The Perfect Walk: Leads, Collars & Harnesses

Intro

There are many different types of leads, collars, and harnesses on the market. At Peak City Puppy, we understand the importance of choosing the right equipment for walks, and how, without it, walks can be unpredictable, unpleasant, or just downright awful. One of the most rewarding aspects of having a dog is being able to take it with you, especially for walks. Choosing the right equipment will vary from person to person and dog to dog, along with the person’s level of comfort with the dog, the dog’s temperament, the training of the dog, and the general interaction between the two.

Our Team Members at Peak City Puppy are familiar with the different styles of equipment. We are also familiar with various types of behavior dogs can elicit while on a walk. While having the right equipment is important, it is even more important to feel comfortable with who is on the other end of that equipment. That is why choosing a professional dog walker who is aware of the dog(s), responds to certain cues given by the dog, and is prepared for them and can correct them is important. 

If you feel your dog is not responding appropriately when walking (pulling, lunging, other undesirable behaviors) you may need to consult a trainer. In the meantime, here are the different types of equipment that are available and some guidance to help you make an informed decision on your equipment.

Leashes/Leads

Flat Lead

A flat lead is the standard for leashes. It has the most control and versatility of the leash styles. A flat lead typically ranges from 4’ – 8’ in length, with the most common leash length being about 6’. While the term “flat” is used because these types of leashes are often flat, there is a lot of popularity today with rope-style flat leads. For greater control of your dog, use a shorter lead of about 4’. 

A flat lead is good for most dogs. This type of lead is attached to other types of equipment such as harnesses and collars. Consider whether you want a traffic handle or not. Some flat leads offer a traffic handle located right next to the clasp which is good for being able to shorten the leash when in high traffic areas, near other dogs or people. Also consider the style of clasp on the lead as some are more prone to malfunction than others. 

Carabiner clasps are becoming more popular for their safety as they are less likely to malfunction because the spring cannot lose tension in the same way a push-clasp does. When a push-clasp spring loses tension, the mechanism that springs back up may not spring back up fully, leaving room for the pet to wriggle out of the clasp.

Note: All Peak City Puppy team members are equipped with a 6’ Flat Lead made of leather. This is our preferred leash since it allows you to maintain a grip even when hands are sweaty. 

Slip Lead

A slip lead is an all-in-one type of lead where the hand hold and length of the lead mimic that of a flat lead, but, rather than a clasp at the end they have a loop. These leads are meant to provide immediate control. Whenever the animal attempts to move away from the walker the lead tightens around the neck of the animal. This tightening is meant to discourage the pet from pulling because it creates unwanted pressure on the neck and windpipe. 

This lead works best on pets that are less mobile and are unlikely to pull. Specifically, its greatest function is as a training lead because it teaches the pet how to not pull and the lead can help provide gentle correction. This type of lead is not recommended for dogs that can be strong pullers either persistently or when seeing other dogs/people/wildlife because it can cause damage to the windpipe if enough force is applied. 

Retractable Lead (Flexi-Lead)

The retractable lead is like a really long flat lead. The plastic handle has a winder in the center that allows the lead to unroll up to 20’-30’ in length. This type of lead also comes with a button push (similar to a tape measure) which allows the walker to stop the leash from unraveling and, with most, lock the length. This type of lead is controversial because it provides the least amount of control and should not be used with more active or larger dogs. It is also the most likely to malfunction or break.

A retractable lead provides minimal control. It allows the dog to place more space between you and them which creates a false sense of freedom. More lead between you and them means it will take longer to bring them to heel in the event it is necessary. More lead also means that they may attempt to run towards another animal or person, this could cause them to quickly pull the lead, possibly yanking it out of your hand or even breaking an internal mechanism. This type of lead has often been the cause of injury to both walker and pet as the additional length can often become tangled around hands, fingers, arms, legs, tails, and necks.

Generally, this type of lead is not recommended as it provides the least amount of control and can be hazardous if used improperly. This leash should not be used with medium, large, or extra large breeds; active dogs; dogs who like to charge people/other animals; or dogs who do not possess proper flat lead etiquette. If used for a less active and smaller dog, it is not recommended it be used in city settings, crowded or high traffic areas. 

Note: Peak City Puppy prohibits the use of “flexi-leads” or retractable leads.

“We realize many customers love the convenience and sense of freedom offered by a retractable leash.  For our team and for the safety of the dogs in our care, Peak City Puppy made the decision years ago to prohibit their use. It comes down to a total lack of control in an emergency situation and it’s a risk we’re not willing to take with the dogs in our care.” – Lesley White, Owner

Gentle Leader

This accessory falls somewhere between a leash and a collar. It has two sections, one which goes around the neck like a collar, and the other which goes around the snout, almost like a muzzle. The purpose of this piece of equipment is to redirect the attention of the dog when they attempt to pull with their head to a different focus point back to the walker. This lead is best used with dogs who can sometimes get distracted in order to  refocus their attention. Not recommended for dogs who lead with their head, pull with their head, or jump at other dogs/people/wildlife as this type of lead is meant to tighten around the snout and can rub the area raw.

Martingale Lead/Collar

The Martingale is a style of lead and collar. Both operate in the same style, similar to a slip lead. In the lead form, it looks like a collar attached directly to the lead. There is a single piece of rope with easy slide rings on either side attached to a larger loop. This type of lead is meant for dogs who have larger necks and smaller heads (a greyhound, for example). The design is meant to prevent the dog from backing out of their collar. If they attempt to slip out of the collar, the collar tightens to prevent them from slipping the lead or collar. 

This type of collar is not seen often, but can be a good choice for dogs that like to pull since the lead tightens whenever the dog pulls. It is also a quick option, like a slip lead, since it functions in much the same way for easy on and off.

