Travel and the Perfect Small Canine Leash

Simple Black Nylon Leash (at the Louvre in Paris)

What is in a leash? It seems like such a simple thing – a leash; a simple item that rarely occupies too much thought. Yet, there are so many options! Let me take a moment to break it down for you and give you the six most common types of leashes:

  1. Nylon/Cotton: These are best for dogs who don’t pull too hard. Cotton is more flexible and easier on human hands; nylon is stronger and more durable. Either can be chewed to pieces. I know! I did it as a pup!
  2. Leather: Leather leashes last the longest and are best for dogs who pull. The leather will soften with age. However, leather can also be chewed to pieces – and boy, do they taste yummy!
  3. Retractable: Retractables, or extension leashes, let your dog wander a little when it’s safe to do so during walks. You can shorten the length to bring your dog closer. Retractables are long leashes (often 16 or 25 feet), rolled up on a spool inside a plastic handle. The leash releases, retracts, and locks into place at the push of a button. The leash itself can be a cord or made of webbing. The webbing style hurts less when the leash (inevitably) becomes wrapped around legs – the dog’s or yours. Both webbing and cord will cause skin burns or worse if the leash is pulled or quickly released when wrapped around a limb. Webbing can be chewed to pieces, and cords can be chomped through in a single bite. More importantly, these extension leashes can teach bad leash habits because a dog learns it’s okay to pull. Dog trainers really dislike retractable leashes.
  4. Couplers: These Y-shaped leash additions are made to walk two dogs simultaneously. Essentially a two-pronged lead, a coupler clips on to the end of your regular leash with each end of the coupler clipping onto one dog’s collar. Some couplers can be adjusted for dogs of different heights so your tall dog doesn’t drag your short dog.
  5. Slip: A slip is a one-piece combination of leash and collar. A slip can be put on and removed quickly. They’re used on dogs who aren’t wearing a collar–such as show dogs or strays at a shelter–but they aren’t the best choice for walks. A slip leash must be put on correctly or it won’t loosen properly and can thus be dangerous for the dog. A dog who pulls will certainly suffer with a slip leash.
  6. Traffic: Traffic leashes are very short leashes, approximately a foot or two long.  They are designed to keep a dog as close to you as possible, thus out of the way of vehicular (scary) traffic. Traffic leashes are mostly used for larger dogs because small dogs usually just get picked-up.

Other considerations:

  • Length: Basic leashes tend to be either four or six feet long. Retractable leashes are significantly longer, typically 16 to 25 feet. Slip leashes tend to be about four feet in length. Six foot leashes are usually better for small dogs who are closer to the ground and thus, further away from an owner’s hand. Trainers also usually prefer 6 foot leashes although some people find it a challenge to manage the extra bit of leash that loops and droops.
  • Safety: Once teeth have been sunk into a leash, toss it and get a new one; otherwise, it may unexpectedly rip in half during use. Even if a leash is chew-free, replace it after a few years. Normal wear and tear will weaken a leash, putting it at risk of suddenly breaking. That’s not so fun on a busy street.

Fancy All About Elegance Leash and Montecristo Harness by Kiki Hamann

At home, I have a little collection of leashes. I have a nice leather leash that matches my little Italian leather coat, and a Louis Vuitton leash that goes with my LV carrier bag and collar. I also have two lovely, fancy designer leashes from All About Elegance. They sparkle and shine so are my favourites when I need to strut on a runway! And I can’t forget my gorgeous leash in a “bon-bon” formation by Kiki Hamann, specially made to  match my summer sling bag. Finally, I have two simple black nylon “cat leashes” that, somehow, end up being used every day.

And that is what it boils down to when travelling: what will you use every day? The perfect leash is the one that best suits your dog and your needs.

The reality is that, as much fun as all my fancy leashes are, I tend to really use the synthetic leashes the most. Why? Because they are lightweight, take up no space in a bag or pocket, are sturdy and easy to keep clean. Synthetic leashes are also inexpensive, so should one get lost or damaged, no one will be particularly upset. Cat leashes tend to be the right width for me – dog leashes are always that little bit too wide – and can often be found in a not too long or too short length. The perfect length for me is about 5 feet – not a common length in dog leashes. Most dog leashes are either too long for me at 6 or more feet, or too short at 4 feet.

Travel for us means travelling light. So when people ask me what my favourite travel leash is, I have to be honest and admit that for travelling, my favourite isn’t a designer product or a custom-made leash.  My favourite is just a plain and simple every day nylon leash.  I can go walking about, to the beach, sailing or hiking, and just as easily go out to dinner at a restaurant patio with the same nylon leash.  If the nylon gets wet, it dries quickly; if it gets dirty, it can be soaked, rinsed and hung up to dry. But, between you and me, Dear Reader, I will admit I often stash a fancy leash into my bag too. See, you never know when you’ll be invited to some fancy little soiree – and a properly packed dog is a prepared dog!

