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Leashes for Active Dogs

dog on leash walking in the cross walk with human

There are so many varieties and styles of leashes on the market these days. So how do you know which one is best for your active dog? Here are a few ways to make a better-informed decision. And, because many dog owners also buy a collar (or harness) when they choose their leash, we’ll take a look at those, as well.

Material differences

Search the shelves and pegboards of a large pet supply store and you’ll find that leashes, collars, and harnesses can be made of leather, nylon, metal chain, and even mountain-climbing rope. Many of those products feature one (or more) of these characteristics: they can be lightweight, reflective, lighted, personalized, decorative, and breed-specific.

Making the right choice

No matter what your dog’s size, shape, or breed, you want a leash that’s durable, safe, and that makes it easy for you to control your dog. And, of course, the collar or harness must fit your dog well. Beyond that, you will find yourself trying to decide between many different varieties.

Here are some of the best leashes, collars, and harnesses for your active canine:

Basic Leashes. A sturdy, six-foot leather, nylon, or chain leash with a good quality metal clip is great for the majority of dogs. It’s practical and lets you keep control of your active dog. The clip should securely fasten to a metal ring on your dog’s collar/harness, and the weight of the leash should always be proportionate to your dog's weight.

Training Leashes. A short leash helps teach dogs to heel. For larger dogs, a one-foot leash is best, while for medium- or smaller-sized dogs, two-foot leashes are ideal.

Mountain Rope Leashes. These leashes are perfect for large dogs. They’re strong, yet lightweight, made of genuine mountain-climbing rope. The mountain-climbing snap hook is strong and dependable, and because it’s made of brass, it won’t rust or chip.

Basic Collars. Nylon and leather collars with either buckled or snap closures are generally a good choice. Snap closures work well for many dogs, but if your dog is large and/or strong, a robust buckled collar is the safer choice.

Head Halters. These collars can help you control your large, energetic dog. When you pull on the leash (attached to a ring under your dog’s chin), you place pressure on his muzzle and neck. This guides his head and body in the direction you want him to go. Head halters, such as the Gentle Leader, are humane alternatives to traditional training collars, and are often much more effective. They also help enable small adults and children to handle big, boisterous dogs. If you decide on a head halter, plan to spend time helping your dog get used to it. And remember, some dogs do not adapt immediately to this alternative.

Double-Layer Collars. These durable, double-woven everyday collars are extremely dependable for big, strong dogs with a lot of get up and go!

Breed-Specific Collars. Many breeds do better with collars designed just for them. For example, Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, and Whippets have extremely sensitive necks. So their collars are wider and thicker against the front of their neck, and thinner at the back. This protects them when they pull, which is often, since they were born and bred to run.

Body Harnesses. Ideal for small or toy dogs, a body harness lets you control him without putting pressure on his delicate neck or back.

No-Pull Harnesses. These choke-free, pain-free harnesses offer more control for playful, vigorous dogs of all sizes and breeds.

Special features to look for

In addition to finding leashes and collars that can be customized in a variety of ways, you’ll also find these special feature products:

ID leashes, collars, and harnesses. “Safety first” identification leashes, collars, and harnesses are custom imprinted or embroidered with your dog’s important information. If your energy-filled dog somehow manages to get away from you, he needs all the help you can give him to get home safe.

Reflective/lighted leashes, collars, and harnesses. These are made with reflective and/or lighted material that’s often waterproof. They are invaluable when the sun sets because they reflect headlights from cars and trucks, making your dog much more visible.

Leash, collar, and harness checks

Once a month, do a quick check. Give the collar and/or harness a detailed look. Are they becoming frayed, chewed, or worn? Also, examine your dog’s leash—and don't forget to examine the leash’s connection to the collar or harness. While you’re at it, it’s also a good time to check his tags to make sure all his info is still legible and accurate.

And each time you take your dog out for a walk, be sure his collar or harness fits properly. If your dog is going through a growth spurt, his collar could be a lot snugger than it was a week or two ago. Also, tug firmly on the fastener between his leash and collar—or leash and harness—to make sure it’s secure. With an active dog like yours, you can never be too safe.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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