Collars

Buckle Clasp Collar

This is one of the two most popular types of collars. This style of collar is often made out of leather and metal, looking similar to a belt. This type of collar is a good choice for someone who intends to have a firmer collar that lasts longer and can be used throughout a dog’s life since it is easily adjustable. It is also a better choice for dogs that may pull on the collar from time to time since it is less likely to break since the buckle mechanism is sturdy. 

Snap Clasp Collar

This is the second of the two most commonly used and popular collar types. This type of collar offers a lot more options for style and material. It can be made out of a wide array of fabrics and materials, and has both metal and plastic snap closures. Between this and the buckle clasp collar it is the less durable of the two. Over time, the plastic may break or degrade making it less likely to close. It is also more likely to break if used on a dog that likes to pull since it will place strain on the snap clap of the collar.

Chain Slip Collar

A chain slip collar is similar to a slip lead. It slips over the head of the dog and is tightened to fit. This style of collar is meant to be used for training purposes only. It operates in the same manner as most other training collars and leads where it provides pressure whenever the dog pulls which is uncomfortable for the dog. This discomfort negatively reinforces the behavior and helps to train the dog not to pull. These collars are not recommended for most adult dogs since they can cause damage to the neck and windpipe of the dog. 

Prong Collar

This style of collar is similar to the chain slip collar. It is a controversial style of collar due to its harsh looking appearance, often found with metal prongs. However, it can be an effective collar for training large dogs or dogs that like to try to slip out of their collars. There are two styles of prong collar: plastic and metal. For obvious reasons, a fully metal collar is going to be more durable, however, it can also be more detrimental to your pet in its durability. This is not recommended for dogs that are very strong pullers and who do not recognize when they are injured.

However, a plastic collar may be more likely to break with heavy pressure. Alternatively, there is the chain slip collar. One thing to consider though is how the chain slip collar is adjustable and can be slipped out of, whereas the prong collar cannot.

Harnesses

Peak City Puppy recommends that, if using a harness (regardless of type) the client also has a collar with the dog’s information and owner’s contact information. This is because, should the dog slip out of the harness (some dogs are master escape artists) they still have their information on them if they run off. 

Back-Clip Harnesses

This style of harness is one of the most commonly used. It has a solid piece that goes over the head with an attached piece that goes along the back and belly. It also has an adjustable snap or snaps (sometimes one on either side) that goes around the belly and snaps to the top piece (which is good for dogs who like to chew on the leash). This helps to more evenly distribute weight among the back, stomach, and shoulders. 

On this style of harness, the lead attaches to a D-ring on the upper part of the harness on the dog’s back. The back-clip harness is often used by service dogs since it allows them to pull and use their full body weight. It is highly recommended over collars like chain slip or prong collars for dogs that pull. However, it is not recommended for dogs that like to try to escape since they can pull backwards out of the harness.

Front-Clip Harness

A front clip harness typically has two snaps. The harness goes onto the chest and then clips over the back and under the stomach. In this type of harness, the leash clips to a D-ring on the front of the leash, at the chest. This type of harness is good for helping to not get the dog to pull on the leash. This is because when they pull forward, the leash is behind them and pulling will also pull their bodies backward or force them to turn back to you. 

The front-clip harness can get tangled since the leash is on the front and not a good choice for dogs that like to chew on the leash. However, this style of harness is a good choice for training since it is easy to make corrections. This harness is not recommended for dogs who like to escape since it fits the same way as a back-clip harness and the dog can easily back out of the head piece. 

Dual-Clip Harness

For fitting, the dual-clip harness fits the same way as either the back-clip harness or the front-clip harness (styles vary by brand). Sometimes the buckles attach to the top piece, sometimes the bottom, sometimes on one side of the harness. This style of harness is nice for its versatility since it has a D-ring on the front (like the front-clip harness) and on the back (like the back-clip harness).

This allows for the ability to train continuously on the harness for dogs that like to pull. Sometimes retraining or continuous training is necessary and the dual-clip gives the opportunity for that. It is not recommended for dogs that like to try to escape since they can simply back their head out of the head piece or out the gap made by the chest piece. 

Step-In Harness

The Step-In Harness is slowly gaining popularity with owners who have dogs that like to pull, are escape artists, or tend to lunge at other dogs/people/wildlife. The step-in harness has two holes which the front paws go into, and the harness goes over the shoulders and clasps in the mid back. This style of harness has two D-rings on either side of the clasp which the leash can be attached to. 

Overall, the step-in harness is the best option. If adjusted properly, it is more difficult for the dog to back out of the harness. The step-in harness has dual support for pulling in the clasp and the dual D-rings, making it fairly durable for the hardest of pullers. Furthermore, this style of harness has a built in backup in the event that the clasp malfunctions. One downside to this harness is that, due to the weight distribution from the step-in design, it can be difficult to maneuver your dog into a seated heel position. 

Peak City Puppy Recommends

Peak City Puppy recommends using a Flat Lead (preferably leather), a Buckle Collar or Snap Collar, and/or a Dual-Clip or Step-In Harness. This is the best combination of equipment since it provides the most control and is the most effective in reinforcing desired walking behaviors. Choosing a Buckle or Snap collar is entirely based on the owner preference with consideration to longevity of the collar and ease of putting on/taking off. Choosing a Dual-Clip Harness allows for more versatility with either a front or back lead attachment location, but, if pulling out of the harness is a concern, use a Step-In Harness instead. If using a harness, we always recommend that a client have a collar as well with both the dog’s information and owners contact information as a back in the event a dog should try to slip their harness.


Have questions about what leads, collars, or harnesses to choose? Let us know in the comments below! We are always happy to provide recommendations and guidance.