There’s an entire checklist of essentials for new dog owners: dry dog food, treats for training, a comfortable bed, and, of course, a leash — because pups, no matter how big or small, need daily exercise. Their leash should be safe — helping you guide them through busy sidewalks or streets — and preferably weatherproof to get through the worst of winter. And it wouldn’t hurt if their leash was stylish to earn some nods of approval from other pet parents at the park.
Above all, as a new owner, you’ll want a leash that works with your dog’s size. “Leashes for smaller dogs can be smaller in width as they will not produce as much force as a large-breed dog if pulled,” explains Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinary consultant at Safe Hounds Pet Insurance. “A large- or giant-breed dog will need a wider-width leash to prevent breaking or fraying of the material when a pet pulls on the leash.” If you’re only just starting to train your dog, Burch recommends going with a shorter leash, which will provide “safety to not only your pet but also other people you may encounter on a walk” — that way, you can introduce them to different commands.
That’s almost the same advice we heard from Rachel Bowers of dog-walking company Brooklyn Bark, who emphasized that a leash is a “literal physical connection” between pet and pet owner, so you should make sure it’s a tool that actually allows for communication between the two of you. “The goal is really to have your pet walking next to you while on a relaxed leash,” says Dr. Jennifer Maniet, a staff veterinarian at Petplan Pet Insurance. “Certainly you want to ensure the material is durable, and you want to make sure the connections of the leash to the collar or harness are well-made and secure.” Speaking of secure, several of the experts we spoke to say to avoid retractable leashes. “These provide the least amount of control over a dog, and it’s easy for pups and humans alike to get injured by becoming tangled up or by injuries from the cord or the retraction mechanism,” explains Dr. Zay Satchu, the co-founder and chief veterinary officer of Bond Vet.
It’s always best to consult with your vet when looking for the best leash for your pet’s individual needs, according to Maniet. But the ones below come highly recommended by more than a dozen veterinarians, dog trainers, and other canine experts. Many of these experts say a basic leash would be more than efficient for everyday walks with most dogs, so we’ve grouped their favorite no-frills options together first, following those with leashes they recommend for specific needs — like teething puppies or canine jogging partners who like to pull. And for all the aspiring dogfluencers out there, we’ve also included a group of leashes recommended for their aesthetics — all of them, we’re assured, are also functional. Most of the leashes come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different breeds (from toy poodles and pugs to Great Danes), but we’ve noted throughout which leashes are only available in limited sizes.
Best basic leashes
Stephanie Galas, a manager at Pupculture Soho, echoes what several experts say: “The most simple leash is your best leash.” Available in four-foot and six-foot lengths, she says this affordable, lightweight, and nylon leash from PetSafe is “not too long, not too short,” and just right for having your dog walk alongside you without bolting ahead. It’s a leash that Burch also approves of. “The basic nylon leash provides control and safety, especially during training and unfamiliar situations.” Burch says nylon leashes like this one tend to be both affordable and sturdy. But it’s not best for all dogs, as “owners who have dogs that chew on their leash may want to stay away from nylon due to the material quickly fraying then breaking,” she adds.
Annie Grossman, the owner and co-founder of School for the Dogs (who is also a co-founder of Store for the Dogs), is another fan of a no-frills leash. She stresses the importance of proper training instead of relying on a leash to keep your pup in check, saying, “The equipment, much like the seat belt in a car, should be there in case of an emergency, not something that you’re using to control your dog.” Grossman says this leash, her favorite one, “is a very nice, sturdy, not-super-expensive nylon leash that comes in a couple of different weights and lengths.” She suggests choosing a length that’s just long enough to create a bend in the leash when you’re out walking (generally, that means four to six feet long). “You don’t want a dog who’s out at the end of the leash,” she says. “Maybe if there’s a parade of squirrels across the street, you’re going to have to rely on your leash, but 99 percent of the time it should just be there as a safety precaution.” This leash, which is also waterproof, has handsome leather accents that make it stand out.
[Editor’s note: This leash is sold by the brand on Amazon with an additional shipping fee.]
