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

And think about cats, squirrels, and other furries of the great outdoors. You’re walking your dog on his extending lead and a stray cat races across his path. It’s bad enough if the cat runs into traffic; if you aren’t fast enough to lock the lead, your dog may join her there. Or the chase may be what sends the cat into the road in the first place; if she gets hit by a car, that’s on you. If your dog is going hell-for-leather and you lock the lead, you can knock him off his feet – or do worse, if you’ve paired the extending lead with a choke chain, a prong collar, or a halter.

I’m not even done! A leash cord wrapped around your finger by a bolting dog can break the finger or even amputate it. This is less likely with a tape leash, but in 2007, nearly 3,900 leash-related finger injuries sent people to the hospital. Or if the leash clip breaks off your dog’s collar, the tension on the extended leash can whip that metal right into your face. Think of how hard a measuring tape with a spring snaps back into its housing when you release it. These are risks I wouldn’t take for a piece of equipment I don’t think much of.

Your wisest course, then, is to use a regular leash for walks around your neighborhood or while you’re on the road. As for those times when you would like to give your dog some room to poke around, but don’t feel safe letting her off leash for whatever reason, here’s how to use a “long line.”

What Is a Long Line?

A long line is exactly what it sounds like: a long, light, strong rope or cord, or a leash, usually 20 to 50 feet long. Long lines aren’t quite no-brainer tools and they do share some potential dangers with extending leashes. But extending leashes seem to encourage people to space out, whereas a long line demands your active attention and engagement with your dog.

Get started with some practice in your backyard or another relatively small, secure area, and follow these 4 long line rules:

4 Rules for Long Line Safety

Rule #1 - Decide whether to have your dog wear a collar or a harness with the long line. A harness is probably safer for your dog if he’s liable to bolt, but in many situations dogs will spend most of their time poking around and sniffing, and a wide flat collar may be fine.


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).