Long vs. Short Dog Leashes – Which Is Better?

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As a proud dog owner, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is which type of leash is right for your furry friend and which attractive styles you like to jazz up their wardrobe. Should you go with a long leash or a short leash? It’s a tough call, but don’t worry, they’re all excellent leashes, and I’m here to help.

Long Leashes vs. Short Leashes

Pros/Cons

Long Leashes

Short Leashes

Pros:

Pros:

– Dogs can have plenty of room to explore

– It’s a great training tool

– You can give dogs some independence

– It’s less likely they’ll get tangled

– You can keep them close to you

– It’s easier on your arm

Cons:

Cons:

– More likely to get tangled up

– Dogs might pull more

– You could trip over them

– Your dog won’t be able to explore

– You’ll get tugged along

– You won’t be able to train them properly

Long Leashes

Dog on the Leash with Jogger

Let’s start by looking at the kinds of leashes you can get. This can include extendable leashes, colorful nylon leashes, slip leads, leather dog leashes, chain leashes, longline leashes, and more. The biggest advantage of using a long leash, I think, is that it gives your dog more freedom to explore.

If you’re taking your dog for a walk in the park, they’ll be able to sniff around and explore their surroundings without being restricted by a shorter leash.

Types of long leashes can include:

  • Extendable leashes
  • Nylon leashes
  • Slip leads
  • Chain leads
  • Leather leads
  • Longline leads
  • 6-ft leads (this is the typical size of most long leashes)
  • Bungee leash
  • Adjustable leashes

Long Leashes: The Pros

  • You won’t get tripped up.

If you’ve ever been accidentally tripped up by your dog’s leash, as I have, you know how frustrating it can be. A long leash gives your dog plenty of room to roam without putting you at risk of taking a spill.

  • You can keep them out of trouble.

A long leash also allows you to keep your dog away from potential hazards, like busy streets or other animals, as long as you are attentive at all times. This is especially important if you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area or if your dog is still in training.

  • They’ll have plenty of room to explore.

Dogs love to explore, and a long leash gives them the freedom to do just that. Whether you’re on a nature hike or just taking a stroll around the block, your dog will appreciate being able to sniff and investigate their surroundings.

  • You can give them some independence.
Dog on a long leash

While it’s important to stay close to your dog while walking or hiking, a long leash gives them the opportunity to walk ahead of you and feel like they’re leading the way. This can be especially helpful if your dog is nervous around new people or animals.

  • It’s a great training tool.

A long leash is also a great tool for training your dog. It allows you to keep them at a safe distance while still being able to give them verbal cues and rewards. This is where excellent leash skills will come into play.

  • It’s just more fun!

Let’s be honest, walking or hiking with a long leash is just more fun for both you and your dog. There’s no need to worry about them getting tangled up or tripping you up, so you can relax and enjoy spending time with your furry friend and their extra freedom.

Long Leashes: The Cons

  • They’re more likely to get tangled up.

If your dog is on a long leash, they’re more likely to get tangled up in it. This can be dangerous if they get wrapped around a tree or something else and can’t get loose. It’s also just annoying for both of you if they’re constantly getting tangled up, and you have to stop to untangle them.

  • They might pull more.
Dog on Leash autumn Outdoors

Some dogs might actually pull more when they’re on a long leash because they know they can get away with it. If you have a dog that likes to pull, a long leash is just going to give them more slack to do it with.

  • You could trip over them.

If your dog is on a long leash, there’s always the possibility that you could trip over them. This is especially dangerous if you’re hiking or walking in an area where there are obstacles, like rocks or roots, that could trip you up.

Short Leashes

Now let’s look at the short leash for better control on walks. The advantage of a short leash is that it gives you much better control over your dog. This can be especially important if you’re walking in an urban area or city with lots of people and traffic. The city leash can help, too, if your dog is reactive or overly excitable around other dogs.

They usually make short leashes of bridle leather or leather products to give them a sturdy structure and comfort once the leather leash breaks in.

Types of short leashes can include:

  • Anti-bite chain leash
  • Traffic lead (also known as a city lead)
  • Flat leash (this has a variety of colors and sizes from 2 to 4 feet)
  • Nylon leashes (these come in a variety of colors)
  • Some extendable leads can be short even for a flexi-type leash

Short Leashes: The Pros

  • You can keep them safe.

A short leash also allows you to keep your dog safe from potential hazards and have plenty of control.

