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The One About Leashes

Updated: Apr 1

If you've gone into a pet store you are well aware of the overwhelming array of leashes on the market these days. While there are pros and cons to all of them, there may be some considerations that could help you decide which lead is going to work best for you.

The type of leash you should use often depends on a few factors. One of which is location. Do you intend to use the leash in a public space where you and your pup may be in the vicinity of other on-leash dogs? Will you and your dog be in an area that may contain several other people in close proximity? Might there be anyone in a wheelchair or anyone who requires the help of walking aides to get around? For example, if you are taking your dog to see a veterinarian, you will likely enter into a lobby. Inside this lobby there may be other dogs, other people, and people with various mobility issues (using a walker or a wheelchair). In this case, the best dog leash to use is a traditional 6-foot nylon or leather leash. 6 feet is long enough to provide freedom of movement while keeping your dog close to you and under your control. Whether nylon or leather, that choice is up to you. Both nylon and leather are extremely durable and are very unlikely to snap.

If you were to opt for a different type of leash - perhaps a Flexi-lead - you may open yourself up to a number of potential issues (having difficulty controlling your dog, the lead getting wrapped around other people and causing potentially very serious friction burns, your dog being able to get too far from you and therefore enter the space of other dogs who may be nervous or not open to making friends at that moment, etc.). In the spirit of avoiding easily avoidable issues, we strongly advice Flexi-leads not be used in such situations.

traditional 6-foot nylon leash

But are there situations in which a Flexi-lead may be appropriate? Of course! For example, I use a Flexi-lead when I'm in an open area with no other dogs that isn't fenced in. This allows me to let my dog run much more than if he was on a 6-foot lead while still being able to limit his distance from me so that he can't run off and get injured [I do NOT use a Flexi-lead if I'm going into a public area that will have other people or dogs]. Flexi-leads can be fantastic on nature trails that are relatively empty of other people, they can be great on beaches if there aren't crowds of people or other dogs, and they can be wonderful for dogs who live in apartments so they can get plenty of running and playing done outside.

There are some things to keep in mind about Flexi-leads that may sound alarmist but are examples of things that do actually happen; the thin nylon cord can cause severe burns, deep cuts, to human legs and hands, as well as entanglement or strangulation of pets. It can even cause amputation to limbs and fingers of both humans and pets. If the cord portion of the leash is grabbed while it is being pulled, the chance of injuries increases greatly. Hands and legs tend to receive the most traumas. The leash can cause people to trip and break bones and hips. If two dogs on retractable leashes get tangled, there is an even higher risk of injury to the dogs or to the humans attempting to untangle them. Tangled dogs are more fearful and unpredictable, creating an increased risk of bites or cord injuries. The cord can be wrapped around a neck or leg cutting off circulation of blood flow and oxygen. Some dogs will bolt if they are scared, excited, or trying to chase an animal. The sudden force of a dog pulling can jolt a leash from a hand. The built in locks on a retractable leash tend to break or wear out allowing loss of control. The combination of loss of control and a split second pulling of a dog can allow them to break free and end up on the middle of oncoming traffic or in contact with another dog. Some dogs are strong enough to pull their families off their feet or break the cords and run into traffic resulting in a serious or fatal injury.

a common Flex-lead, these often extend up to 25 or more feet

Other options may be bungee leads and hands-free leads. Bungee leads can be useful for dogs who love to pull or bolt, and the bungee feature helps to soften the sudden stop at the end of the leash as well as making any of these pulls or lunges gentler on the handler's wrist, arm, and shoulder. Bungee leads are typically shorter (4-6 feet) and can typically be utilized similarly to the traditional nylon leash I touched on earlier, and should be perfectly acceptable in public situations such as veterinarian lobbies.

standard bungee lead, most of these include additional handles

Hands-free leads are great for athletic owners, owners who may have other things they need their hands for while walking the dog, and they can even work wonderfully for owners who are in a wheelchair if their dog is trained well enough. Use caution with the hands-free leads, as these can make it easier for a large dog to pull an owner to the ground, especially if the owner is elderly or has restricted mobility. These are typically longer than traditional leads, and may not be great for places such as visits to the veterinarian or pet store.

This lead is not only hands-free but also utilizes the bungee feature

Also, consider any policies that may be observed in any facility you plan to enter with your dog. Some stores and veterinarian offices have a policy prohibiting Flexi-leads. Some, such as our hospital, have a policy that permits Flexi-leads but stipulates that they MUST remained in the locked position at 6 feet or less. So be sure to inquire about leash policies if you aren't sure.

Ultimately, your choice in leash is up to you. You will be picking one that either limits or increases risks to your dog and other dogs/people depending on the scenario in which they are used. So choose wisely!

Feel free to check out our other post on collars!


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