Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Retractable Leash

I might not be popular by saying this, but
I don't like them.  I think they are very dangerous.

We've all seen them.  The Retractable Leash.  It is so common across the country that I can't imagine anyone not knowing what one is.  But just in case, here's a picture.

To be sure, they come in all shapes and sizes and every color under the sun.  They are made for toy dogs up to large breed dogs.  You simply clip onto your dog's collar or harness and by operating a button with your thumb, you can allow your dog to extend the leash all the way out -- usually from 10 to 20 ft.  -- or you can stop the dog from full extension and let them go only part way.  Supposedly, you can also bring your dog back in by recoiling the nylon line.  I say "supposedly" because I've never seen anyone actually be able to do that when they needed to.  Oh.  And you WILL need to.

There are a multitude of reasons why I think this type of leash should be banned from ever being sold.  I understand that most Americans want to have a very relaxing walk with their little doggy and that they don't want to be bothered with actually having to train their dog to walk next to them.  They want the dog to be able to sniff and pee and poo where ever it sees fit while they amble down the road oblivious to their own dog or to the other humans and dogs who might be around them.  After all, their dog is friendly with kids and old people and other dogs so it won't matter if it gets close to any of those creatures.  Their dog will be friendly and fine.  They would rather the dog walk them;  than actually walk their dog.

I cannot tell you how wrong and how lazy this attitude is.

The responsible pet owner should think about a few things.  
1.  Why are they walking their dog?  So the neighbors can see it?  Or does it need exercise?
2.  Shouldn't they pick up the poop their dog leaves behind?  (That would mean that they would have to be next to the dog.
3.  Who is in charge?  The dog or the human?
4. What will happen if a strange animal approaches my dog?  How will I protect my dog from danger if the dog is 16 ft. away?
5.  What if my dog sees a rabbit, squirrel or cat and it lunges at it?  And what if it does that right at the moment the woman with the baby stroller got in the way?

You know, some of these things might not ever happen, but some are likely.  And there is something else to consider.  What if my Fido on a long retractable goes up to another dog just to say hi.  And what if that other dog is a rescue who is terrified of other dogs?  Or what if that dog is a new puppy without it's shots?  Or in training?  Or a police dog?  Or a Schutzhund dog?  Or a dog that likes it's own space.  (I don't know about you, but I don't like a close talker especially when I've just met the person).  Or a dog that's recently been rescued from a dog fighting operation?  They were a good distance away from you,  but you let your dog approach without asking.  Now the dog fight ensues and I can tell you who will win.  The dog that is fearful will win.  Who's fault is it when your Fido gets hurt?  I know what you'll do.  You'll be aghast that that big dog just bit your precious little Fido.  You'll rush to the vet and you'll expect someone else to pay your bill.  But it was your fault for letting Fido into someone else's space unannounced and uninvited.

The walk is for exercise.  Use it to work your dogs body and brain.  Keep your dog by your side.  It doesn't have to be in a perfect heel position, but it shouldn't pull you down the road either.  Ideally, it will walk beside or a bit behind you.  If you are the leader, it will happen.  You decide when you want to let the dog sniff and pee and take care of other business.  Come to an appropriate place and release it from the walk.  "OK. Fido.  Go Sniff".  You decide how long to stay and where this will take place.  And Fido shouldn't take this action on his own.  He must wait for the release word.  Why, you ask?  Because you are the pack leader.  When a pack of dogs is out on a hunt either for food or new shelter, they follow their leader.  They don't go stray around willy-nilly where ever they'd like.  The leader goes and the pack follows.  When the leader decides it's time for a rest, then the pack can sniff and relax and take care of it's business.  This is how a dog's mind finds order, discipline and comfort in it's world.  And this is how you can get that respect you've been looking for from your dog.  This also gives you a better chance of protecting your dog from strange animals who might not be so friendly.  You are Fido's soul protector.  You provide the food, the shelter, the protection.  You can't do that from 20 ft away.  And if that nylon rope does get tangled around an old woman's ankle or a baby stroller and your Fido does lunge at a cat;  well.  I know you don't want that.

So please, do your dog and your neighborhood a favor.  Get rid of the retractable or flexi lead and train your dog to walk on a 4 ft or 6 ft leash.  He'll get the steady pace of good healthy exercise and his mind will have to stay alert to concentrate on the wishes and demands of his leader.  He'll be happier and even more tired when you get home.