5 Ways Using A Dog Leash Can Be VERY Cruel

Sometimes you’ll see a dog and their owner out on a walk and the dog is being aggressively yanked around by their leash. Or you’ll see a poor dog tied up to a tree or post by their leash. Even though many places require dogs to be on leashes, are they cruel?

Dog leashes on their own are not cruel. They’re simply a connector from the dog to their owner to maintain control while outside. However, it depends on each individual owner whether a dog leash is being used in a humane way or in a cruel way.

In this post we’re going to look at all the ways in which dog leashes are used cruelly, why people would choose to use a leash in a cruel way, how to use a leash humanely and much more.

Let’s dive right in.

Do Leashes Hurt Dogs?

Dog leashes in and of themselves do not harm dogs. It’s what the person holding the leash that can hurt a dog.

Most leashes are attached to collars which wrap around a dog’s neck. If the dog doesn’t know how to walk beside their owner and pulls ahead, this can hurt their neck.

Like many things, it’s not the item itself that is harmful, it becomes harmful based on the person using it.

Leashes can be completely harmless in the hands of a person who has trained their dog well. Or, a leash can be quite cruel because a person hasn’t taken the time to train their dog and instead yanks on their leash, and in turn throat, frequently.

5 Ways Using a Leash Can Be Cruel

Excessive Strain On A Dog’s Neck

Leashes have to attach to something on a dog in order to work. In many cases this is a collar that goes around a dog’s neck. 

(Harnesses are a safer alternative to collars as they distribute pulling pressure along a dog’s chest.)

If your dog isn’t trained to walk with a loose leash, odds are they’re going to pull ahead often.

This means constant pressure will be put on their throat causing them discomfort, pain, or even tracheal collapse.

Also, some dog owners pull on their dog’s leash as a form of punishment. Since they haven’t taken the time to train their dog to walk nicely, they resort to yanking on the leash in an attempt to get their dog to behave how they want.

This unfortunately can be quite cruel depending on the severity of the pulling, and even more unfortunate is that it’s generally ineffective.

Positive reinforcement training is much more effective than negative reinforcement.

Tying a Dog Up

Sometimes a dog owner will choose to tie their dog up to a tree or post by their leash for long periods of time.

This leaves the poor dog exposed to any changes in weather and without food or water.

If the weather were to change to extreme heat, to a thunderstorm or a blizzard they would be without shelter and unable to take shelter. Whether the temperature gets much warmer or much cooler it’s quite cruel to leave a dog tied up to something for long periods of time.

Also, they could become frightened by their surroundings or see something they want to chase and severely injure their neck trying to run off. In this event it would be emotionally and physically cruel to the poor dog.

Lastly, there’s a possibility that the dog could be taken by someone with ill intentions.

Using The Leash As a Whip

If a dog isn’t acting the way their owner would like them to, they could cruelly use the leash to whip their dog.

Obviously this isn’t what a leash is designed to be used for but some people might get frustrated with their dog and use it in this way.

Also, if it’s attached to their dog’s collar, the leash can be swung downward to smack their dog for not walking ‘properly’. Unfortunately I’ve seen this happen.

The dog didn’t cry out in pain but you could tell they were impacted by the leash hitting their body.

Lifting a Dog By The Leash

When a leash is attached to a collar, some owners may lift their dog by raising the leash higher.

Obviously the only way for this to work is by the leash pulling on the collar and putting pressure on the dog’s throat. Not only would this be choking the dog but also potentially causing permanent damage to their throat.

Again, this may be done because a dog isn’t behaving the way their owner wants or simply because the owner isn’t a nice person.

This is another case for a harness. With a back clipped harness you can lift a dog with their leash without choking or putting excessive pressure on their neck.

Being Left On For Too Long

Leashes should only be used for walks.

If a leash is left on a dog for too long this leaves far too many opportunities for them to harm themselves accidentally.

Because leashes drag behind a dog without them paying much attention to it, they can easily get caught on things. If this were to happen when no one was around they might end up choking themselves without a way to get loose.

It’s best not to keep a leash beyond their walks, but if you do, always keep an eye on them.

Why Would Dog Leashes Be Considered Cruel?

Leashes can be considered cruel when a person chooses to use them improperly.

The key distinction here is, is the leash cruel or is it the person using the leash?

Leashes can most definitely be used in cruel ways, but it’s not the leash that is the problem. It’s the person who is choosing to use the leash in a negative way.

Remove the person who’s using a leash cruelly and put in place a kind, caring person and the leash becomes humane.

Why Do People Use Dog Leashes In a Cruel Way?

The most common way that a leash is used in a cruel way is by pulling aggressively on it when it’s attached to a collar.

In this instance, people use the leash in a cruel way because they’re unable to get their dog to behave how they’d like. And because of this they take out their frustration by yanking on the leash and harming their dog.

These people are unaware that negative reinforcement won’t work nearly as well as positive reinforcement to train their dog.

They might also not be fully equipped to handle their own emotions adequately. When put in a situation where they become frustrated, the easiest response is to last out. 

The more difficult response is to remain calm and train their dog using positive reinforcement, even when the dog is completely disobeying.

People who do the more severe cruel acts with a leash are simply not nice people or are truly blissfully unaware that what they’re doing is harmful.

How To Use a Leash In a Way That Isn’t Cruel

Leashes don’t have to be cruel. They’re often one of a dog’s favorite things because it allows them access to the wonderful world around them. Here’s a couple ways to use a leash humanely:

Train Your Dog To Loose Leash Walk

If you take the time to train your dog to walk on their leash nicely, they won’t ever have a pulling problem that could harm them.

This of course does take time and patience as dog’s are easily excited and distracted.

But with enough time, following the right strategy, and treats (lots of treats) a dog can easily be trained to walk with a loose leash.

Attach It To a Harness Instead Of a Collar

Harnesses completely get rid of the strangulation problem that comes with a leash and collar.

When a leash is attached to a harness the pulling pressure is distributed across their chest instead of their neck. This means if they do pull, it won’t be followed up with a sore throat or an inability to breath.

Are Dog Leashes Required By Law?

Dog’s are required to be on a leash in most parts of the world.

However, some states and countries do not require a dog to be on a leash at all times when outside. Some local laws might differ from regional laws in this case though.

It’s best to check your specific location, and even more so your local authority’s rules and regulations around leashes to be certain.

You can check out each of the states’ positions on leash laws by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

Dog leashes by themselves are not cruel. When a person who doesn’t use them properly gets ahold of one, that’s when a leash can become cruel.

Dog’s can love their leash because it allows them access to the world around them. Or they can hate their leash because it’s used in various negative ways with them.

The choice is ultimately up to the owner and by knowing how leashes can be used cruelly you’re better equipped to use them safely and humanely.

Other posts you might find interesting:

Can Dog Collars Cause Seizures? (Surprising Truth..)

Dog Harnesses Fully Explained (Are They Cruel?)


Positive Reinforcement Dog Training: The Science Behind Operant Conditioning

Dog Leash Laws in the United States

Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessories. Learn more about Alec's story here

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