Are Slip Leads Cruel For Dogs? (Solved & Explained!)

You have probably read about certain training devices which are dangerous for dogs, such as choke chains, shock collars, and prong collars. Slip leads, however, are more of a grey area. While these leads are not inherently cruel for your dog, they can become dangerous if used improperly or on an untrained dog.

The rest of this article will detail what a slip lead is, why they are often used as training devices, and why they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

What is a slip lead?

A slip lead is a combined collar and leash. It is a lead with a loop at the end of it which fits over your dog’s head like a collar. Due to the way the loop is connected, it will tighten around your dog’s neck if pulled, similar to a choke chain.

For this reason, some dog owners are against using them. However, slip leads are often used by dog trainers and veterinarians alike.

Why do vets and trainers use slip leads?

Slip leads are easy to quickly slide over a dog’s head without having to bother with a clip, collar, or harness. For this reason, they are handy for securing a dog in an emergency situation. Slip leads are also basically escape-proof. This is why they are popular for uses such as catching strays or transporting animals in shelters or vet offices.

Are slip leads cruel?

As long as they are used correctly, slip leads are not inherently cruel. They can be very handy for the purposes we have already discussed, such as catching strays or transporting dogs in shelters. However, they can be dangerous when used in the wrong situation, since they will not stop tightening if pulled.

When are slip leads dangerous?

Slip leads are especially dangerous when used on a dog who has a bad habit of pulling on the leash. Many owners will use a slip lead as a training aid in this situation, but you should actually never do this.

This is because your dog will often not understand what is happening and will continue to pull, which has a high potential for damage on his neck and sensitive airway. If your dog lunges suddenly, he could also injure himself, even getting severe whiplash.

Should I use a slip lead on my dog?

There is no real reason to use a slip lead on your dog, even once you have trained him not to pull on a leash. The benefits of slip leads are that they are easy to put on and lightweight, making them ideal for attempting to catch a stray or transport a dog who does not wish to be caught.

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If you ever need to use a slip lead on a dog, ensure you are doing so safely.

How do I put a slip lead on a dog?

If you need to place a slip lead on a dog, start by ensuring that the loop at the end is large enough to fit over the dog’s head. Make sure that the dog is aware of you and you are not catching them by surprise with the lead—this will reduce the chances of the dog startling and lunging, possibly causing injury from the slip lead.

Once you slide the slip lead over the dog’s head, position it at the top of their neck, behind their ears and beneath the jaw. This placement reduces the chance of injury to the soft parts of the neck. Then, slowly tighten the lead. Do not pull too tightly! Just like with a regular collar, the two finger rule should still apply.

Won’t a slip lead help with pulling?

No, a slip lead will not help stop your dog from pulling on the leash. Dogs pull for a variety of reasons, but one of them is a pressure reflex called thigmotaxis. This means that dogs instinctively pull against pressure. So, your dog may actually pull harder against a slip lead, even if it is choking him. This can cause severe damage or even asphyxiation.

How can I stop my dog from pulling without a slip lead?

The best way to stop your dog from pulling without a slip lead is by training him to walk by your side with slack in the leash. This can be a long process which requires patience and consistency.

Start by putting your dog on his leash and luring him to your side with a treat. Practice walking and rewarding your dog every time he maintains slack in the leash, even if it is only for a few steps at a time. With enough practice, your dog will catch on.

You can also use alternative training aids such as a head collar or body harness.

What is a head collar?

A head collar is an alternative to a traditional collar which fits across your dog’s nose and behind his ears instead of around his neck. Head collars are designed similarly to a horse’s halter.

When correctly fitted, a head collar will remove the leverage that your dog has to pull on the leash. Instead of pulling successfully, he will simply turn himself around. Head collars remove all pressure from your dog’s neck and airway.

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What is a body harness?

Like a head collar, a body harness will remove all pressure from your dog’s neck and airway. These harnesses fit around your dog’s chest and middle. For some dogs, harnesses may help them feel more secure than a traditional collar. If your dog is pulling due to anxiety or discomfort with a traditional collar, a body harness may help reduce the pulling.

You may also try a front clip harness. These harnesses work in a similar way to head collars, reducing the leverage that your dog has to pull on the lead. While they will still maintain more leverage than a head collar would offer, front clip harnesses also work to turn your dog around when they try to pull on the lead.