In a previous post,”Dog Walking- Why Does My Dog Pull Me?”, I discussed why your dog pulls you on your walks. I would like to take the opportunity to expound on that topic. Most of my discussion was centered on the type of collar used during the walk. I stressed the importance of being in control of the walk in order to make it as enjoyable as it should be for both you and your dog. No one wants to have their sweet dog pulling them down the street in what looks like a tug-of-war with the leash. Can you imagine the horror? Besides that, it can be harmful for your dog. As your dog pulls on the leash, the collar is pressing up against the esophagus. The more he pulls, the more pressure on the esophagus and the result could be a trip to the vet. If nothing less, your dog will be coughing and choking and people will think you are just plain mean.
Many owners will see this problem and think “I know, I’ll get a harness. That will be so comfortable for my dog.” This may be the solution. If your dog will remain calm and walk at your side while wearing his harness, then great. However, if he is going to simply substitute harness pulling for leash pulling, we are back to square one. To make matters worse, when you strap that harness on your dog, you are actually giving him some serious leverage. Your dog’s shoulders are one of the strongest muscle groups in his body. To think that he wouldn’t use this to his advantage is folly. People who harness their dogs are typically preparing for them to work, to pull something. Maybe a wagon, or a tree trunk, or a sled but definitely not them. In fact, there are competitions for this very activity because it is a natural instinct. It is amazing to see these dogs at work. They can pull over a thousand pounds, absolutely awesome to watch. But I digress. Suffice it to say, that if some dogs can be trained to pull that much weight, why not just pull you??
There has been some progress made in the world of dog harnesses. Joseph Sporn came up with an idea that would change the effect of pulling and he put that into a harness/ halter. This harness transfers pressure from around the neck where the collar is to underneath the legs. At this location, the dog is just sensitive enough for the pressure to cause him to back off the pulling. The restraints are attached to the front of the collar then looped under the legs and anchored at the top of the collar. It comes with sherpa sleeves to make the restraints more comfortable for your dog. A very interesting concept that has been tested by dogs and their owners for over a decade.
So, back to the collar . My previous post described the proper use of a choke collar and it’s cousin, the pinch collar. To some dog owners these measures may seem extreme, even cruel. But I have used them with great success and taught others how to use them as well. I truly believe that with many dogs, this is the best collar option that the owner can make. There are alternatives. Cesar Millan, known to many as “The Dog Whisperer”, has written numerous books on dog training and a lot of his materials cover the topic of dog walking and controlling the walk. He has developed an innovative collar that he calls the “illusion collar”. It is basically a choke collar with an added base to keep the choke in it’s most effective position- high on the neck and behind the ears. This position is the most sensitive for the dog and therefore the most effective. You have seen this leash position on show dogs in the ring. The show collars are high to give the handler more control over the dog’s behavior. Exactly what you want when you have your mutt out in the park!!
Finally, let’s talk about leashes. I mean a proper leash. My personal preference is leather. A good width for your hand, so that will be specific to your palm size. These leashes give you a firm hold on the dog, will weather well and are tough as…leather!! I have seen some very nice webbed, nylon leashes that are durable and sturdy. The webbing gives the leash a round shape that is easy to hold and won’t tear your skin. My first gripe is a flat, nylon leash that can cut through your hand when a dog makes a quick jerk or lunge. They often seem slippery and the grips are not comfortable. My second gripe is those flexi-leashes or whatever they’re called. They remind me of a broken fishing reel, it can be let out, but can’t be pulled back in!! I think they are a danger to mankind and dogkind for that matter. Your dog goes free-wheeling down the street as the tiny nylon string unwinds and if some sort of danger arises – say a loose dog approaching- you have no way of getting your dog back to you and to safety. Add to that the risk of nylon burns if the leash is dragged across your legs, the major hassle of unwinding the spaghetti of leashes if walking two dogs and the possibility of severing a finger if the nylon string wraps around it and the dog really pulls. Phew! That should convince you. I have used a great leash from Cesar Millan. It is a diamond-braided rope similar to a mountain climbing rope. The unique feature is the padded hand grip. It is ergonomically designed to give you the Cadillac of walks when it comes to comfort and as a dog walker, I am all about comfy walks!!