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Do you wonder what the purpose is of those different leashes at the pet store? Check out today’s infographic to discover the best leash for your dog!

Leash Length Basics

The less trained your dog is and the less trained you are, the shorter leash you will want. Shorter leashes are easier to handle, especially with a strong dog.

The downside to short leashes is that they give you less flexibility. You can’t easily lengthen the leash to give your dog more freedom if needed. So, as your dog becomes better trained and/or you develop better leash skills, you will want to graduate to a longer leash.

Leash Width Basics

I also really like the narrowest leash that you can get away with for your dog’s strength. This will give you the ability to gather a larger length of leash in your hand, allowing you to easily handle a longer length of leash, like a 6-foot leash.

A lot of new dog owners will go for a 1″- or even 1.5″-wide leash, thinking that they need a really STRONG leash to hold back their dog because he weighs 80 lbs.

This is only half true. The new dog owner with a large dog does need a 1.5″ thick leash if the dog is constantly straining against the leash. That amount of pressure does need a substantial leash to withstand the weight.

I personally have an 80 lb dog, and I typically walk him on a 1/2″- or 3/4″-wide, 6-foot leash. This gives me maximum flexibility in a package that is easy-to-handle, yet secure. I feel comfortable on this lighter equipment for a couple of reasons. Even though he may pull against the leash occasionally, I know it will only be for a second or so. I also walk him on equipment that lessens the amount of force he is able to put on the leash. 

Traffic Leash

A traffic leash is usually the shortest type of leash you’ll find. It can sometimes be called a tab leash.

Generally, it is used for dogs between the ages of 4 months and 2 years, when they are still learning about house rules. You leave it dangling on their harness or collar, and it provides an easy way to control them if they are doing something that you don’t want them to.

It is also a nice option for all dogs when you are crossing a busy road. Some regular 4- and 6-foot leashes have a shorter traffic loop built into the bottom of the leash for this purpose. So, you can walk your dog on your normal 4- or 6-foot leash and then grab the traffic loop to get across the busy street.

I don’t find this extra loop particularly helpful if your dog is trained. It just ends up adding to the bulk of your leash, making it harder to handle.

Instead, you can just hold the leash at about a 1-foot length to get your dog across a busy street. If your leash is narrow enough, you should be able to easily gather the excess in your hand.

4-Foot Leash

A 4-foot leash is recommended for city walks or if you will be encountering a lot of distractions. The shorter length is easier to handle and will allow you to more quickly control your dog. This is particularly true if you have a taller dog, since the distance between his collar and your hand is not as long to begin with. 

If you have a very short dog, like a Chihuahua, you will likely find a 4-foot leash to be a bit too short, since the distance between your dog and your hand is so long to begin with.

6-Foot Leash

A 6-foot leash is my favorite leash length. It is long enough to give your dog some freedom to range, without being overly cumbersome. You can easily gather the excess in your hand if you need a shorter leash for walking by distractions or getting across a busy street.

It’s also long enough to use as a waist leash, which is when you wrap the leash around your waist so you have a hands free way to keep your dog with you (obviously, don’t do this if you have physical issues that would make this a problem). If you are interested in using a waist leash, check out my link below.

You can find my favorite leash here (in the 3/4″ width), it can be used as a waist leash.

Long Line

I think a long line is a critical piece of equipment for all dog owners. Particularly, if you have a younger or less trained dog. I use long lines heavily with my dogs, especially for the first 5 years.

If you subscribe (yellow box on the homepage) and get the Come When Called Mini Ebook, you will see different activities that are great to do with a long line. I start all of these activities in my home, backyard, and sidewalk in front of my house. But, eventually, the dogs graduate to working longer distances.

At that point, I’ll put them on a long line and do:

  • Back-Up Recalls all over the neighborhood and at the local park.
  • Ping Pong recalls at a large field, working the dog further and further until the dog is going 150+ feet (great exercise for high energy dogs!).
  • Hide and Seek at a local field with two handlers, and the long line gives a young dog the freedom to be “off leash” while hunting.

My favorite long lines to use are 15-20 ft 5/8″ leads in a bright color. I personally like neon orange or pink, since that really stands out, even if you are working in green grass or working in the woods with fallen leaves.

This is my favorite long line company, Palomine Lines (I don’t get anything from this company for recommending them, I just really love their leashes). The leashes are brightly colored, strong, waterproof and easy-to-handle.

Retractable Leash

Some people really hate retractable leashes, and I know why. In the wrong hands, they can:

  • Tangle up handlers and other dogs.
  • Cause severe rope burn.
  • Allow dogs too much freedom, so that they are able to charge at other dogs and people before their owner can reel them in. Unlike a long line, it is not easy to control the line if your dog is too far.

However, I find retractable leashes super helpful in the right situation.

I love using a long line with my 15-year-old small, mixed breed dog. It allows her to go at her pace and she is able to stop and sprint to catch up, which is much easier for her than trying to keep pace with us on our walk.

I also used it a lot with her when she was as younger. She’s always been a dog who naturally stays close. She also doesn’t charge up to other dogs or people, she prefers to stay with her family. So, a retractable leash was great for giving her tons of freedom, since she is so polite and recalls instantly.

Basically, a retractable leash is great for a dog who would be reliable off leash for walks. It still allows those dogs the improved quality of life they get from off leash walks without sacrificing the dogs safety or breaking your city’s leash laws.

If your dog can not be reliably walked off leash, then one of the other leashes is likely a better fit for you.


What do you think of this article? Please let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear more about what you’d like to hear more of.

Also, this was my first infographic, so I hope you enjoyed that too :). Thanks for reading!