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Leashes are important: they keep your dog safe and under control. A leash can save your dog’s life if she’s prone to running away from you, and it can also help you with your training efforts, preventing your dog from jumping on other people around you.

But if you’ve ever walked down the leash aisle at the pet store, you know it can be overwhelming trying to decide which leash to purchase. You may have heard conflicting reports about what kind of leash your dog needs. That’s because there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

When selecting the best leash for your dog, you need to think about your dog’s size, behavior, and the activity you’re going to be doing with her while she’s wearing the leash. You might need to purchase multiple leashes and use each one for something different.

Let’s break down the different types of leashes and explain which types are best for which activity.

Standard Leash

A standard leash is a basic leash with a loop handle at one end and a metal clip at the other end that attaches to your dog’s collar. Standard leashes are normally six feet long. They’re best used for basic training exercises or other everyday activities.

Adjustable leash

Adjustable leashes are very similar to standard leashes, except for one notable difference: they’re, well, adjustable. You can shorten or lengthen the leash according to what you what at any given moment. This makes adjustable leashes great for dog training.

Chain Leash

Chain leashes are a somewhat controversial topic among dog owners. Since they’re more or less indestructible, chain leashes can be used to change unwanted behavior such as chewing on the leash. But chain leashes are also heavy — they can hurt your hands and you might risk choking your dog. Try using a chain leash for a short period of time and then switching to a traditional dog leash once your dog’s behavior has changed.

Retractable Leash

Retractable leashes work almost like a measuring tape; they’re made of a long cord that can be locked into place with the press of a button. Retractable leashes have their pros and cons: they’re helpful if you want to let your dog wander, but make sure she stays nearby. They’re also a great training tool to work on more advanced “heel” or “back” commands. But retractable leashes make it hard to control your dog and easy for your dog to get tangled. A retractable leash should be used for a well-trained dog — one that you trust won’t bolt.

Bike leash

If you make a habit of biking for exercise and/or pleasure and you want your dog to come with you, investing in a bike leash is a must. Bike leashes have a metal arm that attaches to your bicycle’s frame; a leash is attached to the arm, which gives the dog enough space to jog next to you. Generally, bike leashes attach next to the bicycle seat. Bike leashes do take a little getting used to, so be sure to give you and your dog ample training time before you hit any major bike trails. Biking with your dog works best if you have a large breed of dog who is well-trained and in good physical shape.

Slip Leads

Many kennels and vet’s offices use slip leads. This kind of leash is efficient — it’s both a collar and a leash, all in one. Just loop the leash onto itself and slip it over your dog’s head. But beware: slip leads are easier than collars for your dog to wiggle out of, and if you pull the leash too tight, it may restrict your dog’s breathing. A slip lead also does not have a place for identification tags. If you decide to use a slip lead, it’s probably best to let your dog wear a separate collar with ID tags, as well.

Harness Leads

A harness lead is a lead with a harness at the end. This can be useful if you’re trying to teach your dog not to jump — the harness tightens around the dog’s chest if she jumps or begins to pull on the lead. Harness leads give you more control over your dog than other types of leads. They’re also ideal for puppies, who are more prone to get tangled in a traditional dog leash.

If in doubt about what leash to buy, consult your vet or your dog trainer for further information. They can point you in the right direction.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.