Introduction: Leather Dog Leash - Compact Slip Lead Style

About: Leather crafting is not just something I do, it means something to me. My goal is to successfully project that in every piece I create. Even the name, 3 Parks Design, means something to me as it represents two…

This style dog leash is the second leather training leash that I made as a gift for my friend who owns a pet sitting/dog training company. The first style I made for her in another DIY instructable titled, Leather Dog Leash - Custom Martingale Style, is a bit fancier. This style is simpler in construction but just as effective.

How does this leash work?

Its purpose is very similar to the martingale style. It is best for stubborn dogs with little to no experience being walked, pullers, critter chasers or dogs with ADHD. It is also meant to tighten up on the dog when the dog pulls, lounges or tries to bolt, causing only minimal discomfort and NOT pain. (Of course, I tested this one on myself too, so I know its only discomforting). Other than construction, there are two main differences between the leash in this instructable versus the martingale style in my other instructable. Extra sturdiness and a shorter length have been designed into this leash to accommodate bigger stronger doggies. This style of leash is very common - I am merely recreating it in leather so that you all can make a unique leather leash that is just as unique as your furry friends!

Why buy yet another expensive item for your dog when you can just make it!

This training leash is even easier to make than the martingale style but also good for everyday walking - simpler design means less components, less steps and less leather. Again here, there is no need to fuss with downloading and printing out patterns; it requires just a few simple measurements, a little time and some tools/materials. This design incorporates: hand-dyeing and painting, hand-stamping, applying finishes/oils, and hand-stitching . This instructable is meant only to show how to make this leather training leash and then you can personalize/customize along the way to suit you and your dog!

Step 1: The "Goods" to Get Started

The few components to this project are:

Slip Collar, Leash, Adjustment Tab and Handle.

Below is a list of goods that I used in my project to help you get going on your own project. Tandy's item numbers are included in italics where most helpful.

Basic Tools/Supplies:

  • Poly Mallet
  • Quartz Slab, #32228-00
  • Poly Cutting Board
  • Heavy Duty Scissors
  • Thonging Chisel Set - #3008-00
  • Hand-Stitching Needles - #1195-00
  • Wing Divider, or your preference for marking
  • Adjustable V-Gouge - #31811-00
  • Skiver - #3025-00
  • Sturdy Straight-Edge/Ruler (metal and/or center-line best)
  • Strap End Punch, your preference of type
  • Optional: Edge Beveler, your preference of size
  • Optional: Edge Slicker - #8121-02
  • Optional: Skiver - #3025-00

Basic Materials*:

  • (1) 1" Wide Vegetable Tanned Leather Strap, 8-9 oz, 50" length - #4526-00
  • Gel Antique, your choice color
  • Leather Acrylic Paint, your choice color
  • (2) Top Coat Finishes, one spray finish and one for block resist
  • (1) 1" Solid Dee (nickel finish) - #1132-12
  • Waxed Braided Nylon Thread, your choice color
  • Small Detail Paint Brushes
  • T-Shirt Scraps & Wool Daubers
  • Sponge and Water
  • Leather Dye or Fiebing's Edge Kote, your choice color
  • Optional: Neatsfoot Oil


  • Up to a 3/4" Alphabet Stamp Set, your choice

TIPS: Want to forgo the mess and extra expense of hand-dyeing and finishing and hand-stamping? Great, you've made this project even easier! Grab a latigo strap, Tandy #4761-00, instead and then omit Steps 3 & 4 of this instructable too.

NOTES: *Strap length used and all following measurements can vary depending on the size of your dog on your personal height; I used my dogs weights and average neck size circumference of 16" as a guide. Keep in mind that this compact design is meant to be shorter with little slack to provide more control.

If you want to cut your own strap from a hide of vegetable tanned/latigo leather, you'll need the following as well:

Alternate Tools/Supplies

  • Leather Strap Cutter - #3080-00
  • (or be crazy brave and just use the rotary cutter, mat and sturdy straight edge)

Please remember to follow standard safety protocols and tool/material instructions before proceeding to avoid any accidents, like loss of fingers, smashed fingers, dyeing your hands an unsightly color, causing damage to your eyes, ruining clothes, etc.

If you find yourself stuck during the project, please feel free to contact me, your local leather shop, or check out YouTube and other great instructables on leather crafting techniques.

