Enjoying the outdoors with your dog is more comfortable when you don’t have to grip their leash the whole time. Read on to discover the best hands-free dog leashes for hiking and training.
- What is a Hands Free Leash?
- 6 Best Hands-Free Dog Leashes
- Why Buy a Hands-Free Waist Dog Leash?
- What About Running?
- What About Retractable Hands-Free Leashes?
- Are Hands-Free Leashes Always a Good Idea?
Whether you’re out hiking or focusing on training, having your hands free enables you to check a map, grab a drink out of your rucksack, or practice hand cues while rewarding your pup with treats.
While hands-free leashes can be a useful tool, it’s important to choose the correct style to ensure that you and your pooch stay safe and comfortable. It’s also essential to know when hands-free leashes might not be the best option.
In this guide, I’ll explain how to choose the right hands-free leash for your dog. I’ve also recommended six of the best hands-free leashes for hiking and training – so you can find your perfect match.
Our #1 Pick: Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash
Strong leash with reflective stitching and two handles
Our top pick for a hands-free dog leash is the Tuff Mutt Bungee. It’s a durable leash with dual handles and a reflective design. The leash connector also slides round your waist, making it easier to stay balanced as your pup explores.
What is a Hands Free Leash?
As the name suggests, hands-free leashes enable you to stay connected to your dog without having to hold the leash. This is particularly convenient for long hikes or training, where having your hands free is easier and more comfortable.
Most hands-free leash systems are made from tough nylon and come in two parts; an adjustable waist belt and a leash that connects to the belt with a buckle or clip. Some types can also be worn across the body rather than around the waist, but these are less common. Many hands-free leashes also have a bungee cord design for shock absorption.
Hands-free leashes are suitable for most calm dogs. However, they are not safe for large breeds, strong pullers, lungers, or reactive dogs, as a sudden lunge could pull you over and risk injury to your back. As you won’t have your hands on the leash at all times, you also have less control over sudden jerks or lunges.
6 Best Hands-Free Dog Leashes
Listed below are six of the best hands-free dog leashes for hiking and training. We have reviewed a variety of designs and configurations to ensure you can find a comfortable and effective match for you and your pup.
|Rank||Name||Length (Max)||Why Choose It...|
|#1||Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash||5 feet||Our top pick. Strong harness with reflective stitching and a bungee design.|
|#2||Buddy System Hands Free Dog Leash||3.3 feet||One of the best non-bungee leashes. Available in a range of sizes.|
|#3||Mighty Paw Hands Free Dog Leash||4.3 feet||Bungee style that's available in two length options. Weatherproof and sturdy construction.|
|#4||Kurgo Quantum Hands Free Leash||Configuration Dependent||Excellent non-bungee harness that can be used in several configurations.|
|#5||Iron Doggy Hands-Free Dog Leash||4.5 feet||Touch construction. Bungee has a high maximum load threshold to better absorb shocks.|
|#6||Ruffwear Flat Out Dog Leash||6 feet||Decent non-bungee leash with a simple design, although it can't match some of the others on this list.|
1. Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee LeashVIEW PRICE
The Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash is our top pick for training your dog or enjoying hikes together.
Lightweight and comfortable to wear around your waist, the Tuff Mutt is 48-inches long when not extended. This is great for giving your dog some freedom to wander a little distance away from you and enjoy the sniffs on the trail while keeping them close by.
The bungee will stretch out an additional 12-inches if your dog wants to stray further, and absorbs the shock of a sudden lunge should your dog come across something irresistible and make a dash for it!
Fitting snugly around the waist, this hands-free bungee leash is fully adjustable and crafted from high-quality, box-stitched nylon for excellent durability. So you can have peace of mind that it won’t snap if your pup gets over-excited. We like that it has two built-in handles, as these are perfect for getting your dog under control in an emergency.
The leash connector slides around the waist belt as your pup moves, preventing them from pulling you off balance as you walk and allowing your dog the freedom they desire. This heavy-duty clip moves smoothly and doesn’t snag on the fabric, so both you and your dog can enjoy your hike in comfort.
We also love that this hands-free leash includes three seams of reflective stitching. Ideal for evening leash training sessions on the sidewalk, the reflective thread helps to keep your pooch safe by making them visible to other road users.
