They are unsafe.

I know, I know that’s a big sweeping statement and I’m sure you use one responsibly, but really I’d be glad for them to be banned.

I get the appeal I really do. Fido isn’t safe to go offlead in some places so the extendable lead lets him have some freedom while you still have control. And there’s the thing. Do you really have control?

I’ve used extendable leads in the dim and distant past. Two in fact. The first was the typical cord type. I managed to slice my fingers on it when my dog suddenly lunged (actually he was a puppy, but he was an older German Shepherd puppy so not tiny), the brake button thingy either wasn’t engaged properly or failed, he shot out, I did what many people would when they want to stop the dog – I grabbed the line with my other hand. Sliced through 3 fingers across the seam of the inside of my knuckles so it took ages to heal. Didn’t successfully stop my dog lunging to whatever it was he was interested in (I don’t remember it being a complete disaster so no doubt it was just something interesting rather than anything else).

Stupidly that didn’t actually stop me from using it though – sometimes I’m a slow learner. First I had the idiotic idea of letting that great big bit of plastic drag behind the same dog while we were practising recalls. He freaked, tried to run away from the scary thing banging and crashing behind him which obviously kept following him – that really was a disaster, or could have been, fortunately he ran from the scary thing back to me. And still I kept using it…….until the time the cord somehow got wrapped around my leg and cut my calf in half. Well OK that’s a slight exaggeration. I don’t exactly remember how or why the cord got around my leg, I suspect I was expecting to go one way and my dog went another, but as the line was let out and rubbed against my bare leg (I guess it was hot…..bare legs are really rare!) it cut a lovely groove on the outside of my right calf.

So after that I decided maybe it wasn’t such a great tool after all, and besides the dog’s recall had improved he could go offlead I had no use for it anyway.

Cue dog number two. Another German Shepherd who was a bit of a ‘mare when she first came to us. She chased things so I thought an extendable lead would be useful. Only this time I thought I’d get a tape version rather than cord. Yeah, the brake on those things are even worse in my experience, she hit the end of that lead more times than I care to remember, and even worse I had it attached to her collar too. I finally gave it up and bought a fixed long line and a harness.

So why do I hate them so much?

Well mainly for the reasons above which can happen even if you are being as responsible as you can be. Then there’s the cumbersome handle – I mean seriously that’s hard to hang on to if you have a determined dog the other end, certainly if the dog suddenly lunges you are just relying on the strength of your fingers to grip it – not ideal.

Jack Russell Terriers pulling at far end of their extending leads, far away from the ownerThen there’s the way that I see most owners use them, and this probably isn’t you I know, but still…..Pretty much daily I see dogs being walked alongside the road on an extendable lead, mostly they are being allowed to walk far ahead of their owners. So far ahead that even though they are attached to a lead there is absolutely nothing to stop them ending up under the wheels of my van if the dog were to suddenly decide there was something he should check out. In fact on a recent Friday evening having enjoyed cocktails with friends to celebrate my birthday I was kindly driven home after. As we turned into my street we were met with a man and his dog who were both in the road, at first I thought the dog was off lead because he was so far ahead of the man, but no he was on an extending lead at full extension right at the road crossing. They were lucky Alison is such a conscientious driver and was going as slow as she was as she turned into the road. The outcome could have easily been different.

Sometimes the leads are attached to harnesses – which at least means coming to an abrupt stop at the end of the extension will be mitigated, more often they are attached to collars, or even worse – head collars. I’ve made that mistake myself as I said, but it’s not something I’m proud of that I risked neck injuries to my dogs while they were attached to extendable leads or long lines. One day I’ll find a force gauge from somewhere and do a test for how much force a dog exerts to the end of a lead when he runs out. I’m pretty sure though that the longer the lead, the larger the force when he gets the end of it. I’d rather that force was spread over the dog’s body than concentrated on his neck.

There’s also the problem with what they potentially teach your dog about walking on lead. The line will always have tension on it unless the button is locked and the dog is close enough to you that the lead is slack. The way most people use them though that line is always under tension. The dog will always be feeling a slight pull.

I’m of the opinion that the extendable leads mean that our dogs don’t really have to pay much attention to the monkey on the end of it – they are always going to be generally aware of where you are – they can feel you. I also think that when using them for general walking they teach your dog to be way out ahead of you and to maintain pressure on the lead. Things I really don’t want from lead walking – I want my dogs close, and preferably with a loose lead.

So I think you should ditch the extendable leads and instead get a decent long line if your dog doesn’t have the recall you’d like and a nice double ended lead that you can use at appropriate lengths when your dog needs to do lead walking.

This brings me nicely to my changes for classes. I’m going to be offering shorter 3 week classes as follow-ons from my flagship Behave! Lifeskills class. These will concentrate on particular skills or aspects that often need a little more dedication than can be offered in a general 6 week course, but I’ve had so many ideas that it’s been hard to pick what to do – I need your help. Vote for the classes that tickle your fancy below, you can even add extra suggestions you might have.

[democracy id="2"]

If you’re reading this via email you might not see the poll above but you can go to the blog post vote here

I’ll be launching the first of the Life Skills Plus courses on 24 July, the same time as the next Behave! Life Skills course. Details for the courses will be up on the website in June so there’ll be plenty of time for you to sign up.

And…… a reminder that if you want to continue receiving these emails after the GDPR rules kick on 25th May you’re going to have to sign up again so I can be absolutely sure you really want them. I know it’s a pain, you’ve had to do this several times for various different newsletters, I’m really sorry. The form is really short though, so there’s that….