Best Dog Leash of 2021
The Max and Neo Triple Handle wins the gold medal, hands down. Its three neoprene-lined handles give you multiple options for easy control over your dog while providing a comfortable grip. We found the middle handle unique to this leash and favored its placement to that of the handle closest to the dog, which was hard to reach without reining your dog in close (though useful in tight situations). The leash has reflective stitching to keep you and your dog visible to passing cars during evening walks, and a handy metal ring at the top of the leash to attach small accessories like poop bags. Finally, this model stood up well in our durability testing, showing minimal fraying when rubbed against a knife, no distress when firmly tugged on, and remaining functional after dragging.
Because of its triple handle design and neoprene handle lining, it is important to note that this Max and Neo model is heavier in hand than other dog leashes tested. This was not a deterrent for our testers, but it may not be best for small dogs or those looking for a small, lightweight, or packable leash. Medium to large-sized dogs will benefit most from this leash, especially if they are strong pullers. Overall, this leash should be considered by owners who don't mind the added weight of additional handles, as it provides excellent control and comfort during walks.
If you and your pup are always seeking adventure, the versatile Ruffwear Roamer may be for you. The Roamer features a sturdy clasp, two handles, a bungee middle, and an adjustable buckled handle that can also be put comfortably around one's waist or be used to secure your dog as needed. Because of these features, we found ourselves reaching for this leash when headed to meet up with friends, go for a bike ride or a run, or take a stroll down the beach. The bungee was especially useful in situations where testers and their dogs moved quickly, like biking. This leash's extra stretch (almost four feet) was much appreciated when the dog abruptly pulled in a different direction, which prevented sudden jerking movements that could be downright dangerous on a bike. One of our pairs of testers has even used it for skijoring in the winter. Additionally, the Roamer is easy to stuff into a pack because it weighs less and is less bulky than other elastic leashes we've tested.
However, testers noted that this same elasticity meant that they had less control over their dog in situations where slack needed to be taken out of the leash quickly. Unless the walker can reach down and grab the handle right above the clasp attached to the dog, it is hard to make quick adjustments to your dog's direction or action. Because of this, we recommend the Ruffwear Roamer Leash for those looking for a practical leash for many outings and activities where tight, constant control over your pup's roaming is not necessary.
The PetSafe Nylon Leash is the most basic leash we tested, in a good way. Simple, durable, and functional, this flat leash is excellent for those leash training a puppy or other situations where control is of the essence. Available for a reasonable price point, both the clasp and nylon held up very well during our durability test. It also comes in a variety of colors to match your preference.
There's nothing wrong with this featureless model, but if you appreciate bells and whistles, then this may not be the leash for you. It doesn't have multiple handles to choke up on the leash for increased control, and you'll have to carry your own bottle opener because this one doesn't have it. It is fundamental in its design, meant for easy function. However, the affordable PetSafe Nylon Leash is calling your name if you are looking for a simple leash that gets the job done without any fuss.
Retractable leashes are a handy tool for those who prefer to give their dog the freedom to roam during a walk. The Fida Retractable Leash did just that during our testing while remaining lightweight, comfortable to hold, and featuring reflective banding for additional safety on evening walks. We found the leash's flat nylon tape to be very smooth when extending or retracting, and it held up well after being dropped and tugged. The pause and lock mechanisms worked efficiently without fail by pushing the button forward and down. We also appreciated that it came in multiple yet simple color options.
The downsides of this leash are few. The leash had no accessory ring for items like a poop bag, often a necessity when taking your dog on a walk. It also may get twisted while retracting quickly, but we noticed this was easy to fix if it occurred. Finally, it was not the most durable leash we tested when rubbed against a knife, as the nylon tape is thin. We would not recommend leaving your dog alone with this leash when chewing may occur. However, for those taking their restless, sniff-tastic dog on a walk, the Fida model is an excellent retractable option that offers a compact build and the comfort of reflective materials.
The Ruffwear Knot-a-Leash immediately stood out to our testers for one huge reason — its minimalist design makes it extremely compact. Great for those who like to explore with their dog off-leash, the Knot-a-Leash is ideal for taking your dog from car to trailhead and is easy to stash. The leash also has features like reflective material, a loop to attach accessories, and an incredibly durable locking carabiner to hook to your dog's collar. The carabiner can be locked by twisting a small piece over the gate, providing extra security when attached to your dog.
During testing, it was noted that the leash was a little short, coming in at only 5 feet compared to the 6 feet of many other leashes, but it was not a significant issue. We tested the "small" sized leash, which is 7mm thick, and found it to be a little flimsy when used on larger dogs. We would recommend using the "large" 11mm leash for pups that require a more sturdy leash. This leash's rope held up poorly when tested for fraying, while the carabiner attachment held firm in all situations. We would not recommend this for dogs who like to chew. However, it is an excellent choice for those searching for a compact, lightweight, no-fuss leash that's ready for your next adventure and easy to stash when it's no longer needed.
