Dog Leashes, Leads & Lines: The Ultimate Dog Trainer's Guide

Dog Leashes, Leads & Lines: The Ultimate Dog Trainer's Guide

Dog Leashes, Leads & Lines: The Ultimate Dog Trainer's Guide

A Primer for Dog Handlers, Trainers, and Hardcore Enthusiasts

Isn’t it about time someone writes and releases an all-encompassing guide to dog leashes, leads, and lines? We noticed that there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding this topic due to the influence of (and often conflicting) so-called facts from the experts.

Honestly, we couldn’t even find much in-depth information about leashes and lines other than a few blog posts! And nothing as comprehensive as this guide.

Let’s face it: Ray Allen Manufacturing has been leading the industry of high-end, quality, durable K9 and working dog supplies since 1948. Handlers and trainers in the world of K9 tactical, working dog, and high-intensity dog training trust our name, often with their lives.

Sourcing from our deep in-house knowledge, we decided to put together this primer covering everything you need (and want) to know about dog leashes, leads, and lines. You’ll learn important terminology, what these tools are used for, and why they were designed, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of style. We’ll even walk you through the process of how to choose the right leashes, leads, and lines for your training program.

And if there’s one thing we know as well as dogs, it’s that there are a wide variety of training programs and schools of thought regarding the use of these critical tools. Have no fear! Throughout this guide, we have plenty of highlights calling attention to the various training methods. Heck, you might just discover something new in the following pages.

Be sure to check out all of our other tactical K9 guides and helpful product comparison resources.

Definitions & Terminology


A Leash is a general term used to describe a rope or tether that attaches to the collar or harness of a dog that is held onto by a person such as a trainer or a handler for improved control. Leashes come in many different styles, materials, and can serve a variety of purposes, including K9 training, active-duty work such as patrol, SWAT, and stakeouts, and simply for walks and exercise. A leash provides the handler better control over a dog, helping to restrain and guide the animal during training, work, and play.

Dog leash from Ray Allen Manufacturing


Lead often refers to a shorter dog leash, often measuring under 1 foot in length, though the terms leash and lead are interchangeable. Commonly referred to as traffic leads or working leads, this style of dog leash is designed to be worn by medium to large-sized dogs that have already been trained to walk close to the handler on a regular leash. Working leads are also known as a hip leash or a waist lead, typically ranging from 32 inches to 52 inches in length. Regularly used in police and military K9 work with highly trained and aggressive dogs, a lead is designed to keep a dog close to the handler’s side while also enabling the handler to rapidly release and deploy the animal when a hostile or chase situation unfolds.

Dog lead from Ray Allen Manufacturing

Line / Long Line

A Line is a long, loose dog leash that attaches to a dog’s collar or harness to keep the animal anchored to the handler during tracking, scent work, or hunting. Lines are made from a variety of materials and lengths. Lines used for tracking often measure from around 15 to 30 feet but can be as short as 8 feet or even as long as 50 to 100 feet. Long lines require both handler and dog to be trained in a highly specific style of use; the line itself forms a strong relationship between the handler and the dog, acting as a communication method over distance.

Dog line


Bolt Snap

A bolt snap clip is a type of snap-on hook with a manually operated bolt action slide gate. Made from brass or stainless steel so that it doesn’t corrode, this is the standard rated 225 snap clip seen on the end of many of our dog leashes. The size of these clips is based on the size of the strap that it connects to, aka, the width of the dog leash, ranging from ¾” to ½”, ⅜”. The bolt-snap clip is one of the most common types of clip in the world.

Bolt snap leash hardware


A D-ring is a metal ring-shaped like the capital letter “D.” Also called an “active D-ring,” this piece of hardware is secured to a collar or harness and can either lay flat against the material when not in use or can be flipped up to a 90-degree angle to easily clasp the end of a leash or line to it. Typically made from nickel, stainless steel, plated, and other steel alloys, these rings are available in a variety of sizes. Generally, the D-ring comes before the buckle in this style and is used on collars 1 inch or less in thickness. When used with a leash, this is the most secure design since the dog actually pulls against two separate layers of the collar.

D-ring leash hardware

Frog Clip

A frog clip is a directional connector used on leashes that features an automatic clamping action. Frog clips are both quick-capture and quick-release in their style and relatively universal in their use. Rated at 24kn (4900 lbs.) strength, the frog clip was first designed for use with boats but has been adapted to be used with our dog leashes. When pressed against another piece of hardware, the frog clip engages automatically and clips securely when it touches an anchor point, such as a D-ring, O-ring, or other types of clip hardware. We feature frog clips on many of our higher-end leashes and collars, like the Ray Allen Tactical Bungee Leash with Frog Clip.

