When walking your dog, you need to make sure you have the appropriate tools for your dog. I ALWAYS recommend a 6 foot flat leash. I NEVER, ever recommend a retractable leash. I have many reasons as to why I do not like or recommend the retractable leash.
In 2007 there were 16,564 hospital-treated injuries associated with leashes, according to Consumer Union’s analysis of statistics collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those, about 23.5 percent involved injuries to the finger. The CPSC’s data does not separate the leashes into types but it’s likely that the amputations were caused by retractable leashes. The most common injuries reported were burns and cuts, usually sustained when the cord came in contact with skin as it rapidly came out from the handle of a leash. Others occurred when the cord got wrapped around part of the owner or the dog.
When walking your dog, you need to walk with confidence so your dog feels safe and secure. By taking the lead in the walk, you will have his focus, so your dog will know how he is supposed to act. If you change directions, he needs to change directions; if you slow down, he needs to slow down. Your dog must be able to have an eye on you, as well as you having an eye on him. If your dog is 20 feet away from you, this can’t happen. This is why he needs to be by your side.
Retractable leashes can extend as far as 26 feet, allowing dogs to be far enough away that they can get into an unsafe situation – getting tangled on objects, startling people or other dogs, getting around cars in parking lots, or approaching a dog that may be in need of their space. In comparison to having a dog on a six foot leash, you have a better chance of having control of these situations, than if your dog is 20 feet away.
Clients will tell me that they keep the retractable leash locked when they need to. The problem with this is when you do not expect it, retractable leashes have a tendency to malfunction, either not extending or retracting properly, or even unspooling at will.
Unlike a standard 6 foot leash, with the loop end of the leash nicely placed in your hand, the handle of a retractable leash can be easily pulled out of your hand, resulting in a runaway dog, which could be disastrous. If your dog is a strong-willed, powerful dog, he can take off, even snapping the cord, which would not only put your dog in danger, but the object of what your dog is chasing could be in danger. This can lead to injuries to your dog as a result of jerking of the neck, or even injuries to you if the cord snaps back, hitting you in the face, eyes or mouth.
If you have not trained your dog to walk properly on a 6 foot leash, and are only using a retractable leash, you are teaching your dog to pull, making it harder to control your walks. Your dog learns to pull the leash as far as he can.
Last, is the leash drop. When the handle of the retractable leash drops to the ground it can make a loud noise. If your dog is nervous, anxious or fearful, this loud bang can scare your dog, making them run off. In addition, because the leash is still attached, the source of the loud noise is now “following” him, which can make him more nervous on future walks.
With proper education and the right tools, you can give your dog the safety and security he needs to have great walking/leash manners, making your walks more enjoyable for both you.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery county and northern Chester County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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