February 18, 2021

Are Slip Leads Cruel? (Best Types & Correct Usage)

by Becky in Ethical & Sustainable Living0 Comments

If you have a dog, you want to make sure you are using the best possible methods to train and take care of them.

Many people will think about using slip leads as a training tool, but there is some controversy about ethicality.

Slip leads can be cruel if handled incorrectly as a dog training tool. They can also cause physical damage like asphyxiation to certain breeds, especially flat-nosed dogs like pugs, and energetic puppies. They are a comfortable and practical option for dogs that only need correctional training or are already trained not to pull on their leash.

If you're considering getting a slip lead for your dog, then this is the article for you. By the end, you will have enough information to make an informed decision about whether or not this kind of lead is suitable for your dog.

What Is a Slip Lead?

Slip leash on a dog

Slip leads are a type of collar designed as a loop. Just as the name implies, one end of the collar is ‘slipped’ through the ring on the other end, without any traditional buckle closure. The collar and lead are effectively one piece – so you don’t need to attach anything else to it.

The idea is that by slightly pulling on the leash, you can correct your dog's behavior as the collar will tighten and put pressure on your dog's neck if they attempt to pull away.

This is a form of aversion training. In other words, it aims to teach your dog that if they pull away while you are walking – it can be very uncomfortable or even painful for them.

Under no circumstances should you pull hard or yank on your dog's neck since it is incredibly harmful or can even be fatal. 

Types of Slip Leads

There are many different types of slip leads out there that come in different shapes and can be made from various materials, most commonly:

  • Metal chains;
  • Nylon rope;
  • Nylon webbing; or
  • Polypropylene rope.

Sometimes they can also have a stopper tab that makes sure that the collar does not become too loose on your dog's neck.

It’s essential to keep your dog’s temperament in mind if you want to attempt to use a slip lead. This is where the type of material you choose is important.

For example, if you have a dog that often plays with or chews at its collar, you should avoid slip leads made of softer materials, such as canvas or nylon.

This is an issue because any damage done to the slip lead means that your dog might end up being able to take off without you being able to do anything to stop it beforehand.

How to Use a Slip Lead

Slip leads generally have a simple design. Typically, you need to slip the collar over your dog's head and making sure that the ring is located at the scruff of the dog's neck or the back of their neck.

The leash should connect to the empty ring, and the collar should be comfortable and loose while your dog is resting. Just remember that if your dog pulls on the slip lead for whatever reason, it will tighten.

When this happens, you should give a firm and quick tug sideways on the leash and immediately release it. Do not continue to pull on the slip lead, as this could cause unnecessary harm to your dog.

The minute your dog corrects its behavior, the collar loosens again. However, you must ensure the slip collar does not start choking your dog or compressing his airway at all. This is a hazardous and ineffective form of training.

Celebrity dog trainer Cesar Milan has a range of slip leads and does condone their use in the right circumstances. He also demonstrates the way they should be fitted so that they are safe and effective. Take a look at this video of his to learn more about safety when using a slip lead. 

Why Are Slip Leads Controversial?

It’s easy to see why slip leads are controversial - many people believe that they are a cruel way to train any dogs.

These leads do squeeze your dog's neck and can cause quite a bit of discomfort and even pain for them. When a dog pulls away from you for any reason – it will happen.

This is risky because your dog will not always pull away because they are naughty. Some dogs might jump out of fear, and others are prone to sudden lunges. In these cases, the slip lead could cause severe damage to their spine, trachea, windpipes, and lymph nodes.

The trauma can also create a negative association between leashes, collars, and going for walks altogether – to the point where they will refuse it all.

Are Slip Leads Cruel?

Slip leash dog training

If your dog is not very well trained on a lead, it doesn't make sense to use a slip lead. You will just end up causing your dog unnecessary pain, and they can end up hurting themselves.

Energetic dogs that are distracted by anything from seeing a squirrel they want to chase to spotting someone they want to greet in the distance – a slip lead can make your dog jump and suffer from whiplash.

For training purposes – slip leads are cruel if you do not know how to use them properly.

The dogs that tend to pull are the ones who are most likely to get hurt by a slip lead. If your dog doesn’t pull or tug at you at all, it can be comfortable and practical.

We know it can be very frustrating when your dog pulls at their lead and tries to walk you instead of the other way around – but slip leads are not the answer. You don't want to cause any unnecessary pain to your dog, so it is far more effective to train your dog with simple firmness and positive reinforcement. Physical pain is a very undesirable component of dog training.


The last thing you want to do is hurt your dog instead of helping them by using the wrong leash. When it comes to slip leads – it’s only a select number of dogs that have the right temperament to wear them.

If you want to use one to attempt aversion training, remember that it can often be traumatic and stop your dog from wanting to walk at all. For this reason, it’s not the best idea, especially if you have never used a slip lead before.

However, training your dog is important, and there’s nothing better than going for walks with your favorite fur friend. So, we recommend speaking to your vet and asking what kind of lead would suit your dog's needs.

The smaller the dog, the more likely you should be using a harness instead of a collar for safety reasons. Even regular collars can cause damage to a small dog’s neck. And the more energetic the dog, the longer your leash should probably be to allow for more movement.

Finally, you should always take your pup to a training facility and work with them to get the results you want. A well-behaved dog is only guaranteed if you put time and dedication towards training.

If you are interested in using a slip lead, it’s worthwhile asking a few people who have used them about their experiences and the potential consequences they have faced.

You need to become extremely knowledgeable in handling the tool and ensuring that your dog has the right temperament for it. It is only suitable for calm and very well-trained dogs

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