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Tuesday, March 7,2017

Lead Well

By Tina Valant-Siebelts  

This past week I did a home visit for a small dog I’ve been fostering. The new guardians were asking what supplies they needed to pick up. “I was thinking of getting one of those flexible leashes that he can run on, so he gets more exercise,” said the gentleman. I calmly took several deep breaths, reminding myself that we get more bees with honey than vinegar.

I shared the sad story of a friend’s neighbor here in Palm Beach County. He was walking his pug near his community golf course, on a retractable. That’s what they always had used. The dog stretched the lead from being close by, to 10-12 feet away, to get a drink from the lake. In a blink, the dog was grabbed by a reptilian resident. The cable snapped back like a whip, nearly missing the man. Before you start hating alligators, understand: a native animal in its habitat saw an opportunity to do what he was born to do: survive. It wasn’t personal. There was nothing the guy could do. Wildlife experts agree, if the owner had been in sight (four feet, not 10 ) the gator would have most likely been deterred. He eventually rescued another pug and ONLY uses a standard lead, but he will never forget that fateful walk. “I just didn’t know any better,” he told me.

Truly conscientious, responsible dog event organizers will note NO retractable/flexi leads on their event promotions. The best ones refuse admission to retractables, or offer to swap out for a standard lead at admission. This activity avoids several dangers, including people (and dogs) getting tripped, injured or tangled. There are cases where a finger or dog’s leg was amputated by the cable. Is this something you want to use with your furry family member? Or around your twolegged children? Warning: “To avoid the risk of eye or facial injury and cuts, burns, and/or amputations to your body or the body of another person from the leash cord/ tape or all belt and hook, read and follow the enclosed warnings/directions.” No, thank you.

“By using a retractable, the handler loses the opportunity to educate their dog on how to walk properly on lead. Retractable leads foster the dog’s disassociation with the handler - the exact opposite of what we strive for in our relationship with our dogs,” states Madison Moore, a positive dog trainer.

Dogs are traditionally walked on the left side, since the overwhelming majority of us are righthanded. Hunters carried their rifle on the right side, hound on the left. I’ve seen people walking dogs, holding just the loop of a six-foot lead. Like the handle of a flexi, a standard lead can be jerked from your hand, if a squirrel (or other stimulus) is sighted by the dog. Put your hand through the loop, resting it on your wrist.

Then, loosely hold the leash in your left hand.

Now, go grab your (six-foot) lead, bags, dog(s) and enjoy your walk!

Tina Valant-Siebelts is a confirmed dog-o-holic, mom to many rescued pets, who volunteers with numerous organizations. To "fill all those dog bowls," Tina is an award-winning photographer, writer & event coordinator.


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