Step 2: Create the Components & Prepare for Metamorphosis

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: Strap, Ruler, Scissors, Mallet, Cutting Board, Quartz Slab, Strap End Punch, V-Gouge, Edge Beveler (optional), Skiver (optional)

2a - Cut From the 1" x 50" Leather Strap

  • Square up the ends, leaving a 1" x 48" strap
  • Adjustment Tab: Cut a 1" x 5" piece from the 1" x 48" strap
  • Remaining 1" x 43" strap is now your Slip Collar, Leash and Handle, all one piece
  • Strap end punch all ends for both pieces

2b - Cut Fold Lines*

  • Slip Collar: Pick one end to designate as the Slip Collar and mark a straight line 2" in from that end, on the backside of the leather; Cut along this line using the adjustable v-gouge
  • Adjustment Tab: Mark a straight line on center (2 1/2" in), on the backside of the leather; Cut along this line using the adjustable v-gouge

2c - Skive Overlap Areas**

  • Optional: Makes stitching through these areas easier by shaving/reducing the thickness of the leather; overlaps will also look less bulky and have more flexibility.
  • Adjustment Tab: Skive both ends evenly up to the fold line cut in 2b, on the backside
  • Handle: Mark a straight line 1 1/2" in, on the backside, and skive up to this line
  • Slip Collar: Skive this end evenly up to the fold line cut in 2b, on the backside

2d - Bevel the Edges

  • Optional: Smooth rounded edges are more comfortable for the dog and your hands!
  • Use an edge beveler of choice to cut/shave rounded edges along all edges (front & back)

TIPS: If you think you might want to make multiple slip leashes, save some money and buy a wider strap(s) then splice it to get two straps from one. Before using a strap end punch, I mark a center point at each end as an "aiming mark" to get a more uniform cut each time. Or, if you do not have a strap end punch but still want the same effect, just hand measure/draw out the style end you want and copy to each end.

NOTES: *It makes folding much easier for heavier weight leathers/wider straps and also provides a reference mark for skiving in this project; typically, I gouge a 1/8" width line. **If you are not comfortable skiving, omit this task to avoid risking a nice strap of leather; skiving has been a love-hate relationship for me.

Step 3: Customize the Leash

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: Sponge & Water, Wing Divider, Edge Slicker (optional), Alphabet Stamp Set, Mallet, Quartz Slab

3a - Case all Leather

  • Thoroughly wet all leather components, let it start returning back to original color before beginning
  • Slick/burnish the edges once leather has been cased, optional

3b - Mark Design Area

  • Handle: At this end, mark a point 14" in to accommodate area to be stitched/overlapped
  • Slip Collar: From this end, mark a point at 5" in to accommodate area to be stitched/overlapped
  • The distance between these two new points is 24"; Mark the center for this distance, 12"
  • Lightly score a center-line down between the two end marks as a stamping guideline

3c - Stamp the Letters*

  • Personalize with your own name/word/phrase to be repeated along the length of the leash
  • Start at the "center mark", along guideline, with the middle letter stamp and work your way out from both sides
  • Mark out 1" from the beginning and 1" from the end of the stamped name/word/phrase
  • Turn the leash 180 degrees and stamp the word out again twice starting now from these 1" marks, once to the left then once to the right; The center word should be facing up one direction while the repeated words, on left and right, are face up in the opposite direction

TIPS: If you completely wet the leather and then seal it in a zip-lock bag overnight for thorough casing, the stamp impressions will come out better. After stamping your word in the center, measure the overall length to see how many times you can repeat it on each side before reaching the end marks. Mine was 7" long, so I was only able to stamp out once again per side; I used 1/2" and 3/4" letters.

NOTES: *To clarify, the "center mark" where you begin stamping is the center of the 24" long design area, mark made at 12" in 3b.

Step 4: Apply Dyes, Stains & Finishes

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: All Components, Neatsfoot Oil, Acrylic Paint, Gel Antique, Edge Kote, Both Top Coat Finishes, Small Paint Brushes, Other Dye/Finish Applicators

4a - Apply Neatsfoot Oil

  • Optional: But, it tends to darken (add richness to) the natural color and increase flexibility of leather before dye/color application.

4b - Paint Letters & Block Resist*

  • Apply two coats of the acrylic paint to all hand-stamped characters
  • Using a brush on gloss top coat, apply two protective coats to all hand-painted characters to "block-resist" them

4c - Apply Gel Antique**

  • Apply to front side only of entire project
  • Use t-shirt scraps to apply a generous amount of gel antique
  • Work gel antique into the leather using circular motions and let penetrate briefly
  • Wipe off excess, before it begins to dry, using long strokes with a dry clean part of the cloth

4d - Treat Backsides & Edges**

  • Apply dye, edge dressing or Edge Kote to all backsides using a wool dauber
  • Apply two coats to all edges

4e - Apply Top Coat Finish (no picture)

  • Spray Application best; Apply light coats all over entire project (front, back and sides) outside for proper ventillation
  • Several coats most likely necessary for durability; Buff with soft cloth in between coats, once dry

TIPS: Especially in this case: always let oils and/or layers of color application dry completely before moving to the next since colors may bleed during application. It is best to wipe off any gel antique that leaks onto backside/edges during application immediately to improve adhesion with the edge kote.

