Are slip leads cruel?

Last updated: June 3, 2020 at 19:30 pm

Being outdoors with your pooch should be one of life’s great pleasures. The two of you can bond and get some exercise while soaking in all of nature’s wonders. Sadly, this is not always the case and some dogs do not like to be on a lead or they haven’t been trained to stay close to the owner and be able to walk steadily leading to pulling and frustrating experience for all.

There are a lot of companies out there who sell products to aid with walking on a lead such as dog harnesses, retractable leads, extra long leads, collars and the subject of this blog post: slip leads.

These particular leads are somewhat of a controversial product which has led to many people asking online if using of one is unkind or not. Here in this article, we aim to give our opinion on the use of the product to help you decide whether it’s appropriate for you and your dog.

A word on cruelty

The definition of cruelty is “behaviour which causes physical or mental harm to another, especially a spouse, whether intentionally or not”. Of course, we feel that the definition of cruelty is subjective and not black and white. For example, some people believe crate training is unfair whereas others, us included, have found that ultimately it was the best option to housebreak our dog.

Another example is leaving a dog alone for 4 hours can be seen by some as barbaric but others completely fine and that their pet doesn’t mind it. 

We just wanted to make it clear that the subject is not black and white.

What is a slip lead?

a slip lead

Slip leads are a training lead to keep our four-legged friends at a safe distance. It’s a piece of thick rope rung in a loop with a ring at the end which tightens around the dog’s neck as the dog pulls away. Some would say the contraption is a leash and a collar all in one. 

They are designed to be slack most of the time and only gets tighter when needed to stop the dog piling into dangerous situations – they are also used to move the animals around kennels and rescue centres as they are escape proof whereas collars and harnesses are not.

What is the controversy around slip leads?

The reason why a figure of 8 lead can be seen as uncaring is that when they tighten they can squeeze the neck and cause a great deal of pain and discomfort for a dog. If they pull away for any reason then they are automatically punished with a choke meaning positive reinforcement may be a little pointless.

Dogs who are prone to lunging suddenly can cause serious damage to their trachea, lymph nodes and spine. In some rare cases, it can crush their windpipe which could be fatal. To a dog who regularly pulls and lunges it can really cause problems to the point, they may want to avoid walking at all out of fear.

Eventually, they may well end up pulling but not because they’ve been trained not to but because they know they’re going to be in great pain if they do.

Can slip leads be good?

Yep, absolutely. For fully trained pooches who are amazing on a lead then this option is the most comfortable for them as it will always be slack and hardly any material is on them. Training a dog to not pull can arguably be done quicker as your dog will quickly learn it is not worth it. 

Slip leads are highly durable and generally thicker than tape, cord or leather leads so owners of lead chewers won’t have to replace them as often. However, this won’t teach them to chew the lead so their effectiveness is debatable. 

The RSPCA centre in Bryn-y-Maen recognise the pros and cons of them as they said in a Facebook post “We don’t use slip leads as a matter of routine here at Bryn y Maen but they are a useful tool to have our kennels. We use them for short term use for example when new dogs may come to us through an inspector and they may not have a collar on or if any of the pets then make a break for it then a slip lead would be beneficial.”

Dog shows are home to many slip lead users as their pets are typically highly trained and they have learned to keep an exact distance and they are stylish and can be made to match the dog’s coat colour.

Is it wrong to use a slip lead?

Unless your dog is highly trained on a lead then we can’t see the point of using this type of leash over a regular lead and a great harness. The potential and unnecessary pain you may cause a dog for simply pulling or lunging seems unkind because it’s premeditated and it does not conform to the Jug Dog mantra of positive reinforcement.

If you’re walking around the park and their natural instincts kick in when they see a squirrel or a rabbit fly by could result in whiplash for your dog. Does this sound right to you? PETA says “The most humane and safest option for walking a dog who tends to want to pull is a front-leash attachment harness”.

However, as we’ve mentioned before; to a dog who never pulls and never wanders off: is it unfair to use one? No, absolutely not and probably more comfortable than alternatives. But, would that same dog still wear a harness and a lead? Yes. So why take the risk?

Should I use slip leads for dogs?

What training aids you want to use is ultimately your decision based on your needs and your dog. We feel that there are so many alternatives to dogs slip lead that don’t cause serious damage to your dog’s throat and neck that it does seem a little bit selfish using one as it’s not in the dog’s interest to have it on.

However, we recognise that owners need as much as help as possible with their four-legged friends pulling on a walk but we encourage readers to continue with positive reinforcement and a firm hand. 

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