While this model is our overall favorite, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. The leash length is quite long for calm or elderly dogs who like to walk beside you. In these circumstances, the leash may end up dragging on the floor and becoming a trip hazard for both you and your pooch.
Furthermore, the bungee is pretty tight, making it less suitable for small dogs. These types of dogs won’t have the bulk or strength to stretch the bungee and take advantage of the extra reach. This may not be an issue for you, but it is worth considering if you have an energetic pup.
All in all, the Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash is a fantastic option for medium to large dogs. The adjustable design and sliding connector make it comfortable for both parties – while the strong bungee, built-in handles and reflective stitching offers a degree of freedom and keeps you both safe on the trail.
2. Buddy System Hands Free Dog LeashVIEW PRICE
Next on our list is the Buddy System Hands Free Dog Leash. A popular choice, this hands-free leash system boasts several useful features that make it a top pick for training or hiking with your pup.
Available in a number of waist sizes, the Buddy System features a leash length of 22-inches to 40-inches and is easy to adjust by sliding the buckles as required.
It can be converted into a handheld leash if needed – which may be useful if your training isn’t going so well. You can also store the leash out of the way when not in use by clipping the other end onto the dedicated storage loop.
Similar to the Tuff Mutt, this model has a loop attachment to the nylon belt, so your dog can walk around you without pulling on it. The loop is also nylon, though – so it doesn’t slide as smoothly and may snag if your dog moves too quickly after a scent.
The collar attachment swivel hook works better. This allows your pup to enjoy their walk without the leash getting twisted or tangled up and reducing their reach. We also like the addition of an emergency “quick release” mechanism on the belt, which is useful if you need to disconnect from your dog in a hurry.
This model is a great option for enjoying the outdoors with your dog while keeping your hands free, but it does lack some important features.
One drawback is its lack of a bungee shock absorber as standard. This isn’t ideal if your pup gets easily distracted and is prone to lunging or pulling. You can opt to purchase one separately, but this obviously means a higher cost. On the other hand, a fixed length leash is often a better choice for training dogs not to pull, as they aren’t taught that pulling gives them more freedom.
It also doesn’t have any handles, so it will be more difficult to get an excitable dog under control quickly.
Overall, this hands-free leash is best suited to small to medium-sized dogs that rarely lunge or pull. Its generous adjustability, quick release mechanism and collar swivel attachment make it a good choice for enjoying the fresh air with your pup at your side.
The Buddy System is a popular hands-free leash that’s great if you don’t want a bungee design. It has a loop attachment which moves around your waist, along with a quick-release mechanism and the option of converting to a handheld leash.
3. Mighty Paw Hands Free Dog LeashVIEW PRICE
Another great option for hands-free fun with your dog is the Mighty Paw Hands Free Dog Leash.
Like our top pick, this model offers a bungee style leash design to cushion any sudden jolt, should your dog lunge after a critter or scent. The tightly woven nylon webbing waist belt is strong yet comfortable to wear, and can be adjusted to fit up to a 42-inch waist.
With two length options of either 36-inches or 48-inches, this hands-free leash provides plenty of reach for your dog to walk alongside you without being too close. The bungee can also extend a further 16-inches when under pressure, allowing your dog to enjoy their surroundings but not stray too far.
Featuring a weatherproof design that’s perfect for wet days in the great outdoors, this hands-free leash also has reflective stitching so you and your pup can stay safely visible, even in low light conditions.
Another great feature of the Mighty Paw is its double metal D-connector rings. One of these rings is fixed in position, so you can keep your pooch on just one side of you if desired. The other ring can slide around your waist, thus allowing your pup more freedom of movement without pulling you off balance.
With sturdy buckles and a strong bungee, this leash is good if you have a medium-sized or strong dog that’s prone to occasionally pulling. The addition of a handle is also welcome, so you can easily gain control of your pup should they get overzealous!
On the downside, this hands-free leash is less suitable for smaller pups. The bungee is a little too tight to allow little or lightweight dogs to extend their reach.
All things considered, we think this model is a good option if you have a medium-sized and relatively calm pup. The bungee design is great for absorbing the occasional pull, while the double d-rings, generous length, weatherproof material and reflective stitching are great for hiking.
