Attachment Points For K9 Application

Posted May 18, 2016

Besides the bond between the handler and their partner the lead is the most important connection between the two. It can be used to give corrections, guides you on a track, allows you to size up a room before making entry, and can be used to assist your partner in “extracting” a suspect from a point of cover and concealment and if your partner gets injured in the process it is the last point of connection for you to pull your partner to safety. A lot of attention is given to the lead itself, as well it should, but just as much attention should be given to your selection of attachment points. We get asked the question, “Which is the best snap of all time?” a lot and the answer is there isn’t one. This post has been dedicated to helping you understand the attachment points and rather than breaking down every clip on the planet into its respective pros’ and con’s we want to empower you to make your own informed decisions for you and your partner.

While we have been using the highest quality solid brass snaps available, there were several issues with their design that made them less than perfect. Being that they were designed for marine use, they were durable but they weren’t designed with impact against hard surfaces in mind and they were prone to getting caught on other gear. Our goal was to create a single attachment option that could be utilized though our entire product line:

We have chosen to offer our very own, proprietary, swivel snap as our standard option. They are marine grade snaps, made out of stainless steel, feature a durable black coating, and are custom designed to fit our products and customers needs. They are intuitive to use, snag free, extremely durable, and rust resistant. This is now the snap of choice for many of the police departments we serve. While we have also offered snaps, like the brass thumb snap,  we are always willing to work with our customers and find the right snap for them, the ones pictured above are an example of that. They are called Scissor Snap Hooks and are manufactured by a German company called HS Sprenger. As long as a customer can articulate the why behind what they want we will find them the best option. To determine the right attachment point for you, we recommend you ask the same questions we do when choosing the right option, and here they are.

The first question to ask is. “What was the originally intended purpose of the attachment option in question?”
We start here because to properly understand how an attachment point is designed to function you have to understand the application the inventor created it for. For example, the swivel spring or “thumb” snap that most handlers are used to was originally designed for maritime use. This is important to note because now we can dissect the design parameters and determine if this is an appropriate attachment option for our use. Because it’s been designed for maritime use we know that there will be a requirement for it to function in harsh salt water conditions. Meaning it will resist corrosion and must have a way to drain water from its moving parts. This is why we only use the highest quality marine grade snaps. (One tell-tale sign a snap is not marine grade is the absence of this drain hole.) They will typically be made of brass that can tarnish but should never rust and will have stainless steel springs that will stand up to years of abuse under harsh salt conditions and will have a hole at the base of the spring housing cylinder that will drain water. Next we know that it will also have to be operated with one hand under harsh open sea conditions where fine motor skills may deteriorate which also makes it a great option for high stress K9 application. However, the same feature that makes them easy to unsnap with one hand when wet also makes them prone to un-snapping when they go slack and then are tensioned in a way that puts pressure on the thumb snap against a component of the body of the leash, harness or collar. Also because of their originally designed function they are made to be loaded in one direction of pull which makes them prone to failure when loaded across the gate or opening, called cross loading.

The second question to ask is, “What material was used to make the attachment point?”
My background in climbing and rope rescue will make it difficult to not completely geek out on this topic, but I will do my best to keep it concise. Going back to the ever popular swivel spring snap you can find several different metals used in their manufacturing. One option is a marine grade solid brass version. The solid brass is more malleable than the other popular option such as steel and zinc. In simple terms this means it is more “flexible” than other options and will tend to bend prior to breaking. This can allow the handler who inspects their gear to recognize the deformation before a catastrophic failure occurs allowing them to put it out of service before it becomes a liability. The other benefit is that you can buff out any burrs or nicks that are created on the surface of the brass since it is softer than the other metals used which will prevent additional wear and tear on your hands as well as the gear it comes into contact with. As a possible down side for any of the swivel spring snaps, they are made through a metal casting process and if they are low quality that can hide imperfections within the metal that may not show up on the surface. This makes poor quality swivel spring snaps prone to shatter when struck onto a hard surface like concrete. That’s why we only use the highest quality solid brass snaps and our very own proprietary stainless steel snaps which will give the handler years of safe service if cared for properly.

