In short, we would recommend against them, however, there are times when they are incredibly handy under certain circumstances, usually in an emergency or when you need to catch a dog quickly.
What is a slip lead?
A slip lead is a lead and a collar in one. This can make it very useful in a pinch, but overall, we’re not fans here. A slip lead is made up of a handle, the body of the lead, and a loop at the end which goes over the dogs’ head and functions as a collar.
The loop tightens as your dog pulls which makes it hard to escape, even for a sighthound, however, this isn’t as good as it might seem at first glance.
Are slip leads safe?
The problem with slip leads is that many of them tighten indefinitely which essentially functions like a choke chain. This constant pressure could damage your dogs neck or trachea, as well as potentially causing some other serious injuries.
Granted, some slip leads now have stoppers in place to try and prevent them from tightening too far, but even then, there are other problems.
You may have noticed that sighthound collars tend to be wider than traditional collars, and there's a reason for this. They require a wider collar (or a harness) to help spread any pressure around their neck. If you swap that out for a slip lead, which is even slimmer than a normal dog collar, then you're asking for trouble. That's before you consider how fast a sighthound can accelerate, which is quite likely if they see something in the distance.
Are slip leads cruel?
They can be. Slip leads are a tool, and tools can be misused. It just so happens that when you misuse a slip lead, it can be quite dangerous. It's also more than likely going to be uncomfortable for your hound, so it's best just to avoid it.
Some people will argue that their dog walks better on a slip lead, and that could be true in some cases. However, there's no functional reason for this, so it must be that the dog in this case is complying because it's trying to avoid the discomfort of the lead tightening. Needless to say this is not good practice and is not fair on the dog. Instead you should use positive training techniques to solve any issues with walking. Here's an article about how to stop your sighthound pulling.
When should a slip lead be used?
They are great in an emergency. Because they double up as a lead and a collar, and they're lightweight, so they're very handy to keep in the car for instance in case your dog gets loose or if you come across as lost dog. They can also be great in these situations as it's easier to slip on than clipping on a collar and lead, and can be safer to put on a dog you don't know.
There's also certain professional environments where the use of a slip lead can be necessary, but that's beyond the scope of this article.
What should you use instead?
A normal lead that clips onto a collar or harness, like this one.
You can pair that with a sighthound harness that's escape proof, and not only puts less pressure on the neck, but shifts all of that pressure to the chest instead, which in our mind is a lot safer and more comfortable.
For those that prefer to use a collar, a martingale collar is a great choice. It also tightens if your dog pulls to stop them slipping out, however, it is designed to only tighten by a small amount so that it doesn't choke your dog. It's also a lot wider than a slip lead so it reduces the pressure on the neck, making it a lot safer and more comfortable for your dog. You can find out more about martingale collars here.