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Leashes and How to Use Them

Seems trivial, but a leash is one of the most important tools you will use with your dog throughout his…

Leashes and How to Use Them

Seems trivial, but a leash is one of the most important tools you will use with your dog throughout his lifetime… Through the teaching and training of puppyhood, to the many happy outings together during your dog’s senior years. How else are you to keep your dog where you want him to be, doing what you want him to do, particularly around others? A leash is imperative for providing control and enforcement as your pup learns what is and is not acceptable. In most states, the leashing of your dog is the law. However, our concern as responsible pet parents is keeping our dog safe and under our supervision.

You would think it would be an easy task, but when you walk into your favorite pet supply store, you may be overwhelmed with the variety of choices you have. Besides keeping your dog safe, what other purpose do you have in selecting a leash? To help train him to walk appropriately? To teach him social manners? To teach him how not to pull or choke himself? Or simply to set the pace for a comfortable walk? Let us help you with that decision.

The most common dog leashes are:

  • The standard flat lead
  • Bungee and stretchable rubber leashes
  • Gentle leader headcollar
  • Harness lead
  • Slip leads
  • Martingale leashes
  • Retractable leashes

The Standard Flat Lead

Everyone is familiar with the standard flat leash, with a clasp at the end. Generally, 4 – 8 feet long, they clip onto your dog’s collar and come in many materials and lengths. Popular nowadays is the round, rope-like material, instead of the flat type. Because of the various thickness and strengths, a good quality standard leash works well with all dogs, providing maximum safety and control when fitted to your particular dog’s size. We recommend starting with a 4-foot leash for more control, adding length as your dog matures. The standard leash is a “staple” item in your dog’s ensemble.

Avoid Bungee and Stretchable Rubber Leashes

I understand why someone thought Bungee or Stretchable rubber leashes would be a good idea… it reduces the stress on the lead, gently correcting pulling issues (so the manufacturers tell us). But any good Trainer will tell you that proper correction must come from whoever is on the other end of the leash. The constant bouncy back and forth of a stretchable leash teaches the dog nothing and totally negates your ability to manage your dog.

Gentle Leader Leashes

While resembling more of a “collar” than a lead, the “gentle leader” promotes itself as a lead. The head collar, also known as the gentle leader or haltis, loops around the dog’s muzzle. It’s kind of like a horse harness. The theory is that when the gentle leader is fitted over your dog’s muzzle and he begins to tug, the nose loop pulls his head towards you stopping him from tugging and redirecting his attention to you. Forgive me, but dogs look miserable in this type of lead. Just look at their body language. They don’t like it. Some believe that if a dog is properly desensitized to a head collar, he will be more comfortable and confident while wearing it. However, there is no excuse for the permanent indentations across the muzzle, or hairless patches often seen due to constant friction. How uncomfortable. There is a whole science behind the effectiveness of these types of leads if you care to research, but our recommendation is to pursue proper training… not the jerking of your dog’s head in order to teach him to walk properly.

Harness Lead Dog Leashes

Harness leads are a lead and a harness all fashioned from the same rope. Generally used to teach a dog not to jump, the harness lead will tighten around the dog’s body or chest area when he pulls or jumps up. The manufacture claims that this action helps to alleviate pressure on the trachea. Less pressure on the trachea is a great idea, but be sure to read all of the information on the manufacturer’s website to avoid injury or misuse. Unfortunately, as a traditional harness will put pressure directly on the dog’s chest area, it may actually cause a dog to pull harder against the leash.

Slip Leads for Dog

At Holiday Barn, we use slip leads to function as both a leash and a collar. Often referred to as “training leads”, slip leads look like regular leashes, but they have a small metal ring at the end. We simply pull the leash through the metal ring in order to make a larger loop that slips around the dog’s neck. Easy on, easy off. Placement of slip leads on a dog’s neck is also something to keep in mind… they should sit high on the neck towards the ears to avoid causing the dog to cough or choke. This is also a more sensitive area on a dog’s neck, preventing them from pulling hard on the lead when walking dogs around the facility. Since we remove our boarding guest’s collar for safety reasons upon arrival, a slip lead is a easy choice. It is great for our purposes, but long term, it may not be the best choice for you.

Martingale Leashes

Similar to the slip lead is the martingale leash. It too functions as both a collar and a lead. It literally looks like a collar attached to the lead, but with added adjustability. The martingale leash was designed for dogs that have smaller heads and thick necks (like a greyhound) so that if he were to back out of the collar, it would tighten. The tightening decreases the likelihood of the dog actually being able to back out of the collar. You don’t see a martingale leash used very often but they can be helpful if you have a dog that tends to pull. The martingale will tighten around the neck to the degree to which the dog is pulling. Another plus of the martingale leash is a quick on and off, making it a popular choice to hang by the back door for frequent, short potty walks.

Retractable Leashes

Which brings us to the last option, the retractable leash. Retractable leashes give your dog the ability to wander as far as 30 feet from the small plastic handle you are holding. The handle contains a mechanism that allows you to release and retract the leash as needed. The retractable leash is very ineffective in a controlled environment, as the functionality does not assure a quick, precise response. Your resulting lack of control can lead to a very dangerous situation. You also run the risk of allowing your dog to approach another dog that isn’t too friendly- something we see in the lobby a bit too often with retractable leashes. Another thing, the small thin rope attached to the dog’s collar often tangles – around dog legs, heads, owner’s fingers, legs, etc. – and may cause an even more dangerous incident. There are many reports of rope burns and actual amputations as a result of these types of entanglements. Allowing your dog to have freedom on a retractable lead will influence them into thinking that they are in control of your walks and doesn’t set clear boundaries for your dog. For the safety of our guests, we do not recommend the use of the retractable leash.

Proper use of a leash

Did you know that there is a right way and a wrong way to hold a dog’s leash? One of the very first lessons all Holiday Barn employees learn is proper dog handling, which includes correct leash management. You will find many variations on the proper use of a dog leash online. However, in our experience with handling dogs, we’ve learned that the following is the best way to control the dog as well as allowing him ample space to maneuver as he needs to.

  1. Clip in and hold the leash in front of your torso – Let’s assume you’re using a standard 6-foot leash in our example, and you’re walking your dog on your left side. Attach the clip to your dog’s collar, and then hold your end of the leash in your right hand, directly in front of your torso.
  2. Loop the lead over your thumb – We teach our employees to put the loop of the lead over the thumb for added strength in case the dog on the line decides to bolt forward. We also caution them never to wrap the lead around the wrist because you run the risk of pulling your arm out of socket or being dragged along if the dog bolts after something.
  3. Stabilize and control the leash – Now place your left hand on the leash approximately 2 feet above your dog so you have both hands on the leash. This type of hold stabilizes the leash with your right hand (in this example) so that you are able to guide and control your dog with your left hand. The right hand is steady and “anchored”, while the left-hand guides, provides and shortens slack as needed, thus controlling all aspects of your dog’s movements without him feeling impaired in any way.
  4. Keep dogs guessing by changing directions – Dogs will resist constant pressure, meaning the longer you pull back and have pressure on your dog’s lead, the harder they will pull forward. Changing directions every time your dog pulls forward can be helpful when practicing these leash skills.

We are here to help!

Our Trainers will be happy to help you with teaching your pup to walk on a leash, as well as the many other fundamentals of good canine citizenship! In Glen Allen, please call Schylar at 672-2200, and on the southside of Richmond, call Amanda at 794-5400.

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