The Mighty Paw Hands Free is an excellent alternative to the Tuff Mutt – especially for medium or large breeds. It’s also strong, weatherproof, and comes with reflective stitching for extra visibility.
4. Kurgo Quantum Hands Free LeashVIEW PRICE
If you’re looking for versatility, the Kurgo Quantum Hands Free Leash could be your ideal match. Designed to be used as many as 6 different ways, this hands-free leash is a great option for adventurous lifestyles.
Boasting a padded floating handle for comfort, this hands-free leash can be modified using the attached carabiner clip. You can use it around your waist, over your shoulder in a cross-body style, as a secure tether without unclipping your pup, a handheld double-dog walker, or as a simple 3-foot or 6-foot handheld leash.
The flexibility of the Kurgo Quantum is great if you and your dog enjoy many outdoor activities and trips together. It’s also a good option for traveling and training, as it saves you from having to buy several different leashes. We like that it’s made from strong nylon webbing, with high-quality metal attachments for durability.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks to this model. First of all, there’s no bungee, so if your dog is still in training, any configuration will place all of the strain onto you.
Second, the maximum length of this leash is 6-foot (when in simple handheld leash style). This may sound like a lot, but it means that the available leash length in the hands-free configurations will depend on your height and waist circumference. The taller or larger you are, the shorter the hands-free length will be.
Last of all, the Kurgo Quantum is only reflective on one side. This isn’t such a big deal, but it’s worth considering if your hikes often run into the evenings or you usually leash train your pup in urban areas.
5. Iron Doggy Hands-Free Dog LeashVIEW PRICE
Another great option for your adventurous pup is the Iron Doggy Hands-Free Dog Leash. Adjustable with a max length of 54-inches, this hands-free dog leash will give your dog plenty of reach to sniff and explore without straying too far from your side.
The tough, “marine-grade” bungee is designed to cushion any sudden, unexpected pulls, even by strong dogs. In fact, it’s so tightly sprung, that the maximum load threshold is an impressive 215 pounds. So, should your usually calm pup surprise you on the trail, this leash will effectively absorb any shocks.
We also like that the Iron Doggy Hands-Free Dog Leash is made from durable, military-grade nylon webbing. If you like to hike out with your pup in all seasons, this leash should stand up well to weather extremes without fraying or weakening. It doesn’t have any reflective qualities for low light adventures, though.
Another great feature is the sliding snap hook on the belt. This attaches to the leash and slides around the belt as your dog moves, giving them the freedom to explore. However, if you’re short in stature or have a dog who likes to walk by your side, the generous leash length may present a trip hazard.
Furthermore, the bungee is likely to be too strong for small or lightweight dogs, who may be unable to stretch it out to get more reach.
In short, we think this hands-free leash is best suited to medium to large inquisitive breeds who are well-trained but may pull occasionally. The strong bungee, tough webbing and inclusion of a control handle make it easier for you to keep your best friend safely under control.
The Iron Doggy is a popular choice, due to its tough construction, high-quality bungee, and sliding belt hook. It’s great for medium or large dog breeds, but probably isn’t the best choice for smaller pups.
6. Ruffwear Flat Out Dog LeashVIEW PRICE
The Ruffwear Flat Out Dog Leash is another versatile choice for active pups. It can be worn around the waist for hands-free hiking or training, or used as a standard handheld leash if desired.
This model doesn’t have a bungee, so is less suitable for dogs who may lunge. However, it does have a built-in handle, so you can quickly rein in your dog when necessary. Fully adjustable, this leash is 72-inches at its maximum length. However, when in use, the leash length between you and your dog will depend on your waist size.
We like the sturdy buckle attachment that fastens the waist belt. In an emergency, you could quickly unclip the belt to release your pup. This buckle also provides a safe way to tether your pup to a tree or post, without needing to unclip their leash.
Unfortunately, the Ruffwear Flat Out Dog Leash lacks a sliding leash attachment at the waist belt, so your dog won’t have the freedom to move around you without pulling you off balance.
However, it does have a swivel talon clip for attachment to your dog’s harness. This strong metal clip moves with your dog and prevents the leash from getting twisted up as you walk. The leash itself is made from hard-wearing Tubelok webbing, which is capable of resisting wear and tear on the trail.
