“On Lead”

Below is a portion of a photo that appeared in today’s New York Times, taken at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, in New York.

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My eye was immediately drawn to the sign saying “DOGS ON LEAD ONLY.” I only became aware of the expression “on lead” during a trip to England two years ago, when I encountered it as the equivalent to what Americans would call “on a leash.” My guess is that it’s been used in American dog circles for a long time; I’m sure readers can fill me in on that score.

17 thoughts on ““On Lead”

  1. I believe this is just an example of the omission of prepositions that is commonly used in instructions, such as ‘insert cup before selecting drink’. I have never heard anyone use something like “I always keep my dog on lead” in speech. I think British people would be more likely to say “…on a lead”. Perhaps there are some dog aficionados on NOOBS who know otherwise.

    1. That’s exactly what I thought. “On lead” isn’t a recognised or established phrase, as far as I know. I’m not into doggy circles or shows, though. Dogs being walked around here are on leads.

  2. Having recently adopted a new puppy, our family has been watching helpful training videos online. I couldn’t help but notice all the trainers (Americans) kept saying “on leash,” as in, “Keep them on leash when going for walks.” But of course normal people would say “on a leash.” So maybe the “on ____” combination is a dog training thing, and British English uses “lead” instead of “leash”? Just a guess. I know when my kids play Minecraft, the rope you put on an animal’s next is called a “lead,” not a “leash.” That was the first I’d heard it, a couple of years ago.

  3. Leash was in common use in the UK (Midlothian) when I was a kid, it was the preferred term from what I remember but my other half (Kent) finds my use of it odd so it may be there is regional variation in the leash/lead use in the UK.

    1. My Scottish wife’s father used the term “leash” years ago (in Scotland.)
      When I met him first he used to take his family on caravan holidays and I remember the caravan sites having signs saying “dogs must be on leads.” Since then I don’t recall “leash” being used. I suppose leash to be an obsolescent term in the UK.

      1. “I suppose leash to be an obsolescent term in the UK.”
        I believe this is another case of the AE usage surviving the BE one. The word “leash” came into English in the 13th Century from French “laisse” – long before AE was even around of course.
        So in BE, it looks likes a case of “lead” eventually usurping “leash”.
        By the way, in French, whether you’re walking your dog through the Parc Mont-Royal in Montréal or along the Avenue Kléber in Paris, you’re using “une laisse”.

    2. Leash was in use when I was a kid (NW England)/ There’s also “unleash” but I’ve never heard of “unlead”.

      Maybe it’s been changed because “leash” implies something that’s restraining a vicious predator and “lead” implies something that’s guiding a well behaved animal?

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