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How Long Should A Dog Leash Be?


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Have you ever wondered how long a dog leash should be and if you should go for a 4 foot vs 6 foot leash or maybe a retractable leash that changes in length?

Or how about a:

  • Short leash tab
  • Standard retractable leash
  • Super long dog leash?

QUICK TIP: Colby likes the 4 foot nylon leash for his baby puppies. He brings home the guide dog puppies when they are 8 weeks old and he always uses a 4 foot leash with the babies.

Doxie on leash

Admittedly, dog leash shopping can be confusing, and as a former professional dog walker and dog mom of active pups, I’m here to tell you that it depends.

That may not have been the answer you were looking for, but hear me out!

There are 4 main criteria that will help you decide on the best leash length for your particular dog:

  • Location 
  • Activity 
  • Dog temperament
  • Dog size

For instance, are you taking your friendly vs reactive pup on a potty break in a busy downtown area? 

Barbara walking dogs
Walking my dog Missy (left) and client pup Ada (right) 

Going for a walk in your rural neighborhood with or without leash laws? 

Hiking at a State Park with your friendly vs reactive vs prey-driven dog? 

Training for a canicross run with your athletic big vs small dog?

Attending an obedience class followed by a visit to a pet-friendly store?

There’s literally a different leash length that’s going to work best for each of these locations, activities and types of dogs, and in this blog post, I’ll walk you through all of them!

Ready? Let’s go explore some dog leashes! 

Different Lengths Of Dog Leashes

Dog Leashes
Different length dog leashes

First things first, let’s cover the different lengths of available dog leashes from shortest to longest:

  • 10-12” leash tabs
  • 3-10 ft leashes
  • Long dog leashes > 10 ft
  • Retractable leashes up to 30’
  • Extra long dog leashes > 30 ft
  • Super long dog leashes between 50’-100’

Additionally, there are static leashes, bungee leashes, retractable leashes and leashes without handles.

And of course we can’t forget about the different materials of dog leashes like nylon, rope, leather, biothane, cable and chain.

While these different leash lengths and materials may seem like overkill, I promise there’s a time for all of them! 

Standard Dog Leash Length

Your average dog leash length is 6 feet.

From left to right: Walking former clients Coco, Jasmine, Oliver and Brutus on 6’ nylon leashes
From left to right: Walking former clients Coco, Jasmine, Oliver and Brutus on 6’ nylon leashes

That’s also the best length leash for dog training that most dog trainers are going to ask you to use in their obedience classes.

Many are even going to specify that their preference is a soft 6’ leather leash

I remember my very first obedience class that I took. It was taught by seasoned dog trainer and agility expert Rhonda in Leesburg, Virginia. 

She (literally!) sold the entire class on the 6’ leather leashes she had at her dog school. I still have mine and it’s still in excellent condition although I bought it back in 2012 and have used the heck out of it!

Durability is definitely one benefit of leather leashes – unless your puppy decides to chew through it. So there’s that!

Ultimately, the material choice is yours, and there’s certainly pros and cons for every dog leash material out there.

Best Leash Length For Recall Training

But of course there are different lengths and types of dog leashes for training depending on what exactly you’re looking to train.

For example, recall training!

That’s what it’s called when you’re teaching your dog to come back to you when you call him. 

The recall is one of the most challenging obedience commands you can teach your dog because YOU have to be more interesting to your dog than all the distractions surrounding them.

So the best way to teach a solid recall is to have your dog on a long leash. 

That way, you can gently tug on the leash to redirect and remind them which way you want them to go when you call them – yours!

For starters, a 10 ft leash will do but as your recall training becomes more advanced, you’ll want to practice on longer leashes. 

Once your pup’s recall becomes more reliable, you can start using a longer leash along with letting the leash drag on the ground rather than holding it. 

That way, you can step on it or pick it back up as necessary. 

Tracking Dog Lead Lengths

Dog leashes for tracking, scent work and gundog training also require a long leash. 

The concept is similar to the recall training approach – you want your dog to be somewhat independent but remain in control to guide them as necessary. 

These leashes can be as long as 100 feet and are also known as check cords. 

Some check cords don’t have handles on them so they don’t get stuck on brush or rocks as your dog is dragging them around.  

By the way, the best way to attach long lines to dogs is with a dog harness rather than a collar to prevent neck injuries. 

Long dog leashes can also be a great tool if you want to keep your pup safe when they’re swimming. That way, you can always reel them back in as needed. 

But long dog leashes can also come in handy if your dog is recovering from surgery because it allows them to be somewhat independent while you remain in control.

Best Leash Length For Dog Walking 

When we’re talking about the best leash length for dog walks, there’s a few different things to consider.

For instance, are we walking our dog in a busy downtown area with lots of people and other dogs?

If we are and the dog is people-or dog reactive, a short 3-4’ leash is going to make it easier to control your pup. 

An alternative could be a 6’ leash with a built-in traffic handle.

That particular handle is on the far end of your dog leash, closest to your dog’s head. When you need to (re)gain control of your dog, you can grab it to keep your dog right next to you as opposed to several feet away. 

But if the dog is friendly and behaves nicely around other people and dogs, it’s fine to walk them on a 5-6’ leash in an urban setting.

Now, if you’re walking your reactive dog in a rural area with lots of open space, you can still walk them on a longer 6-10’ leash since it’s a lot easier to get some distance between your dog and another oncoming dog. 

