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Your dog lead can fillet your hand like a fish, warn surgeons

Jillian Tisdale lost part of her finger when her retriever yanked on his retractable lead.
© Jillian Tisdale - Facebook

Human surgeons have warned that a sudden pull on a badly-held dog lead can ‘de-glove’ your bare hand – as it does for dozens of people each year.

By G. John Cole Published on 26 May 2019

Millions of people do it every day: wrap their dog’s lead around their fingers or wrist for a bit of extra purchase against sudden pulls from their beloved pooch.

But this is not how dog leads are designed to be held, and those who persist with a grip like this can do themselves a nasty injury.

Chips with that?

That’s just what happened to 65-year-old Jillian Tisdale of Cornwall, a double retriever-owner. She’s one of 30 Cornish to wind up in A&E with a serious hand injury of this nature over the past year, according to the sinister British Society for Surgery of the Hand.

Her middle fingers were ‘de-gloved’ when one of her dogs made a sudden dart for an appealing stranger, yanking the “filleting knife”-sharp retractable lead that was wrapped around her hand. Skin and soft tissue were removed from her finger just like removing a glove. Her index finger was dislocated, inhibiting her ability to point, scratch, or climb mountains – a favourite pastime of Tisdale.

“I still can't form a proper fist yet and I'm continuing to do exercises to strengthen my hand,” Tisdale told the BBC, months after a skin graft and the removal of part of her finger.

A hand is not a fish

Tisdale’s consultant surgeon Rebecca Dunlop had seen it all before. And she issued a clear warning.

“Having seen many serious injuries caused by dog leads and collars,” she told the Beeb, “I want dog lovers to be aware of the simple steps they can take to avoid severe damage to their hand.”

Experts recommend that dog-walkers should not hook their fingers under a dog’s collar, neither wind the lead around their hand, fingers, or wrist – especially if it’s a retractable ‘filleting’ lead.

Indeed, such leads should only be used in open spaces, because they can also get wrapped around trees or furniture, or the innocent legs of a passer-by – or the dog-walker themselves.

Particularly powerful dogs should be kept on a short lead so that they can’t build up the momentum to pull hard.

Another idea is to wrap the lead around a fish that wants filleting ahead of dinner and walk the dog surrealist-style. However, this is not recommended by experts.