Leash Training Tips

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

Another huge safety concern that's rarely addressed is the potential for owners to mistakenly drop the plastic case and unwittingly frighten their pets. Consider just such a scenario from a canine perspective: the dropped case crashes behind the dog, and when the dog moves the case follows, essentially chasing the dog no matter how far or how fast he tries to get away from it. Sadly, many dogs become lost due to such mishaps.

For example, what if Mary Wright and Buddy are out for their daily walk, and Buddy stops to have a bowel movement? Since Mary is a conscientious dog owner, she wrangles her poop bag and starts to clean up, but she doesn't have a firm grip on the retractable handle while doing so. Unfortunately, the handle slips from her hand, crashes to the ground, and Buddy is off and running.

A Common Sense Approach to Leashes

Happily, many potentially serious situations can be avoided if owners simply adopt a common sense approach when using retractable leashes. One simple solution is to grasp the handle fully at all times, and to be especially mindful of hanging on to it when otherwise occupied.

It's also wise to be proactive and teach dogs to view a dropped plastic case as an opportunity to be rewarded with treats and praise. Do this at home indoors by placing the case next to the dog and feeding him some treats, then gradually build up to dropping it and rewarding. Additional indoor work should include familiarizing the dog with dragging the retractable case behind him. Start by placing the case on the ground and slowly luring the dog forward with a treat as the case follows him a short distance, then reward and praise. Someday these simple steps could mean the difference between a lost dog and a dog that calmly waits for you to pick up the handle and dispense with the goodies!

For walking purposes, the most important rule -- and probably the most unpopular one -- is to keep dogs at a manageable distance in populated areas or near roads; in most cases, manageable means setting the locking feature at no more than six feet. Many owners would argue that maintaining close proximity on a retractable is contrary to the whole point of using one. However, the safety and welfare of our pets as well as that of our neighbors should always be of primary concern. Remember, there are people in every community who either don't like dogs or are afraid of them, and encountering your dog at the far end of a retractable could spell trouble.

An excellent compromise is to maintain a controllable distance while walking and to plan your outings so that you encounter a park or a large field along the way. Upon arrival at such open spaces, allow your dog the entire length of the retractable to sniff and explore. In addition, bring along a tennis ball or other fun toy to throw for him.

Encouraging Good Leash Behavior

Another valid reason for keeping dogs close by while walking is the natural tendency of dogs to pull, and owners' subsequent desensitization to the severity of the pulling when their pets walk at a distance. In fact, the danger of dogs pulling at the end of retractable leashes is threefold: first, owners have to work much harder to control their pets, creating a time delay in emergency situations; second, dogs simply never learn to walk on a loose leash, a problem which is compounded when owners attempt to walk them on regular leashes; and finally, constant pulling, especially from the larger breeds, may lead to undue wear and tear on the webbing, which may cause it to break.

Therefore, owners should not only lock the retractable to keep their dogs nearby, but they should also treat the retractable like a regular leash and insist that their pets not pull! For those who are unsure how to teach dogs to walk on a loose leash, there are many good training books on the subject, or contact a professional trainer or training school near you.

Maintaining a Safe Leash

Finally, the proper use of retractables includes checking the device for wear and possible damage. Most commonly, the webbing frays or breaks, especially if rambunctious pups are prone to mouthing it. Also check that the clip is functioning properly and is still securely attached to the webbing. Under no circumstance should damaged webbing be repaired for continued use. If the webbing is frayed, immediately discard the leash and purchase a new one. Patched or mended equipment is an invitation for disaster.

Retractable leashes are wonderful tools when owners keep safety in mind, so get out there and use them responsibly -- the exercise will benefit you and your pet, and your dog will love you for it!

Do you use a retractable leash with your dog? How does your dog behave when walking on a leash? Tell us below!

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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