This leash is a personal favorite of Nicole Ellis, a certified professional dog trainer with Rover, who calls it her “everyday, go-to leash,” because it can be worn “a multitude of ways,” due to its two clips and several attachment points. It can be used as a regular six-foot lead, a shorter 3.5-foot leash, or looped over your shoulder for hands-free walking. It also can be double-clipped to both your dog’s harness and collar for added safety. “If you’re in a busy area, where your pup needs to be healing close by, then you can utilize the cross-body attachment. If you’re at a park or on a hike, where you can afford your dog more freedom, you can easily lengthen the lead to six feet,” she says. It’s available in six colors, including: black, blue, red, purple, sky blue, and hot pink. You can choose between two sizes, small/medium and medium/large, as well.
If you and your dog love to go to the beach or on hikes together, Ellis recommends this waterproof leash from Stunt Puppy, which she uses on outings with her pup. “I use this BioThane leash on our adventures, so when it’s covered in mud or sand, I can hose it off and it’s good to go again and still looks great.” The leash is not only washable but also odor-proof and comes in fun colors like orange, teal, and pink.
Best leashes for dogs who chew
When it comes to dogs who chew up their leashes, Galas says, “It’s not the leash, it’s the dog.” She explains that owners need to train their dogs to understand that their leash isn’t a chew toy. For puppies that are still learning or dogs that just can’t kick the habit, Grossman likes the durable and aptly named VirChewLy Indestructible leash. “It’s a coated-metal leash that’s also pretty lightweight,” she says.
If your dog needs to have something in their mouth and you’d prefer it weren’t the leash, this model, which is designed to allow soft toys to be attached, comes recommended by senior trainer Shelby Semel, the founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training. “If they drop the toy, it doesn’t go flying, it stays attached to the leash,” she says, making it an easy option for owners who don’t want toys to go missing. Because it only comes in one 54-inch length, it’s best for medium to large dogs.
Best leash for dogs who pull
Like chewing, pulling on the leash is a behavior that can be managed through training. And although some think the solution is a leash with more give to it, experts disagree. Erin Askeland, an animal-health and behavior consultant at Camp Bow Wow, says it best: “Flexible [or retractable] leashes or leashes with a bungee-style rope will not help your dog stop pulling on the leash and can actually encourage it.” Instead, while you’re training your dog to stop pulling — or even if you just want the extra security — Nikki Naser, a senior editor at Chewy, suggests this shock-absorbing leash. “It has a padded handle that evenly distributes the strain if your dog pulls,” she says, adding that it is also “made of woven rope that’s designed to absorb shock.”
While not technically a leash, “for dogs that pull, this Gentle Leader headcollar is a great, humane training device,” says veterinarian Dr. Rachel Barrack, the founder of New York City–based practice Animal Acupuncture. The padded nose loop and collar only apply pressure to the back of your pup’s neck, instead of its throat, which prevents choking when it tries to pull, jump, or lunge. And because the loops are adjustable, the collar can fit dogs of all sizes. Veterinarian Jeff Weber also recommends the gentle leader and has used one on his former dog, a full-sized Labradoodle.
Weber says it’s very important that the leash you choose gives you control over your dog, especially if they are stronger than you. “Some actually have a tightening feature that as the dog pulls, it gets tighter around their shoulders and their back,” he says, explaining that these types of leashes and harnesses correct dogs as they walk so they learn to pull less. Burch is also a fan of ThunderLeash for the same reason, as it provides “gentle pressure.” The ThunderLeash can be used as a regular leash or looped around a dog’s body for training purposes. It comes in two sizes: small and medium/large.
Best leashes for city walking
If your daily walk involves crossing busy intersections, Galas says to look for a “traffic handle,” a second loop closer to the dog’s collar that you can grab in case your dog tries to run into the street. “Some dogs will stand at the corner with you, and then they’ll hear a loud noise — a car backfires, a cat runs across the street — and they chase after it. But if you’re holding on to that traffic handle, the dog’s going nowhere. It’s safe with you, next to you.” Naser pointed us to this leash with a built-in traffic handle for greater control. The leash also comes in a four-foot length and seven shades, including black, purple, and red.