Frog clip leash hardware

Cobra Buckle

A cobra buckle is a quick-release, load-bearing buckle most often used on police and military K9 collars. Usually made from stainless steel or brass, these clips are highly corrosion resistant and can withstand even salt-water environments. Available in a wide variety of sizes and formats, cobra buckles are load-rated to many different weights based on their utility. Originally designed as “rigger hardware,” cobra buckles were engineered for use with climbing, repelling, and parachuting activities. We adapted the cobra buckle design for our tactical K9 gear (like our Tactical Deployment Leash) and have never looked back! Designed with a dual-ear release style trigger, a cobra buckle will not accidentally pop open during heavy pulling or activity.

Cobra buckle leash hardware


An O-ring is a metallic circular ring often built into the center of a collar, leash, or harness. It is very similar to the D-ring, but circular in shape. The O-rings that we use are welded closed so that there isn’t a weak spot to potentially break. The O-ring is designed to turn inside out and release your dog if the equipment gets snagged on a fence, branch, or elsewhere in the line of duty.

O-ring leash hardware


A V-ring is a triangular or V-shaped ring suitable for efficient and quick deployment. The V-Ring is designed to easily release a K9 during a hostile situation and/or to chase and subdue. This V-shaped design keeps the leash in the very center of the ring when attached, which is ideal for a rapid-release at any moment. V-rings are either cast or machined metal. Our V-rings feature a slot for 1 ¾” and other MilSpec webbings we offer. This is possibly our favorite style of ring hardware, and we feature it on everything.

V-ring leash hardware



Biothane is comprised of a polyester webbing with PVC coating that makes it durable and waterproof and is often used in heavy-duty dog leashes and lines. Biothane provides a superior grip without burning or irritating a handler’s skin when a dog is pulling and is commonly used in tracking or outdoor training.

Nylon webbing is also used to make biothane; the PVC coating process is the same for both nylon and polyester webbing. A variety of textures can be achieved in the PVC coating by adding different materials, ranging from a lightweight, semi-tacky texture, to a leather alternative feel. When stitched and riveted, it is strength rated at a minimum of 225 lbs. per quarter inch of width. This also means that the hardware used with biothane needs to be matched in its strength rating as well.

Biothane leash

One of biothane’s best features is that it feels the same no matter the field conditions. Biothane can withstand freezing temperatures as well as heat in excess of 180 degrees Fahrenheit without losing any of its qualities, strength, or durability. It is 100% waterproof and can literally be run through a dishwasher to clean.

Biothane can be manufactured in a wide variety of colors, which is useful for visibility and other specific field scenarios. Biothane is abrasion-resistant and excels in heavily thicketed areas and dense underbrush. We use biothane in a wide variety of our leashes, long lines, collars, and harnesses.


Leather is an excellent material for dog leashes. Leather offers good grip stability, making the leash or lead less likely to slip through your hands when your dog pulls hard. It doesn’t become slippery when wet, and it improves with age when cared for properly. Many handlers like leather leashes because of how they feel in their hands.

Leather is weighted based on thickness and width, which is measured in ounces. For example, a 14oz weighted leather leash is very thick and heavy-duty. We typically use between 12-14oz weight for our leather leashes and other leather products.

Leather dog leash

There are a few different ways to tan leather, including veg-tanned and chrome-tanned leather. Veg tanning uses vegetable oil in the tanning process, while chrome tanning uses an acid tanning process. Most of our leather products utilize veg-tanned leather, which tends to be stiff when first purchased, but breaks in with use incredibly well. We use a tight-grain leather that helps make our leashes more water-resistant, as well as more durable, helping to prevent splitting and breaking.

Latigo Leather

A firm, durable, and smooth leather made from cowhide, often oiled or waxed after tanning and richly dyed for a softer, luxurious look. Also known as Old World Leather, this is another veg-tanned leather that we feature in many of our products. Latigo leather can also be “struck through,” which means that the leather was dyed for a longer duration, resulting in a leather that has been dyed all the way to its core. This helps to make it more impervious to weather, water-resistant, and extremely long-lasting with proper care.

