Leather Dog Leashes: What to Look For

It’s easy to become overwhelmed in the veritable ocean of dog products available online and in pet stores. Especially for the new dog owner, it really comes down to guesswork when you are facing the wall of options and trying to decide what the best choice is for your dog and for you. Stress here is on the “you” part because it’s often overlooked; if you’re the one walking the dog, you need to think not only of the dog’s comfort and safety but of your own as well.

Retractable Leashes are among the most controversial when I read blogs and reviews. Most dog experts agree that they should be reserved for use only with dogs that are highly trained, as they have questionable strength and control over the dog. They are also notorious for causing string burns. For the most part, a review of the literature would lead you to discount this option altogether - the cons well outweigh the pros.

Nylon Leashes are among the most common and plentiful on the market. They are cheap and easy to mass produce. The myriad of colors and patterns can make you feel as though you’re really personalizing the “stepping-out” look for you and your pup, but, buyer beware; Nylon also runs the risk of rope burn on the hands - much like the retractable option. Overall, it can be a cheap solution when looking for a leash that has some fun options and can be a nice lightweight option for the new teeny tiny puppy that you’re trying to keep safe.

Metal Chain Leashes, while the hefty ones can be strong, are weighty. They may be the only answer for a large dog who chews through most other leashes. The downsides? They are hard on the hands and they have been known to take out a dog’s tooth if one happens to get caught in a link.

Leather is a favorite material among dog trainers and experienced owners alike. You’ll want to look for full-grain leashes to get the maximum strength and durability that leather has to offer. The higher the oz. of leather used, the thicker the strap, the greater the strength. Sounds simple enough but do yourself a favor and read the label. Avoid “top grain”, “split grain” and “:genuine leather”, all of which are by-products of full-grain leather. Leather’s pliability will make the strap conform to your hands over time and allow some give with sudden pulls. You should also look for leather edges that have been “finished”. This means that a leather edge is not simply cut and painted to match the top color. A good leather edge should be beveled on the grain (top) side as well as the flesh (bottom) side to form a rounded side to the strap. This edge should also be burnished by friction using a burnishing agent such as gum tragacanth or beeswax. These details require much more time in the making of any leather leash or strap or belt for that matter, but they seal the grain and flesh sides together at the side edges, make the side edge look smooth and polished, improve the life of the strap or leash, and are the hallmark of a quality leather piece.

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Beveled edges before (left) and after (right) edge burnishing. Note the rounded “sides” to the straps resulting from the beveling and then the sealed edge on the right after it’s burnished.

Beveled edges before (left) and after (right) edge burnishing. Note the rounded “sides” to the straps resulting from the beveling and then the sealed edge on the right after it’s burnished.