Your health and safety is our top priority. Get COVID-19 & vaccine information and see our visitor policy.

How to Avoid a Startling Cause of Painful Injuries

We’re familiar with ways we can get an accidental injury — falling from a ladder, getting in a car accident or even playing a favorite sport on the weekend.

One cause of injury you may not have thought about is walking the family dog! That’s right. The everyday, garden-variety dog walk can end with a painful injury.

How Can a Dog Walk Hurt You?

More than 86,000 fall injuries are associated with dogs and cats each year. Most of those accidents are caused by our canine friends.

If your dog is fairly large, an unexpected quick lunge by the dog, say bolting after another animal, can cause a rapid, jarring yank on your hand and arm. Even an unexpected lunge by a small dog can cause painful damage to small bones, muscles and tendons in your hands. 

What Are the Dos and Don’ts for Avoiding These Injuries?

Don’t wrap the leash around your hand or wrist. Instead, hold the end of the leash in the palm of your hand, like a tennis racket or golf club.

What’s the problem with using the leash loop around your fingers or wrist? If your dog takes off, the tug on the leash can cause a forceful twisting of your wrist and fingers. You can damage cartilage, ligaments and tendons. You can also lose your balance and fall down. With your arm pulled out, you may not be able to stop your fall.

Injuries can include finger and wrist fractures, dislocations or ruptured tendons. Healing after these complex injuries can take months or longer.

By holding the leash in the palm of your hand, you’re more likely to pay attention. You can adjust the pressure you apply to the leash and, when needed, maintain a firm grasp so your dog doesn’t get loose.

Do skip the long leash. Instead, use a short leash. A long leash allows a dog to pick up more speed and power if it unexpectedly bolts. When the slack suddenly goes out of the leash as it goes taught, the jolt can cause hand and wrist fractures, tendon or ligament damage — even a dislocation. When your dog is near you, the extra leash length can also be a tripping hazard.

Don’t slip your fingers under the dog’s collar. Instead, pinch the collar by its edges.

If you put your fingers under the collar to put on the leash or keep the dog in place, a quick turn by the dog can twist your fingers and wrist and even result in a fracture.

Grabbing the collar if you need to separate your dog from another can also result in injury to you. And being close to the dogs’ muzzles can result in a bite on your hand or arm.

Don’t use a bike, skateboard, inline skates or roller skates to “walk” your dog. Instead, just walk. Walking is better exercise. Plus, riding on wheels to walk your dog is an accident and injury waiting to happen. Even a small change of the dog’s direction can throw you off balance and to the ground. Falls are one of the most common causes of injuries. In fact about 32,000 people die from accidental falls each year.

Do choose the right footwear. Use shoes that give you stable footing for walking your dog. If your path may be icy, plan accordingly. High heels, slippers and flip-flops are not good footwear choices for walking your dog.

Do eliminate your distractions. About 1,500 walkers are treated annually in emergency rooms because they were distracted by their cell phones while walking and got hurt badly. That number gets bigger when we include people who get hurt but don’t end up in the ER.

When Should You Go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room for an Injury?

It’s a good idea to know ahead of time the guidelines for when you should see your health care provider. Read when you should go to urgent care and when to go to the ER. If you get injured, you can start by treating the injury at home using some of the techniques used for sports injuries. If the injury doesn’t get better in short order, don’t wait too long to see a health care provider.

Make sure you know your health care provider’s contact information and location ahead of time. Write the information down where everyone in the family can find it. And check occasionally to see if your provider is still in your health insurance provider network.

Thanks to Rush University Medical Center

Meet the Author

Laurie Misslich OTR,CLT,C/NDT is the Outpatient Supervisor for the Neuro Rehab Program at Aurora West Allis Medical Center in West Allis, Wisconsin.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

Get engaging health and wellness insights emailed to you daily.

Check it out now

Recent Posts

8 Early Signs of Pregnancy

Living Well with Epilepsy—How We Treat It

How Can Knee Pain Be Stopped? Treatments That Work

Find a Doctor Find a Location


Vaccine Update

We're vaccinating anyone 12 and older in Illinois and Wisconsin. Schedule an appointment or walk in at select vaccine centers.