Introduction: Leather Dog Leash - Custom Martingale 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…

My friend started her own successful pet sitting/dog training company years ago that focuses on positive reinforcement. One thing she almost always recommends as a first step in training - walk your dogs! I have three rescue dogs myself that could always use a little training. So, I decided it was about time I learned to make a good training leash - but not for my dogs yet - for my friend to use with her furry clientele. She's an awesome friend, so I am actually making her two different training style leashes (in leather of course) as gifts. Naturally, I chose the two styles she uses to train and recommends: This instructable covers the fancier martingale style I made first. My DIY instructable on the other style, Leather Dog Leash - Compact Slip Lead Style, is also available.

So, what is this funky looking thing?

This funky looking thing is based off of the martingale style collar then combines collar and leash into one. Its best for dogs with little experience being walked, pullers, critter chasers or dogs with ADHD. As this collar is meant to tighten up, applying pressure on the dog, if the dog pulls, lounges or tries to bolts, it will only cause minimal discomfort and NOT pain. (Yep, I must admit that I tried it on myself, so I know its only discomforting.) Unlike the slip lead leash, the martingale style seems to better stay in place on the dog. I have even known others that use similar products for agility training as well, but my dogs certainly are not agility dogs! This is my own version in leather with a few modifications - for aesthetics and comfort. This style, along with the slip lead style, has made walks more enjoyable and productive for us and I hope it will for you too!

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

This training leash is not hard to make and its great for everyday walking too not just for training. 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: mystery braiding, hand-dyeing and hand-staining, applying finishes/oils, hand-punching, hardware setting and hand-stamping. This instructable is not meant to dive full-on into the wonder of the leather crafting art, only to show how to make this style leather training leash. If you are relatively new to leather working, consider subscribing to Tandy's Youtube channel or maybe even enroll in the Leatherworking Class!

Step 1: The "Goods" to Get Started

The few components to this project are:

Collar Front, Collar Adjust, Adjustment Tab, Leash, and Handle.

There are many ways to tackle this project via substitution or ingenuity of the following lists to make the components. That's what this site is all about anyway! Tandy's item numbers are included in italics where helpful.

Basic Tools/Supplies:

  • Poly Mallet
  • Quartz Slab - #32228-00
  • Poly Cutting Board
  • Heavy Duty Scissors
  • Rotary Cutter/Utility Knife and Mat
  • Round Drive Punches, 3/32" & 1/4" - #3777-01& #3777-09
  • Wing Divider, or your preference for marking
  • Sturdy Straight-Edge/Ruler (metal and/or center-line best)
  • Optional: Strap End Punch, your preference of type
  • Optional: Edge Beveler, your preference of size
  • Optional: Adjustable V-Gouge - #31811-00
  • Optional: Edge Slicker - #8121-02

Basic Materials:

  • 3/4" Wide Vegetable Tanned Leather Strap, 8-9 oz, 50-72" length - #4527-00
  • Large Scrap piece Vegetable Tanned Leather*
  • Leather Dye (black), Gel Antique (medium brown) and Stain (smoke black)
  • Top Coat Finish
  • (2) 1" Solid Dees (nickel finish) - #1132-12
  • Steel Double Cap Rivets (large, nickel finish) - #1375-12
  • (2) 1/4" Chicago Screws (nickel plate steel) - #1290-02
  • Wool Daubers
  • T-shirt Scraps
  • Sponge and Water
  • Optional: Loctite Adhesive
  • Optional: Edge Dressing
  • Optional: Neatsfoot Oil


  • Large Camouflage - Craftool #V955
  • Decorative Seeder - Craftool #S343
  • 1/2" Dots Geometric (part of set) - Craftool #G9008-03
  • 1/4" Alphabet Stamp Set - #4903-01

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, and large latigo/thick upholstery scrap piece instead and then omit Steps 4 & 5 of this instructable too.

NOTES: *Should be at least 18" long and 4+" wide and between 6-9 oz in weight. (I allot some waste for an Ah-crap! moment.) Most local leather shops will have several scrap bins of different leather....have fun digging for gold!

