What are Long Lines and how do you use them?

What are Long Lines and how do you use them?

As a dog owner, you probably enjoy taking your furry friend for walks, but sometimes it can be a challenge to control your dog's behavior when they're off-lead. That's where a long line comes in handy! Long lines are a great tool for training your dog to walk on a lead, to practice recall training and long-distance stays, and even to introduce them to new environments and experiences. In this guide, we'll show you how to use a long line to train your dog effectively and safely.

What is a long line?

A long line is a long dog training lead, with a clip fastening or carabiner at one end. Long line leads are fixed length and more robust than a retractable long lead (the type which lengthens and shortens).

Choosing the Right Long Line

Before you start using a long line for training, it's important to choose the right one. We'll discuss the different types of long lines available, including material and length, and help you choose the best one for your dog.


Long lines are made in a wide variety of materials from rope, cotton and nylon to leather and PVC coated webbing.

A rope-style of long line can be very sturdy. Those made from a thinner width can cause rope burn, particularly if you get distracted whilst walking. 

A popular long line material is webbing with a PVC coating, which is lightweight, waterproof, and easy to wipe clean. If you're walking your dog in inclement weather, this can be a great choice because it's so easy to clean.

Cotton and flat nylon long lines are less likely to cause rope burns. However they do absorb water and mud readily which means they get heavy and dirty very quickly. However, they are great option for good weather because they are some of the lightest materials to use for long lines in dry weather. 


Long lines come in a range of lengths from 5m up to about 30m. The optimum length all depends on what you plan to use the long line for.

Trails & Paws recommends 5m long lines for:

  • Use with reactive dogs
  • Owners who are getting to know their dog and would like additional peace of mind that their dog is close by whilst having some freedom to explore
  • Training programmes such as desensitisation and counter conditioning and other behaviour modification techniques
  • With a 5m lead you will be able to hold the whole line in your hands, taking it in and out as necessary – giving your dog freedom whilst being able to call them back in quickly.

Trails & Paws recommends 10m+ long lines for:

  • Practicing recalls
  • To give you more control whilst your dog is free-roaming
  • For gundog training


Choosing a bright colour can be helpful so you can see where the long line is while your dog is dragging it.

Safety Tips for Using a Long Line

Safety should always be a top priority when using a long line. We'll share some essential safety tips for using a long line, including how to prevent tangling and injury, and how to ensure your dog's comfort and safety.

  1. Keep an eye on how much of the long line you let your dog have, based on the environment around you. Even if using a shorter length of long line, you do not need to have the whole length released out all the time. Too much loose line can cause you and your dog to get tangled up or trip over each other. This may cause you to lose control.
  1. Be aware of what’s going around you when allowing your dog is exploring with their long line. If you are not paying attention and your dog runs for something, the line could run through your hands and cause you or your dog an injury by injuring your hands or jolting when the dog reaches the end of the line.
  1. If you or your dog do start to get tangled with each other or others, try to stop your dog from moving. Grab their attention with some treats or use their favourite toy to keep them still while you untangle yourselves.
  1. It is better to use a long line with a harness rather than a collar so that if your dog runs they’re less likely to hurt themselves, or you, when they reach the end of the line. If your harness has two points of attachment (chest and back), clip your long line to the back attachment to stop it getting tangled up in legs and belly.
  1. Monitor your dog when using a long line and never leave them unattended.


How to use a long line

Introduce the long line: Before using the long line, introduce it to your dog by letting them sniff it and get comfortable wearing it. Attach the long line to your dog's harness and let them drag it around for a few minutes.

Start in a familiar location: It is important to begin long line training in an environment that is familiar to your dog. This will help your dog feel more comfortable and confident, which will make the training process easier. Start in your back garden or a secure area where there are no distractions. Once your dog is comfortable with the long line, you can gradually introduce new environments with more distractions.

Practice your hold: First, unravel the line so there are no knots. Then wrap the line up loosely into your hand, creating a loop to hold.

Always hold the line with two hands. The hand closest to the dog will control their speed by managing the available length of the line. Your other hand holds the rest of the line and the handle. You can let the line slide through your first hand when you are letting your dog explore and when you need to bring them back into you you can use your second hand you can pull the line in.

Start with short distances: Begin training with the long line by practicing with short distances. Recall commands are essential for long line dog training. These commands teach your dog to come to you when called, even when distracted. Start by calling your dog's name and offering a treat or toy as a reward when he comes to you.

Use positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for long line dog training. This involves rewarding your dog for good behaviour and ignoring or redirecting unwanted behaviour. When your dog follows a command, reward them with praise, treats, or playtime. This will encourage your dog to continue to follow commands and reinforces good behaviour.

Teach your dog to walk on a loose lead: Teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead is important for long line training. This means that your dog should walk beside you without pulling on the lead. Use positive reinforcement to reward your dog for walking on a loose lead. If your dog pulls on the lead, stop walking and wait for them to come back to you. This will teach your dog that pulling on the lead will not get them where they want to go.

Gradually increase distance: As your dog gets more comfortable with the long line, gradually increase the recall distance between you and your dog and add distractions such as other dogs or people. Practice recall training and other commands, such a long-distance stay, always using positive reinforcement.

As you become more confident in your dog's recall, you can build up to dropping the long line completely and letting it trail on the ground behind your dog. This is the next step before allowing them to explore off the lead completely. By using the long line in this way you will be able to get hold of the end of the line, if needed, which will give you more confidence that you have control over your dog. 

Top Training Techniques

Some of the training techniques to help you dog master include:

Changing Direction: walk around randomly changing direction with the dog walking around you. If you reach the end of the line and the dog is not following, then speak to them by saying something like "Let's go.” Otherwise, there is no need to say anything. If your dog does not respond, give the line a small tug and continue walking. The aim is that your dog will head back towards you although they do not need to come all the way back to you. You are not recalling them.

Recalls: With recall your dog must come all the way back to you, sit down, remain focused on you by maintaining eye contact with you and wait for further instruction. When starting to practice recall, you need to make yourself the most interesting thing on your dog’s walk to encourage them to come back to you. Using treats and toys will help you to do this. Use a command such as ‘come’ and call your dog back to you. Having their favourite toy or treats as a consistent reward will show them that it’s worth their while coming back to you. If they do not return to you on your command, give the long line a short tug or gently reel them back in to you. Initially, it’s a good idea to keep the long line fairly short but over time, as your dog’s recall becomes more successful, increase the distance between you by releasing more of the long line.

Leave: This basically means “Leave that thing alone.” If your dog doesn't obey the command, give the long line a tug. Over time, they will learn to listen no matter how far away you are and to understand that certain things are prohibited. You can practice this at home by placing objects by your dog and using the command ‘leave it.’ Remember to reward with a different object and not the one you told them to ‘leave’!

Wait: The wait command is used to encourage obedience inside the home, and with things such as gates and sides of roads when out walking. If your dog is getting further ahead than you feel comfortable with, say "Wait". If they ignore you, give a small tug or step on the line to get them to stop. When they stop, reward them verbally rather than with treats. The aim of this command is to get your dog to ‘wait’ and not to recall them to you. You should always get your dog to 'wait' when opening gates out on walks. Use the 'wait' comment when you open the gate and walk through and then give them the command to come through the gate themselves. They should then 'wait' again whilst you close the gate before continuing on your walk.

Sit and Stay: A long line is an effective tool for teaching your dog to ‘sit and stay’ and for adding distance to your dog's stay. Instruct your dog to 'sit’. Walk away from them repeating the ‘stay’ command.  When first practicing this command, move a short distance away and over time build it up. The aim is for your dog to remain sitting until you recall them to you. With a long line, you can feel safe because whilst your dog might not remain sat in their stay they cannot run away. You can stop them with the line and try again. Even if they stand up (without moving away) start the exercise again by instructing them to sit before slowly moving away.

In summary, using a long line is a fantastic way to train and exercise your dog safely and effectively. With the tips and techniques in this guide, you'll be able to help your dog develop good habits and become a well-behaved companion.


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