So the verdict? At least for me, the best travel leash is the nylon leash that can go from day to night, is light weight, and no more than six feet long. Now, if I were a big dog I might want to look into this!

Do you have many leashes? Which is your favourite travel leash and why?

13 Comments on “Travel and the Perfect Small Canine Leash

  1. Super! We have a few leash, but when we travel most often use a shorter leash for better control. When you arrive will show them all!
    Big hugs and Kiss! :)

  2. Monte, your articles never cease to amaze me: so informative, and so well researched and written. And, of course, the accompanying photos are always fab.

    • Well – when you are starting off it can be overwhelming. So we hope to help folks navigate a little. Thanks for your support!

  3. Coco’s leash is nylon, lightweight, pink w/white dog bones on it. Matches her pink and white step-in halter. She loves them! Dusty loathes leashes and harness…LOATHES them . He freezes in place when he is wearing one. When we are walking he usually stays right with us, Coco,on the other hand, will BOLT and run without provocation! The little stinker. We like a retractable leash but my biggest problem with them is that I cant slep them on my wrist.

    • There are some new retractable leash designs that allow that now…but I think they are more expensive than they are worth! I use to freeze as well but the bipeds just kind of forced it all on me. In time I realized that nothing bad was going to happen and “got over it”. But Dusty is a happy boy … even if he isn’t a gallivanting type!

  4. I use traffic leash, in Ukraine it’s the safest one, i myself feel much better when i have full control.

  5. Yep, same with us! We take 2 plain nylon leashes with us when we travel. Don’t have to worry if they get sandy, salty or lost. I agree completely with your assessment of the retractable leashes. We have not had good experiences with them (or, frankly, with other dogs whose owners are using them.) Plus, in an emergency situation, I don’t think you’d have the control you needed with a retractable leash.

    • We have never met an owner that used the retractable leash well either… hard to anticipate if a dog will run around legs or not. getting tangled is no fun for anyone. :)

  6. Hi there, Monte! I have to say that both my pup and I like retractable leashes (used with a harness) best. She is a 7lb Long-haired Chihuahua and we have one that goes up to 6ft, but we usually keep it around 4-5 feet. We have tried both leather and nylon leashes with fixed length, but found that she constantly tugs at the leash to see how far I’ll allow her to go. For some reason, with the retractable leash, she understands that when she feels the leash tug, that is her limit and she won’t try to go any further.

    For me, I like that I only have to release the clamp on the leash and it winds up automatically. I also like that the leash doesn’t really get dirty because it doesn’t touch the ground. Despite what that I like about it, we really use it because it’s what she likes and responds to the best.

    Thanks for your reviews/tips on everything! I’ve been a long-time reader, but this is my first comment. My pup and I look forward to what you’ll write next! :)

    • Thanks for the comment Lexie! and for your frequent visits. The important thing is to use what works best FOR YOU and YOUR DOG and that is what you do. If the retractable leash is it then absolutely! You do keep it short so perhaps that helps. In our experience those leashes have a tendency to breed really poor behaviour. But as you have so eloquently proven – there are exceptions! As always the key is to do what works best.

      How do you manage how badly those leashes tangle when other dogs come into play? I would love to know. We’ve had some serious choking hazards not to mention rope burn around calf and knees from the retractable when multiple dogs come into play…. You can’t just drop the leash let in untangle and pick-up – I would love to hear from you on this.

      • Hello Monte! I should’ve checked back, but I have been trying to keep up with all of your new posts, too! :)

        To answer your question, when Luna plays/is around other dogs, I keep the leash at one length. It also helps that the retractable leash that we have isn’t a thin cord; it’s a flat nylon cord, similar to a normal leash except that the width is much thinner.

        Also, when we have doggie play-dates, we tend to do so at each other’s houses – which means that with a fenced-in backyard, no one has to be on a leash! But, for those times that we’re at the dog park or on a walk and we come across another pup, we slowly retract the leash so that she is closer to me than the other dog. I should mention that if the dog is her size, she has no problem interacting with it – she loves when she meets new doggies like her! However, the bigger dogs do make her nervous and she instinctively comes towards me for protection, so I think that helps with the any potential leash problem.

        Lovely to hear from you, Monte! I really enjoy reading all of your helpful hints and tips – Luna says “thank you” as well! :)

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