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Dogs Less Than 40 Pounds
Type: 5/8- or 3/4-inch-wide nylon leash
Why? A simple strand in a sturdy fabric won't weigh down your pet's head or strain his neck or back.
Handling tip: Consider the clasp. Thinner straps might be lightweight enough, but the hook at the end could be too heavy for your canine to wear comfortably. Make sure it's in proportion to the overall leash since some brands keep the same closure dimensions, regardless of the fabric's width. If your four-legged friend weighs less than 5 pounds, cat leashes -- with their smaller scale and lighter feel -- can be used to prevent stress, says Teoti Anderson, owner of Pawsitive Results and author of Puppy Care & Training (TFH Publications).
Dogs Between 40 and 80 Pounds
Type: 1-inch-wide nylon or cotton leash plus a front-clip nylon harness
Why? "A leash that clasps in the front of a harness interrupts forward motion when your pup is pulling," Anderson says. On the other hand, back-clip versions help your canine tug you along -- think of how huskies move sleds. Leashes that connect at the collar can cause strain on the throat, which is painful for medium-size dogs, like bulldogs and boxers, with breathing problems.
Handling tip: Train your pup to stay by you with treats. Carry dog biscuits or string cheese, hot dogs, oat cereal or baby carrots cut into bites so he stays close to you. "If you give him lots of snacks, he'll realize that being next to you is better than going forward," Anderson says. "He'll be more interested in what's in your pockets than what's ahead." On your daily walk offer a tasty morsel every two steps and gauge his response. Ask the vet for dietary guidelines for your specific pet, because how many rewards he can safely ingest depends on factors like size, weight and health.
Dogs Over 80 Pounds
Type: Faux leather or leather leash and a harness
Why? These materials are durable and designed to get better -- and softer -- over time, says Cathy Bruce, owner of Canine Country Academy in Lawrenceville, Georgia. For strong or stubborn pullers, she recommends a leash with connection points on the collar and harness to help gain more control over the front and back of your pet.
Handling tip: Length is key. Because the strip of material shouldn't get too taut, a 6-footer is recommended. "You want a U shape so that there's some slack and no tension on your dog's neck," Bruce says.
Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.