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The Best Dog Leashes for Every Dog

Keep your four-legged friend safely tethered to you on walks, hikes and all other adventures.

carhartt shock absorbing dog leash attached to blue heeler dog in front of barn doors
Carhartt

Despite our best attempts to breed them into small, cute, lap-lounging pets, dogs are still, at their core, outdoor animals. And while yours might be perfectly happy lounging around the house all day, getting outside for some exercise is a must to keep your four-legged friend happy, healthy, and long-lived. However, for those without yards (like city apartment folk) or with especially energetic dogs, a quick pop outside to use the restroom isn't going to be enough. Rather, your dog needs to go on walks. And to properly go on walks, you're going to need a leash.

As is the case with just about any piece of gear, there's not a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to dog leashes (or harnesses, for that matter). Instead, the one you choose will be impacted by your budget, the type of dog you have (breed, age, activity level and more are all factors), your personal tastes and even the kinds of activities you intend to embark upon (no pun intended). But we're also keen on helping you narrow your choices down, as we've done our own research and testing to come up with this guide to the best dog leashes. If your dog needs a lead, you'll find a great one here.

Why You Should (Always) Use a Leash

You might think your dog is well-behaved enough to forgo using a leash in certain situations. However, we caution against simply taking your dog off leash for a number of reasons. For starters, there are laws prohibiting off-leash activities in many cities, parks, etc. Secondly, keeping your dog on a leash can help protect them from dangerous terrain (like perilous cliffs, river rapids, highly-trafficked roads, etc.), wildlife (bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, etc.) and even people and other dogs (you never know how someone might react to an unleashed dog sprinting up to them). Obviously, there are some instances where this is fine, like dog parks, but we ask that you be as responsible as you can and don't take your dog off leash unless you're absolutely confident it's okay to do so.

Why We Don't Recommend Retractable Leashes

At a glance, retractable leashes seem like a happy medium between giving your dog complete, unadulterated freedom and keeping them close at your side. However, there are far more reasons to consider avoiding them altogether. For starters, the added freedom comes with a behavioral downside: they teach your dog to pull. Second, the extra distance between you and your dog means that, ultimately, you're not really in control of your dog or its actions, potentially putting you both in danger. Third, these leashes can often cause injuries, with the most common including rope burns, whiplash, strangulation, etc. Fourth, there has been an outpouring amongst licensed veterinarians imploring people to avoid retractable leashes for all of the reasons above and more (see examples of the dangers and training pitfalls of retractable leashes and why a licensed veterinarian dislikes them). Finally (if that's not all reason enough), there have even been cases of recalls because of faulty mechanisms in these types of leashes, which can cause even more injuries to both animal and owner.

How We Tested

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      best dog leashes
      Gear Patrol Staff

      Our testers and their dogs were asked to take our selection of leashes out for weeks, to try them out on daily walks, hikes, travel and various other activities. We also asked that they pay special attention to several factors, including (but not limited to) ease of use, durability, security, versatility and anything else that might help set these leashes stand out from one another, as well as anything that might be concerning to users. After all, we wouldn't want to recommend any leash we wouldn't happily use with our own dogs.

      Best All-Around Dog Leash
      Carhartt
      Carhartt Shock Absorbing Dog Leash
      Best Upgraded Leash
      Ruffwear
      Ruffwear Roamer Bungee Dog Leash
      Best for Training
      Mighty Paw
      Mighty Paw Rope Dog Leash
      Now 14% off
      Best for Big Dogs
      Atlas Pet Company
      Atlas Pet Company Lifetime Leash
      Most Sustainable
      WALK
      Re-WALK Dog Leash
      Best for Hiking
      Ruffwear
      Ruffwear Hitch Hiker Leash
      Best Leather Leash
      Orvis
      Orvis Shotshell Leash
      Best Budget Leash
      PetSafe
      PetSafe Nylon Dog Leash
      Now 11% off
      Best Classic Leash
      Filson
      Filson Adjustable Nylon Leash
      Best for Water Dogs
      Wilderdog
      Wilderdog Waterproof Dog Leash
      Now 10% off
      Best for Small Dogs
      Wild One
      Wild One Dog Leash
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