Ask Kathy About Leashes

By Kathy Santo | Updated: April 30 2019

Student’s Question:

“Whenever I take my 70lb dog for a walk, she pulls so hard that I’m afraid the leash is going to break. My friends say I should get her a chain leash, but I love her skinny, pink, rhinestone-encrusted one because it matches her collar. Are any of the chain leashes decorative?

Kathy’s Answer:

So many things wrong with this situation, so few words to explain all of them in detail. Maybe we should start with the pink elephant in the living room, which is the fact that your dog is dragging you down the street, and the advice you’ve been given is not to train her but to get a stronger leash. While I agree that equipment can enhance your dog’s training, the first thing you must do is seek out a dog training professional to teach you how to teach your dog to walk politely on a leash.

My school is in Waldwick, NJ, and if you live in the area, you should come to class sooner, rather than later. Training, when done with patience and consistency, combined with adequate exercise, will not only enhance your relationship with your dog, it will make your walks much more enjoyable.

But your question was about leashes, and I do feel very strongly that there is a proper leash for every dog. And while some functional leashes are decorative, yours is (at the moment) a case of form before function. Attempting to walk a 70lb, untrained dog on a decorative leash is the equivalent of walking her on a piece of linguini. That leash would be better suited for a smaller dog that would never entertain the idea of pulling.

The laws of physics come into play here, and in my opinion, the stronger the dog, the wider the leash should be in order to give you more control. My preference has always been leather leashes because they feel good in your hand and (if well made) last longer than other types of materials.

Going into even more detail, I’ll only choose leashes with bolt or lobster claw attachments, and never “parrot” or pressure-type clips. Since we’re doing a leash makeover, we might as well address the collar issue, too. Do yourself a favor and save the skinny one she’s wearing now for a special occasion, after she’s trained. Your trainer will advise you as to which collar will work best for her, but for now, you can’t go wrong with a flat buckle collar.

If her head is bigger than her neck, or if she tends to back out of her collar to get free, you would be better off choosing a greyhound/martingale collar, designed especially for dogs with those issues. Dogs in my school who overpower and/or outweigh their owners do remarkably well when trained on a Gentle Leader, or Halti, and we leave their buckle collars as a place to hang their I.D. tags.

Ultimately, even with the proper equipment, you’re still going to have to do some basic training with your dog. But within a few weeks, you should see big improvements in your dog’s ability to walk politely on leash, and you’ll no longer be mistaken for a team in training for the Iditarod!

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Waldwick, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.


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