The Retractable Leash

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Last week I was sitting at my favorite food truck pod with my sweet Pup Link. People came and went with their dogs, sometimes coming over to say hello to my Pup. Each dog calmly came over to get and give a brief sniff and then they trotted away with their human. After about five dogs stopping to say hello, in walks a beefy pitbull. He was large and had a big smile on his face, scanning the area for dogs. He saw Link and immediately began walking toward us. Behind him was a small woman, gripping his retractable leash with both hands and being dragged across the gravel as if she was wearing roller skates. She grasped the handle of the leash and held her thumb tight against the leash lock, her other hand was wrapped up in the thin cord, turning white from the lack of blood flowing to it. She kept shouting, “Stop! Heel! Stop!” but the dog continued to drag her toward me. I stood up and asked, “Does he want to say hi?” The woman’s face filled with relief and she allowed her hands a break and let her dog have some extra leash to say hello. The dog calmed and they began to walk away, but then another dog popped into view and the woman was being dragged off again, this time she dropped the large plastic handle and it hit the ground, shattering into pieces and retracting itself all the way back to the dog, who began fleeing in terror into the parking lot, the broken plastic handle clattering behind him.

This is honestly not the first time I have seen this happen. Retractable leashes were  invented in order to provide control over the dog while allowing it more room to roam, but instead they tend to provide little control and absolutely no guidance. Your dog is able to walk about 20ft ahead of you, sniffing and eating whatever they find, wrapping around trees or poles, and hopping into the street in front of an oncoming bicyclist if they so desire. The inventor of the retractable leash has said, “It is usually desirable that the dog should have a certain freedom in running about, but it is difficult to prevent the animal from running on the wrong side of lamp posts or pedestrians, thus causing much annoyance to the owner, who is constantly required to adjust the length of the leash in her hand, and frequently the leash is dropped and the dog permitted to run away. The objects of the present invention are to obviate and overcome all these difficulties and annoyances due to the usual form of leash, and prevent the leash from becoming tangled as the dog runs about.” This directly translates to: “I hate dealing with my dog and just want to zone out while I walk him.” Her description is odd, considering the retractable leash allows more room to run about and go on the wrong side of posts and people, and you are CONSTANTLY adjusting the length of the leash. It is also very easy to drop, and even easier to break! 

The truth is, people only use these leashes because it is comfortable for them to hold. If you remove the large plastic handle you would be left with a thin cord that would slice into your hands, similar to walking a dog on a fishing line, and nobody wants that.

I always recommend a 6ft nylon leash. You can shorten it as much as you’d like, and no dog needs to be more than 6ft from you while on a leashed walk. You can drop it without the fear of it breaking or retracting after your dog. You can adjust your grip and hold the leash in a variety of ways depending on how you and your dog walk together. And the best part is, you are in control. Even if your dog is a puller, a flat leash provides the most control and support. I prefer the simple slip lead that tightens when the dog pulls, which usually prevents the dog from doing so. But every dog is an individual and needs what’s best for them AND you. Try out a few options to see what’s best for both of you, but leave that retractable leash on the shelf!

 

*When researching retractable leashes I discovered that there are A LOT of injuries to both humans and animals when using one of these leashes. I know when the handle is dropped it could retract and injure the dog, but I had no idea how many issues this leash actually had with injuries. They’re even illegal in some areas because of the amount of injuries! Here is a link to the Animal Hospital of North Asheville, if you’d like to read about the potential injuries causes by retractable leashes. Whatever you do, don’t Google Image search it!

I borrowed the image fromDogTime.com, which also has an informative article about retractable leashes 🙂

The Off-Leash Epidemic

Oh Bend, the most amazing Dog Town this side of the Mississippi. How I love your glorious dog parks, your extensive hiking trails, and all your refreshing swimming holes. And apparently, so does everyone else and their mother… and their dog!

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If you live in Bend (or anywhere else where dogs and humans coexist) you’ll run into the issue of dogs freely roaming the outdoors, not a care in the world and not a leash in site. You’ll be walking along a peaceful trail, listening to the birds and the distant river, looking up at the tall pines, keeping your best friend close-by and safe with a six foot nylon leash. Suddenly you look at the trail ahead and you see an adorable little Aussie, just standing about ten feet in front of you, still as a statue, and you begin your internal dialogue, “Is this dog with a human? Should I turn the other way? Or head off trail? Is it going to approach?” Meanwhile, that best friend you keep next to you on lead is beginning to whine and tug and stress. Suddenly another human appears, and casually yells to you, “Oh it’s ok he’s friendly!” And you uncomfortably chuckle, “Ok great, mine is not!”

