Ex­pand­able leashes vs. the short lease?

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Community - BY JACK HASK­INS the­old­[email protected]

DEAR OLD TRAINER: I read an ar­ti­cle writ­ten by a vet­eri­nar­ian ad­vis­ing ev­ery­one to never use an ex­pand­able leash, only a short one. I use an ex­pand­able with my dogs and have for 40 years and was happy to see you rec­om­mend them as well. I don’t know why any­one would use a short one, but am at­tach­ing the ar­ti­cle. What are your thoughts on it?

A: The ar­ti­cle has been around for years. The vet lists 10 rea­sons dog own­ers should use a short leash. All the rea­sons are based on two things — one, the hu­man is too dumb to op­er­ate such a com­pli­cated ob­ject as a leash, and two, the dog is not trained and it’s eas­ier to use a short leash than it is to train the dog.

It’s lu­nacy of the high­est or­der — your dog is out of con­trol so in­stead of train­ing him, put him on a short leash. He will still do all the same bad things, but at least he will be on a short leash so maybe no one will no­tice.

That makes no sense of course, but I think I know why the vet wrote it. Spend day after day deal­ing with un­trained dogs cre­at­ing chaos in the of­fice and you’ll likely de­velop a Freudian de­sire to see those an­i­mals con­trolled. Vets are in­ter­ested

in treat­ing dogs in the most ef­fi­cient way. In their minds a short leash at least gives the il­lu­sion of con­trol.

The truth is, us­ing a short leash is the worst way to walk a dog. It’s not train­ing at all. It’s a way to avoid train­ing, and causes prob­lems in­stead of solv­ing them (see next let­ter). DEAR OLD TRAINER: Buster, my 5-year-old mix, plays with all dogs at the park and the beach with no prob­lems. When I walk him on a leash he lunges and barks at ev­ery dog we meet, even though I use a short leash and keep him right next to me. What is go­ing on?

A: You an­swered your own ques­tion. Buster is fine with dogs at the park and the beach, but ag­gres­sive on-leash. There­fore, the leash is the prob­lem.

Here’s why:

1. Dogs are pack an­i­mals and want to meet any dog they see. If the dog is not friendly, they can flee. A short leash elim­i­nates Buster’s op­tions, mak­ing him feel in­se­cure, so he shows his frus­tra­tion by bark­ing at the other dog. If ev­ery­one at the dog park kept their dogs on short leashes ev­ery dog would be bark­ing and lung­ing in­stead of run­ning around hav­ing a good time.

2. You are ner­vous and Buster feels the ten­sion through the leash, hears your heart rate in­crease, and your breath­ing change. He looks around for the cause, de­cides you per­ceive the ap­proach­ing dog as a prob­lem, and acts to pro­tect you.

3. A dog on a short leash is frus­trated as a hu­man stuck in a free­way jam. A dog on an ex­pand­able leash gets 20 times the ex­er­cise over the same dis­tance as one on a short leash, plus has the free­dom to act like a dog.

Switch to an ex­pand­able leash. Let Buster burn up en­ergy and have fun while you re­lax and have fun. That’s the point of a walk.

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