Another useful feature is the “accessory loop” on the waistband. This comes in handy for attaching poop bags, keys, treat pouches, etc – so you can keep them close to hand on your adventures.
In summary, this hands-free leash is a good option for leash training or hiking if your dog is calm and tends to walk close to your side. For stronger or more exuberant dogs, the lack of a bungee and sliding attachment restricts their movement too much and will potentially place uncomfortable strain on your waist.
This is a simple hands-free leash without a bungee. Ruffwear makes excellent products, and we like the handle, adjustable waist size, and sturdy construction. The lack of a sliding waist attachment and bungee means it’s less suitable for dogs that might pull or lunge though.
Why Buy a Hands-Free Waist Dog Leash?
There are many circumstances where using a waist dog leash can be a more comfortable option for you and your dog.
Hands-free leashes are ideal if you suffer pain or discomfort in your hands, wrists or shoulders, whether this is caused by a medical condition such as arthritis or a previous injury.
They can also help to prevent a strain injury to these parts of your body during long walks, especially if you have an excitable or strong dog that often pulls on the leash.
No matter how well-trained your dog is, there’s always the possibility that they’ll get excited and suddenly pull to reach something interesting. A dog walking belt that attaches around your waist (closer to your center of gravity) can help prevent you from getting pulled off balance and falling over. This is especially true if you’re of a lighter build.
Aside from long hikes, waist leashes are great for training. They allow you to have your hands free to give cues, use a clicker and reach into your treat bag to reward your pup.
What About Running?
If you’d like to make your dog your new running partner, there’s a lot you need to consider before lacing up your sneakers.
While some dogs can run with their owners safely, it can be dangerous for others. If your dog has health issues, joint problems, is a brachycephalic breed, a puppy or an elderly dog – leave them at home. You may think they’ll enjoy coming along, but doing so could seriously harm their health.
Even if your dog doesn’t fit these criteria, be sure to consult a vet before taking your dog running. You should also never run with your dog in hot weather or on a collar.
When running with your dog, it’s important that they feel able to stop if they want to. Some dogs may power through and exhaust themselves because they feel they must keep up with you. Watch for stress signals to ensure they are actually enjoying the run.
No matter what, always run at your dogs’ pace. Save your sprint training or attempts at a “personal best” for solo runs. Never force your dog to run faster or longer than they’re comfortable with. This risks exhaustion and may cause issues during training. Keep your eye on them for signs that they want a break and keep your runs short.
If you take your dog running, this doesn’t mean you can forfeit their usual daily walks. Your dog can’t enjoy exploring and sniffing when running alongside you. Such activities are very important to their wellbeing, so it’s best to keep your runs and walks separate.
With the above in mind, if you have a small-medium sized pooch that doesn’t pull – a hands-free leash is likely the most comfortable choice for running with your dog. You should also buy a strong running harness.
Material and Durability
Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast or just looking for a good hands-free leash for training, durability is key.
It’s rare to find a hands-free leash that’s constructed from anything other than nylon, which is a generally hardy material that stands up well to scrutiny. But if you head out with your pup in all weathers, we recommend treated nylon that has weather-resistant qualities.
Be sure to pay attention to the quality of the stitching. The best waist leashes will feature reinforced or military-grade stitching, so you can be confident they won’t fray or snap under sudden pressure.
Connection points, such as buckles and clips, are often the weakest areas. Look for strong metal connectors that will resist wear and tear, or heavy-duty plastic buckles that don’t warp under pressure.
One of the drawbacks of hands-free leashes is that you immediately have less control over your dog.
Hands-free leashes aren’t recommended for dogs with behavioral issues, but even the calmest pups can surprise you sometimes!
The best hands-free leashes include a built-in handle so that you can quickly gain control of your dog should the unexpected happen. Some models have a dual handle design for extra security – one close to the waist and one close to the harness attachment.
Style of Hands-Free Leashes
The majority of hands-free leashes are designed to be worn around your waist, but some can be configured to be worn over the shoulder in a cross-body style.
The benefit of waist style leashes is that they are secured close to your center of gravity. Many waist leashes also include a sliding connector, so that your dog can move freely around you without getting tangled or upsetting your balance.