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 in a Few Quick Cuts

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: Strap, Scrap, Ruler, Strap End Punch, Rotary Cutter & Mat, Scissors, Marking Utensil, Mallet, Cutting Board, Quartz Slab

2a - Cut From the 3/4" Leather Strap

  • Leash*: Cut (1) new piece that is anywhere from 18" - 36" in length, your preference
  • Collar Adjust**: Cut (1) other piece that is 24" - 30" in length, your preference
  • Adjustment Tab: Cut (1) last separate piece 4" in length
  • Strap end punch all ends, optional

2b - Cut From the Large Scrap Leather Piece

  • Cut (1) squared up piece that is 3" x 16" to start making the handle and collar front
  • Handle***: Cut a strip off from the 3" x 16" piece that is 1" wide; New handle piece is 1" x 16"
  • Collar Front***: Take the 2" wide strip now remaining after cutting the handle and trim 2" off the 16" length; New piece should now be 2" x 14"

2c - Shape Ends of Collar Front & Handle

  • First, mark a centerpoint at all ends first; Make all marks on backsides only
  • Collar Front: Mark a straight line 2 1/2" in from each end
  • Handle: Mark a straight line 2" in from each end
  • Draw tapered lines down from each side of these lines to centerpoints; Tabs on Collar Front should be 3/4" wide by 1 1/4" in length to accommodate the dees; Please refer to "2c Picture" for specifics
  • Cut on the tapered lines
  • Strap end punch newly shaped ends, optional

TIPS: Remember to account for overlap of the collar adjust and handle components when considering the cut length of your leash. For example, if you want your actual leash to be 30", then cut at 32" instead to allow one inch at each overlap.

NOTES: *I cut my Leash at about 29" which included the 2" for overlap. **You can simplify the project even more by leaving the Leash and Collar Adjust all one piece; I cut separate pieces for aesthetic purposes only. ***Increasing the surface area of the Collar Front and Handle should increase comfort for you and your dog, but widths and lengths are all dependent on the size of your furry friend.

Step 3: Prepare Components for Metamorphosis

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: All Components, Ruler, Wing Divider/Marking Utensil, Rotary Cutter & Mat, Scissor, V-Gouge, Edge Beveler, Hole Punches, Mallet, Quartz Slab

3a - Cut Fold Lines on the Collar Front

  • Optional: It makes folding easier for heavier weight leathers.
  • Mark a straight line 1 1/4" in from each end, on backside of the leather
  • Cut along these lines using an adjustable v-gouge

3b - Punch Holes for Rivets*

  • Collar Front: Use 1/4" hole punch to make corresponding holes on center, for the chicago screws, on both tabs; Each hole measures 3/4" out from each side of the folds
  • Collar Adjust: Use 3/32" hole punch to make holes on center for rivets, 1/2" in from both ends
  • Adjustment Tab: Fold it around both ends of Collar Adjust to mark overlap; Punch corresponding holes on center at that overlap using 3/32" hole punch for rivet
  • Leash: Use 3/32" hole punch to make holes on center for rivets, 1" in from both ends
  • Handle: Use 3/32" hole punch to make holes on center for rivets, 1/2" in from both ends

3c - 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

3d - Mark & Cut the Slits for the Mystery Braids

  • Collar Front: First, mark equal distanced points across the width, 3" in from both ends, then score new lines down from point to point; Last, cut slits on these lines referring to "3d Picture" - creates (1) set of three strands for braiding
  • Handle: First, find center and mark equal distanced points across the width, 1" out from both sides of center; Then, at 3" in from both ends, mark corresponding equal distanced points across the width; Last, score new lines from point to point and cut slits on these lines referring to "3d Picture" - creates (2) sets of three strands for braiding

TIPS: When using an adjustable v-gouge, do not exceed 1/3 into the leather thickness to avoid weakening the leather. You can use the tiniest punch you have to punch holes at ends of scored slits before you cut them for a cleaner more uniform slit.

NOTES: *If you kept the Leash and Collar Adjust one whole piece in Step 2, you will need to modify how and where you punch corresponding holes to create a Collar Adjust area for riveting in Step 7.

Step 4: Customize the Leash

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: Sponge & Water, Wing Divider/Marking Utensil, Edge Slicker, Alphabet Stamps, Craftool Stamps (all listed), Mallet, Quartz Slab

4a - 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

4b - Mark Design Area on Leash (no picture)

  • Mark a center point first then mark at 2 1/2" in from each end
  • Lightly score a center-line down between the end marks as a stamping guideline

4c - Stamp the Letters on Leash

  • Personalize with your own name/word/phrase
  • Start at the center point, along guideline, with the middle letter stamp and work your way out from both sides

4d - Stamp the Design on Leash

  • Mark 1" out from first and last of the stamped letters
  • Center Craftool #V955 at these 1" marks, along guideline, and stamp out to each marked end to duplicate design pattern shown in pictures
  • Continue the pattern next with Craftool #G9008-03
  • Contiune the pattern last with Craftool #S343

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.

