Leash Lessons, kinda like “life lessons”, we’ve all had them. Here’s the good, bad and the ugly on different types of dog leashes and my recommendations as a Dog Trainer.
A leash for a dog is a love hate relationship for me. I lived in the wilds of Colorado for so long that several of my dogs hardly new them. But they are very necessary unless you are lucky enough to live on a 1000 acre ranch. And now that the dogs and I live in camp and RV parks, leashes are used for everything we do.
So here are some options for you, necessities really. I don’t believe there is one leash for all applications, I think you need several. And if you are like me, I have several in my house (motorhome) and several in my car. This way I’m always prepared.
Let’s talk about the dreaded retractable leash. Most trainers hate these and I used to forbid anyone coming into my dog training classes with them. I always handed them a regular leash immediately. Why are they so dreaded? Because people use them inappropriately.
Here are the pitfalls of a retractable leash.
- Have you ever gotten burned by the line? It hurts bad! If the line gets wrapped around you or other dogs, it’s really difficult to deal with. I have a scar on the back of my leg from 20 years ago a cord burned me. Read this article by Consumer Reports for some gory details of retractable leash accidents.
- A retractable leash is NOT appropriate in these situations.
- In a busy area like a sidewalk.
- On a busy walking path.
- Inside, anywhere or anytime!
The only place to use retractable leash is on a quiet trail, park or road with your dog in a harness. Recently, I was walking my dogs and across the street was a lady with a dog on a collar and a retractable leash. The dog ran at us and hit the end of the line and spun in the air. The lady said something to the effect of “you deserved that”, but what she doesn’t realize is that she will be paying for Vet bills for the rest of the dog’s life. Can you imagine what would happen to your neck and spine in that situation? It gives new meaning to whiplash. The medical problems will ensue because I’m sure this happens often with this person. The dog is totally untrained and on inappropriate equipment, sad to see.
Another big problem is the tension on the retractable leash is always on, meaning, your dog is feeling the pull all the time and therefore, when you put your dog on a regular leash, he is going to pull because he is use to the pressure and he has learned that pulling gets him where he want to go. So basically the retractable leashes teach your dog to pull.
Here are some suggestions for your leash repertoire.
- 4 foot leash – I think a nice short leash attached to your dogs harness is the most appropriate leash in a busy area like a downtown sidewalk or river walk. This lets you keep the dog close to you. You should always be paying attention to your dog in these situations, are they enjoying the experience, are they overwhelmed, are they expressing some anxiety and/or should they be taken back to the car or house?
- 6 foot leash – This is the most common leash, and one that I use most with my dogs. I particularly like ones that 2 Hounds Designs makes that have the ability to hook on 2 places on the harness or hook up to a tie up location.
- Leash with bungee built in – I’ve used one of these leashes and liked it for Mick. I think it’s a personal preference and depends on your situation with your dog.
- Long lines are 10 – 50 feet. They are just one big long leash. I like a 15-20 foot long line, this is usually plenty. This is what I walk Mick on when walking camp parks, quiet roads and trails. Romeo stays on a 6 foot leash which works for him or he is off leash. There is a way to hold this leash properly (see below), and I’ll be honest, it takes practice and it takes paying attention all the time, which you should be doing with your dogs on a walk anyway, right?
Tips for a long line
- Have a harness on your dog.
- Pay attention at all times!
- You might want to wear a glove (optional)
- Put the loop around your hand, but not around your thumb.
- Then loop up the extra line and hold it, do not wrap it around your hand.
- Let 6-8 feet out or more if you are comfortable.
- Now you can walk, letting some out, bringing it back in.
- Practice calling your dog to you, reward!, then say go play. This is the best way to practice recalls.
- If you dog is apt to run out, be prepared to drop the extra line and hold on using the other hand also. If you are going to be hurt, let go. Because if you are seriously injured, you are no help to your dog.
- Keep an eye out for the trailing line, you can walk into it.
- In appropriate situations like a big field, you can let your dog drag the line. Some people tie knots in the line so you can step on it and stop it easier.
- Do not use a long line next to a busy street, in a busy area, busy trail, busy walking path, too dangerous.
A retractable leash for you.
If you are a responsible retractable leash user and only use it in the most appropriate places, quiet, no traffic of any kind and you pay close attention, I recommend the Smart Leash. It has a brake built in it which works like a seat belt. If your dog tries to run out, the brake will activate and hold them back at that point in the line. Other nice features are a comfortable rubber grip, reflective tape for the line, bungee material near the clip for shock absorption. It’s a very nice piece of equipment.
Please make decisions that will keep you and your dog safe out there in the big beautiful world we live in.
Take Your Dog Along!