Dog walkers are more at risk of serious injury when using a long lead

A study has found that dog walkers should use short leads when walking their dog to minimise the possibility of injury to themselves and their dog. They’ve revealed a link between traumatic brain injuries in people walking their dog and long leads. Brain injuries were the second most common form of injury occurring while walking a dog on a long lead. The most common was broken fingers.

Short leads are safer and better
Short leads are safer and better. Image: MikeB.

This is an American study conducted by scientists at Jon Hopkins University which looked at hospital records of almost half a million people who attended hospital because of an injury which occurred while walking a dog between 2001 and 2020.

Remarkably, over that 19-year period injuries of this kind increased by a factor of four (400 percent). Also, notably, 75% of the injured were women. And 50% were in the age bracket 40-60 with an average age of 53.

The three most common injuries were: finger fracture, traumatic brain injury and shoulder sprain or strain. About 7% of people visiting hospital for injuries concerned finger fractures. This happens when the lead wraps around the fingers and the hand gets trapped.

Sometimes people fall over when walking their dog when they pull or bolt. This can result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which accounted for 5.6% of the injuries.

And shoulder strains or sprains accounted for 5.1% of injuries.

The over 65’s were twice as likely to suffer from finger breakage and women were 50% more likely. The over 65’s were 60% more at risk of suffering from a TBI.

The report concluded that dog walkers were at considerable risk of suffering an injury! Comment: when you watch dog walkers in the park as I do often in Richmond Park, Surrey you don’t see any risk of injury to the dog walker. But it is there and I would think it happens unexpectedly to people who were unaware of the hazard.

Dr. Dana Varble, the chief veterinary officer at the North American Veterinary Community, on being interviewed by The Telegraph newspaper said that leads can be tripping hazards for people and pets. She recommends shorter leads no more than 2 metres in length.

Retractable leads and those that are long can quite easily get wrapped around the walker’s feet, objects such as street signs and trees and the legs of the dogs themselves, which can harm them.

Also, short leads allow dogs to react to their caregiver’s body language. This helps to prevent the dog bolting which in turn help to minimise accidents.

She also recommends formal training of walking dogs on leads to minimise the risk of injury.

We all know that walking a dog is very beneficial to health of both dog and person especially when it takes place in a beautiful countryside setting but Dr. Varble also recommends multiple shorter walks rather than lengthy ones which exceed or test the physical limits of the dog’s caregiver.

It is counter-productive to walk too long and too far because it enhances the possibility of injury both to an elderly person and their dog.

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