Best Leashes and Harnesses to Keep Your Dog Safe

As a professional dog walker in suburban neighborhoods of Colorado, I often bring my own leash to appointments. Understandably, clients sometimes inquire as to why I do this— and it’s a great question.

Throughout my years walking dogs, I’ve leashed up dogs of all kinds: from tiny Chihuahuas to enormous Swiss Mountain Dogs, from relaxed seniors to hyper adolescents. For all their differences, every dog I walk has one thing in common: their owners have trusted me with keeping them safe. So, my top priority, no matter what, is the safety of the dog in my care. Because of that, I’m selective about the gear I use when walking my clients’ dogs.

Here, I provide a breakdown of my thoughts on the various collars, leads, and harnesses available:

🛑  Retractable leashes

Some dog owners like retractable leashes for the flexibility they provide, allowing dogs a wide area to follow their noises. I’m all for letting dogs enjoy the delectable scents along a walk route, but I’m afraid the potential risks of using a retractable leash can often outweigh the benefits.

Retractable leashes give owners less control over their pups, with some extending up to 26 feet. Less control of your dog means less of a chance to pull them back from potentially dangerous situations, such as other dogs who may not be friendly, or passing cars if you’re walking near a road. I’ve seen retractable leash cables become tangled or knotted, and even snap altogether. I’ve also seen exuberant dogs pull retractable leash handles right out of owners’ hands unexpectedly, leading to dogs bolting on walks. 

If your dog is small and has amazing recall, they may be the exception, but, for most dogs in my care, I steer clear of retractable leashes. 

🛑  Breakaway collars

Less common in the marketplace, breakaway collars may be new to you. A breakaway collar looks similar to a standard clasp or buckle collar but it has a latch that releases immediately when the collar is pulled. The idea is that the collar will protect your dog from getting their collar snagged or stuck on something and not being able to get away. 

The problem, though, is that these collars can easily break away unintentionally while walking. To prevent this possibility, owners must attach their leashes to both of the two metal rings on breakaway collars, but not all breakaway collars even have this feature.

In my opinion, these collars are better used on indoor-only cats, whose collars may indeed get snagged on a houseplant, furniture or other hazard, but who aren’t at risk of fleeing on a walk like your dog. These are also great for keeping ID tags on your pups but prevent accidents while your dogs are playing in your yard or at daycare.

🛑  Standard clasp or buckle collars

While standard clasp or buckle collars are probably the most common to see in stores, I opt for more reliable gear when walking clients’ pups. There’s nothing wrong with a standard collar, per se, but there are safer collars on the market. They are ideal for keeping identification and dog tags on your pup, but should not be used directly with a leash. Standard collars must be sized just right to prevent dogs from slipping out of them, and, even when sized well, dogs with large necks or small heads are still at risk of slipping. When safety is your top priority, why risk your dog slipping out of a collar unexpectedly?

🟢 Martingale collars 

Martingale collars—also known as no-slip collars—look like standard collars, with an added strip of fabric on one side. This extra flap connects to your leash, and if your dog pulls, the smaller loop tightens, restricting the entire collar. When its settings are adjusted properly for your dog, a martingale collar will not hurt or choke your pup, as it will only tighten to the width of their neck and no further.

Martingale collars give owners—and dog walkers—more control, preventing dogs from slipping or backing out of their collars. Most rescues suggest or require fosters and adopters to use these collars until their pup is comfortable with their new family.

🟢 Slip leads (English or other similar style)

Another piece of dog walking gear that will prevent accidental slips is a lead, or “slip lead.” You may have seen these used at your vet clinic. They look similar to leashes, but they’re actually a leash and a collar in one. Slip leads work well for dogs who need a lot of control or if they are pullers.

Owners can loop one end of the lead through an opening at the opposite end, creating either a “P” shape for walking your dog on your left, or a “9” shape for when your dog walks on your right. Facing your dog, slip the lead onto their neck so it sits just below their head. Then, adjust the stopper until the collar portion is touching your dog’s neck, but not too tight. It should sit high up, below their head and ears, rather than low, closer to their body. That way it doesn’t restrict airflow in their throat. 

We keep these on-hand in the event of an emergency. They fit all dogs and allow for maximum control to keep pups safe and by our side on dog walks.

🟢 Harnesses

A good harness is my favorite gear to use for dog walking. When properly fitted for your dog, harnesses are not only secure and reliable, but also comfortable for your dog to wear out in the world. Harnesses are also great for rescue pups who may need more care when handling.

I recommend bringing your dog along to the store so you can try on a few harnesses to see which brand, style, and size fits them best. Since a harness covers more of your dog’s body than a leash or lead, sizing takes a bit more thought. A dog who’s barrel-chested, like a Great Dane or a boxer, will require a different fit than, say, a pug or bulldog. When fitted correctly, you ​​should be able to comfortably fit two fingers under each strap of the harness. It should be tight enough to prevent your dog from slipping out. There are also some that are more like leads rather than the softer fabric harnesses used for small dogs.

All in all – each dog is so different, and their needs can easily be met using the right gear. In my eyes, I would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to taking care of your pets!

Have any questions about what may work best for your pup? Feel free to reach out to us via email – PawsitiveVibesPetcareCo@gmail OR message us in your Time to Pet Client Portal.

Are local to Broomfield, Colorado or Westminster, Colorado? We offer daily dog walks and vacation care for your cats, dogs, and anything in between! We would love to meet you and your pets :] Check out our Service Area & Services page for more information on how we can work together. 

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