Leashes, leads, and check cords for training dogs
If you plan to train your retriever, there are many tools you will need. But few are as important as a good leash or check cord. It doesn’t matter if your goal is an obedient family dog or a stellar hunting dog. It all starts with a lead or leash.
Types of dog training leashes and leads
There are various types of leads or leashes for training dogs. It can be overwhelming to decide which one/s to purchase, or to make (I will talk more about this later).
Sadly, there isn’t a one all-purpose kind of lead. Each leash has a specific purpose and designed for that purpose.
Here are some of the leads I use daily as I train retrievers:
- leads for walks around the neighborhood,
- leads for travel
- leads for teaching puppies to come,
- leads for basic obedience drills,
- leads for walking to and from the blind, and
- leads for doing marks.
The bright side is that good leads can easily last a lifetime. I have some that I have used for over 25 years.
The products I recommend I believe are a good value or good investment for anyone working to train or maintain training on their retriever. When possible, I include links to the product. Some of these links may be Amazon or other affiliate links in which I am paid a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions and recommendations are my own.
Types of leashes, leads and check cords and how to use them
Here are some of the different leashes, leads and check cords I use when training a retriever and how I use them. As you will see, there are specific leashes or leads for specific training situations. Having the right equipment is half the battle.
Leashes for teaching a puppy obedience
If you have a young retriever, you can actually start obedience training without a lead or leash. Working on the command SIT does not require a leash, although it can make it easier on your back. But when you are ready to start training your pup the COME or HERE command, you must use a leash or preferably a long check cord. A check cord is simply a long rope with a clip or snap attached so that you can attach it to your dog’s collar.
You can use any length you want for this purpose, but two that I use often are:
20-30 foot lead or check cord
This is my most used leash by far. It is a great length that allows me to put some distance between me and the dog while remaining in control. I use this check cord to teach a dog to remain on a SIT while I walk away. It is my go-to lead for almost all basic obedience drills for dogs 4-months on up.
50-foot + lead or check cord
This really long check cord and can be challenging to use given its length. I only use a 50-foot check cord for puppies or training dogs that arrive at my kennel that are not reliable on the HERE command. With the longer lead, I can give dogs room to roam and then guide them back to me when I use the HERE command. It also works well for dogs that run off after making a retrieve. Trust me, you only need to chase one dog around and around the yard to realize the value of this lead.
Leashes for taking walks and on-lead obedience
These leashes are what most people think of when you use the term leash. Most people are used to having a leash to take their dog on walks. These leashes are also a good length for teaching a dog obedience (except HERE, where a check cord works better).
A 6-foot lead is a good length for daily walks. It is long enough to leave some slack near the collar and still hold onto the remaining. This is also a great leash for teaching on-lead obedience like SIT and walking at HEEL. I also use it for initial off-lead obedience work. The lead is short enough that I can let the dog drag the lead as I move from on-lead obedience work to off-lead obedience. I always use a chain collar or prong collar with this leash because they provide better control. For more information read 6 vital tools every gun dog trainer needs.
British style/Mendota Slip Leash
The Mendota lead or leash is one of my favorites. You can tell how much I use it from the photo of mine. It has been well-used and well-loved. If your dog is well-trained on HEELING beside you as you walk (no pulling) this lead is great for walks. In addition, I prefer this lead for walking a dog to and from a hunting blind or boat. Lastly, this is also a great lead to carry in your vehicle for emergencies. It is small, lightweight and gives you some control with the slip collar. No collar is needed with this leash.
Leashes for travel
The Mendota Slip Leash listed above is great for travel, but I also prefer to have a longer lead on hand such as a Flexi-Lead.
Flexi-Lead or Leash
Flexi-Leads or Leash are handy leads that auto retract into a hard-plastic casing. They are very handy for airing (allowing dogs to go empty or relieve themselves). The tape leash extends anywhere from 16-feet to 26-feet, depending on the model and retracts fully back into the case. There is a button-brake, so you can control how far the dog is able to pull away from you.
Flexi-Leads are great while on the road. They allow the dog room to run and stretch their legs but keep you in control of the distance they can move. They also allow you to pull them in close quickly and easily should the need arise.
There are many other companies that make a similar product. I have only ever used the Flexi Leash and I have been happy with the quality and durability. I cannot speak for the other products.
Leads and leashes for hunting or competition
If you have a well-trained and controlled dog, you may not need a full-leash, but there are times when it is nice to be able to exert a little control over your dog while not having him or her drag a longer lead around. That is where tab leads come in.
Tab leads are just long enough that you can put your hand around it. They are perfect for older dogs that may need a little control when at the line for a hunt test or in a hunting blind. We make our own but here are a couple examples of ones you can buy.
We also use tab leads when training a retriever for hunting and while doing marks. A tab lead is great for working on steady or just as a little reminder to the dog that they should remain under control.
Tips for buying leads and leashes for dog training
When looking to purchase a lead or leash, there are a few things I look for.
First, I prefer brass hardware whenever possible. Brass clips and snaps will usually last longer than the nickel ones and they don’t rust.
Another thing to consider when buying a leash is the loop or handle. While I know a lot of leashes have loops to hook your hand through, I prefer leashes without them. In fact, if I purchase a leash with a loop, the first thing I do when I get home is remove the stitching or simply cut off the loop. The reason is that should a dog get away from me with the leash on, that loop can get caught on something, get tied up or injure the dog. I am not willing to take that risk, so I always remove the loop.
Making your own dog training leads or leashes
If you want to save a few bucks, making leads and leashes is quite easy and cost effective.
Here are the materials needed:
- a brass snap or clip
- leash cord or material such as rope or parachute cord at least 550 or 4mm in width (this is totally determined by what feels good to you). I suggest picking a color that is easy to find if dropped in the grass.
- rope clamps
- a lighter to help fuse the cut ends, plastic dip
Simply cut the cord or rope to the length you prefer and attach a snap or clip to one end using a rope clamp. Touch up each end with a lighter to keep the rope from fraying, and you’re good to go.
Final thoughts on what dog leash for training retriever?
There are a wide variety of leads and leashes available to help in the training of your retriever. And each leash is designed for a specific purpose. Using the right equipment will help your dog learn faster and will help avoid confusion. So, while a lead or leash may seem like a small insignificant tool for training, it is actually one of the most important.
Remember, if you really want your retriever to grow and progress this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I’m here to help! You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just give me a call. I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time, happy retrieving.