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A good leash should help you walk your dog safely and easily. Could we find the best all-around option?
Published Feb. 10, 2021.
What You Need To Know
When you take your dog out for a walk, the last thing you want to worry about, or even think about, is the leash. But how do you find the perfect one? The market is vast, curious, and confusing—hundreds upon hundreds of leashes exist, spanning a range of styles, materials, lengths, and prices. To narrow down the lineup for this testing, we consulted Tina Alderman, a dog trainer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who has 18 years of experience and is a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals, and Meredith O’Connor, a certified Canine Training Specialist in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, who has more than a decade of experience. While the trainers’ views diverged somewhat on leash material and other features, they agreed on two key recommendations. First, look for leashes measuring about 6 feet—the length they find universally optimal for both dogs and walkers, since it allows a dog freedom of movement without sacrificing too much human control. Second, avoid retractable leashes, which can telescope out as much as 26 feet when the dog pulls, resulting in the human having no control over the dog.
We also stuck with leashes that would work with either a collar or a harness, as dog owners today use both. We limited materials to nylon, polyester, and leather—the most commonly available types—and set a price cap of $30, as it seemed impractical to pay more for something that gets so much wear and tear or that you might lose or misplace. In the end, we reviewed nine leashes, priced from about $13 to about $30, using them in a battery of tests to evaluate how durable they were and how easy they were to use. We also sent separate copies of each leash home with staffers for long-term use and to see how the leashes worked with dogs of different ages, sizes, and temperaments.
A Good Leash Starts with a Good Clip
We first evaluated how easy it was to use the clip that attaches the leash to the dog’s harness or collar. All but one of the leashes we tested had bolt-style clips: To open them, you use your thumb to press down on the hinge. The other model had a lobster-claw or “scissor’’ clip, which must be squeezed in the middle to open. With both types, once the clip is attached to the D ring on the dog’s collar or harness, you release it, the mechanism closes securely, and you and your dog are good to go.
With both styles, testers preferred clips that had enough tension in the mechanism so that they stayed put when attached but were still easy to open with one hand. Those with too much tension were hard to open, especially during chilly walks, when our hands were less dexterous from being cold or cover...
Everything We Tested
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