Counterpulsation devices (CPDs) require an accurate, reliable electrocardiogram (ECG) waveform for triggering inflation and deflation. Surface electrodes are for short-term use, and transvenous/epicardial leads require invasive implant procedure. A subcutaneous ECG lead configuration was developed as an alternative approach for long-term use with timing mechanical circulatory support (MCS) devices. In this study, efficacy testing was completed by simultaneously recording ECG waveforms from clinical-grade epicardial (control) and subcutaneous (test) leads in chronic ischemic heart failure calves implanted with CPD for up to 30 days. Sensitivity and specificity of CPD triggering by R-wave detection was quantified for each lead configuration. The subcutaneous leads provided 98.9% positive predictive value and 98.9% sensitivity compared to the epicardial ECG leads. Lead migration (n = 1) and fracture (n = 1) were observed in only 2 of 40 implanted leads, without adversely impacting triggering efficacy due to lead redundancy. These findings demonstrate the efficacy of subcutaneous ECG leads for long-term CPD timing and potential use as an alternative method for MCS device timing.