Extending Leashes and Long Lines

Learn why an extending leash isn’t the best (or the safest) training choice, and how to use a long line instead.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #146

Extending leashes. Most pet supply stores sell them, and on most sidewalks somebody seems to be walking their dog on one. Dog trainers are not wild about them, but we do understand that sometimes you want to give your dog extra room to roam at times when it may not be safe to let her off leash entirely. This week: why trainers usually avoid extending leashes, and what we suggest instead..

Extending Leashes Teach Dogs to Pull

One problem with extending leashes is that there’s always tension on the cord (unless your dog happens to be moving toward you and the cord is locked). So pulling gets your dog where she wants to go, which in turn means that she is constantly being rewarded for pulling on the leash. But teaching your dog to walk politely on leash boils down to rewarding her for keeping the leash slack. Extendable leashes undermine that goal. Now, I hate the sensation of having my arm constantly tugged on, but maybe you don’t mind it. Still, a dog who’s learned to keep the leash taut at all times is harder to walk in any situation where you need to keep her close to you. Also, try walking her sometime when you have back strain. Ow.

Extending leashes can knock a running dog off his feet or even amputate your finger.

Extending Leashes Can Be Dangerous

Extending leashes can endanger both your dog and you. Any experienced trainer can tell you at least one story about a client’s dog who bolted in a panic when his guardian dropped the plastic handle and it went clattering along the sidewalk behind the dog. You’re less likely to drop a cloth or leather leash, especially if you wrap it once around your hand. And if you do drop it, it won’t make a sound loud enough to startle even a skittish dog.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).