Latigo leather dog leash from Ray Allen Manufacturing


Nylon leashes are lightweight, pliable, durable, and easily washable. Nylon is a petroleum-based product, making it 100% hydrophobic (water-resistant). Highly versatile, nylon is a good material for use where the line can get dirty, such as scent work or tracking in areas with dense undergrowth, sand, and/or wet conditions. It excels in urban tracking scenarios because it drags easily and is unlikely to snag. Nylon comes in a variety of colors, making a line highly visible when needed.

Depending upon how it’s woven, nylon also has a slight amount of give, making it more shock-resistant, which is also helpful for K9 and working dog handlers, especially when in hands-free situations such as shooting.

Nylon leash

Our MilSpec type 8 and MilSpec type 13 nylon webbing has been treated with a resin impregnation that drastically improves its durability while only making the nylon a bit stiffer as a result. Capable of bearing extreme loads, especially considering its weight, nylon is an ideal material for heavy-duty, rugged, and tactical use.

Despite nylon’s versatility, it’s not appropriate for every scenario. In tracking work, for example, a nylon line can be cut by sharp objects it may encounter on the ground. While not always the best choice depending on the needs of a handler, nylon is still incredibly strong, durable, and performs incredibly well in most situations.

We use nylon in many styles of leashes, long lines, tabs, traffic leads, as well as collars and harnesses. A highly versatile material, nylon has near-endless potential for coloration, material weave patterns, making it suitable for nearly any scenario.

Utility & Uses of Leashes, Leads and Lines for Dogs

When it comes down to it, a K9 handler’s material preferences are based on what utility they need from their leashes and lines. Regardless of a dog handler’s personal preference, different leash materials and hardware tend to excel in some scenarios over other types.

Regional conditions often dictate the type of materials a handler uses in field work. Wet, coastal, and humid conditions require stainless steel hardware, cobra buckles, and are ideal for biothane or leather. Materials are not as much of a concern in relation to field performance in hot and dry environments, but material strength ratings are very important.

Dog Training

Leashes of all types are a critical tool for dog training. And dog training itself is a precursor to every other kind of leash or line function. There’s no such thing as untrained police or military dogs. Scent training and narcotics work require careful training, as do gun dogs, tracking dogs, and any other type of dog work. Working dogs also need regular maintenance training to continue operating at peak performance.

Leashes are one of the foundational elements of dog training and are an important piece of gear in most (if not all) kinds of K9 and working dog jobs. From a young age, leash training is introduced to an aspiring working puppy and is used to help instruct a young dog, guide, correct behavior, and even build trust between dog and handler.

Leash training is important for every dog, from working to tactical to the family pet. It not only helps you to control your dog but also helps to keep your dog and others safe.

Military & Police Dog Work

Military and police work is among the most intense and demanding tactical dog work on the planet. There are a variety of dog leashes, leads, and lines that can be used for very specific lines of work. We’ll dive further into some of these below. But in general, police and military working dogs are employed for tracking, repelling, ballistics, scent work, and various forms of tactical combat deployment.

Leashes for Military Service K9 & Police K9 Work

Leashes, leads, and lines are used in military and police work, though shorter leads tend to be the most common style used as an all-around, general-purpose tether.

Leads lend themselves well to tactical dog work. Many of these K9 working dogs serve multiple functions, from combat to tracking work. Just like a holster for a sidearm, a tactical dog leash or lead keeps your dog at your side at all times until he’s ready to be deployed.

A short lead excels at the rapid-release function, enabling a handler to disconnect the dog’s lead from their harness or collar to engage in chase and subdual work. Waist leads and bungee leashes are also commonly used by military service members and police K9 handlers, as well as the standard 6-foot leash, and the traffic leash.

Tracking lines are used in tactical work for situations that require the tracking of a suspect or missing person. A long line can give the dog enough freedom to perform its work while its handler follows behind. A handler can even issue commands to the dog from a distance silently, which is critical in highly sensitive and dangerous situations. The line itself can act as a communication channel between dog and handler.

Police K9 with K9 handler

K9 Tactical Work

Tactical K9 work refers to high-precision, top-tier military, and police K9 work. Put through the most extreme pressure testing and proven in the field, tactical gear for K9 units is rated the best in the world because of the rigorous demands required of it. Ray Allen Manufacturing is proud to support our elite military and police personnel as the leading manufacturer of service and police K9 tactical gear.

