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When it comes to tools for dog walking and training, slip leads often appear as a convenient option, at least at first glance. However, a closer look reveals nuances in their use that prompt a cautious approach. Let’s explore the world of slip leads, considering their potential drawbacks, use cases, and why you might want to think twice before using one, plus some alternatives you can use instead.



What is a slip lead?

A slip lead, known for its simplicity, combines a leash and collar into a single piece. Constructed from materials like rope, nylon or leather, it forms a closed loop with a ring at one end, meant to slide over a dog’s head. As your dog pulls, the loop will tighten around the neck.

Are slip leads safe?

While slip leads offer utility, there are real and legitimate concerns about their safety. The design, relying on tightening around the neck when tension is applied, raises worries about potential discomfort or harm to the dog.

Improper usage or incorrect fitting can lead to adverse effects. If the slip lead is too tight or applied with excessive force, it can cause discomfort or even injury to the dog’s neck, trachea, and other sensitive areas, making it an unsuitable choice in many cases.

Are slip leads cruel?

We will explore later some legitimate use cases for a slip lead where they are the best tool for the job. However, if mis-used, then yes, slip leads can be cruel, depending on your definition.

Anything that causes discomfort or potential injury to your dog can probably be classed as cruel, especially when there are better alternatives available.

If you do need to use a slip lead, please choose one with a stopper. This is designed to stop the slip lead from tightening too much. Although not perfect, it does add an extra layer of security that I’m sure your dog will appreciate.

Drawbacks of Slip Leads:

  1. Risk of Injury: The tightening action of the slip lead can inadvertently cause harm, especially if the dog pulls strongly or consistently. Unless the lead has a stopper in place, this works like a choke chain and has no limit to how much it can tighten around the neck.
  2. Negative Associations: For some dogs, the sensation of pressure around the neck might create negative associations with walks or training sessions, hindering the learning process.
  3. Limited Control: While offering some control, slip leads might not provide the same level of control as other training tools, especially for dogs with strong pulling tendencies or specific behavioural issues.

When should you use a slip lead:

There are some legitimate reasons why you may want to consider a slip lead, all of which are for short periods of time and not for walking.

A slip lead is great in an emergency as they double up as a collar and a lead. They’re also lightweight which can make them very handy to keep as a spare in the car. If something happens with your dog where you need a way to secure them, or if you come across a loose dog, a slip lead can be an incredible option to get the dog safe and under control. Especially for the latter scenario with a dog that you don’t know – it’s a lot easier to slip a lead over the head than it is to buckle up a collar, and you don’t have to get as close!

You may see professionals using slip leads too in certain environments, for example vets when moving a dog around the clinic. It’s important to note though that this is for short use and not for walking. Not to mention that they are professionals that know what they are doing.

Advantages of a slip lead:

  1. Convenient – they are lightweight and double up as a lead and a collar.
  2. Ease of use – they are quick and easy to slip on when compared to a traditional lead and collar set, which can be a lifesaver in a pinch.

Consideration and caution:

As we’ve seen, slip leads CAN be useful in certain situations, but you should still think twice before using them as the risks far outweigh the benefits. As responsible dog owners, our priority should be our dog’s happiness, comfort, and wellbeing. In most cases, a slip lead fails this test.

If you do find yourself in a situation where a slip lead is your best option, it is important to exercise caution and think about your dog on the other end. I would also recommend getting a slip lead with a stopper in place. This should help to ensure that the lead doesn’t tighten too much and adds at least a small layer of safety when using a slip lead.

What should I use instead?

You’ve probably gathered that we’re not fans of slip leads in most cases, so we would never recommend them at Snootiful Hound. Instead, you should use a standard collar and lead, or a harness for bonus points as this will shift all the pressure from the fragile neck onto the body which is a lot safer. You can also use front clip harnesses or head halters if you feel you need the extra control.


Slip leads are a tool, and like all tools, they have a use. When used in the right circumstances, they are very useful, but unfortunately, they can also be mis-used very easily. Hopefully this article has shed some light on when they should be used and when they shouldn’t, plus the reasons why.

For those looking for a straight answer – in the vast majority of cases you should opt for a standard lead and collar or harness and leave the slip lead in the car for emergencies. If in doubt, you probably don’t need to be using a slip lead. Taking a more cautious approach ensures a safer, more positive, and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog.