The Hidden Health Risks For Dogs That Pull On The Lead

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The Hidden Health Risks For Dogs That Pull On The Lead

Pulling on a flat collar and lead can cause a number of injuries, many of which you or your vet may not even realise are due to the pulling.

1. Neck injuries

Just one incident of running the full length of the lead then reaching the end and being yanked backwards could cause bruising, whiplash, headaches, crushed trachea, damage to larynx, and fractured vertebrae.
The longer the lead, the worse the injuries could be, potentially with permanent or even fatal injuries.

2. Damage to the thyroid gland

Dr Peter Dobias, a doctor of veterinary medicine, wrote about hypothyroidism caused by pulling on the lead in an article published in December 2018.
( He had often wondered why dog breeds renowned for pulling, such as Labradors, golden retrievers and German shepherd dogs, also had higher rates of thyroid problems. He realised that the dog’s collar rests right where the thyroid gland is located. When dogs pull, the thyroid gland becomes inflamed and is attacked and destroyed by the dog’s own immune system. This damage causes a deficit of thyroid hormone and is termed “hypothyroidism”. The symptoms include weight gain, a lack of energy, hair loss and skin problems.

Dog that pull on the lead

3. Dogs that pull on the lead can develop ear and eye issues

Pauli AM, Bentley, E Diehl, KA, Miller, PE investigated eye pressure of dogs in their study ‘Effects of the application of neck pressure by a collar or harness on intraocular pressure in dogs’. They found that pressure inside the eye was significantly increased when pressure was applied to a dog’s neck from its collar. Increased eye pressure can create additional problems for dogs already suffering thin corneas, glaucoma, or eye injuries. Pulling on the lead can also affect the blood and lymphatic flow to and from the head, which can cause issues with the eyes or ears, which some studies have even linked to cancer.
Additionally, dogs with collar and lead injuries that have damaged their upper cervical spine are particularly prone to ear scratching or even severe ear infections.

4. Damage to the nerves in the neck that go down to the paws.

The nervous system in the front legs leading down to the feet can be damaged, causing a sensation that the dog doesn’t recognise and can lead to symptoms such as paw licking, scratching the “armpits” or foreleg lameness. Paw licking is often misdiagnosed as allergies when in fact it is excessive pulling on the lead that is causing the issues.

5. Epilepsy or seizures

Pulling on the neck increases pressure on the jugular vein. This can cause a build-up of pressure around the brain or can affect the flow of cerebral-spinal fluid, either of which can lead to epilepsy in pre-disposed dogs.

Other Dangers Of Pulling

As well as injuries to the dog, there are other dangers involved to owners or others when a dog is out of control on the lead:

Injuries to the owner or others

In our survey, we heard from many owners with serious arm or back injuries due to their over-excitable companions. There is also the risk that your dog could pull you over, get free and cause injury to others or cause a road traffic accident by running onto the road.


The internet is loaded with requests for help from owners who are about at their wit’s end due to their embarrassing pets. They feel like they are the laughing stock of their trainingclass because they are being dragged round and are unable to regain control.

The dog doesn’t get walked at all

Due to all of the concerns above, some dog owners with dogs that pull on the lead find that they don’t take their dogs out as often as they should because walking them is no longer a pleasure and is an unpleasant, exhausting and often a humiliating and dangerous experience.  This is a health risk for owner and dog.  Both need exercise, especially dogs.

To conclude:

So if you’re on the verge of buying a dog headcollar or harness, think about the damage you could be doing to your pet if you allow him or her to keep pulling on a flat collar and make that purchase.  To learn more about how to train your dog to walk on a lead without pulling, see our ebook: “How to stop a dog from Pulling“.


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