Tracking Work

Tracking work is the act of employing a dog’s nose for tracking people or when hunting game animals. Tracking work commonly refers to police K9 or search and rescue dog teams, where the handler and their tracking dog(s) follow the path a suspect or victim takes, regardless of wind direction.

K9s scent along the ground, for the scent trail that a person leaves, and in the air, for the scent “cone” is generally downwind from the person. While tracking, this gives police K9 handlers the opportunity to find potential evidence a suspect or victim may have left along their trail. It also allows them to detect clues while learning more about the general area with which a person came into contact, providing more information about what may have happened and what might be in store up ahead.

Search and rescue work differentiates from police tracking work in that a search and rescue dog is looking to find any human that is out of sight that is lost or trapped and is not targeting a specific individual. Police tracking focuses on the dog searching for someone specific, such as a specific suspect or victim. In police tracking work, the dog is trained to differentiate between human odors so they can single out the individual’s scent and find the target.

Leashes for Tracking: Long Line

Lines are most frequently used in tracking work because they offer the K9 enough mobility to follow a scent while helping to keep a handler nearby and out of direct lines of contact and/or immediate danger.

Long lines may also be referred to as long dog leashes, long leashes, dog lead lines, or long lead lines. However, while there are many other word combinations that refer to a long line, long line is the preferred industry terminology.

Made from a variety of materials, long lines for K9 tracking work are most commonly made from nylon, leather, or biothane. Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and it always comes down to a handler’s specific needs for their tracking work. Some handlers prefer leather long lines for their superior grip and feel, while others prefer nylon for its long lifespan and easy-to-clean nature.

Biothane long lines feature the best of both leather and nylon, providing handlers with an elite level of strength, grip, durability while retaining the positive features of nylon.

Tracking dog with handler

Scent Work

K9 scent work or Nosework is the terminology used for K9 work that utilizes a dog’s nose to find things other than a person. Similar to tracking work, K9 scent work is performed by skilled scent dogs and their handlers where the dog uses its scent-tracking abilities to find objects such as narcotics, explosives, or anything else that isn’t a human.  

The most common K9 scent detection activities are typically detection or narcotics work. Dogs are trained with target odors and learn to seek out these scents and notify their handlers when found. The scents can literally be anything from vanilla extract to bedbugs to narcotics and explosives odors. Essential oils are often used in scent work training, as are active samples from various drugs, bomb components, and anything else relevant.

In training, a target scent is introduced to the dog, and she is trained to search for that specific odor and to find its source. Once the scent dog finds the hidden scent, they are rewarded by her handler with their favorite food or reward toy.

Narcotics dog searching for drugs

Leashes for Scent Work: 6 Foot Leash and Long Line

Ray Allen Biothane Long Lines are commonly used in scent work, just like with tracking work. However, a 6-foot dog leash is regularly used for scent work in tight spaces. These leashes are most commonly made from high-quality leather, biothane, and nylon. Similar to tracking work, personal preference and utility determine a handler’s material selection.

Gun Dog Work

Gun dogs are trained to flush and chase prey from hiding in dense cover so that a hunter can target their quarry. Commonly referred to as hunting dogs, these dogs span many breeds for hunting a wide variety of prey. From bird dogs to hounds, gun dog work is an old tradition. Older still is the tradition of hunting game with our canine companions.

In fact, one of the main reasons humans and dogs have such a strong bond is due to the evolution of both of our species side-by-side, where humans selectively bred the wolf ancestors of the modern dog for specific traits and features.

Many of the breeds we know and love today are the result of centuries, if not millennia, of careful breeding. All of this was for very specific reasons in order to get a type of dog that excelled at one type of job or another.

Gun dogs are no exception to this history. Hounds chase prey with their humans following behind. Waterdogs and retrievers flush out the hidden game and very often retrieve a successful kill. Herding dogs help shepherds and ranchers, while terriers chase and eliminate smaller game and vermin.

Bigger dogs, often from the Mastiff breeds, not only assist in chasing larger, more dangerous game, but may also even work with their hunting companions/humans to help bring that beast down, such as hog hunting dogs, or the famously named, “Irish Wolfhound.”

Nearly every breed of dog was bred for a purpose and to do work. Leashes are no exception.

Leashes for Gun Dogs: Long Lines and Quick Release Leashes

Long lines make great leashes for gun dogs, allowing a wide range of freedom for the dog to track quarry and flush prey out of hiding. Also commonly used are quick-release leashes for hunting, which allow the hunter to rapidly deploy the dog to chase after fleeing quarry.

