Dog trainer reveals we’ve been holding the leash wrong all this time, here’s why

Dog on a leash
(Image credit: Getty)

If you have an energetic, nervous, or reactive dog, chances are leash walking can sometimes be a challenge. According to one trainer, though, the way you’re holding that leash could be making your dog’s behavior worse.

If your dog pulls or lunges, your instinct might be to take a good, strong hold of the leash, even wrapping it around your hand, in order to try and hold him back or perhaps distract him with the best dog treats. It’s also common to grab the leash hard with the hand closest to your dog and then bring the slack across your body to hold the other end with the opposite hand. It’s understandable why this might seem like a good idea – after all, if your dog pulls free from one restraining hand you’ve still got hold of him with the other, right? According to trainer Lee Jones who works for Southend Dog Training (opens in new tab), and specializes in training reactive dogs, both these methods could be making matters worse.  

Watch Lee Jones’ video on leash holding

@leesouthenddogtraining (opens in new tab)

♬ Unstoppable (I put my armor on, show you how strong I am) - Sia (opens in new tab)

In a short TikTok video (opens in new tab) viewed over one million times, the trainer explains that holding your dog on a very short, tight leash is just encouraging him to pull against you. Equally, holding the leash across your body allows your pooch to swing ahead of you and trip you up. Both methods can also hurt your hand if your dog suddenly lunges.

According to Jones, the correct method is to position your dog at your side and then run the leash over the palm of your hand so it emerges between your index and middle fingers. Loop it around the index finger then gather the slack into your palm, keeping your arm loose and relaxed. As you’re holding the leash in one hand only, it allows greater control without giving your dog anything to pull against. If he moves forward more quickly than you’d like, you can bring your hand up to increase the contact then release and relax once he’s back in position by your side. Check out our guide to the best dog leashes for the perfect partner for your pooch. Our advice on how to clean a dog collar and walking gear will help you keep your equipment in tip-top shape.

The video gathered thousands of comments, with many fans commenting on how beautifully behaved Lee’s German Shepherd model is. ‘The wee look the dog gives at the end – “Sorry for this folks!” said one, and ‘The dog’s the best, she’s like: “Why, why do you make me do this?” with that look at the end”. 

Sara Walker

Sara is a freelance journalist and copywriter of many years’ experience with a lifelong love of animals. She’s written for a range of magazines and websites on subjects varying from pet care to travel. A horse rider since the age of five, she’s currently a full time pet slave to horse Blue and gorgeous, goofy English Springer Spaniel Olly. Adorable Olly has a huge sense of adventure and no sense of direction, keeping Sara on her toes.