Leads and check cords are probably the most basic, least expensive dog training tools we have. Consequently, they’re also the most easily lost or misplaced dog training tool we have. In my own personal (and never-ending) dog training aid attrition contest, only bumpers can challenge leads and check cords as my most frequently lost item. And even though commercially-made leads and check cords aren’t terribly expensive, one way to save a little money is to simply make your own. Not only is it cheaper than buying ready-made products, but making your own also gives you the flexibility to have many different lengths and diameters for different training situations.
So what do you need to make your own? Rope, a snap, a lighter, and the ability to tie a bowline knot. And that’s about it. Moreover, you can find everything you need to make high-quality leads and check cords at your local hardware or farm supply store.
First, the rope. You can use pretty much any rope material you want for a lead or check cord. I generally make my check cords out of stiff 3/8 or 1/2 nylon or polypropylene, with the operative word being stiff. Limp, loosely-woven rope doesn’t work well for check cord material. As for snaps, I only use solid brass snaps of a size appropriate to the rope.
Simply cut your rope to whatever length you desire, whip (if you’re a knotmaster) or burn (if, like me, you’re not) both ends of it and then tie it to your snap using a bowline knot. That’s it. Need a long, fifty-foot check cord for the field? Build one for a few bucks. Need a short, small-diameter puppy lead for the new addition to the family? Don’t buy one, just build it for a couple bucks. Left your check cord out in a training field somewhere and can’t find it? Build a new one (and remember to use a high-visibility color this time) in about two minutes.
I’ve got check cords and leads all over the house, the garage, the yard, the kennel area, my slide-in dog box, and in both the vehicles I use for hunting and training. I have to, because, well, I’m a little forgetful, and this way I’ve always got one close by. I’ve got long check cords for field work, shorter ones for yard work and basic obedience, and if I need one a certain length, I always have a few spare snaps and lengths of rope to build it to my need.
And the beauty of using a bowline knot is you can adjust where the knot is in relation to the snap’s d-ring. You can either snug it up tight to the ring, or you can tie it in a loop (see picture). Why a loop? Because when you’re doing check cord work that loop is a great way to get your dog’s attention. Give the check cord a quick flip and if it’s measured correctly, that knot bumps the underside of his jaw. (That’s a tip straight out of Best Way To Train Your Gundog: The Delmar Smith Method. It’s an oldie but a goodie).
Anyone else make their own leads and check cords? What’s your favorite method?