Quick-release leashes tend to feature cobra buckles that allow for the rapid release of a gun dog. These leashes can also come in the bungee leash style, which acts as a shock absorber when the dog lunges suddenly. This shock-absorbing feature of the Ray Allen Quick Release Bungee Leash comes in handy, especially when a hunter may be lining up a shot, or simply to not be pulled off-balance by their dog.

Adventure Dog

Adventure dogs are not necessarily working dogs, but they are still hardworking companions! These dogs are the dogs that we take with us when venturing out into the wilds, and their specific job is to hang out with us.

Nearly all breeds are suitable as adventure dogs, though smaller dogs may have trouble keeping up with you on longer, more demanding treks. Regardless, people often equip their adventure dogs with gear that allows them to carry additional items. This may include their own food, water, extra supplies, etc.

No matter what kind of dog, an Adventure dog is a loyal companion when camping, hiking, canoeing, climbing, or any other journey by land, sea, or air.

Adventure dog hiking with handler

Leashes for Adventure Dogs: Nylon Leash, 6 Foot Leash, and Long Line

Nylon leashes are perfect for adventure dogs because they are tough, durable, and easy to clean, no matter how dirty they may get. A Ray Allen Orange Long Line is also good for use with adventure dogs because it allows them more freedom without getting too far away from you. 6-foot leashes are also commonly used, as are adjustable length leashes because you’ll never know what you might encounter.

Secure clips are important when out in the wilds with your adventure dog because you don’t want to accidentally lose your dog if they suddenly start chasing something or simply wander off on their own. Frog clips and bolt snap clips will help ensure that your dog won’t get free from its leash unless you want them to.

Hands-Free Work

Hands-free work includes work where the handler needs both hands free to respond to any given situation. This enables you to focus on any type of work that requires both hands, very often when shooting. It’s also important when a handler needs their hands free for gaining entry to a location or when digging for something or someone during search and rescue work.

A hands-free leash is used in lines of work such as military service and law enforcement but is important to any setting where the handler wants to be hands-free. This even includes leisure activities such as time spent outdoors with adventure dogs, walking, and jogging with a dog.

Types of Hands-Free Leashes

Hands-free leashes usually wrap around the handler’s waist or can be clipped onto a training or tactical belt. This type of leash includes bungee leashes, tabs, and drag lines. Drag lines are shorter tracking lines around 10-15 feet in length and are lightweight.

Bungee leashes and waist lead leashes are the most common hands-free dog leashes used by working dog handlers. There are other types of leashes and hands-free leash accessories that are more modular in design, such as our MOLLE Flexi Pouch, made to hold a Flexi-Retractable Lead. Frog buckles, cobra buckles, v-rings, and quick-release shackles are the ideal types of hardware for hands-free use.

Benefits & Drawbacks 

Types of Leashes, Leads, and Lines

Standard Dog Leash

A standard dog leash is a length of rope with a clip on one end that attaches to a dog collar or harness, and a handle of some type on the other end to tether the dog to its owner. Typically ranging from 8 feet to 18” in length. Often made from leather, chain links, nylon, or biothane, standard dog leashes and lines are used for dog training, walking, and work. A standard leash is suitable for many generalized applications, but a more specific style of a leash or long line is favored by trainers and handlers for specialized types of dog training and working situations.

Braided dog leash

Traffic Lead Leash

Often referred to as a traffic lead, this is a short leash intended to keep your dog close to your side. Typically 18” in length or less, a traffic lead can be made from rope, leather, biothane, nylon, or even polyester, and it will have some style of bolt-snap clip on the end of it.

Traffic lead leash with bolt snap

Long Line or Tracking Line

Tracking lines are a type of dog leash that is over 8 feet and can be up to 30, 50, or even 100 feet in length. Long lines are used in tracking work, scent work, stakeout, and search and rescue operations.

Long lines are thin in order to provide as little resistance to your dog as possible while they work while simultaneously acting as a direct line of communication between the handler and the dog. Commands can be issued silently through the line and a well-trained tracking dog can communicate information back to the handler.

Long dog line for tracking work

Many handlers believe that a tracking line acts as more than just a physical bond between the handler and their dog, and it’s not uncommon for a handler to report that their work with a tracking line and dog can feel almost precognitive and even supernatural.

