Dog Leashes: What About Slip Leads?

What kinds of dogs they are for? How do you use them?

Published Feb. 10, 2021.

A Note From Our Testers

An article about dog leashes may seem strange coming from a primarily cooking-focused website. We hear you! But the reality is, we are a company of devoted pet lovers, and while our focus is and will always be the kitchen, we’re also humans that purchase all kinds of things. Check out a previous ode to our furry friends here. Our office is pet-friendly and as dog lovers that also have minds wired to meticulously seek out the best in every category, we decided to test dog leashes. As part of our research, we learned about slip leads. Check out our assessment of this style of leash below and leave us a comment below. We’d love you to upload a picture of your furry friend, too!

In our testing of dog leashes, we limited our lineup to models that could be used with dogs of any age and size and that attach to either a collar or a harness. But sometimes you’ll see a different kind of leash used at dog shows and the vet’s office: a slip lead. It looks like a regular leash but instead works as a leash and collar combination by looping around the dog’s neck. No collar or harness is required.

When your dog pulls in any direction, the loop tightens, discouraging the behavior. Most slip leads have a tab or stopper (in metal or leather) to keep the loop in place, so it won’t overly tighten or let the dog wiggle out.

We asked our dog-training experts to weigh in about slip leads: what kinds of dogs they are for, how to use them, and what to expect from them

Slip leads can be good for dogs that are liable to bolt on walks or get anxious around other animals, as they can help the walker stay in control with the aid of a quick tug on the leash, and the design is such that a dog can’t wiggle free. “They’re great for those Houdini dogs,’’ said Meredith O’Connor, a dog trainer in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

They’re intended for dogs—and walkers—that already have some training. Slip leads work best with dogs that can already reliably follow commands that keep them at your side, such as “heel,’’ “stay,’’ and “let’s go.’’ The slip lead is there to reinforce the commands so that walking your dog becomes smooth and efficient.

When your dog gets used to a slip lead, walks get easier, the trainers promised. “The slip lead is a communication tool between you and your dog” said dog trainer Tina Alderman of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “That’s why you see them in dog shows. When a dog is walking with a handler, the communication is strong. The dog is walking with the handler, not ahead.”

The slip lead is a communication tool between you and your dog.

Proper use of a slip lead starts with proper placement on the dog’s neck, Alderman told us. “You want it up behind the ears and around the chin,’’ she said. “That way it can’t slip over the dog’s head, and the leash sliding back and forth around the ears will help you direct the dog. You want that slide aspect.”

The area behind the dog’s ears is most receptive to directional leash pressure, and with a few subtle, gentle tugs on the lead, you can show the dog what direction to take when walking. A higher placement on the neck will prevent the dog from coughing or choking if they start to pull for a moment. Design also matters: The thinner the slip lead, the more acute and focused the pressure will be, which aids communication and is ultimately safer, O’Connor said. 

But if your dog gets overly excited as soon as you put on your shoes and grab the leash, work on that behavior first, our experts said.

“I still have to start the walk out with the dog in a calm state,’’ Alderman said. “The reality of any kind of training is that there is no tool out there that will teach the dog anything on its own. The slip lead is my tool of choice. But if people run out and get it, they still need to do dog training.”

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Dog Leashes

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