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How NOT to Hold a Leash, Unless You Want to Land in the ER

A friend of mine recently became a pet parent for the first time and adopted a big, beautiful rescue dog. Her dog wasn’t trying to cause harm — she just went into reactionary mode when she saw another pup across the street — but she ended up dragging my friend across a busy street, head first.

My friend had the leash wrapped around her wrist several times, thinking that would give her more control over her dog. It’s a common misperception and, unfortunately, didn’t allow for a safe quick release of the leash. It proved to be very dangerous. She not only went head first, but head first backwards, as her dog had cut behind her. She ended up with severe head trauma – a concussion, a small skull fracture, a small subdermal hematoma, and hearing loss, not to mention quite a few bruises. She’s very lucky there weren’t any cars crossing the busy street at the time.

How NOT to Hold a Leash

In the picture above, Sanchez is helping me demonstrate how to never hold a leash.  The most important rule for holding a leash for a dog of any size is ALWAYS make sure you can do a quick release. This rule applies whether your dog is wearing a collar or a halter, and weighs 9 or 90 pounds.

In the Vet Street video above, trainer Mikkel Becker demonstrates how to have a strong grip on your leash, while also being able to safely do a quick release. It should be a mandatory watch before adopting any dog.

Have you ever been pulled by your dog when you couldn’t release your leash? Thanks for sharing your stories in a comment below.

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Lisa Spector

Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, and canine music expert. She is co-founder of Through a Dog's Ear, the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Their new high-tech pet gadget, iCalmDog, is the portable solution to canine anxiety. Lisa shares her home and her heart with her two "career change" Labrador Retrievers from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sanchez and Gina. Follow Lisa's blog here.


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12:58AM PDT on Sep 8, 2014


12:28AM PDT on Sep 8, 2014

We had a large rescue who had never been on a leash. He weighed close to 90 lbs and I weighed around 115. The first time I took him through the gate he tried to bolt and slammed my hand in the gate, and that was just the beginning. He pulled me down several times when he was distracted, and my knuckles are larger than they used to be. The worst one, however, was early one Christmas morning. We had 20 people coming for dinner, so I thought a nice early run would be good for me. We were several blocks from home, probably over half a mile, and he saw a cat and somehow cut in front of me and I tripped or he pulled me, and the next thing I knew I was on the pavement and hit the back of my head-- hard! I saw stars! I somehow staggered home and managed to get dinner on the table, but I had vertigo for months. I would wake up and sit on the edge of the bed and the room would start spinning. I probably had a slight concussion, but didn't seek medical attention. It was after this incident that I found a trainer. And the first thing she taught me was the proper way to hold the leash, the same technique as the one in your video. We have had two dogs since then and never had those issues again. I agree, the technique should be taught to all owners, especially inexperienced first-timers. I found I always had control after we had the training. Excellent video with important info.

8:05PM PDT on Aug 12, 2014

I have had a finger broken from a leash getting wrapped around my hand! Whoops!

4:06PM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Don't do this because I don't want my arm pulled out of the socket. I don't walk my dog on a busy street, but Milo the Great Dane mix pup can pull my arm off if Toopid Mommy decides she doesn't remember how to walk on a leash right.

11:33AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Thank you :)

5:01AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Been knocked to the ground whilst walking my girl before.

4:59AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Noted thanks

3:07PM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

Or get a cat instead !!!!

11:44AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

Ditto on what Rebecca Lynn D said about retractable leashes...I've learned the hard way those are a big mistake! Just get a regular old-fashioned leash and you'll be better off :-)

10:29PM PDT on Jul 27, 2014

It has been some time so thanks for the information!

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