Take the Lead!

Take the Lead! | Shooting Sportsman Magazine
Photographs by Chris Siefken

Commanding leads for training time

When training, you need to have an attachment to your dog. Literally. Being connected via a training lead gives you control, lets you show the dog what you want and allows you to issue corrections. A variety of training leads are available—some designed for specific purposes and dog types—and though they are basic pieces of equipment, they are critical tools in the development of well-trained hunting companions. We enlisted the help of former SSM staffer Jeremy Hatch and his 65-pound shorthair, Echo, in evaluating four commanding leads.


“Jaeger” means “hunter” in German, and Mendota’s Leather Jaeger Lead offers the ultimate in versatility for the hunter or dog trainer. This flat leather lead has a swivel brass snap at each end, three D-rings and a floating O-ring, making it a do-all, versatile lead for dogs of any size. It can be used as a slip lead or in conjunction with a flat or choke collar for a variety of obedience work. By manipulating the various snaps and rings, it can be used as a 6' or 4' obedience lead; as an over-the-shoulder, hands-free lead; as a temporary tie-out for hooking a dog to a post or tree; or to walk two dogs at once. Fully extended, it is long enough to let a dog range out a bit, say, for tracking. The lead can be carried in a hunting vest or clipped and looped around the shoulder. Because the Jaeger Lead is made of leather, it will absorb water and will need to be treated to prevent it from drying out. Length: 8'. Width: ¾". Color: Chestnut. Price: $55.


Legendary pointing-dog trainer and field-trialer Delmar Smith developed the Command Lead—later dubbed the “Wonder Lead” by trainer Ed Rader because “You’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.” This is a slip lead with a rubber stop, or keeper, that allows for a custom fit to dogs of any size. It is knotted at the tail end with a leather tab for a hold point. The lead is used primarily for obedience training, and it excels for teaching a dog to heel. Made of “piggin’ string”—durable, flexible plastic rope with a natural spring to it—the Wonder Lead allows for instant correction and then immediately releases pressure, or tension. A light pull and release are all that are needed. Also, because pressure loosens when the dog is where it’s supposed to be, the dog learns to heel on a loose lead. The Wonder Lead can double as a walking leash and will coil up and fit in a hunting vest. Length: 7½'. Price: $35.


The Wildrose Combination Training Lead is a British-style slip lead with three pieces: a lead, a “steady tab” and a slip collar with keeper. Developed by Wildrose Kennels owner and Labrador trainer Mike Stewart, the lead is made of a strong, rubberized material that is waterproof and easily cleaned. The three-piece design allows you to remove the lead portion (36") and leave the short steady tab (11") as a reminder to the dog to remain obedient and as a grip that won’t interfere with the dog running or swimming. Because the sections are connected with heavy swivel latches, there is a lot of metal banging around—which could be intimidating for young or small dogs. The lead also lacks a handle, or tail hold, so it is not an ideal walking leash. It is available with grip dots (shown) or without. Length: 6'. Width: ¾". Collar lengths: 22" or 26". Colors: Brown (shown), black, light brown and orange.


The Sporting Saint Field Trial Pro Lead is made in the UK and marketed in the US by English cocker breeder Ryglen Gundogs, indicating the size of dog it’s intended for—although it can be used with more-compliant larger dogs. The braided nylon slip lead is lightweight but strong and very flexible. A stainless “thimble” allows the rope to glide through smoothly, and a rubber stop prevents the lead from loosening and slipping off the dog’s head. A loop at the tail end serves as a handle. With its small diameter (¼"), the lead allows for quick, precise corrections. It is ideal for close-in obedience work, such as teaching a dog to heel or sit, but it is too short to let a dog range out. The lead can double as a walking leash, and the small, compact size makes it easy to coil and carry in a pocket. Length: 4'. Color: Orange. Price: $25.

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