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Why We Don't Recommend Extending Leads

Updated: Apr 24

Extending leads are the lead of choice for many dog owners, due to their ease of use. However, whilst they do have their place in this world, time after time I see them being used inappropriately.

Firstly, what is an extending lead?

They’re usually a thin line that attaches to your dog’s collar/harness, that retracts and extends from a coil inside a plastic handset.

Why do I need to be concerned?

These leads are the type I most often see breaking, but also causing injury. The handset themselves break apart fairly readily. The lines fray easily and have been known to disintegrate on a walk, leaving you without a lead for your dog.

But the lines themselves are also highly dangerous - because of the tension that can go through them, and because of their often thin nature, they have been known to cause serious injury to both human and dog: including severe burns, deep cuts, and even amputation of fingers.

When should I use one?

I generally discourage the use of them altogether, but they can be useful if you’re going on a relaxed walk, in an open, safe, environment. However, always carry a spare lead with you.

When should I not use one?

There are a few scenarios where an extendable lead is a particularly bad idea. One of the top ones is when walking near to roads.

Dogs that are far out on an extendable line often have the space to dart into the road, and whilst you may think this unlikely of your dog, all it can take is a squirrel or a cat to dart across, or the sound of a car backfiring or something else scary, to send your dog flying into the path of high speed cars.

Another time I’d recommend avoiding them completely is when you’re training loose lead walking. This is because an extendable line puts consistent pressure on the dog’s collar or harness, which leads to them switching off from training techniques such as collar cues, as well as more likely to pull when you switch to a normal lead.

What should I use instead?

Any sort of length-adjustable training lead is perfect, although other fixed leads are also great. I particularly recommend the below leads from UK supplier Your Dogs' Club:

When it comes to longer lead exercises, use a long-line: you can get these in a range of lengths depending on what you need, and you can find tips for using them safely by reading my article on the matter. My top recommendations for longlines are:

Have you had any run-ins with extendable/retractable leads? Or maybe you've already swapped to training leads and long-lines, and don't ever look back? Let me know in the comments!

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