The most basic equipment for dogs is less than basic for their people. When you live in a big city, you see lots of dogs being walked every day in every fashion, and I think most of the dogs take little notice of the lead attached to them. Because their "handlers" are not handling at all.
The leash can be a powerful communication device. When used with a trained dog, the slightest nudge can be communicated down the line. If your dog weighs less than, say, 40 pounds, the loop should go around your wrist. You can't possibly pay attention all the time, and one good squirrel can mean your dog goes running off down the street. And we will never be as fast as our dogs. Dog gone. A larger dog can take you down if you're not ready and have the leash looped around your wrist, so you may just have to be on a better lookout for squirrels.
Choose a side: your dog should walk on the right or on the left of you. Tradition says on the left of the human--so you can carry your sword or rifle in the right hand--but either will do unless you're competing in an AKC ring. Letting your dog cross back and forth in front of you is bound to lead to your landing on your head, so why not have Fluffy stick to one side?
Your loose hand can be on the lead (instead of texting!) to let your dog know you're there and as an extra safety. Sometimes you need two hands to wrangle a strong pup. And you can hold up a little of the slack so the leash doesn't wrap Millie's paws. Any extra slack should not, in an circumstance, be wrapped all around your hand like a mitten. If you have that much slack, go for a 4-foot lead instead of a 6-foot.
As I remind my husband sometimes, dogs weren't born with leashes attached, so don't expect them to remember it's there. If you attach that leash to some harness on Fluffy's back, the likelihood, too, is that she walk without noticing you at all. Your dog should learn to walk properly so there's no strain on her throat anyway, so there's no need for a harness over her back. Sometimes an Easy Walk or Freedom harness can help you manage Millie while she's in training, but before long, she should no longer need it. I've seen dogs who have lost hair where their harness has rubbed them every day for years....
If I see another dog on a retractable leash come whipping around a corner with his person six feet behind, I may just surrender and move to the country. A retractable leash can literally cut your hand wide open when it slides suddenly across your palm. It can catch your finger and take it off! It gives your dog the ability to get to other dogs before you even see them. Scary. Your dog should not be running six feet ahead of you. Your dog should be beside you. You're a team, right?
If you aren't easy with your leash handling, you may just need a little guidance. Give me a call or take a class. But by all means, the leash is NECESSARY. You're not macho if your dog is off-leash; you're just telling fate to come and get him. Dogs are lost and killed ALL the time because they weren't on leash. It's far less work to know where my three dogs are because they are on leash. I'm Lazy. I can't be bothered to keep track of them any other way. And isn't it funny that the dog poop left around my neighborhood all belongs to the off-leash dogs? But that's another blog entry.