Long Lines

Dr Katie Friel-Russell

BVSc MAPDT PGDip CCAB MRCVS Veterinary Behaviourist

How to safely use a long line

If you train with us we may well recommend using a long line with your dog. These are basically a very long lead (5, 10 or even regularly all the way up to 25 meters or more long). They don’t have a handle loop on the end and just have a “G” clip, like your normal lead does, to attach to your dog.

A long line is often confused with an extendable/retractable lead which comes in and out of a box. You can read more about those here. But a long line is always the same fixed length and does not automatically lengthen or shorten.

Making a longline safe

You should look for a long line that is soft in your hand. If you need to hold the line and your dog pulls the coarser lines will likely damage your skin. Or you can use a biothane plastic lead which are smooth, don’t hold water so can be lighter but are generally less flexible.

Long lines regularly cause physical damage to people using them wrongly – including finger amputation. You must ensure if holding the line that you hold it in free falling loops as pictured. This is so if your dog suddenly pulls the loops should be able to slide out of your hand rather than trapping your fingers if wrapped around them.

You must also make the longline safe for your dog. The line should only ever be attached to a harness, never a collar. That is because your dog could get real speed on even a five meter lead and if they are stopped and suddenly jerked back (which we try to avoid) they could risk real damage to themselves on a collar whereas on a harness their whole body takes the pressure. If your dog’s harness has front and back attachments we generally recommend the long line is on the back one so that it is less likely to get tangled in their feet.

Be aware of the line at all times. Having a long line attached to a dog can leave us tied up in seconds! They can be serious trip hazards so make sure everyone is aware of it and can move out the way as needed.

Long line dog training Positive Pet Training

Long line wrapped around hand

Long line dog training Positive Pet Training

Long line held safely

  • Our main use of a long line is for recall work. It is great to be able to give dogs more freedom in a gradual approach rather than either a short lead or no control at all!

  • We can use long lines in other training situations where we also need to avoid accidental self-reinforcement from distractions (e.g. the environment). We sometimes use them in gundog training and tracking work too.

  • We are planning on not holding onto the line and when we do it should be in free falling loops. Obviously this means your dog could suddenly pull away so long lines are generally not suitable with reactive dogs who need to be well controlled.

How to use a longline

The long line can ensure effective recall training as it stops dogs from just ignoring us and having fun with their environment. This devalues cues (makes them mean less for your dog) and reduces responsiveness over time. 

It also allows us to give our dogs more freedom before their recall is solid, whilst still being safe!

If using for recall you should use is 100% of the time. If your dog learns that when there is no lead they can run away then you won’t be making progress with training!

Once you’re pretty confident your dog is happy to come close to you try to trail the line on the floor. This means not holding on to it and giving your dog freedom to act as if they are off lead.

If you need to have your dog back under control and their recall didn’t work pick up the line. This might be really near you or a little walk away. Try to pick up on a diagonal i.e. don’t try to walk straight up to you dog, instead aim towards the far end of the line away from your dog.

Once you’ve picked up your line if your dog isn’t showing any interest in coming back to you leave your dog where they are  and go to them instead. You can reel the line in so that they can’t get further away from you but any tugging or pulling on the line to try to get them to come to you at this point is likely to be uncomfortable and worsen their recall over time.

Always follow the general recall rules especially to never punish your dog for returning to you (we recommend never being aversive to your dog for what ever they do!) as this makes them less likely to come back in future.

Keep practising and seek professional help if your dog’s recall is not at a safe standard for you.

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Dr Katie Friel-Russell

BVSc MAPDT PGDip CCAB MRCVS Veterinary Behaviourist