One of the biggest complaints owners have about their dogs is that they pull on the leash. This is actually one of the easiest problems to solve, but it does require three elements to do so: the correct collar, a good leash and proper instruction in technique.
In the two previous columns I deciphered the sometimes confusing jargon surrounding the various collar types available, and this week will do the same for leashes.
For basic obedience purposes, hands down, the trainer's leash of choice is made of leather, 6 feet in length and appropriate in width to the size and strength of the dog. (Ideal widths would be 1/4" for the smallest dogs up to 3/4" for the largest.) Leashes made of latigo leather are supple, and when broken in fit the user's hand like a well-worn glove. Given good care, leather leashes stay good looking, are worth the investment and can last for many years.
One minor drawback: Because of their rich, leather smell, puppies and avid chewers find them attractive to gnaw, so they should be stored out of reach when not in use.
Nylon weave or fabric
These are very popular because they come in colors that match flat collars, but are less forgiving and don't "give" like leather to absorb the shock of a lunging dog. They are also stiffer and can be uncomfortable in the handler's hands. An additional drawback: Fabric leashes and collars absorb more dirt and grime than leather, and require washing to stay good looking and odor-free.
Absolutely useless and dangerous!
I won't say these don't occasionally have their place in training, because they can be used effectively for distance control and communication in advanced training, but they only are so in the hands of experienced trainers who know how to use the braking system properly and have verbal control of their dogs. They are so useless and potentially dangerous for basic training purposes that I do not allow them in my classes. An out-of-control dog combined with an inexperienced owner can result in the retractable line slicing into a human's or dog's leg,
And there have also been cases of owners dropping or having the plastic housing suddenly being pulled out of their hand, resulting in it snapping into the dog like a rubber band and sending the dog running for its life.
These are not traditional obedience leads and do not allow the distance work of a 6 feet lead, but can be used with great success to teach a dog to walk at the owner's side. They come in leather, braided fabric or a poly-weave. The concept is simple; the leash loops through a ring to create the collar, which is fitted high on the dog's neck and controls the head.
I always keep slip leads on every door knob and one in my pocket when potty training a puppy. Since they simply drop over the dog's head, they make quick exits to the backyard possible when timing is everything, with the added benefit of teaching the puppy how to walk on a leash in the process.
Picking the proper equipment is an important part of training, but that alone will not teach a dog how to walk without pulling. Owners must be instructed in its correct use to train effectively and humanely.
Or as my students say, "We thought we were coming to class to get our dogs trained, and instead you trained us, the owners."
This comes courtesy of Cindy Frye of the Bakersfield Pet Food Pantry regarding the Nov. 10 Oildale Pet Festival: "Here are some final numbers. The Friends (of the Kern County Animal Shelter) group sponsored 31 spay/neuters, 200 vaccinations and over 100 microchips. It was a great day for lots of pets."
-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @csi4K9s. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.