Over the shoulder hands-free leashes may be useful if you dislike the sensation of having a belt tied around your waist or suffer from back or hip pain. However, in the event of an unexpected lunge, you can easily be pulled over and risk injury to your neck and shoulder.
Furthermore, due to the style, over the shoulder leashes don’t allow your dog to walk around you without pulling you around with them. For this reason, they’re best suited to very docile dogs that are happy to walk gently at your heel.
It’s worth noting that some models, such as the Kurgo Quantum Hands Free Leash are designed to be versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways – as both hands-free styles and regular leash styles.
Bungee designs are a popular choice for waist style hands-free leashes. They reduce the strain on your back if your dog pulls or jerks suddenly, while allowing your dog a bit more freedom without creating extra slack that can drag along the floor.
Keep in mind that bungees won’t be beneficial if you’re training your dog to walk without pulling. It’s hard for the owner and dog to feel the difference between tension and a loose leash, making reinforcing the right behaviors much more difficult. You also can’t clearly see whether there is slack in the leash.
It’s sensible to choose a hands-free leash with reflective stitching if you often walk your dog in urban areas, at night, or in poor weather conditions.
A reflective hands-free leash will help you and your pup to be visible in low light and stay safe on your adventures together. If you’re walking at night, you may also want to consider an LED dog collar.
Leash Length and Belt Size
The right leash length will depend on the size of your dog and how much freedom you want to provide on a walk.
Dogs who enjoy walking by your side are better suited to shorter leashes, as longer ones may drag on the ground and become a trip hazard. On the other hand, curious dogs who love to explore will be more comfortable with a longer leash, so they can have more space.
If your dog has a habit of lunging after unsuspecting squirrels or other interesting wildlife, long leashes can be a dangerous choice. They allow your dog to build up momentum, suddenly jerking when they run out of leash. If your dog exhibits this behaviour, it’s best to avoid hands-free leashes altogether.
No matter what length you choose, we recommend opting for a model that is easy to adjust for the correct fit.
Sets that include a leash and waist belt separately are the best options, especially if you’re tall or wide around the waist. Otherwise, if you go for an all-in-one style, your size will determine the amount of leash there is between you and your dog.
What About Retractable Hands-Free Leashes?
Retractable hands-free leashes are best avoided.
While they may seem like a good idea at first, retractable hands-free leashes provide very little control and a real risk of harm.
If your dog makes a dash for it and builds up a momentum, the sudden jolt when they reach the end of the leash is capable of causing back injuries and will likely pull you over.
Are Hands-Free Leashes Always a Good Idea?
Hands-free leashes are suitable for most types of dog. However, there are some circumstances where they are not a good idea. These include:
- Strong pullers or dogs who lunge. If your dog is a strong puller, it’s best to master leash training before moving to a hands-free style. Even with a bungee, the constant pressure on your hips and spine can cause discomfort and may lead to musculoskeletal problems. Similarly, if you have a dog who lunges unexpectedly, a sudden jolt to your waist belt may cause serious damage to your spine.
- Reactive dogs. Reactive dogs have extreme responses to certain triggers. Common examples include reactivity to other dogs, people, or wildlife. Hands-free leashes are not recommended for reactive dogs, as you will struggle to gain quick control over your pup if they encounter a trigger.
- Big dogs. Big dogs have a lot of weight behind them. Even if your gentle giant is calm on walks, their sheer strength will almost certainly cause injury if they unexpectedly jerk or lunge.
Hands-free dog leashes are a convenient and comfortable alternative for hiking and training with your pup. Your dog is safely connected to you at all times, but your hands are free to grab a drink, check your phone, or grab some dog treats from your pocket.
My top pick for the best hands-free dog leash for hiking and training is the Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash. Lightweight and fully adjustable for a perfect fit, this hands-free leash has a generous length and sliding connector that allows your pup to explore.
Crafted from tough, durable nylon, the strong bungee assists with training and will cushion any unexpected jerks should your dog get distracted on the trail. The double built-in handles are also useful if you need to get your pooch under control.
What do you think? If you have any questions about choosing the best hands-free dog leash for your pup, be sure to let me know in the comments below.