How to Give your Dog Freedom Responsibly

If you’ve read my post 5 Tips for More Enjoyable Leash Walks, you will know that I am not a huge fan of the retractable leash. Many people use retractable leashes to give their dog’s more freedom than a standard 6’ leash allows, so I want to present my alternative – the long line. I was given a bright orange biothane, 25’ long line by my mother, an expert buyer of dog things, who routinely gifts them to me when she’s acquired too much. As I started using it for “adventure walks”, where the intention is for the dog to get to roam and sniff further out, I started thinking about the advantages of a long line over a retractable leash, and wanted to share those ideas, as well as what to look for in a great long line. I now refer to my bright orange leash as my “adventure line”, because I think it has advantages over other long lines I’ve used for the purpose of adventuring.

With a long line, the dog can stop and sniff, and you can walk 25 more feet before they have to finish up and run to catch up with you! This makes for lots of great sniff time!

Using a long line will not be as easy as a retractable leash, but once you develop some skill it will not be difficult. You will need to stay present with your dog on your walks, which is something we could all use a little more of. It is not a one-handed activity, where you can talk on the phone, or scroll through Facebook while you walk. I would suggest that these aren’t ever good activities while walking the dog, regardless of whether your equipment makes it more convenient to do so. Paying attention to what our dogs are doing is so important to preventing bad behavior before it happens, keeping the dog out of trouble, and everyone else in the area safe. The goal with a long line is to pay out as much line as your dog needs at any given time, and reel it back in when you need to limit the dog’s freedom.

We are approaching another dog, so I reel in most of the line so that she can’t approach the other dog. Mia is very friendly, but we always respect that the other dog might not want to greet on their walk.

A long line is much sturdier than a retractable leash, not relying on any mechanics, which means it is less likely to cause accident or injury. Retractable leashes, if dropped accidentally, often scare dogs as they bounce along behind the dog, and can make a scared dog much more difficult to catch. This doesn’t happen with a long line, at worst the dog gets tangled around something, and then you can catch them! In an area where you can allow your dog to run free, you can use a long line to teach off-leash skills by dropping the line and allowing them to get further away from you without giving them complete freedom before they are ready.

I really appreciate the bright orange of my adventure line because of its visibility to myself and people around me. A retractable leash line can be almost invisible, which leaves other walkers to wonder if they are approaching an off-leash dog. It can be unnerving to pass by a dog who is 20’ away from a person which appears they are off-leash, especially if you are walking a dog, or riding a bike. A brightly colored leash is very apparent to passersby, even if the dog is not directly next to you.

With the long line, Mia can move at a faster pace than me…until she finds something new to sniff!

Material of the long line can be an important consideration, and may be variable depending on your needs and preferences. My mom gave me the adventure line because she thought it was too heavy, and prefers a lighter line. It is made of ½” thick biothane, and has a pretty sizable clip attached. Biothane is a synthetic leather which is very easily cleanable, and doesn’t gather dirt, or retain water. It is a great option for adventuring situations where the dog might get wet. It is available in a variety of widths and thicknesses, and customizable in length. I also use long lines made with paracord (width dependent on the size of dog), but I don’t find them as comfortable in my hands, so I prefer to use those for teaching a dog off leash skills in a wide open space, rather than an adventure walk where we are mainly on a trail. These also gather more dirt, and retain water, so they aren’t always a great choice in wetter conditions. Many commercially available long lines are made of nylon or cotton, which can be uncomfortable to hold. Cotton lines will retain a lot of water, which makes them heavy, and get dirty easily. Find a long line that fits your needs and preferences so it is more enjoyable for you in addition to your dog.

I hope that you will explore the use of a long line instead of a retractable leash for your adventure walks. You will find that your dog has more freedom, you have better control of your dog, and others around you can see that easily, which will lead to more comfortable walks for everyone!

We are so lucky to have such a beautiful place to walk, which is Riverbend Ponds Natural Area. We always stay on leash because we don’t want to disturb the wildlife that make this place their home!