The third question to ask is, “How was the attachment point designed to be operated?”
Let’s talk about some different snaps here. One of the only attachment points specifically designed for use with K9’s is the HS Sprenger Scissor Snap Hook from Germany. These guys have been running dogs before we had a country and its only fitting that they have created the first dedicated K9 clip in option. It’s “clothes pin” style trigger mechanism makes it easy to use with one hand, it swivels to keep leads from tangling and will clamp harder when tension is applied. It comes in single or double leaf spring design. However, its two fatal flaws are the number of moving parts which make it prone to getting clogged with debris and its reliance on a spring to keep it closed, if the spring fails so does the clip. Then we have the quick release Snap Shackle, originally designed for maritime use, the one we are talking about is the life safety rated version and was originally designed to provide military personnel with a clip in option that can be unclipped under load. This attachment point will effectively release no matter how much force is being applied to its gate. That also means that if the ring that is used to detach the shackle gets caught on something and is pulled then you will have an accidental unclipping. Also, many of them will not pivot which can turn your leash to a twisted tangled mess. This attachment point was made popular because it was redesigned to meet SOCOM’s requirements for a releasable anchor point on their aerial platform tethers that had to be able to detach under load giving the operator a safe option of detaching themselves in an emergency without having to cut their tether. (As a side note they are going away from this attachment point and moving back to one hand operable carabiners because of it being prone to accidental un-clippings even though they have tried to mitigate this problem by using hook and loop on the pull tab to affix it to the main body of the tether.)

The fourth question to ask is, “How will the attachment point interact with the clip in point on my partner’s collar/harness?”
For this let’s talk about an attachment point that I’m intimately familiar with that has been popping up on just about every “tacti-cool” leash on the market. It’s called the Frog clip by Kong. Everyone knows Kong primarily for their great dog friendly, x-ray view-able chew toys, but what most people don’t know is they got their start as a climbing hardware manufacturer. The Frog clip was originally designed during the hay day of the Sport Climbing industry. At the time everyone was pushing the envelope and climbing harder and harder routes which in effect made clipping in to the pre-drilled bolts more difficult. Without going too far down the climbing rabbit hole I’ll just get to the point. The Frog clip was originally designed to clip itself into a sport climbing bolt using a triggering mechanism that functioned when force was applied inside the gate and then double lock into place making it a safe and redundant alternative to the popular non-locking carabiners typically used in sport climbing “quick-draws”. To unclip you would have to un-weight it, due to its dual prongs curved shape, and pull back on the dual triggers with your thumb and forefinger while palming the body of the clip in your hand. You can get used to it over time, but when fine motor skills deteriorate it can be difficult to unclip.

The tactical black version of this that you can find on a lot of these type of leashes can also be found on some of the SOCOM’s aerial platform tethers as a replacement for the Snap Shackle mentioned earlier. Sounds awesome so far, until you start talking about how it interacts with your clip in point and how difficult it can be to use the auto-locking mechanism when clipping with one hand into something that is not bolted to a rock wall or helicopter deck. The mechanism that causes it to lock automatically needs a solid object to press against to defeat the spring that keeps the gates open. While they can be “released” manually without putting pressure against the thing your clipping into realize that they were never intended to be used in K9 application and be informed as to how it will interact with what you are clipping it to. The Frog itself has a large footprint and the design of the dual triggers can cause it to snag on environmental hazards. They also eat up a lot of real estate at the clip in points because of their large footprint. It’s biggest issue is that it doesn’t swivel causing leashes to turn into tangled messes without the addition of a separate “Figure 8” style swivel. With all of that being said, they are the most secure and easy to use strength rated clip in option available. This makes them the best option for people whose partners are known to “Houdini” their way out of standard snaps. We also searched far and wide and performed pull tests to find the best swivel to use with the Kong. (If you see Kong leads made without a swivel that’s a sign of a lack of understanding by the designer of material interactions, it’s intended function, and its interactions between handler and partner.)

We understand that some people want what they want and really don’t care to know anything we just shared. They will happily deal with any issues that come up from from using the wrong attachment point for their application because looking tactical is worth the hassle to them. If you have read to this point, then we know that’s not who you are and we hope that this was informative and worth the read. We hope that you leave here asking more questions of the companies you buy your gear from and acquire a true desire to know their why behind their what. We are not interested in simply moving more products or changing our designs to gain a celebrity endorsement. We want you to be informed and make decisions based on fact rather than marketing campaigns or likes on social media posts. We want you to understand why we do what we do, make what we make and stand behind every stitch of everything we design. We hope this helps you make wiser more informed decisions about the gear you choose to bet your life on and if you have more questions about some of the other popular attachment options out there then check out our break down of each options pro’s and con’s here: