Thousands of dog owners are suffering serious hand injuries because they are holding leads incorrectly, surgeons have warned.
Experts at the British Society for Surgery of the Hand say they are regularly having to treat fractures, lacerations and dislocated fingers among people injured while walking their dogs.
A single hospital - Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust – treated 30 serious hand injuries caused by 'dog lead or collar misuse' in just one year, the society reports.
They believe thousands of others across the UK are experiencing similar serious injuries.
Dog owners are suffering injuries by holding their dogs the wrong way, as this graphic shows
Around 12million people in the UK - one in four of the the adult population - own a dog.
Consultant surgeon Rebecca Dunlop, of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, said: 'Dogs have a wide range of health benefits for their owners, including reducing stress and helping people stay active.
'But having seen many serious injuries caused by dog leads and collars, I want dog lovers to be aware of the simple steps they can take to avoid severe damage to their hand.
'Hand injuries can be very costly for patients and the NHS – especially through time off work and medical costs.
'We want to ensure that dog owners are able to carry on enjoying time with their dogs without risking damage to their hand and time in hospital.'
She said hand injuries are often caused by the sudden movement of a dog after owners had wrapped the lead around their wrist, hand or fingers, or hooked their fingers under the dog's collar.
A guide to how you should use a dog lead (left) and how you shouldn't, or risk getting an injury
'One particularly common injury caused by dog collars and leads is spiral fractures of the finger bones, which often need an operation to fix,' said Mrs Dunlop, a hand specialist at Duchy Hospital in Truro.
+ wrap the lead around the wrist, hand or fingers
+ hook your fingers under the dog’s collar
+ keep large dogs on a long lead – if they build up speed it can cause a wrenching force on your hand if they come to an abrupt stop
+ let long leads wrap around your legs or street furniture or trees