NOTES: *Block-resisting will help prevent or "block" dyes/stains/antique gels from penetrating in those areas, allowing the leather to "resist" additional color application. **Fiebing's Edge Kote is essentially an all-in-one backside/edge treatment that I occasionally use instead of dyeing first and then applying edge dressing and/or finish.

Step 5: Put the Puzzle Pieces Together

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: All Components (aka puzzle pieces), Hardware (all listed), Thonging Chisels (all listed), Needles, Waxed Thread, Mallet, Quartz Slab, Cutting Board

5a - Punch the Stitching Holes*

  • Slip Collar: Use a wing divider to score a 1/4" stitching perimeter around the end, 1" high, then score a straight top line; Punch stitching holes along perimeter, starting on center of top line; Fold end over (on gouge line) to mark reference points for punching coordinating holes on Leash
  • Handle: Use a wing divider to score a 1/4" stitching perimeter around the end, 1" high, then score a straight top line; Punch stitching holes along perimeter, starting on center of top line; Mark a point 12-13" in from the end (for hand loop) then loop the punched end over until it meets with this point; Mark reference points for punching coordinating holes on Leash

5b - Stitch Up the Slip Collar & Handle*

  • Cut off (2) sections of waxed thread from spool, each approximately 30" in length, to thread and lock onto needles for stitching up these joints, using saddle stitch technique (two-needle stitching)
  • Slide the flat side of the dee ring onto the Slip Collar end, fold over (on gouge line) and then hand-stitch it closed
  • Pull the Handle end back through the curved half of the dee ring, this creates the "actual" Slip Collar
  • Loop the Handle end over, aligning the punched holes, and then hand-stitch it closed

5c - Install the Adjustment Tab**

  • Fold it in half, around the Leash, to mark the overlap
  • Use a wing divider to score a 1/4" stitching perimeter around the Tab, up to overlap mark
  • Score a straight line across the top width of the stitching perimeter, at the overlap mark
  • Punch stitching holes along perimeter, starting on center of the top straight line
  • Duplicate on the reverse end of Adjustment Tab
  • Cut off (1) section of waxed thread from spool, approximately 25" in length, to thread and lock onto needles
  • Fold the tab back over the Leash, anywhere between the Slip Collar and Handle, until the stitching holes line up
  • Thread and lock the needles and stitch tab closed

TIPS: You can make stitching go faster by threading 3 sets of needles in advance so that you do not have to stop to thread and lock needles in between. After you lock your stitch and snip off the thread ends, use a lighter to lightly melt the ends and then mash them down to lock the stitch even further.

NOTES: *Strong dogs pulling means extra sturdy reinforcement necessary, hence the boxed hand-stitching with waxed braided thread at joints for everyone's safety. I used a 3/32" size thonging chisel on my project. **If this tab is not tightly secure and difficult to pull once installed then it will not do its job. The Adjustment Tab is needed to adjust the tension and keep the doggie from slipping out. Also, it essentially locks the Slip Collar onto the Leash.

Step 6: Test Your Completed Project!

Training Tips for a Successful Walk - Using this Lease and Positive Reinforcement:

  • The shorter length of this leash helps teach your dog to remain right by your side and prevent pulling ahead.
  • The safest position for the Slip Collar is at the base of the head, right below the ears. This slip leash style is likely to fall out of position frequently. Slide the Adjustment Tab down until there is tension that will prevent losing position (and control of your dog) before beginning the walk. This tension should be tighter than with the martingale style.
  • Secure your hand inside the handle. You can give the leash a quick tug if your dog starts to display unwanted behavior during the walk. This tug will tighten the Slip Collar up and redirect their attention to you. Tell them to sit. Once they sit, pet them for that good behavior. Do not continue walking until they have sat and calmed down. Remember, walking is a reward to the dog as well as exercise. You have now redirected unwanted behavior by rewarding only their good behavior.
  • According to my friend, even using words to discourage unwanted behavior can seem to be rewarding to your dog - you are essentially giving attention to them thus encouraging the unwanted behavior. So only use a firm consistent sound (whistle, click, etc) when necessary to redirect their attention. Or, give them a known command and then reward them for obeying that command.
  • Avoid eye contact during those acts of unwanted behavior. Eye contact from you, the alpha, is considered encouraging as well.

Enjoy quality bonding time walking your dog!

Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Participated in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016