Tab Leash or Training Tab

A tab leash is a dog leash that measures under 6” in length with a bolt snap attached at one end. Tabs act as a short handle that attaches to a dog’s collar and is excellent for training purposes. Also commonly referred to as training tabs, a tab leash can be made from 550 cord, leather, biothane, etc., and is usually braided, stitched, and riveted, and is very lightweight.

Dog training tab

Tab leashes are often used for working dog training. Tabs are very popular with service dog trainers and for specialty training uses where a shorter leash is desired. Tab leashes are also used in the field with working dogs that are on active duty and tend to be aggressive. When used in active duty work, these short leads regularly feature some form of a quick-release clip, enabling the handler to rapidly deploy the dog at a moment’s notice.

Slip Lead Leash

A slip lead looks just like a standard dog leash but acts as both a collar and leash in one unit. Instead of a clip that attaches to a dog collar or harness, the slip lead has a metal ring for creating a loop that slips around a dog’s neck. Also known as training leads, the intent behind this style of leash is to briefly tighten the loop around the dog’s neck for quick discipline during training.

Slip leash

Often made from rope, biothane, and leather, the effectiveness of the slip lead is the tightening of the loop around the dog’s neck, which creates pressure that mimics the feeling of jaws surrounding the dog’s throat. This makes a slip lead function very similar to how canines naturally communicate with one another when disciplining younger and/or unruly dogs.

Slip leads are often seen in kennels and veterinary offices. A slip lead should never be used by an untrained handler who doesn’t understand the proper use and function of this style of leash, as it can be dangerous to the dog in untrained hands.

Chain Leash

A chain leash is a length of chain that acts like a dog leash and is a good option to keep dogs from biting and pulling. Chain leashes are durable, offer zero-give, and can serve multiple functions. From a heavy-duty chain leash that looks “badass” to a thin, elegant chain that gives off a luxurious vibe, chain leashes are a great deterrent for heavy chewers while giving the handler a good amount of control.

Chain dog leash

Retractable Dog Leash

A retractable leash is a self-winding dog leash that allows you to control the distance between you and your dog. This adjustable leash is a convenient way to keep your dog close by your side or let them roam ahead while offering you the ease of not having to gather up loose lengths of the leash constantly.

A spring-loaded self-winding lead is housed inside of a molded case with a grip handle that has a stop-and-release push-button for the handler to easily control the length of the lead while controlling any slack between you and the dog. This kind of leash gives you and your dog more freedom of movement without the hassle of having to gather and hold onto a lot of material.

Retractable dog leash

A retractable dog leash is used in more casual situations, such as walking your dog. They are not generally used in K9 or working dog environments, as this type of leash is truly designed for more casual dog owners.

Reflective Leash

Reflective leashes and lines are made with a reflective material woven into the material of the leash itself. Common and easily integrated with nylon woven leashes, the reflective strip(s) are designed to improve visibility at night or even during bad weather. The material reflects light sources such as vehicle headlights and street lamps, effectively causing the leash to glow, improving you and your dog’s visibility to others, making them great for working dogs and adventure dogs. Reflective leashes and lines are a safe, smart option for working in the dark, especially when you want to be seen.

Reflective dog leash

Bungee Leash

A bungee leash is a flexible leash that acts as a shock absorber when your K9 pulls or lunges forward, making them very ideal for hands-free situations. Bungee leashes can be made with rubber woven into the core of the leash, giving a good amount of flexibility to the leash when a dog pulls or lunges. These leashes are usually attached to the handler around their waist by connecting to a training or tactical belt for hands-free usage. Ray Allen Bungee Leashes can also be used for agitation work to help intensify training and develop increased bite intensity.

Bungee dog leash

Waist Lead Leash

A waist lead is a dog leash that fits around a trainer’s waist like a belt. They often have extra rings so they can be clipped to themselves, and or used for clipping other items, accessories, or gear a handler may want to use. The waist lead is highly adjustable and flexible in its utility, and can even be used hands-free.

Hands-free  dog leash

Strength and Durability

One of a working dog handler’s biggest concerns about leashes and lines is the strength and durability of their gear. A K9 handler’s greatest fear is a leash breaking on or during deployment. Equipment failure is unacceptable in any situation but can be a matter of life and death in tactical scenarios.

High-quality materials and the manufacturing process behind leashes, long lines, and other working dog equipment mean everything to handlers.

The strength and durability of a dog leash and the materials it’s made from are dependent on both the quality of the materials themselves, as well as how it is manufactured. Everything from the hardware used to the treatment of the materials to the type of stitching used to join pieces is critical to how well a product performs.

