Dog walking – What lead is best?

I have been walking dogs professionally for 5 years, and during that time I have walked everything from a 3kg cavoodle to a 100kg mastiff, not to mention my own 80kg (and somewhat reactive) great Dane. I’ve also used just about every type of lead, collar, and harness on the market. As you can imagine, I’ve learned through experience what equipment and methods work, and what doesn’t, to make the walk enjoyable for both humans and dogs. Today I am going to discuss my experience with dog leads, and later in the week will share my thoughts on other equipment (collars and harnesses) and then the training and handling methods you can use while walking your dog.


These days there is a large range of fancy-pants leads for walking dogs. You can get retractable leads, bungy leads, leads with ergonomic handles, two-dog split leads, hands free leads, and adjustable leads. And these can come in nylon, leather, cotton, chain, plastic, or all sorts of pretty designer materials. The range of prices for dog leads is just as vast as it is for styles, with the cost of leashing your dog ranging from under $5 to almost $100. Just take a look at the range at a shop like Mammoth Pet Supplies  to see what I mean.

No matter the style, the manufacturers will probably tell you their lead is durable, comfortable, prevents pulling, and is safe. So with so many choices, what should you spend your money on? Well the style of lead I have found to be the most durable, comfortable, pull-preventing, and safe is… (drumroll please)… also the simplest!

These simple leads also give you a huge colour choice

These simple leads also give you a huge colour choice

These woven synthetic leads are far-and-away the best dog walking tool on the market (and from Mammoth Pet Supplies just $12.95 with cheap postage, and they are pretty easy to find in any pet shop). I prefer 120cm (4′) leads though they also come in 180cm (6′) versions that you might prefer, though they offer a bit less control and are more likely to tangle or drag on the ground than a 120cm version. If you have a toy-sized dog it might be worth getting a thinner lead than the 25mm ones, so that the large clip doesn’t put too much strain on your little dog, but if your dog is big enough to give a reasonable tug on the lead I recommend the 25mm width as it’ll be more comfortable for you to hold.

The soft, flexible handle these leads have is so much more comfortable than “ergonomically designed” handles, and is also much easier to get a very strong grip on so you don’t accidentally let go of your dog. They’re also unlikely to break your wrist should your dog pull hard enough, so long as you keep a sensible grip on the lead (I’ll go through good ways to hold a lead in a later post!) They’re also lightweight so don’t add any excess strain to your arm or to your dog’s neck, like many plastic or chain leads can.


Banana has had the same nylon webbing lead for 3 years, used on countless dog walks and adventures, and it still going strong.

Banana has had the same nylon webbing lead for 3 years, used on countless dog walks and adventures, and it still going strong.

Admittedly woven leads won’t stand up to excessive chewing, but that’s an issue that can be solved more easily with training than equipment. Otherwise they are extremely durable, even after getting wet and salty at the beach or being left in the sun for weeks on end.

And yes, these simple leads are the most effective tool for stopping a dog from pulling, especially in the long term. Stretchy, adjustable, and extendable leads, though often advertised to stop pulling, actually prevent your dog learning where the end of the lead actually is – the boundary between loose lead walking and pulling. Teaching your dog where that boundary is is the first step in training them to walk nicely, and without it your training is doomed to fail.

My absolute least favourite type of lead (thanks for asking!) is the dreaded retractable lead. Firstly, it might actually be against the law to walk your dog with one of these leads! The legislation requires that in areas where a dog must be on lead (that is, almost everywhere in suburbia in WA) the lead can’t be longer than 2m, and most retractable leads are 3m or longer, allowing your dog to get further away from you than the law considers safe. They also almost always have handles that are difficult to get a safe grip on and can easily be yanked from your hand when your dog hits the end of the extendable length of lead.

Retractable leads shouldn't be used for dog walking, but they can be used during recall training.

Retractable leads shouldn’t be used for dog walking, but they can be used during recall training.

The third and greatest complaint I have against retractable leads is that you can’t safely pull your dog back in to you if needed, as the cord is too thin to grip. In my early days of dog walking, when I still used client’s leads rather than my own, I was walking a medium sized dog on a retractable lead. A tiny dog ran our way and the owner was clearly concerned, so I quickly tried to grab the lead to bring the dog back to me. I ended up with a very deep cut in my hand as the thin cord continued to extend as the dog was running away from me, slicing into my hand. OUCH! That’s pretty much when I made the decision to always use my own lead to walk dogs!

