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Retractable Leashes Can Be Dangerous. Could This Be A Safe Alternative?

We have all heard of the dangers of retractable leashes. As a dog trainer, I really dislike them. I don’t use them and I tell my clients not to as well. I have seen many dog altercations happen because one (or both!) dogs were on retractable leashes, with owners either not paying attention or too far away to prevent anything. So when I heard about Lead Mate, a brand-new product that the inventors claim was an alternative to the retractable lead, I had to investigate.

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Jaan Hurditch, a mechanical engineer, created the Lead Mate out of his own necessity. He explained to iHeartDogs:

The idea came from wrapping my own dogs leash around my hand/wrist in order to gain closer control when crossing the street or interacting with people and other dogs. This would eventually start to hurt so I did some research to see what was available and there really wasn’t a solution, other than flexi leads, which in my opinion are dangerous and not something I would use, as they actually teach your dog to pull by rewarding your dog with extra leash length whenever they do! I noticed nearly everyone I saw walking their dog was also wrapping their leash around their hand so decided to come up with a solution myself. A couple of years and over one hundred 3D printed prototypes later we have Lead Mate.  

So, what is it?

I’ll admit it, when I first saw exactly what this product was, I was very skeptical. I was expecting some kind of leash, not a strange round ball.

Lead Mate was invented as an ergonomic and safe alternative to wrapping the dog leash around your wrist or using a retractable lead. It is a simple, novel device that attaches to your existing leash and provides a second, easy to grip, safe point of contact when closer control of your dog is required.

PACKAGING

Here are the product specs:

  • Made in North America
  • Product and packaging from 100% recycled materials
  • Multiple color choices including Glow In The Dark
  • 35 grams – super light so it won’t swing around annoyingly
  • Strength testing of the finished products supported over 350 pounds, so there is absolutely no chance of it slipping.

The company also donates 10 percent of proceeds to rescues and shelters.

The Lead Mate comes in two styles – one to accommodate flat leashes and long lines, and one to accommodate round ones.

So how exactly does this replace a retractable lead? I asked the founder this exact question. Here is his response:

Lead Mate attaches to your existing flat or rope style leash and provides a second, easy to grip, safe point of contact when closer control of your dog is required. You can attach and re-position it in seconds based on how much closer you need to hold your dog’s leash. It’s super comfortable and natural to hold and puts significantly less stress on your hand than wrapping the leash. The rope version (round hole) can hold more than 350 pounds without slipping and at only 35 grams it won’t swing around annoyingly when not in use. It has also been tested and endorsed by a number of people with arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

My thoughts:

I was given two prototypes of the Lead Mate to review.

The Lead Mate unscrews completely so that you can position it onto any lead in any position you desire. I tried with multiple sizes/shapes/materials of leashes and long-lines and had no problem getting it to “grip.” I have a custom-made paracord leash that is my main leash and it’s a very thin round leash. With this one, I used the flat instead of the round, because of the size of the hole, and it worked fine. They appear to work with any type of lead.

I have small hands that also have arthritis. The ball is a comfortable size … for a large-handed person it might be annoying, I am not sure. But I would have liked something softer, like a foam, to hold onto for long periods of time.

As an alternative to wrist-wrapping:

Why do most people wrap the leash around their wrist? There are a few reasons:

  1. To be “hands-free” – in this case, the Lead Mate won’t help you, as you have to hold onto the ball. You would be better off buying a hands-free leash.
  2. To shorten the leash – in this case, the Lead Mate is definitely a better choice because you can shorten the leash as far as you want, without wrapping the leash around your wrist ten times (so dangerous – see below).
  3. For a better hold – I have actually seen animal rescue shows on TV tell people to put their wrist through the leash loop and then grip the leash with their hand to hold the dog more securely. But that is exactly what my mother did when my 28 pound Sheltie saw a bird. He pulled. She broke her wrist! It’s dangerous. You should always hold the handle of your leash firmly in your hand, do not wrap it around your wrist. While Lead Mate obviously gives you an alternative to just holding the loop, it’s not really a necessity unless holding the loop is hard for you physically.

As an alternative to a retractable lead:

Personally, I think this is where this product really shines. There are times when you are on a walk and you want to give your dog freedom. Maybe you hike into the hills where there is no one else and you feel safe giving your dog 10 to 20 feet of lead. But then the unexpected happens and you meet an unfriendly dog or a wild animal. With a retractable leash you can do nothing – have you ever tried to grab that cord and pull your dog in? It doesn’t work so well.

But, with a Lead-Mate, you have two options.

  1. If you weren’t holding on the ball you can simply grab it at the point where it is, quickly shortening your dog’s lead.
  2. Or, you can gather up the slack in the long line, which is thicker and easier to hold than a retractable leash, plus you won’t burn your hands.

The ball is also easy to move: unscrew it just enough so that the lead moves and you can quickly shorten it. This is not something you can do with a retractable if your dog is still pulling.

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It’s even great for use on a regular 6’ lead when you want to have your dog stay even closer to you in crowded areas or if you have a reactive dog.

The Lead Mate also gets rid of the need to tie knots into your long lines to make holding onto it easier.

Finally, the Glow In The Dark one is a great idea. Dropped your leash at night? No worries, you can see it easily and quickly with the ball!

Cons:

1. Since the excess leash is not contained inside a vessel, like with the retractable leash, you will have to learn how to juggle the extra leash if you are not in an area where you can just let it drag.

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2. It’s “big.” It’s not bad, but you can’t carry anything else in that hand, or stuff it in your pocket when you get  to the dog park and let your dog off-leash.

The bottom line:

It’s not a hands-free alternative to wrapping a leash around your wrist. Is is a retractable lead alternative? I think that depends on how you look at it. As someone who never uses one, this seems like a great way to simply and easily adjust how much freedom my dog gets. It will work well for a lot of training situations too, such as using a longline for heel or stay work where you are slowly expanding how much freedom you are giving your dog.

You will have to deal with all the extra long line or lead, however. And for some people, that might be a big deterrent. A simple fix would be to have some type of bag attached to the leash or even a version of the Lead Mate that could store the excess lead.

ROUND BLUE

These things really aren’t a big deal and the usefulness of the product definitely outweighs the inconveniences. All around, the Lead Mate makes walking your dog much safer and gives you a lot more choices when it comes to how much freedom you give your dog. Even more importantly, during an emergency you have the chance to get your dog back to you quickly, something that a retractable leash does not allow.

In addition to these first models, they are working on Lead Mates with a flashing light, a thick rubber coated version for playing fetch with, and another that accommodates a roll of poop bags.

The Lead Mate will be ready to ship by the end of May 2016. Pre-orders are being taken now at a discounted rate at lead-mate.com.

And here’s a special discount, just for our readers: use IHEARTDOGS for 10% off for the first 500 readers to use the code!

They will be coming soon to retailers near you.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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