6 word blog post: six foot leather or fabric leashes.
I was seriously tempted to leave this post at that, since that is my best advice by far, but I eventually decided to add a few details.
Four to six feet is a good standard length for most purposes.* Shorter leashes are okay for some uses, but they almost always end up being too short for others. It’s easier to hold lower on the leash when you need to than to have multiple leashes for different occasions. Long lines, or multiple six foot leashes hooked together are great for long-distance training if you don’t have a secure area or you want to take your practice on the road. Never retractable leashes. They break, they get tangled, and they reinforce pulling on the leash.
Fabric or leather. I prefer solid materials, but if you are going for that fancy design, make sure to check it is coupled with solid construction. The width of the leash will vary based on the size of your dog, but, again make sure it is solidly constructed to withstand your dog’s strength. Looks shouldn’t beat out function. I have had a few clients choose to use metal leashes with heavy chewers, but I prefer to emphasize training and management whenever possible, as metal leashes are harder to manage for the walker, as well as noisy, which may be an added stresser for the dog.
Handles: I prefer plain. It makes it easier to take a firm grip on the leash (I prefer flat over round fabric for the same reason). However, some people will find a padded handle easier to use.
Traffic handles: Another optional add-on, but one I tend to skip. I find that dogs get tangled in these far more often than I use them. a simple knot part way down in the leash will achieve the same purpose of giving you something to grip.
Double ended leashes: I don’t like the leashes intended for walking two dogs. It takes away your capacity to manage the dogs individually, and makes it almost impossible to train on loose leash walking. The flexible double ended leashes for use with double attachment management harnesses are a different story. In my opinion, the double hooked leash is too short for most casual walking, but they can be extremely useful in crowded areas.
This is the end of my equipment series, so everyone should be dressed for success. One last note of importance. You don’t have to be trendy, but you shouldn’t be shabby! If any of your equipment is worn out, replace it. It’s not worth risking your dog’s safety to save a few dollars.
Walk on everyone!
*This originally said 6 feet, but someone pointed out that some DC regulations call for 4 foot leashes.