Like other multi-handle leashes we tested, the Primal Pet Gear Leash provides additional control via its second handle while embracing comfort through extra padding. It features an accessory attachment ring, reflective stitching, and it performed well in our durability tests. We also appreciated the multitude of color options to choose from, ensuring that you can find a leash that matches you and your dog's aesthetic.
As with other models, this leash's thicker construction (necessary for the dual handles) made it heavier to hold than a more basic leash. We recommend using this leash on medium to large dogs who may not mind the additional weight and require more control.
Rope leashes have become trendier in recent years as the stylish look of rock climbing ropes has made its way to the pet world. The BAAPET 5FT Strong Leash stood out for its sturdy feel, affordability, and comfortable foam handle. This leash provided easy and sturdy control of all the dogs it was tested on, all at a reasonable price. We appreciated its extremely reflective material at night and the squishy foam handle that prevents rope burn when tugged by a dog.
We did notice that the foam handle tends to collect dust over time and is more susceptible to wear and tear compared to the rest of the leash (we were able to scratch a large chunk off by just using our fingernails). The rope itself frayed a decent amount during our friction test, but otherwise held up well and did not collect much dirt. For its affordable price, rock climbing aesthetic, and comfortable handle, this rope leash should definitely be considered.
If you have a dog who likes to chew, but still want to enjoy the freedom of a retractable leash, the TUG 360 Retractable Leash has considered your needs. The TUG 360 itself is not chew-proof but arrives with a special, removable extension made of a thicker material that can be added to the dog's end of the leash. This extension is more durable than the tape of the leash if your dog decides to lunge for a mid-walk snack. Other merits of the TUG 360 are its tangle-free construction. It was designed with a special retraction opening that prevents the flat nylon tape from twisting and getting tangled on itself.
As noted before, the leash's actual nylon tape is not chew-proof and stood up poorly during our durability test. It also has no additional features, causing it to rank lower than other leashes. Finally, this retractable leash felt bulky compared to others of similar size and length. For someone who wants a retractable leash, doesn't mind a little bulk, values aesthetic appeal, and may want the added security of the chewing attachment, we definitely recommend this leash.
No matter who was testing the Embark Urban Leash, all immediately noted its pattern's aesthetic appeal. Available in many different options, the embroidered print received compliments no matter where we went. Testers also noted that the clasp was very easy to use one-handed, as part of the outside simply presses in when pressure is applied.
Aside from its patterned face fabric, the Embark Urban Leash is very simple. A flat leash constructed of nylon, this leash had no additional features to it. It also was considerably shorter than other leashes tested, coming only in a 4-foot length. Finally, while the nylon held up during our durability testing, the embroidered side frayed quickly and was easy to separate from the rest of the leash. With that in mind, we would recommend this model to those who highly value style and prefer a basic, short leash.
The incredibly sturdy ZippyPaws Climbers Leash is a notably thick leash constructed with rock climbing rope. This rope leash held up well with minimal fraying during our durability test when rubbed against a knife, maintaining its structural integrity.
While aiding in durability, the thickness of this leash did prove to be cumbersome to our testers. The leash is stiff due to its thickness, and does not twist or bend as well as the other leashes tested. Also, the thick material makes it harder for those with smaller hands to hold while it's coiled up. Overall, we would recommend this leash for someone who values a sturdy leash above all else.
Why You Should Trust Us
For nearly every year of her life, Sarah has owned a dog. She's had tuggers, chewers, sniffers, snappers, and mellow dogs, amounting to thousands of walks. She knows what differentiates a good leash from a great leash and can pick out things that may grow frustrating over time. Together with the help of her dog, Indy, and their friends (both dog and human), she used her knowledge of dog walking and training and technical features to test each leash diligently. Each leash was put through an extensive testing process, used on both Indy and the dogs of friends. That includes a Husky, a Vizsla, a Newfoundland, a Saint Bernard, and many other mixed-breed dogs. Leashes were then ranked based upon metrics such as feel (control, tug, fit), durability, features, and style.
This review began with research, led by the input of our lead tester and dog-parent colleagues. We surveyed the available options for hours, comparing specs and including a wide range of leash types, before selecting the best models to test side by side. We created a structured and repeatable test plan to assess each leash across specific performance metrics. We attached each leash to stable structures and pulled with all our might, and used a knife blade as a friction test to imitate wear and tear. We also embarked on many walks, bike rides, and runs to assess the overall feel and comfort of the handles, which features are useful and which aren't, and how much each model helped increase our control over our pups. Our extensive lineup of human and canine testers helped us cover a wide range of dog personalities and leach uses, allowing our assessments to be comprehensive and useful to anyone looking for a new leash.
Analysis and Test Results
Through thorough, side by side testing of an array of different dog leashes, we were able to identify the best dog leashes for a multitude of purposes. While some leashes are basic by design, others go all out to provide all of the features you may need while taking your canine companion for a stroll. Below, we highlight which models did best in our specific performance metrics.
A leash's feel is determined by a couple of different factors: what does it feel like in your hand, and what kind of control does it give you when walking your dog? We tested each leash with feel in mind, having multiple people hold, wear (when applicable), and use each leash, comparing the feel of the leash in their hands.
With three handles spaced along its length, the Max and Neo leash provides plenty of control, which our testers with larger, pulling dogs love. It's not a great option for small dogs, though, as there is just more material than necessary for little dog bodies. The PetSafe Nylon Leash also scored high in the feel category. While this leash is very simple in its design, that same simplicity gives the walker quick and easy control over their dog. This could be extremely beneficial for someone who is training a dog to walk on-leash, as it allows for corrections to be made without a fuss. We also favored the ease of use of the retractable models we tested.
The Ruffwear Roamer Leash is interesting to observe in this category. With two handles, each comfortable to hold, it gains points. It also has a long, very stretchy bungee that allows for elasticity when running or moving quickly, but also results in a loss of control when quick corrections to the dog's direction are necessary. These factors were taken into account, ultimately resulting in a slightly above average "Feel" score for this leash.
Not every leash is designed to have many features, which can be a positive thing — but certain features make a leash great for many pet-parents. From accessory loops (for attaching items like a poop bag dispenser) to reflective stitching to bungees, additional handles, and more, each leash's features were utilized and critically assessed.
The Ruffwear Roamer's primary handle can also turn into a waistband with a padded area in case your dog is a strong puller. Its a streamlined and unbulky option without many buckles or attachments.
The Max and Neo Triple Handle Leash also tested high in this category. Not only did testers appreciate the three different handles, which offers various options for handling their dog, but it also has an accessory ring and paddled handles. This accessory ring enables the walker to attach items like a poop bag holder or treat bag, and the padded handles provide extra comfort. All of these features combined resulted in a high score in this category.
Durability is a necessity for every dog leash, both for the dog's safety and the safety of others. We took our durability testing seriously, doing all we could to simulate the wear and tear a leash may accumulate through years of use. The first test we performed was our tug test. This test was meant to find out how sturdy the clasp end of each leash was, by attaching it to a stable pillar and tugging as hard as possible multiple times on the leash. We followed this up with a car test, where each leash was closed into the trunk of a car and driven down the street, seeing how the leash held up to dragging along the pavement. Finally, each leash was sliced ten times in the same spot by a steak knife, testing its fabric's durability and noting how it frayed.
Constructed with similarly thick nylon material, we were impressed by the durability of the Max and Neo Triple Handle Leash and the Primal Pet Leash. These leashes showed very minimal signs of fraying from the knife and have functioning, sturdy clasps after tugging and dragging. We like that the TUG retractable leach comes with an attachment to reduce the risk of a serious chewer getting through the leash. The leash material itself is very thin, but the reinforced attachment provides a much more robust material close to the dog's mouth to increase the amount of time it would take for Fido to chomp through it.
The Ruffwear Knot-a-Leash has a very secure carabiner attachment, but the rope is thin and could be chewed through quickly. We wish the BAAPET handle had more durability, as the foam handle was easy to chip away, but the leash itself is thick and should maintain its integrity for many walks. We found the external sheath of this rope leash weaker than others, but its inner core is more densely braided and stronger than its external cover. Overall, every leash we tested has pretty strong durability and should last several months to years. None had any unacceptable flaws in regards to durability.
While it does not directly impact a leash's function, style can still play a role when picking a leash for you and your dog. To account for this, we ranked leashes based upon the variety of colors and designs available and the general look of each leash. We had all our dog parents in the test crew, as well as our friends and neighbors, weigh in with their thoughts on looks, too.
Soaring to the top of this category with its unique, embroidered pattern, the Embark Urban gained compliments wherever it went. To top it off, Embark offers a wide variety of colors and patterns, giving many options to choose from to ensure their style (and that of their dog) is accounted for. The Ruffwear Knot-A-Leash also stands out as a stylish option in Lake Tahoe's mountain town neighborhoods, where most testing was conducted.
After countless walks, runs, specific tests, and taking the needs of both canine and homo sapien into consideration, we bring you our comprehensive review of the best dog leashes available today. We hope you and your dog find the leash that will best meet your needs, whatever they may be.
— Sarah Sherman