Width is another important factor in the strength and durability of a leash, as this has a direct relationship to how much weight it can handle. Most materials are load-rated based on their width, thus the wider a leash is, the more load it can withstand.

Indestructible dog leash for bite training

In fact, in all of our dog leash strength testing, we’ve found that the clip hardware is more likely to fail than our stitching. And in reality, the handler, nor the dog simply isn’t capable of holding onto, nor creating enough force, beyond what a bolt-snap clip can hold, assuming there are no flaws in the product itself.

Some of the most important testing that we do is called destructive testing, in which we do everything we can to test the absolute limits of our products by exposing them to the most extreme conditions we can replicate. In simple terms, we try our best to destroy a product through carefully measured testing. (If you’re wondering, yes, we even try to blow them up!)

In our experience, the key to strength and durability for any product is to truly understand what job(s) they are going to be used for. Everything has a life expectancy that can be tested for, measured, and estimated.

Based on real-life working conditions, we take this information and apply it to achieve the most wear cycles possible. No matter what the application, from recreational to working dog jobs, handlers need well-made, well thought out dog leashes manufactured with high-quality hardware that they can trust.

Stitching Function

The kind of thread and even the stitching patterns make a large difference in the functionality of dog leashes and long lines. The type of stitch used is dependent upon the type of material used for a dog leash.

Additionally, the length and width of a dog leash will also influence what kind of stitching is used. Some stitching patterns are strong with thicker pieces of material while the same pattern can actually weaken a thinner piece of that same material.

Ray Allen leather uses a stitch pattern called the fishtail stitch, which pokes fewer holes into the material while creating a material-join that is typically stronger than the weight-load of a bolt snap, and even the leather itself.

Biothane is well suited to many types of reinforcing stitch patterns, including the box, box-x, and bar-tacked stitching. This is because of biothane’s polyester core. Stitches don’t weaken the core because the threads go in-between the fibers rather than puncture and damage the threads. The same is true for Nylon.

Another factor influencing the strength and durability of the stitching in dog leashes and long lines is the lock-step machine. This machine ties a knot in the middle of a stitch, which works to lock each stitch in place, preventing a stitch from unraveling if it is pulled. Ray Allen uses a lock-step machine in all of our stitching except for products with bar tacked stitches.

Box Stitching

A box stitch is a reinforced stitch pattern that is shaped like a square or rectangle, while a box-X stitch adds an x-shaped cross stitch inside of the box. By increasing the surface area of the stitching, its strength is significantly enhanced with this simple stitch. Box stitching is commonly used to join pieces of material together, especially leather, nylon, and biothane.

Box-stitched nylon leash

Box stitching is often used on dog leashes because of how well it improves the strength of a bond joining two separate materials or two parts of the same material. Often, this means creating loops in a leash or long line.

This includes adding leash hardware such as clips, rings, and snaps, as well as shaping loops for leash handles, in addition to any other specialized leash designs.

Of the two, the box-x stitch is a more durable stitch than the standard box stitch. The difference becomes important for the material that’s being used. For example, leather is weakened by having more holes poked in it from stitching, so a box stitch is often used over a box-x stitch.

Bar Tack Stitching

Bar tack stitching refers to a series of stitches that are used to reinforce dog leashes and lines, especially when joining materials together that experience the most stress and wear, such as handles, loops, and hardware connections.

Made with a 69 weight thread, a bar tacked stitch pattern goes back and forth through the material and then crosses back over itself in an x-shaped pattern. Bar tacks tend to take up less space on material because of this. Needless to say, bar tacked stitching creates many, many holes.

Bar tack stitched nylon leash

Bar tack is an incredibly strong stitch that won’t come apart if a thread is cut, and is typically seen as a reinforcing stitch. On leashes, bar tacks are often used with V-rings to add extra strength and security, greatly improving the durability of a product while reducing the chances of equipment failure.

While the V-ring is a popular choice, some heavy-duty leashes require a frog clip for K9 training or fieldwork. We designed our Nylon Adjustable Service Dog Leash with Frog Clip to be used in any conditions to hold even the strongest working dogs.

Which is Stronger?

While there may be some debate as to what type of stitch is stronger, bar tack versus box stitch, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, the strength of the stitching on a dog leash depends on the stitch pattern size and how many stitches are used.