That’s also a good opportunity to walk your dog on a retractable dog leash

Those types of leashes are not a good idea in busy areas with lots of oncoming traffic because it’s very easy for dogs (and handlers!) to get tangled up in them. 

But in wide open spaces with good visibility of what’s coming your way, they’re usually fine.

However, you’ll always want to be aware of local leash laws. 

Sometimes, they specify the maximum allowed length of a leash, so pay attention and choose your leash accordingly.

Best Leash Length For A Puppy

A 4′ nylon leash is good for your baby pups (8-12 weeks old) and tiny breeds but as they get older a 6’ dog leash is a good length to walk your puppy on. 

It gives them enough room to explore a bit and pick up their doggie news without straying too far from you. 

That also makes it easier for them to pick up polite leash walking skills and pay attention to you as opposed to walking on a retractable leash or a long leash in general.

If you’re walking a toy breed puppy, you’ll want to choose a lighter leash than if you walked a larger breed puppy.

So remember to pay attention to the leash width when you’re leash shopping for your puppy!

Tip:If your pup is still learning not to bite leashes, you can walk them on a bite-proof cable leash instead of a nylon or leather leash!

What Leash Is Best For A Dog That Pulls?

The leashes that ALWAYS worked best for me when I walked client dogs who pulled were 6’ dual handle dog leashes.

Remember, they’re the ones with the additional built-in handle I mentioned in a previous section. 

Here’s another tip for your dog who pulls hard on leash – combine the dual handle dog leash with a: 

You’ll be able to correct your dog’s pulling with a tug on the martingale collar, the head collar gives you control over their head, and the no pull dog harness will turn your dog’s body when he tries to pull.

Besides adding physical weight, a dog backpack also gives your dog a job. Both combined means your dog has less energy to spend on pulling!

Best Leash Length For Hiking

As far as how long a dog leash should be on a hike, it depends on your dog’s temperament and local leash laws. 

If your dog isn’t reactive and walks nicely on leash, you can use a standard 6-10’ leash

Technically speaking, you could even walk them on a longer leash but I’d only do that in wide open spaces where you can see oncoming traffic and wildlife. 

It also depends on the local leash laws of the area where you’re hiking, so you may only be allowed to walk your pup on a leash up to 6’ in length.

Generally speaking, long leashes don’t belong on narrow trails with lots of brush. 

Always remember that you’re not alone in public hiking areas and that some fellow hikers may be afraid of dogs.

You may also want to consider walking your well-behaved pup on a hands-free dog leash set

These types of leash systems consist of a leash attachment with one clip on either side and a belt. 

You wear the belt around your waist and the leash clips to your dog’s collar or harness on one end, and to your belt on the other end. 

Some hands-free leash systems also come with a bungee leash attachment, which is super comfortable because it optimizes your posture and absorbs a lot of shock. 

Most bungees come in 4’ lengths and extend to 6’.

Now, if your dog’s leash skills aren’t the best, I’d keep them on a shorter 4-6’ dual handle leash

That makes it much easier and safer to maneuver them past oncoming traffic as opposed to wrapping your leash around your wrist multiple times. 

Again, combine them with a dog training collar such as a martingale and a dog backpack, and I promise your hikes are going to be much more enjoyable! 

Bonus: Your pup can carry their own water bottles.

Hands-Free Dog Leash Lengths 

If you enjoy doing any activity hands-free, I recommend you get a hands-free bungee leash set!

You can walk, hike and run on it.

As mentioned before, most hands-free bungee leashes come in 4’ lengths and extend to 6’.

Dog Leash Lengths For Vet Visits & Pet-Friendly Stores

Last but not least, let’s talk about the ideal leash length for vet visits and socialization exercises in pet-friendly stores and al-fresco patios.

Generally speaking, the leash should be as short as possible, closer to the 3-4’ length for both, or even a shorter leash tab.

That’s because you’re going to encounter a lot of other dogs and cats at the vet’s, and there will always be some that are reactive or obviously not feeling well. 

So in order to be respectful of other dog and cat patients, it’s best to keep your pup on a short leash, and definitely not on a retractable leash.

You can also use a short leash tab, but that’s only going to be a good option for medium to large and extra large dogs.

Given its short length of 10-12”, you won’t be able to comfortably walk dogs with short legs that are close to the ground on that type of leash.

The same concept applies to visits to dog-friendly shops like your pet retail stores, home improvement stores and coffee shops or restaurants that allow dogs on their patios.

Bottom Line

While the standard dog leash length is 6’, there are a large variety of leash lengths to choose from. 

Remember, the best leash length for your particular setting depends on your dog’s temperament, leash walking skills and where you’re walking or running them along with local leash laws.

Shorter leashes as well as leash tabs and dual handle dog leashes are great when you need to quickly regain control of your dog and keep them right next to you.

For example, on narrow hiking paths, in busy downtown areas, at the vet’s, groomer’s or pet retail stores.

Longer leashes are great to use in wide open spaces as well as for recall training and specific dog sports like tracking, nosework or gundog training. 

Now we’d love to hear from you! What’s your favorite leash length and do you have a favorite type of leash in general? 

Let us know in the comment section below!

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How Long Should A Dog Leash Be? - Dachshund standing on leash

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