Doctors warn holding your dog’s lead incorrectly can seriously damage your hand.
Thousands of dog owners are reportedly suffering serious hand injuries because they are holding leads incorrectly.
The warning has come from doctors in the UK who say they are treating injuries such as fractures, lacerations and dislocated fingers among people injured while walking their dogs.
A single hospital – Royal Cornwall Hospitals treated 30 serious hand injuries caused by ‘dog lead or collar misuse’ in just one year.
Consultant surgeon Rebecca Dunlop, of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, said: ‘Dogs have a wide range of health benefits for their owners, including reducing stress and helping people stay active.
‘But having seen many serious injuries caused by dog leads and collars, I want dog lovers to be aware of the simple steps they can take to avoid severe damage to their hand.
She said hand injuries are often caused by the sudden movement of a dog after owners had wrapped the lead around their wrist, hand, or fingers, or hooked their fingers under the dog’s collar.
Safe, correct ways to hold your dog’s lead
You are taking your dog for a walk. It is a beautiful day. You are texting a friend about your upcoming trip to …
Suddenly — faster than you can say, “squirrel!” — your dog takes off.
What happens next could be catastrophic. You can get seriously hurt, the dog can move quickly and with so much force and you’re at the other end holding just the lead, absorbing all of that energy.”
You may not realise how common dog walking and dog handling injuries are. But GP’s along with Accident & Emergency Departments in Hospitals are seeing more and more injuries from simple dog walking, everything from severe finger and wrist fractures, to dislocations and ruptured tendons.
The two diagrams opposite, illustrate how not to hold the lead
So How Should You Hold A Dog Lead?
The diagram above demonstrates the correct and safer way to hold a dog’s lead.
Wrap the lead around the wrist, hand, or fingers
Hook your fingers under the dog’s collar
Keep large dogs on a long lead – if they build up speed it can cause a wrenching force on your hand if they come to an abrupt stop
Let long leads wrap around your legs or street furniture or trees
Use retractable leads, forget them. They are like cheese wire that cause serious injuries to dog and handler alike.
Use a collar or well fitted harness with a grab handle.
Six strategies to help keep you safe:
1. Don’t wrap the lead.
It may seem safer to loop the lead handle around your fingers or wrist than to just hold it in your palm. But the opposite is actually true.
“If the dog takes off, it happens so quickly that you don’t have time to unwrap the lead. By the time you realise there’s traction on your fingers or wrist, you may already be falling down, or already have suffered a fracture.” And these are not simple bone breaks, like you would get from slamming your finger in a door. They tend to be nasty injuries because the lead viciously twists your wrist or fingers. The bones can separate, and there is also likely to be cartilage, ligament, and tendon damage.
Often, you need surgery and recovery can take anywhere from several months to a year. Some people never completely recover.
If, however, you hold the lead in the palm of your hand — like you would a golf club — you will have more control over the dog. You will be more likely to pay attention if you have to keep a firm grasp at all times and you can tighten (or loosen) your grip immediately if you feel the dog start to pull away.
2. Don’t put your fingers under the collar.
You can also suffer severe twisting fractures if your fingers are under the collar and the dog jumps or pulls away.
Imagine you are trying to hook the lead to the collar, you leave yourself vulnerable if the dog decides not to sit still.”
Try pinching the collar around the edges. Or grasping the attachment ring instead of the collar itself while fastening the lead. It may take a few attempts or some practice, but it is much safer.
Also do not go grabbing for the collar to separate your dog from another dog. Not only are you risking fractures, but you can get bitten because the dogs are in a more aggressive mode. If a dog clamps down on your finger, the finger can be horribly mangled.
It is especially important to take care with larger, more muscular dogs that can generate more force and have stronger jaws. But even small dogs, if they make sudden movements that catch you off guard, can create enough torque to break your fingers.
3. Keep your dog on a short lead.
The longer the lead, the more lead there is for the dog to pull — and more potential for trouble if the dog takes off.
Imagine 50 feet of rope. When the dog starts running, by the time it hits the end of the rope, there is a lot of energy built up — energy that will transfer to the rope and, ultimately, the person holding it.
As a result, you could fall or get dragged, suffering severe bruises or fractures. The hard yank of the lead can cause not only hand and wrist fractures, but tendon or ligament damage — or even dislocations — to your elbow or shoulder. It is also easier to trip on or get tangled up in a longer lead.
Give the dog a little leeway when you stop to let the dog sniff around or do its business (just keep a watchful eye on the dog; do not start checking Twitter). But keep a shorter lead when you are walking, so you have more control over the dog’s movements.
4. Walk — do not ride.
Regardless of your skill or comfort level, it is never a good idea to walk your dog while riding a bike, scooter, or skateboard.
When you are on wheels, you are already off-balance and less stable than if you are walking. Add the unpredictability of a dog into the equation, and it is a recipe for disaster.
5. Wear appropriate shoes.
Just as you would not wear platform wedges on a hike, you should not wear them to walk your dog.
You need the correct footwear, when it is icy or snowy, it is important to wear boots with good traction. But even when it is warm and dry, you need shoes that offer stability and will not trip you up if the dog pulls on the lead or suddenly changes directions.
So, leave the flip-flops, sandals, slippers, clogs, high heels, and other potentially precarious shoes at home.
It also helps to be aware of the terrain and weather conditions before you start your walk. For instance, if you know the ground will be muddy, opt for sturdy boots instead of trainers.
6. Most important, pay attention.
Many injuries dog walking could have been prevented if the person were simply paying attention. If you are not distracted, you will be able to react faster to any situation; you will not be caught completely off guard.
That means the following:
- Do not talk on your phone, text, or engage in social media.
- Do not wear headphones or a Bluetooth headset.
- Scan the surrounding area for things that might attract or frighten your dog, such as other animals or cars.
- Watch where you are walking so you can try to avoid obstacles or unstable terrain.
Even dogs can gain serious injuries by not being taught how to walk correctly on a lead.