Truthfully, there is no single, right answer to this question. It depends on your own capabilities, what you have available and what you are trying to accomplish. The only tool which definitely will not work for training is the flexi-leash. Apart from that, you can use just about anything you want.
Even the flex-leash has its place and that place is for handling a trained tracking dog when he is on the job. That’s what it was originally designed to do. It just makes it easier to rewind than the older long leads made out of cotton or nylon. Unfortunately, the flexi got loose in the general population of dog lovers and its become an idiots delight and a positive danger to all concerned. It is simply not possible to do dog leash training with a flex-leash. My preference is to give a wide berth whenever I see one coming because the dog is usually not under control and can wind you up or trip you in it leash.
Apart from that, there is no one best leash for training your dog. The dog training leash you choose will be decided by a number of factors. These include:
- comfort for you
- your level of experience
I usually make my own leashes and I make them out of 3/8 rope. This doesn’t mean that I think rope leashes are inherently better than all others, though. It is simply because when I became seriously interested in dog training there were no pet stores where I lived and there weren’t a lot of materials available, but there was plenty of rope around. Besides that, knots are hobby of mine and I know how to bend rope and cord to my will much more easily than other materials.
Don’t forget that Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, is a great advocate of what he calls the 35 cent leash, which is simply a length of braided rope that has a ring spliced into one end. All you do is feed the end of the leash through the ring to make a loop, pop it over the dog’s head, and off you go. Really, that’s all you need, as long as you can hang on to it. It works for Cesar because his timing and technique is so good that he never has to worry about having a tug-of-war with a dog. Simply doesn’t happen. For us mortals, something a little easier to hang on to is in order, but the thirty-five cent leash is a good backup to have available.
One of the good things about rope leashes is that it is very easy to customize a leash to fit your dog or to suit a particular purpose. They are also very strong and durable. The downside is that they can be rough on the hands when you are starting a strong dog.
So, don’t be intimidated and think there is only one right kind of leash to use for dog leash training. Go ahead and make your own out of whatever material you are comfortable with to achieve your particular ends.
My personal preferences have changed some lately, because my wife bought me a couple of six foot cotton leashes on Ebay. These cotton leashes are very strong, yet they are also soft on the hands. The length is ideal for what I’m doing right now, and they can be customized by anyone with a sewing machine or even a needle and thread.
One of the problems I always ran into when shopping for a dog leash was the lack of variety. All the leashes seemed to be examples of the dog walking leash, no matter what they were made of. Some were fancy, some were plain but all of them consisted of a strap of some sort with a snap at one end and a small loop at the other. That’s okay for average walking purposes, but at the time I was into dog obedience training and needed a dog obedience leash. That’s one reason why I started making my own.
If you are going to be doing obedience training with your dog according to the standard principles of the yank-and-pull (YP) school you need a slightly different leash. The main difference is the size of the loop. In a usual dog obedience training leash the loop will make up around half the total length of the leash. You hold the leash in your right hand at waist level with your thumb in the loop right at the point where the loop grows out of the standing part of the leash. The point of this is that when you give a correction you can drop a lot of slack into the leash just by opening your hand. This extra slack gives a good solid snap to the correction when the dog pulls all the slack out of the leash. I’ve never found a true dog obedience leash in any pet store. The only thing that resembles it is an adjustable leash which appears from time to time. In these leashes, the loop is adjustable by means of a sliding buckle. That lets you have a simple loop in the end or a long loop, just as you wish. That means that the same leash can be used as a dog walking leash or a dog obedience leash by simply sliding a buckle back and forth. This is actually a really good compromise.
I should say something about yank-and-pull training. It looks harsh and it can be hard on the dog, but it works, and it works very well. Simply put, it is one of the fastest and most reliable methods of getting a green dog to a basic obedience level. What I don’t like about basic YP training is that it treats the dog like a little machine without dignity. The dog works only because it has been conditioned to do so, not because it likes or respects the handler. Leash training a dog this way certainly gets snappy responses that win in the obedience competition, but is he happy? Are his eyes bright? Is his tail wagging? Those questions may not matter to a hard-core obedience competitor, but they are very important to me. In fact, to me, if the dog isn’t getting a real boot out of doing his job, then the training has failed.
After all, why do you have a dog in the first place? Probably for companionship. Maybe also to offer some degree of protection from muggers or burglars, but companionship is always at the top of the list. Then, you decide to train the dog and get swept up in the various schools of dog training. Don’t lose your priorities! Developing a good, happy relationship with your dog is the point of dog leash training.