What is the Best Material for Dog Collars and Leads? 1

What is the Best Material for Dog Collars and Leads?

I was recently searching for some new leads for my dog grooming business and it got me thinking, “what is the best material for leads?”. I always try to buy sustainable, environmentally friendly products wherever possible, however, sometimes we get stuck in a rut of purchasing the same things over and over. For me, this was polyester grooming leads. A material I decided a while ago I would avoid for clothing, yet didn’t think about in other products.

I was curious to see what materials were available for dog collars and leads so I created a poll on my Instagram account to see which materials my followers thought were best for collars and leads.

Options were:

  1. Organic Cotton
  2. BioThane (PVC/TPU)
  3. Vegetable Tanned Leather
  4. Organic Hemp
Poll results from Organix Dog Spa IG account.

The Winner of the poll was Organic Cotton with BioThane in at number 2, Leather and Hemp a draw in 3rd.
I wasn’t surprised that most felt Organic Cotton to be the best material, but, I was quite shocked that BioThane came in second.

If you scour the internet, you’ll see there aren’t a heap of options when it comes to the fabric of collars and leads. Most have a polyester webbing inside regardless of what their exterior fabric is. And the brands that use alternative fabrics are often limited in design.

The “best” fabric obviously depends on what you’re looking for. Personally, I try not to choose to compromise the environment (if I’m aware of it). Below I’ve listed the pros and cons of each material and I’ve included environmental implications as well as the practicality of use as a collar and lead.

ORGANIC HEMP

What is it?
Hemp fabric is a durable textile made from the high-yielding Cannabis Sativa plants fibres. Hemp was used historically for industrial purposes like rope and sails. It is one of the strongest and most durable natural fibres. Pesticides or other chemicals are not required to grow and process hemp fibre.

Pros

  • Hemp is usually organic as it requires no pesticides or herbicides in order to grow.
  • Very Sustainable and beneficial to the environment. One acre of hemp can produce as much usable fibre as 4 acres of trees or 2 acres of cotton.
  • Requires less water to grow than cotton and can be grown in a wider range of climates.
  • No chemicals are used for processing and the fabric can be naturally dyed.
  • Strong & Durable yet soft, like cotton. Can last decades.
  • Biodegradable & Recyclable
  • Machine Washable
Hemp Collar from Pawsome Organics

Cons

  • Most cons for Hemp have to do with the fact that it is a natural, biodegradable fibre.
  • It’s not waterproof and can be chewed through.
  • Not many styles or colour options available at the moment

VEGETABLE-TANNED LEATHER

What is it?
Since this is an animal product, there are of course potential issues with animal welfare during husbandry. We’ll talk mainly about the material of leather as opposed to the animal it comes from as that’s a whole other story. Assuming the animals are well-taken care of, here’s what we know about this fabric.

Vegetable Tanning is one of the oldest methods of tanning known to man. It quite literally involves colouring the hides with the use of vegetables or other natural sources, such as tree bark. This process can take up to 6 weeks to complete and can create a beautiful, unique patina over time.

Pros

  • One of a kind pieces due to the natural tanning process and requires a skilled craftsman to be created. Not just machinery.
  • Can be left untreated so no synthetic preservatives are used.
  • All waste from production can be recycled.
  • Water-resistant & Wipes clean
  • Biodegardeable & Recyclable
Veggie Tanned Leather Collar – Band & Roll

Cons

  • Can be chewed through
  • Poor quality can “crack” easily
  • Requires maintenance
  • Not many styles or colours options are available

Not to be confused with “PU Leather”.
PU Leather is a leather ‘like’ material made from Polyurethane – AKA Plastic! Notice how much I dislike plastic? 😝

ORGANIC COTTON

What is it?
Cotton is a fibre made from the cotton plant. Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment.

