Monday, October 7, 2013

A Three Dollar Hands-free Leash

I got a question the other day about what kind of collar and leash I use in the field.

I do not use a leash very much in the field, unless I am calling it a day and headed for the truck, or I am staking out a non-working dog while I dig. You cannot walk a dog on a leash very well in an American hedgerow, and it's impossible if you are going solo with two dogs and a 6-foot digging bar, a shovel, a pack, and 15-pounds of posthole digger, as I usually am. 

As for collars, my dogs run free with old-school Mark I Deben collars on, which are good for 12-15 feet of location underground. They also wear a very small nylon collar with an additional slide tag that I have added to my kit in recent years, as I no longer trust leather Deben collars to not fail when I need them most.

As for leashes, I have a few leather ones, and I routinely use an old three-dog bridle hitch made from flat cotton webbing.

I also have a number of leashes I have made for myself and which have stood the test of time. Some are very long, but most are about 10-feet and designed to be used hands-free. By  moving the doubling point up or down, I can create a leash of any shorter length, and walk a pair of terriers under control.  

Store-bought leather leashes rarely come in long enough lengths for me, and leather is not a superior material for leashes anyway.  

I used to use cotton and nylon webbing to make leashes, but now I use low-cost nylon rope, which is easy to knot and finish.

I make decent Euro-leashes for $3 a leash, and you can too.

Buy 100-feet of cord from Home Depot. The cost of this terrier-weight nylon rope was $8 with tax, and I get eight 10-foot leashes out of a hank, for a unit cost of $1 a leash.  Fuse the ends with a match or candle.

Cheap carabiners are three for $1.25 at the dollar store, or about 85 cents per leash.

Thread the rope with the kind of rubber shrink-wrap that you can find in the electrical aisle of your local hardware store.  This stuff cost $1 for three lengths. Use the right sized shrink-wrap for your cord. The cost of shrink wrap for this leash was 67 cents per leash.

Tie a bowline knot into the rope, leaving a 4-5 inch tail that is doubled-backed up the leash. Push the shrink wrap over the tail so that it is flush with the doubled ends. The shrink wrap should end an inch or so back from the knot.  And yes, you can use other knots, such as a figure eight loop, if you prefer.

Heat the rubberized shrink wrap with a candle. Go slow and do not burn the rope, but make sure the heat wrap tightens down all the way and all over.

That's it!  No, it's hardly fancy or elegant. On the other hand, it's also not much work. These leashes are simple, low-cost utilitarian affairs. This is the kind of leash that might embarrass you at a dog show, but it will never embarrass you on a farm.

I make 10-foot leashes, as I hook hook them over my shoulder Euro-lead style so that I can walk my dogs hands- free. The point of connection on the big bight is determined with a simple slip hitch, as below.

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