This is a daily occurrence. Bend is a pretty dog friendly town, and people seem to take that and run with it… off leash. There are numerous off leash dog parks and trails in town, but the majority of hiking, walking, & biking paths are leashed areas. This means your dog MUST be on leash… not if they’re cool they can hang… they MUST BE ON LEASH. This is not because the city loves power and wants to control your rights, this is for the safety of you, your dog, and everyone around you. I know, other people, what a weird concept, but a lot of people do not like dogs. A lot of dogs do not like dogs. Allowing your dog to run off leash is much easier for you and much more enjoyable for your pup, but some dogs become incredibly anxious when approached by an off-leash dog, and your dog could get hurt if it sniffs the wrong dog. Or even worse a human could get hurt.

When you are in off-leash areas, please make sure your pup is well behaved. Dogs are technically only to be off leash when they have excellent recall and are under your control. There have been instances where well trained dogs have wandered from their owners, bothering a non-dog loving human, and let me tell you, people who do not have dogs love telling you that your dog is terrible, and they love reporting you for going against the rules.

Here’s a true story from the Sydney Morning Herald: Neil McMahon had brought his dog to an off-leash dog beach. He allowed the dog to wander and enjoy itself. The dog approached a baby laying on a blanket in the sand and decided to give that baby a lick on the face. (don’t ask me what a baby was doing laying in the sand of a dog beach) The child’s mother accused the dog of attacking the baby and called the police. Neil was fined $238 because the dog was not under his control.

“‘Effective control’ is defined as follows. It means your dog will return to you upon command (fair enough, though I don’t know a dog owner who has a 100 per cent success rate on that front). It means that you “retain a clear and unobstructed view of the dog” in the off-leash area at all times (fair enough, and usually not a problem unless the whirling dervish of romping dogs gets too big or they head off into the shrubbery in pursuit of a tennis ball). But here’s the kicker that got me in trouble: ‘effective control’ means your dog ‘does not bother, attack, worry or interfere with other people or animals’.” -Neil

So if you aren’t worried about other dogs or people, at least worry about your bank account. Or being an adult and being scolded by a police officer or park ranger, cuz that would be embarrassing.

Be courteous and cautious. Be mindful of your dog and others. Be a standup, law abiding citizen. If you need help finding an off-leash area or need to become better acquainted with your areas leash laws, Google is great at looking things up! If you live in Bend the Dog PAC is an excellent resource for dog parks, summer and winter trails, and upcoming dog events! Dogster Magazine and Zuke’s have some great tips on Adventuring with your pup off leash!

*this has been on my mind lately because of how many people have been complaining of off-leash dogs in an area they thought safe to bring their dog-reactive-dog for a walk*

 

Is a Tired Dog a Happy Dog?

You might be familiar with the phrase “a tired dog is a happy/good dog”, but what does that really mean? If you have a dog it’s pretty obvious, exercising a dog leads to them sleep which causes bad behaviors to happen less frequently. But if your dog is passed out and too tired to do anything, does that make them a happy dog? Does it make them a good dog? Or does it just make them an exhausted dog? 

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Physical exercise is very important for dogs, and the activity you choose is equally as important. A dog running on a treadmill is getting plenty of exercise, but a dog who gets to go on a run with his human is getting a little more from the activity. Participating in exercise with your dog presents an opportunity for bonding, and your dog will be much happier working out with you than alone. It’s important to set time aside in your day specifically for your dog.

You can take your dog to the dog park to exercise and socialize, but if you are staring at your cell phone the entire time it effects the outing for the dog and they may not be as happy or well exercised as you’d hoped (they may also get into some trouble without you even knowing). Try bringing a ball or favorite toy to the park, and rather than checking pointless emails, take the time to connect with your pup through a game they love. My dog happens to be weird and not care much for toys, so rather than play fetch, we play hide and seek at the park. I will hide and he will use his nose to seek me out, once he finds me he gets a reward. It’s essentially nose work, but rather than searching for treats he’s searching for me! This gives him both mental and physical exercise!

Mental stimulation is equally as important as physical, and can have better results in less time. Nicole Ellis is a dog trainer who found that her own dog was, “more tired after 15 minutes of scent games than after a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood.” Dogs are smart, and most of them want jobs to do, so giving them some brain activities will help give them peace of mind.

Please keep in mind that all dogs are different and require different amounts of physical exercise. Old dogs require lessexercise than 8 month old puppies. A Newfoundland requires less exercise than an Australian Shepherd. Dogs with injuries require special workouts. Your dog will normally let you know their limits, but don’t always rely on that, and maybe run it by your vet. 

This is a great guide on how much exercise your dog may need depending on breed, age, and size. But like I said, every dog is different and no one knows your dog better than you.

Here are some great articles on physical and mental stimulation:

“A Mentally Stimulated Dog is a Happy Dog” by Nicole Ellis

“Is a Tired Dog a Good Dog? (Or a Happy Dog?)” by Dan Estep & Suzanne Hetts of Animal Behavior Associates

And some ideas on how to give your dog mental stimulation:

Prevent Boredom

Brain Games