Step 5: Apply Dyes, Stains, & Finishes

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: All Components, Neatsfoot Oil, Dye, Gel Antique, Stain, Top Coat Finish, T-shirt Scraps, Wool Daubers

5a - Apply Neatsfoot Oil

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

5b - Apply Dye

  • Application instruction is completely dependent upon the type/brand used
  • Dye completely with black: Collar Adjustment, Collar Front and Handle

5c - Apply Gel Antique & Stain*

  • Apply both on: Leash and Adjustment Tab
  • Use t-shirt scraps to apply a generous amount of brown gel antique first
  • Work gel antique into the leather using circular motions and let penetrate for a minute or two
  • Wipe off excess, before it begins to dry, using long strokes with a dry clean part of the cloth
  • Now repeat process with the smoke black stain, working it in with a wool dauber instead

5d - Treat Backsides & Edges

  • Optional: Whether you beveled the edges or not, edge dressing adds a flexible finishing touch and can be applied using a wool dauber; otherwise just dye all backsides and edges and finish with a top coat
  • Apply two coats of edge dressing to all edges and one coat to dyed backsides of every component

5e - Apply Top Coat Finish (no picture)

  • Application instruction is completely dependent upon the type/brand used
  • Several coats most likely necessary for durability

TIPS: Always let oils and/or layers of color application dry completely before moving to the next since colors will likely bleed during the application of most finishes; I prefer the spray on finishes when using multiple colors. If you left your Leash and Collar Adjust as one piece, consider using gel antique and stain on entire piece since there is no actual division between the two. Backsides of leather can suck up a lot of dye supply to achieve a rich color but using in tandem with edge dressing helps reduce waste, or you can use Fiebing's Edge Kotes as an all-in-one.

NOTES: *If applying edge dressing after, avoid getting gel antique or stain on edges/backsides; edge dressing does not attract well to them.

Step 6: Create the Collar and Handle Mystery Braids

I am not even going to attempt a verbal explanation of the mystery braid so that I do not confuse you all, but here are some Youtube videos I found helpful to aid in learning.

6a - Collar Front Mystery Braid*

  • Doing a tighter braid will create a natural inward curve**
  • New width should be approximately 1 1/2"; New length should be approximately 12 1/2"

6b - Handle Mystery Braid*

  • Braid both sections with a looser braid than on Collar Front
  • New width should vary between 3/4" - 1"; New length should be approximately 15 1/4"

TIPS: I ALWAYS dye and finish the pieces I am going to braid before I start the braid but after I make the cuts, its just easier for me. Downside: the leather may be stiffer and harder to braid - apply top coat to Collar Front after braiding to make it easier.

NOTES: *These two components are now shorter after being braided. Shrinkage was accommodated for in Step 2 provided measurements. **The tighter the braid is made means the shorter the completed lengths will be for each component.

Step 7: Put the Puzzle Pieces Together

Materials/Tools Needed for this Step: All Components (aka puzzle pieces), Hardware (all listed), Mallet, 3/32" Punch, Quartz Slab, Rivet Setter, Screwdriver, Loctite (optional)

7a - Attach Collar Front to Collar Adjust*

  • Slide a dee ring onto each tab end of the Collar Front, fold tabs over
  • Place a drop of loctite into female part of screw, optional
  • Install chicago screw
  • Feed one end of the Collar Adjust through both installed dee rings

7b - Install Adjustment Tab**

  • Fold it in half, line up the punch holes and set a rivet
  • Slide each end of the Collar Adjust through, one at a time

7c - Attach Collar Adjust to Leash

  • Fold the Collar Adjust in half, insert one Leash end in between the Collar Adjust ends and line up all three holes
  • Insert rivet and set
  • Reinforce this joint with two more rivets, one to each side of previously punched and set center rivet

7d - Attach Lease to the Handle

  • Fold the Handle in half, insert opposite Leash end in between the Handle ends and line up all three hole
  • Insert rivet and set
  • Reinforce this joint with two more rivets, one to each side of previously punched and set center rivet

TIPS: You can punch all holes for the triple riveted joints in Step 3 as well; honestly, I was not sure if I should do two or three rivets at the joints for reinforcement until I got to this point.

NOTES: *I used chicago screws so that the Collar Front can be changed out with varying sizes later accommodating a wider doggie sized clientele for my friend. I did not apply loctite. **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 of the Collar/Collar Adjust and keep the dog from slipping out.

Step 8: Test Your Completed Project!

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

  • The safest position for the Collar Front is at the base of the head, right below the ears. Use the Adjustment Tab to provide just enough tension to keep it from slipping down (and losing control of your dog) before you begin the walk. Unlike the slip lead, the martingale style is less likely to slip from position. The Collar Adjust provides a little tension as well, even without the Adjustment Tab.
  • 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 Collar Front 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. 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