Pros

  • Organic Growing in general maintains soil fertility and reduces the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. (Some fertilizers are considered certified for use in organic farming)
  • Beneficial insects are used as a part of weed and pest control which helps establish a balanced ecosystem.
  • Biodegradeable & Recycleable
  • Better for your skin, Hypoallergenic and Asthma sufferers recommended
  • More durable than regular, chemically treated/grown cotton
  • Machine Washable
  • Lots of different styles and colours available
Organic Cotton – Ohminme

Cons

  • Not all organic cotton is naturally dyed.
  • Can be chewed through
  • Uses a lot of land and a lot of water to grow. (20,000L of water = 1kg of Cotton)
  • Some of the approved natural pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides are still bad for you and the environment.
  • Not waterproof or resistant but does dry quickly.

Have you heard of “greenwashing”?
This is a term I’ve only recently learned of. It’s basically when a business uses marketing to trick the consumer into thinking a product or service is environmentally friendly when, in-fact, it is not. An example of this would be “Vegan Leather”. Vegan leather is often (not always) made of plastics or other material sthat are harmful to the environment. While the product may not directly harm an animal, the processing effects and/or it’s inability to be recycled or biodegrade still have a negeative impact on our ecosystem- therefore, animals.

BIOTHANE OR PVC/TPU

What is it?
BioThane is a brand name for collars and leads made of Polyester webbing with a PVC or TPU coating applied. It has a leather-like look and feel.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Not easy to chew through
  • Durable and can be wiped clean
  • Variety of styles and colours
  • Could last a lifetime
  • Technically a smaller carbon footprint to produce (no animals or plants involved)
BioThane Collar – Native Collars

Cons

  • Made of virgin plastic and toxic chemicals
  • Longer lasting environmental impacts after production
  • Contributes to “microplastics” as it breaks down into smaller pieces instead of being biodegradable
  • PVC is the most environmentally damaging of all plastics as it contains “dioxins”.
  • Not recyclable

You may have noticed that BioThane has the longest list of pros but the most damaging cons in comparison to natural fibres. BioThane is designed to be a particular way without regard for anything else really. Hemp, Cotton and Leather, while natural, do have cons attached to them, however, most of these cons are minuscule in comparison and are mostly avoidable if you shop responsibly.

So, which is it?
I can’t tell you what to do or what you need. It’s pretty obvious that synthetic materials can be manufactured to have whatever features a particular brand desires, as to where natural fibres have natural pros and cons – naturally. 😅

I have personally decided to minimise and eliminate (where possible) purchasing products made of “virgin plastic” and I’m willing to compromise on some handy features in order to do so.
Synthetic fabrics often contain harmful toxins that can leech out, causing skin irritations or other allergy symptoms in some pets (and people). If you have a particularly allergenic dog, you may like to try removing all the synthetic fabrics from their environment to see if that helps. Polyester is a well know culprit to allergy flare-ups in dogs (and people) and yet it’s so commonly used as a leather collar alternative – think, vegan leather. I recommend Hemp for allergy-prone pups. And, regular washing of bedding and blankets of course.

What I didn’t mention.
If you’re finding it hard to choose a sustainable material because the reduction in features is too great, you might just be able to get the best of both worlds. Some businesses have been able to create high quality, durable dog accessories out of recycled plastic bottles! (Awesome, I know!) If your dog’s collar needs to be waterproof, there might just be a recycled fabric version out there for you.

The Take Away
10 minutes of research is nothing in order to make an informed decision that cares for your dog, the environment and everyone involved along the way.
Don’t be fooled by gimmicks like “Vegan”, “Cruelty-Free”, “Natural” etc. find out what that actually means because 9/10 times, it doesn’t mean what you think. My biggest pet peeve is brands that state something is Vegan and cruelty-free because it is made out of non-animal materials. The alternative is generally a plastic, man-made fabric that negatively impacts the environment. Anything that negatively impacts the environment is not truly cruelty-free.

Recycled Plastic Bottle Dog Collar – Animals in Charge

Sources
HempWA
Wellmadeclothes
Jackson Wayne
Organic Cotton Plus
The Pretty Planeteer
Think of the Pandas