We’ve conducted an extensive amount of destructive testing research, and continually test our products, both classic and new. In our research, we haven’t seen significant differences between these stitching patterns.

For example, let’s consider a single bar tack against a single box-x stitch in a piece of nylon. In a one-to-one comparison, the box-x stitch will be stronger than the bar tack. However, if you increase the bar tack to four stitches in the same amount of space, then it will easily hold just as much as the box-x stitch.

So, is one better than the other? No, not in our experience.

Choosing The Right Leashes, Leads, And Lines For Your K9 And Working Dog Program

What to Look for in a Leash

Choosing a dog leash shouldn’t be difficult, but it should absolutely be an application-based decision. What you’re doing with your dog is the most important factor in determining what type of leash or line a handler should be looking for. The needs of an adventure dog owner will be very different from those of law enforcement or military working dog handlers.

Focus first on what the dog’s job is. Whether it’s companionship or one of the many varied working dog jobs, the requirements of those applications will help determine the type of leash, long line, and other gear needed.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Nylon is an excellent choice for adventure dogs because it’s lightweight, doesn’t absorb water, is abrasion-resistant, easy-to-clean, and is very durable.
  • In high moisture conditions, biothane is an ideal choice, especially for tracking work and long lines due to its moisture resistance, and superior grip and feel even when wet.
  • In a scent-training or scent work scenario, leather is a great choice because it offers many qualities handlers have come to expect from a leash or long line no matter what type of work.

Length and Width

The length and width choice for a working dog leash is also training and job-specific. For generalized training, handlers often use a tab leash to keep a close grip on the dog until the dog has developed enough in its program. From there, trainers will transition to the leashes appropriate for the type of work the dog will be using.

Width is another consideration when choosing a leash. The width of a dog leash isn’t just important to the strength and durability of the leash itself, but width is directly related to the degree of comfort in hand for a trainer. This is often a highly personal choice outside of the needs of the function and utility.

The Best Leather Dog Leashes Include:

First, the leather used for dog leashes is dependent upon the type of hides used. We use only northern cowhides with a tight grain structure to ensure the most durable leather leashes, long lines, and other K9 gear.

We also manufacture our leather to be struck-through, meaning that we make sure the oils, dyes, and waxes used to treat it penetrate the leather completely. This makes Ray Allen Braided Leather Leashes less likely to soak up water and resist rot, making our leashes last longer and maintain their integrity.

Veg tanned leather and Latigo leather take longer to break in but are always worth it at the end of the day because these processes significantly enhance the leather’s strength and durability.

Leather leash with bolt snap

As a leather leash or long line is broken in, regular care is required to maintain the life and integrity of the leather. So long as the leather is kept oiled, the lifespan of a leather leash or line can span many decades. This is a simple task but one that can greatly reduce the strength and durability of your leather leashes and lines. DO NOT overlook caring for your leather products.

When it comes to stitching, the more holes that penetrate a piece of leather during the stitching process, the more this weakens the leather leash overall. Using thread with a higher thread count requires slightly larger (but less) holes, which works to improve the strength of the joined pieces of leather.

The Best Biothane Dog Leashes Include:

Biothane is a superior material for dog leashes and long lines because it combines many of the best qualities of both leather and nylon.

The poly-core that makes up the interior of biothane leashes is coated with a PVC material webbing that enhances its strength and durability while protecting it from harmful environmental conditions such as salt, humidity, abrasion, and even the sun. Biothane won’t lose its color with direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight, nor will it experience UV rot that other materials suffer from.

The width of a Ray Allen Biothane Dog Leash is also something to look for when selecting a tough, long-lasting product. The wider and thicker the material is for the leash, the stronger and more load-bearing capable it will be.

Biothane leash with bolt snap

The Best Nylon Dog Leashes Include:

Nylon is ideal because it is very lightweight, strong, and can be manufactured in nearly any color imaginable. Nylon leashes are excellent for hands-free applications, as a drag line (dragged behind the dog), and in any scenario that the leash or long line may become very dirty.

Nylon dog leashes are improved by more stitches, rather than less. Bar tacking and box stitching are ideal for joining 2 pieces of nylon together, creating an ultra-strong bond that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

When reinforced with a UV coating, our Nylon Adjustable Service Dog Leashes become very resistant to direct sunlight, whereas polyester material products will break down because of UV light radiation. This is one of the main reasons why we rarely use polyester in any of our products.

Red and blue nylon leashes with bolt snaps