Choosing and Using a Long Line

By Claire Martin

When to Use One?

Long lines are useful training tools that enable owners to give their dogs a bit of freedom, safe in the knowledge that they can’t get into trouble, run away, or get lost. They are also useful training tools to teach a reliable recall. They are great for young puppies and dogs going through adolescence, and are essential for newly adopted rescue dogs.

How Long?

Long lines typically come in either 5 or 10 metre lengths, but some manufacturers make them longer or shorter.

What Type?

Cheap webbing long lines can be bought from pet shops, but they will absorb water, mud, and indeed anything that the line drags through on the ground, which can include manure and grit. Considering that you will need to handle these lines all the time, this is a disadvantage.

Horse lunge lines come in bright colours, but they are often quite heavy for smaller dogs and have a heavy trigger clip. They also absorb water and grit when they trail on the ground.

Biothane is rubberised webbing that doesn’t get wet or absorb grit. It comes in many widths and colours and can be cut to any length. In narrower widths, it’s ideal for puppies and small dogs. In the wider widths, it’s strong enough for the largest dogs. It is also much less likely to cause a friction burn when you use it due to the nature of the material, which isn’t rough on your hands.

Yellow Dog

The use of yellow accessories can indicate that a dog is reactive, so a yellow long line is a great idea.

How to Use Them?

A long line should always be attached to a dog’s harness and never to their collar. If a dog does run to the end of the line, stopping the dog in its harness will not put pressure on the dog’s neck. Ideally, you would teach your dog a ‘steady’ cue, so they know that they are coming to the end of the line.

Checking In

Start off using the long line by looping it all into one hand. Let the line out as the dog moves away from you and loop it back in as they come nearer to you. That way there is no tangle risk. Every time your dog chooses to come back, reward them with a high-value treat, then let them go off wandering again.

Don’t be tempted to keep calling them. Just let them sniff and wander until they come back on their own. We are trying to teach them a voluntary check in here rather than a recall. Keep walking and keep the line loose between you and the dog.

If you reward every time they come back, you will soon find that they keep coming back for a reward. Once you are sure that they will repeatedly check in, let the line drag on the ground and just walk.

Reward every time your dog comes back. If your dog starts to wander too far, stand on the line, gather it back up and go back to the first step. Only take the long line off if you are sure that your dog will keep checking in with you.

Don’t ever feel it’s a failure to put the long line back on and always use a long line in an unfamiliar environment.

Trigger stacking | Meadow Family Rescue


When you are fairly certain that your dog was just about to come back to you to check in, call your dog and reward like crazy! This should only be after your dog is checking in regularly on a long line, and before you decide to drop the line. Do this at random. Reward this behaviour more than checking in because this time you asked your dog to come rather than them coming back of their own accord. You shouldn’t consider dropping the long line to drag behind your dog until you have a very reliable recall.

Why not a Flexi Lead?

A flexi lead keeps tension on the line attached to your dog. This means that they aren’t making their own choice to come back and they get used to pulling; something we don’t want to happen. The mechanism inside the handle can break and, sadly, dogs have been hurt or killed when the brake hasn’t stopped them running out in front of a car. Lastly, and most seriously, if the handle of the flexi is dropped (and it’s hard not to drop it if the brake mechanism fails) and your dog is at top speed when the line becomes fully extended, then the handle will travel behind the dog, scaring it and making it run ever faster until it comes to harm or collapses. Cord flexi leads can also cause horrid burns if you try to grab the line to stop your dog. We don’t recommend them!