By Robert Cabral, dog trainer and member of the Wag! Advisory Board
When it comes to building a bond with your dog, walking is among the best things you can do. There are two things you need — one is a collar (or harness) and the other is a leash. I’ve covered collars in another post, so let’s talk about leashes.
I assume that thousands of years ago when humans first domesticated the wolf into a dog, they used some sort of leash to keep the “dogs” from running away. And my guess is they used a fixed-length lead that attached around the dog’s neck.
The best leash? A fixed-length leash
Even now, I believe a fixed-length leash is still the best type. In fact, with few exceptions, it’s the only one I recommend.
A fixed-length leash gives you complete control because your dog's only a short distance from you. You also know where your dog is at all times — and he knows where you are!
A fixed-length leash attaches to your dog’s collar or harness on one end and has a loop or handle at the other end to put your hand through for a safe leash grip. This is as simple as it gets! Ideally, your dog will then walk on a loose leash, and you'll both enjoy the walk.
Tips for walking with a fixed-length leash
If you want your dog to avoid something or change direction, a fixed-length leash allows you to quickly and easily pass the information down the leash to your dog. Here are my tips for walking dogs on a fixed-length leash.
Keep the leash on the shorter side for daily walks. I use a four-foot braided leather leash for my dogs. As I mentioned, walks are a huge bonding experience and I think it’s hard to bond with — and control — your dog if they are six or more feet ahead of you. Using a shorter leash means your dogs are closer to you, so you can walk with your dog.
Avoid flimsy or frayed leashes, as well as collars and harnesses, for the dog’s safety.
Avoid attaching poop bags or other “distractions” to your leash. Instead, put the bags in your pocket, taking them out only when needed.
If you’re training your dog, you can opt for a longer leash, but no more than six feet. The sooner you can get your dog to walk close to you, the better for both of you.
Other kinds of leashes — good or bad?
Walk into a pet supplies store, and you can be overwhelmed with leash options. That’s one reason to focus on fixed-length leashes. So what about these other common types?
Retractable leashes — Seeing dogs walk on these types of leashes is very frustrating for me because it can be dangerous for both dog and walker. It’s more difficult to exert control when a dog is 10 or more feet away, at the end of a retractable leash. The distance makes it easier for dogs to accidentally wander into the street or get into a disagreement with another dog.
In fact, there are many stories of injuries to people and dogs from the improper use of a retractable leash. To learn more about the dangers of retractable leashes, watch this video.
Bungee leashes — These are usually made of nylon tubular webbing with a bungee inside so the dog can pull the elastic, but not pull the leash. They create a pulling stimulation in the dog and it can actually unteach your dog to want to be next to you during a walk. Best to avoid such leashes.
Give your dog the pleasure of walking with you on your walks. For this reason and many others, a fixed-length leash is the best leash. The closer your dog is to you, the safer the walk — and the better the bonding experience.