Retractable leads do have their place, however they shouldn’t be used for walking dogs. What they can be used for is training a dog to recall or do other tasks off lead, in the step before you are ready to remove the lead completely. You can also get long leads that are not retractable for this task, and for large dogs I’d definitely go with these as they are easier to grip, but they also tangle and weigh small dogs down, so retractable leads can be better for small dogs. Just remember; if it’s longer than 2m, it’s a tool to transition to getting off lead in designated off lead areas, not a lead to used in on-lead areas!


At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is that you are comfortable with your choice of leash, so you can enjoy walking with your dog. So if you just love your 2m, plastic-handled, chain, split, adjustable lead, that’s fine. But if you’ve been wondering which of the fancy leads you’ve seen at the pet shop you should spend your money on, take it from me that you should go with those nice, simple, gimmick free, synthetic woven leads.

Next time: What collars, harnesses, or other equipment I like to use.


Keeping dogs, cats, and other pets cool in summer

If you’re in Perth,  you’ve probably noticed that it’s HOT. And unless they get to be inside all the time with the air con on, your pets have probably also noticed it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind so that your pets stay cool and safe this summer:

Elsa, one of our dog walking clients, loves the cool water from the house after a walk

  • Obviously you don’t want to walk your dog in the middle of the day in hot weather, but even once the freo doctor is in and the air is cooler, the ground might still be really hot. If you’re wearing shoes, you might not even be aware that your dog’s pads are burning and blistering. Periodically reach down and check the pavement, especially if it’s dark in colour, to make sure it isn’t too hot.
  • Provide big water bowls even for small animals that don’t drink very much. A big water bowl isn’t just less likely to tip over or evaporate, leaving your pet with nothing to drink, but it will stay cooler for longer; a small water bowl will quickly reach room temperature or above if it’s in the sun, and nobody wants a hot drink on a 40 degree day.
  • Make sure outdoor pets have shade throughout the day. There might be shade when you leave the house in the morning, but will it still be there at lunchtime when the sun is directly overhead, or in the afternoon when the sun is to the west?
  • And for indoor pets, make sure you know how hot the house gets when you’re not home with the air con or fans on; make sure all windows and blinds are closed during the day, and if possible leave the air con on a timer or thermostat so it will stop the house getting dangerously hot.
  • Small animals like rabbits, mice, rats, and guinea pigs love to have frozen water bottles to lean up against on hot days. Especially if they are in small cages with limited air flow.
  • Fish tanks can be kept cooler by running a fan over the surface of the water, increasing evaporation which cools the water just like when you get out of the pool and stand in a nice breeze. Warm water is dangerous to fish because it holds less oxygen, causing them to suffocate.
  • Fleas and flies get bad at this time of year so make sure your pets are up to date on their parasite treatments. You can get once-a-month spot on treatments that prevent biting flies as well as fleas, and products to spray around the yard to keep bugs away, which in combination can be much more effective than repellents alone
  • Dogs love frozen treats; fill an icecream container or similar with water or stock, and add treats or toys. Give this to your dog on a hot day and they’ll have a ball playing with it and licking it, and it’ll help them stay cool.

If you throw some sinking treats in a clam shell pool, your dog can have fun bobbing for treats. And you can have fun watching their silly faces!

If you can’t be there for your pet all day on hot days and you’re worried, we’d be more than happy to come by for a pet sitting visit to check they’re cool, turn the air con on for a bit, fill up the water, or have fun playing with the hose if that’s what your dog likes. We’re usually available at late notice to be called in as needed when the forecast is looking hot.

- Megan

Pet Insurance: Why it is such a good idea!

Meet Ballet:

Ballet - 3 year old standard poodle

Ballet – 3 year old standard poodle

Ballet is my sister’s best friend, a 3 year old standard poodle. She is the second best dog in the whole world after Banana (I’m not biased at all). Ballet was carefully selected as a puppy from an excellent, registered, local breeder who focuses primarily on the health of her dogs. None the less, last week Ballet was diagnosed with acute leukaemia; a disease that is extremely rare in young adult dogs with no known cause. Just getting to the diagnosis (after blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, and finally a bone marrow biopsy) cost approximately $5000.

