case a surprise squirrel runs by.
The brands we recommend for most dogs are the Freedom Harness by 2HoundsDesign (without the optional double leash, unless that's your thing!) and the 3 in 1 Harness from PetSafe.
Don't forget to teach your dog to "Get Dressed"!
Headcollars can be a fantastic tool for large dogs, moderate to strong pullers, and dogs who tend to react to things on leash (barking and lunging/pulling at other dogs or people).
Have you tried a headcollar before and your dog hated it? Headcollars are kind of like bras, they're not the most comfortable things ever, but dogs can learn to tolerate them and even forget they're there! They key is an appropriate introduction associating the headcollar with fun and positive things.
In exchange for the extra training involved, you get maximum control with a headcollar!
Our top three headcollar recommendations and their pros and cons can be found here on the headcollar page.