Hot topic, SLIP LEADS!
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
I have been asked frequently why I do not recommend slip leads and why I will not allow them (along with semi chokes and full choke collars) in my classes so I thought this would be a good topic to cover this month.
Lets start off with what is a slip lead?
This is a lead that can fully tighten around your dogs neck. This is commonly used for working dogs as a collar could get stuck whilst working or performing agility. These leads were simply invented for the ease of carrying and putting on your dog after its been working to keep them safe. When using them correctly they should form a 'P' shape as it is loose and your dog can already walk by your side.
These leads should ONLY be used on dogs that have be trained to walk with you already- these are NOT training aids to ‘correct’ a pulling dog.
So why don’t you allow them?
Apart from them causing pain and discomfort when they pull (which is unnecessary and against Pet Peeves positive methods) they carry an increased risk of neck injuries and potential to contribute to behaviour issues especially in an exciting environments such as a training class, but even a sudden pull towards a hedge to sniff on a walk has the potential to cause a serious injury.
These neck injuries can include:
Damage to the larynx
Also a neck and spinal cord injury can cause paralysis or neurological problems.
Pulling on the lead has been linked to higher intraocular pressure, which can cause serious injury to dogs already suffering thin corneas, glaucoma, or eye injuries READ MORE.
And also it has been linked to hypothyroidism as the collar/ slip lead rests on the area of the thyroid gland and damages this gland. It has also been found that lead pulling impinges the nerves supplying the front legs. This can lead to an abnormal sensation in the feet and dogs may start licking their feet. These dogs are often misdiagnosed as having allergies however the symptoms have subsided after the collar is removed and the neck injury is treated. READ MORE
Also stress has the potential to decrease your dog's health and their lifespan
How can this contribute to behaviour issues?
We know that when an animal's in pain he is more likely to react. Anders Hallgren (1992) found that out of a group of 400 dogs, 79% of the aggressive dogs had back problems, while 21% had no back problems. Of the reserved shy dogs 69% had back problems while 31% had no back issues. This study shows that there is a correlation between physical health and behavioural problems.
Leibert and Landsberg (2008) recognised the importance of physical health with dogs displaying behaviour issues and reported effective treatment of behaviour issues includes knowledge of medical conditions, thorough behavioural history and understanding of the underlying mechanisms of behaviour.
Also in my experience owners tend to forget that there is a reason for a dog to be pulling- is it avoiding or even lunging at another dog/ person because its fearful? Is the dog just excited to be going on his favourite walk? Maybe he is just walking faster than you are? Is the dog showing stress and being hyperactive? Have you shown the dog how to walk by your side positively as (unfortunately) dogs aren't born with the knowledge we want them to walk with us?
Now think, would adding pain and discomfort onto these experience help any of those situations? .
You are adding negative associations to every single one of these experiences. Using a 'correction' (which is another word for punishment, is in its self unpleasant and potentially harmful whether you are 'using it correctly' or not.
But aren't dog's necks stronger?
This is a very common argument that I hear a lot from well meaning owners that honestly think their dog is able to cope with the slip because their neck is strong- especially stronger than us as humans. But very simply....
NO your dog's neck is no stronger than yours.
Physiologically their neck is very similar to that of a human, our general anatomy is similar too. Get down on all fours and gently feel your dog’s neck while you are feeling your own. Both of our necks contain the trachea, oesophagus, thyroid gland, lymph nodes, jugular veins and spinal column relatively within the same places. Both contain muscles in relatively the same places too.
Also a dog’s skin is very similar to ours too, apart from being hairier and no sweating its almost the same. However the epidermis of a dogs skin being only 3-5 cells thick when our top layer of skin is 10-15 cells thick meaning their skin is actually thinner and more sensitive. READ MORE
If it hurts them- why do they continue to pull?
It seem obvious but our dogs are not humans and do not behave the same way as us. Its commonsense as a human to stop doing something that hurts- like choking and although our anatomy is similar physically, however our brains are very different. We are not able to make assumptions based on our behaviour on how a dog should react and we can't ask them- this would be great if we could!
Its like a dog that would chase a ball until they overheat (Scrumpy would definitely do this!) or break their teeth to escape a crate, or jump off a high bridge to get their ball back. The motivation to them outweighs the pain. Dogs do not exhibit or react to injury in the same ways we do.
What about the relationship between owner and dog?
Here at Pet Peeves, I work with you and your dog to build a strong bond between you based on trust. Any technique or training tool which relies on you constantly focusing on, and punishing, moments your dog is incorrect and getting things wrong is very damaging to the relationship you both have.
Why would a dog want to stay, focus and trust a person who constantly nags and corrects them? But unfortunately dog are very adaptable and they (mostly) learn to cope with this less than ideal relationship.
This is one of the reasons I set most of my clients the homework of capturing calm and desirable behaviours. When you focus on the good rather than the bad and start noticing and rewarding this your dog will start offering better behaviours and your own mindset will change from what I want to change about my dog to my dog has done really well today.
With all dog training it is important to have fun together!