  • You’ll have proper control over their behavior.

Walking your dog on a short leash gives you extra control over their behavior. If they’re barking at other dogs or people, you can quickly get them under control. This is especially important if you’re training your dog, as it will allow you to mold their behavior more easily.

  • It’s less likely they’ll get tangled.
Couple Walking with Dog on Leash

Walking them on a shorter leash will help to prevent them from getting themselves, or you, tangled, as they won’t have as much room to move around.

  • You can keep them close to you.

Some people prefer to keep their dogs close to them when walking or hiking, and a short leash makes this possible. This can be helpful if you’re in an area with lots of wildlife or if you’re just feeling protective of your furry friend.

  • It’s easier on your arm.

If you’ve ever walked a dog that pulls on the leash, you know how sore your arm can get. A shorter leash will help to prevent this by giving you more control over the situation.

Short Leashes: The Cons

  • You’ll get tugged along.
Naughty dog pulling on a leash

If you’ve ever been walking a dog on a short leash, you know that they have a tendency to pull and tug you along with them. This can be incredibly annoying, especially if you’re trying to go for a leisurely stroll or hike.

  • Your dog won’t be able to explore.

One of the great joys of taking your dog for a walk is watching them explore their surroundings. They’ll sniff everything in sight and maybe even roll around in the grass or mud.

However, if you keep them on a short leash, they won’t be able to do any of this. This will restrict them to whatever area you allow them to explore, which likely won’t be very much.

  • You won’t be able to train them properly.

If you’re using a short leash with a control handle on your dog for training, you cannot train them properly. This is because they need to move around freely in order to learn the commands that you’re trying to teach them. If they’re restricted by a leash, they won’t be able to learn as effectively.

  • It can be dangerous.
Disobedient dog pulling on the leash

If your dog is on a short leash and they see something that scares them or makes them excited (like dogs off leash), they may react by lunging forward suddenly. This can cause you to lose your grip on the leash and potentially fall down or get hurt.

If your dog is on a short leash and someone tries to pet them, or there are other dogs on walks nearby, they may feel threatened or way too excited and lash out at the person or dog, depending on their temperament and personality.

Recommendations

Honestly, I walk my two dogs, a Saluki and a Golden Retriever, on longer leashes as we live in a condo community with lots of green areas to explore. Though, I get the long leashes with the extra handle on them just in case.

A traffic lead is a short leash, and on the longer leashes, it just looks like a second handle closer to your dog and the clasp.

Traffic leads are shorter and are meant to keep dogs close to you when walking or training. The best length for these depends on if you have one of the larger breeds. For smaller dogs and puppies, it would be best to find a 4-5ft leash, though they do come in a variety of sizes if 4-5ft doesn’t work.

This will keep them close and away from safety concerns and keep you from hurting their throat during walks by accident if the leash isn’t long enough.

When you’re training a new puppy or small dog during walks, you’ll want to work with longer leads in a closed-in area, but for more urban or city walks, a traffic lead would be best.

I highly recommend having a 6-foot leash that has a two-in-one with the traffic handle and regular handle for walking and that it’s leather for daily walks. Leather is one of my favorite leash materials because, over time, the leather will soften into a wonderful, strong, and supple leash.

My dogs do very well on these and listen when they’re being handled on the traffic leash. Other leashes I would recommend would be something in leather, as the materials soften over time to give you a very comfortable and durable leash to work with.

Try not to use aversive tools (such as a choke collar), as these can make behaviors worse, or use behavioral tools you’re not trained on, as you can accidentally hurt your dog. Try to use collars or harnesses instead while walking your dog. 

The type of harness you can use can include:

  • Front-clip harness
  • Strap-style harness
  • Stretchy harness
  • Step-in harness
  • All-weather harness
  • Back-attachment harness
  • Body harness
  • Back-clip harness
  • Dual-clip harness

Conclusion

There’s no right or wrong answer to the long leash vs. short leash debate. It simply depends on what works best for you and your dog’s individual needs and personality. Personally, I like leather leads, but if you’re unsure of which type of leash to use, I recommend trying out several types of long and short leashes to see which one works better for you and your pup!

Meet our writer

Karen is a former pet business owner with 17+ years of experience in training and taking care of pets. She currently owns three dogs (a greyhound, saluki, and golden mix) and has gone through several types of programs to further her education in the pet world.

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