Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.
A leash is to the Dog-Human connection like a seat-belt is to the car-driver connection. Both are safety devices and often mandated by law. Just as we never use a seat-belt to drive our car, we should not use a leash to “drive” our dogs.
A leash allows us a safe and effective connection to our dogs in case of surprises, emergencies, or situations where attention is hard to get or keep.
Once we have trained for attention and other skills a loose leash actually offers us the best control of our dog, and least frustration and stress for our dogs.
Just as we never use a seat-belt to drive our car, we should not use a leash to “drive” our dogs.
Your dog spends most of their time in the yard – Do you need to worry about a leash? There are many times when your dog needs to be on a leash – trips to veterinarians, groomers, walking adventures, classes, etc. Groomers and veterinarians are necessary for obvious reasons. Walking adventures outside their own backyard and classes are necessary too because dogs who don’t experience these things can be under-socialized which often leads to behavioral problems.
To use a leash properly we want to use the right tools wisely so we don’t do damage to our dogs or ourselves and we don’t want to inadvertently teach the wrong things:
The Good – Standard leash is a 6 foot nylon, cotton or leather leash (leather is easiest on human hands; avoid chains as someone usually gets hurt by these). Longer leashes are not standard walking leashes. They are used for training long distance commands.
The Bad – The Tight Leash – All too often the human-dog team becomes accustomed to constant tension on the leash = tight leash. A dog can be stressed and frustrated by a constant tight leash which can often lead to behavioral problems.
The Ugly– The Flexi Leash is almost always a constantly tight leash. In addition to stress and frustration for the dog it actually TEACHES the dog to pull. The Flexi Leash leaves the dog at risk for a variety of injuries and stress responses that can lead to behavioral problems. It also leaves the human at more risk of injury than any other leash.
Good leash skills come with awareness, practice, patience and a solid understanding of what a leash is meant to do for you and your dog.