Ballet - Bandaged up

Ballet covered in bandages and shaved patches after so many tests

Treatment for acute leukaemia in dogs consists of chemotherapy; bone marrow transplants that are used to treat human leukaemia aren’t an option for dogs. Only 50% of dogs respond to the treatment at all, and only 25% go into complete remission. However, of that 25%, almost all will relapse within 6 months. It’s not a great prognosis. However, without treatment, dogs are unlikely to survive even 1 month with this horrible disease. The course of chemotherapy costs about $15000

Though the veterinary oncologist advised us that side effects of the chemotherapy are low and dogs that respond to treatment generally have a good quality of life, it is understandable that most pet owners would choose not to spend a total of $20000 treating a condition when treatment is only likely to hold off the inevitable for a few more months.

Fortunately, my sister has pet insurance for Ballet! And even better, she had invested in a premium policy which covers 100% of vet bills (after a small excess payment for each condition) up to $20000 per year. This made the choice to treat Ballet easy. It’s been one week since her first day of chemotherapy and the sparkle is already back in her eyes – it seems to be working! It was such a relief to know that we didn’t need to worry about the financial cost of doing the best we could for Ballet.

Ballet at the beach

Ballet running at the beach. Hopefully she’ll be back to this level of health soon!

For me, the importance of having pet insurance isn’t to help cover the small vet bills that pop up when my pets get a bit of gastro, hurt a paw, or get kennel cough (though that is handy), but so that I never have to be in the position of choosing between money and my pets’ health.

If your pets aren’t insured, I highly recommend you look into covering them as soon as possible; the earlier you insure your pets the better they will be covered, with fewer exclusions for any conditions they have had previously. There are a growing number of companies that offer pet insurance and I will leave it to you to do a google search and compare them. Cover for cats ranges from about $20-$30/month and cover for dogs ranges from about $40-$80/month depending on your level of cover, whether the insurer pays all or a only percentage of the vet bills, and whether you have a “select breed” such as my great Dane, which tend to be a bit more costly to treat and therefore more costly to insure.

Some things to be mindful of when comparing pet insurers:

- What is the annual coverage limit? Most plans cover between $10000 and $15000 per year, but as you can see with Ballet’s situation, costs for a serious condition can quickly exceed that limit.

- Do they cover 100% of the vet bills after an excess, or a percentage of bills? The latter can be useful for small vet bills if they don’t ask for an excess as well; if your bill is $100 you might get $80 back, while a plan that requires an excess would offer no money back after the excess payment. But for big bills, it’s great to know you only have to pay a once off excess and have everything else covered

- What do they consider a pre-existing condition? If your dog gets a chronic illness, some policies will cover you for the life of your dog, while others will call it a pre-existing condition the next policy year, and not cover it thereafter.

- Does the policy have specific exclusions or limitations for your breed? If your breed is at risk for particular diseases, these diseases may be excluded by some insurance companies.

- Does the policy have handy extras, like cover for pet sitting or dog walking expenses if you yourself become ill?

- How does the policy treat older pets? Some policies look great for young animals, but the fine print looks dire once they reach “old age” – and for select breeds this can be as early as just 5 years old. The cover may decrease significantly once your dog reaches old age, and it will be hard at that point to get covered by a different company, so it is worthwhile picking a policy that will suit your pet for its lifetime.

Keep in mind that insurance companies exist to make a profit; insurance is always a gamble and the house always ‘wins’. If you are financially stable enough that you can pay for your pet’s care regardless of what happens, then it is probably the safer gamble than insurance. You can also “self insure” by setting up a dedicated bank account for your pets and putting money into it on a regular basis, to use for their vet care if needed. However, if you’re not confident that you’ll always be able to provide the money to pay for treatment, or you don’t want to be left in a position of choosing between $20000 or 6 months more with your pet, pet insurance is the way to go.

- Megan

Welcome to Critters Pet Care’s Blog!

Myself and the rest of the Critters team always have so many stories, and so much information, about animals, pet sitting, and dog walking, we decided it was high time to start a blog to share it all with the world.

The sorts of topics you can expect to see posted here are anecdotes about animal antics from our pet minding and dog walking work, information and advice about pet care, links to resources about dogs, cats, or other pets that you might find useful, profiles about particular animals we love, and anything else we think you might like to see. If you have any great ideas or requests for things we could post, feel free to let us know at

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog, and make sure you keep us in mind next time you are going away on holiday or need help walking the dog. Full information about our business and the services we offer is available on our main website,

- Megan

Banana Great Dane having a big jump

Me and my little boy, Banana. Photo taken by Simon Duggan at the GDLAWA fun day, 2011