The Real Reason You Should Be Cleaning Your Dog's Leash

Taking your dog for lots more walks these days? Good on you, mate! Fresh air, exercise, and odds are the dog is over-the-moon happy for the quality time in the great outdoors. Are you using a leash? Even better — especially in areas where leash laws are in effect. Or even areas where somebody might glare at you for not having your dog on a leash. But what about that leash? Maybe your pooch gets all bouncy in anticipation when it appears in your hand, but have you considered the possibility that besides keeping your dog near and safe, it's a potential health hazard? (Well, so's shaking hands, with animal or human, now that we think about it.)

Let's face it: responsible pet owners will train and discipline a dog for its own good — don't chase cars, don't push Timmy in the well just so you can be a hero again. Housebroken tops most people's list. But once outside, all bets are pretty much off (though it's helpful if dogs learn to use areas other than public sidewalks for toilets). Anybody who's taken a dog for walkies knows that a leash can get tangled up not only in the dog's nether regions, but can also get mixed up in the animal's potty moments, so to speak.

Who's a good dog? Who's got their leash?

Leashes can also get dragged along the ground, and who knows what it might pick up there? You've handled it, too, and the grime will accumulate. As Mental Floss tells us, "Leashes are just as easily soiled as anything you touch on a regular basis." Suffice to say, your dog's leash is getting a workout. How to keep it clean?

First, consider the materials of which the leash is made. For instance, a leather leash needs something like saddle soap to get it clean, per Dr. Jennifer Coates, cited by Reader's Digest. Even diluted dish soap will do the trick; the point is to remove dirt and bacteria. Nylon leashes, or leashes fashioned from rope, benefit from much the same treatment: good hot water and soap. Shampoo will do the trick, too, and if you have to use a hypoallergenic shampoo for your dog, use it on the leash as well. Sometimes it helps to have a couple of leashes — a little style variety never hurts, and a clean backup will benefit you and your pet.

As for how often? Again, Dr. Coates: "Use the 'ick' factor as a guide. If the thought of running your hands up and down the leash makes you shudder, it should be cleaned." Kind of like people, actually.