Leash Training Tips

August 8, 2012 | By Lori Mauger, CPDT-KA | Category: Products | 1 comment
Tags: products, care & safety, behavior & training

Quick and easy ways to train your dog on a retractable leash.

Mary Wright and her exuberant 90-pound Labrador retriever, Buddy, are out for a morning walk in their bustling urban neighborhood. Mary regularly walks Buddy on a retractable leash, a plastic model with a long reel of nylon webbing and a clip at the end to hook onto the dog's collar.

As usual, Buddy is almost 20 feet ahead of Mary as she ponders the coming events of her day. Buddy enjoys towing his owner along behind him, and Mary doesn't mind because she likes her big, strong boy to experience a sense of freedom while he gets his exercise. Up ahead, Buddy turns the corner, and Mary briefly loses sight of him. Suddenly she feels the leash's webbing tighten; the taut cable telegraphs to her that Buddy is thrashing at the other end. As she rushes forward she hears a man shouting, and upon arrival at the scene, she finds Buddy entangled with a Doberman Pinscher that approached from the opposite direction.

The dogs yip in excitement as the Doberman's owner feverishly works to separate them. Mary jumps in to offer assistance, and finally the dogs are apart. Luckily, both dogs are friendly; they were merely greeting one another with exuberance, so no injuries are sustained. However, what if one or both animals had aggressive tendencies? Injuries surely would have resulted to humans and canines alike.

Although the above example is fictional, it illustrates how a situation can quickly escalate and possibly become dangerous because a well-meaning owner thought she had adequate control of her dog. That's why it's important to review safety procedures for exercising dogs on the retractable leash, a popular but often misused tool.

A Retractable Leash's Function

Retractable leashes are considered by many active owners to be indispensable gear for outdoor doggy enrichment. The leash is constructed of heavy-gauge plastic in the form of a compact case with a built-in handle. The case houses heavy-duty webbing (or nylon cord, depending on the brand and style) and a cog-like mechanism which allows the webbing to extend and retract from 16 feet to as much as 26 feet (the distance depends on brand and style), all without any input from the user on most models.

An added feature is a locking device that sets the length of the webbing as deemed by the user. The lock impedes the retractability, essentially transforming the apparatus into a regular leash. Of course, the locking feature can be reversed, usually by the flip of a lever or the push of a button. Retractable leashes, or "retractables," allow dog owners to exercise their pets while still maintaining some control, thereby reducing the risk of injury or death so prevalent when pets are given total freedom.

Retractable Leash Safety Issues

The main feature of retractables -- the ability to create distance between dogs and owners -- might also be considered the instrument's downfall, most notably for those who live in densely populated areas where encounters with pedestrians, traffic, and other dogs are likely. Dog owners in rural areas, too, face potentially serious circumstances. For example, a dog and its owner walk along the side of a country route, and the leash is fully extended. Suddenly the dog spots some wildlife, and he charges across the road to investigate. While the owner attempts to retract the leash and get the dog to safety, a car races by; the car is unable to stop, and tragedy occurs.

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Comments (1)

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3 years ago

I do let my dog have the length of the retractable leash, but I have taught her the "wait" command. At random times I would stop, ask her to wait and then walked toward her to shorten the leash. She learned very quickly, so now when I see a person or dog coming towards us I do this to bring her closer. Such a Good Dog!

Good Point | Reply ›

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