Selecting the right dog show lead and collar

Selecting a right dog show lead is a very important part of successful showing experience.

It is a good idea to purchase a specific lead and collar for showing your dog. When selecting a suitable show lead for you & your dog, attention should be paid to practicality, look and comfortability of the show set. It is worth an little extra effort to select a set suitable for both ends of the show lead.


For most breeds the leads dogs are shown in are thin and fine. A good dog show lead does not break the outline of the dog, this is why most people select a colour close to the colour of the dog.  However, it has become fashionable and accepted to use colourful leads or beads to bring a little personality to the ring but you should still always check and make sure you are not taking away from the beauty of the dog or for example breaking the topline of the dog with the collar/lead.

There are many different types of collars for showing, again most breeds are shown in thin fine collars that hide within the coat or if short coated dog, many choose a collar that is of the colour of the dog. Many owners especially of small breeds choose a comfort collar where there is a wider part on the throat of the dog. This allows for little bit more support for the head without choking the dog. Comfort show collars/leads are also excellent for young dogs and for dogs that tend to put their nose on the ground when moving.


When choosing a show lead for your dog, think about the temperament and age of the dog.

Are you showing a dog that is likely to get excited and pull or would your dog happily trot next to you even without a lead? Are you showing a puppy that might get excited and act like a…. puppy?

Although a dog show lead should be fine and thin, it is important to select a lead that will withstand the dog and give you enough control in the ring. If your dog is likely to pull, very thin show lead will be uncomfortable for you to hold and dig in to your hands. In worst case scenario the too fine lead you chose will break in the ring. Leather leads are always more comfortable for the human end of the lead and will not burn your hands like nylon show lead can do. It is very difficult to smile and be relaxed if your hands are hurting and you are struggling to hold on to your pooch!

The show environment can be stressful especially for a young inexperienced dog. There are lot of new dogs, smells and noises and often the owner will be nervous too which the dog will sense. This all could mean your dog will act in a manner it would not do in it’s usual environment, he might start pulling like a steam train or might decide to try backing out of his collar. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep your dog in his/hers usual collar and lead till it is time to go in to the ring.

It is important to practice and do ring craft with your new show set as the dogs quickly learn what it means when the show set is put on to them. They learn what is expected of them and learn to shine & show off when wearing their show set! It is very important to always make experiences fun and nice when your dog is wearing their show set, this will make it a little bit easier when in real show situation where you might feel nervous.  Happy dog that is smiling might just be that final bit that gives you the top spot when there are many  beautiful dogs in the final line up.


Different breeds are shown in different show sets. To get an idea of what your breed tends to be shown in, go and have a look at a dog show & showing of your breed to see different types of leads people use. Then select the type you and your dog will feel most comfortable with. Your dogs breeder might aleo be able to advice on suitable show set for the breed.

Almost all breeds are shown in a half check collar or slip collar/slip lead. Smaller breeds can be shown in loop show leads and often these also have a wider comfort pad in them.

If you are new to dog showing you can also see how your breed is shown. Do the dogs get put on the table? Do they get stacked or are they shown free standing on the floor in front of the handler?


Traditionally the dog show leads were always that of the colour of the dog. It is important to ensure the colour you have selected is suitable for the dog. Long coated dogs where the collar/lead disappears in to the coat can get away with any colour of dog show set as it is hidden in the coat. If you have short coated breed, it is more important to pay attention to the colour of the show collar as you can make the dog look short necked or the top line to look shorter if the collar/lead breaks the flow and outline of the dog.

Beads and bling on the show lead is a good way to add a little bit of fun and personality to the show set even when you choose a set that is “boring” black or brown like your dog.

What ever colour of the show lead you choose, please ensure your show set is clean and in good condition as set that is breaking or very dirty could make it look like you have made very litter effort in the preparation for the show.


The length of the show lead is very important in how easily you can handle the dog and how professional you look. Most handlers have way too long leads. Very few breeds are shown in long leads, running ahead of the handler. Most breeds are shown heeling next to the handler and lead length should be selected so you do not need to keep rolling the lead around your wrist.

Too long of a lead just means the handler spends lot of time rolling the lead around their wrist or in to their hand. In worse case scenario the dog steps and trips on the lead as it is hanging in front of the dog when it is stacked. Obviously the lead should not be too short either as dog will need space to move freely and in a natural position and stance.