My stepfather and I are very close.
We agree on most things, but there is one topic on which we do not agree: the retractable leash.
You might have seen my parent’s dog Sitka featured in previous blogs or in our bio pictures. He’s a big dog, and he was one of those dogs that didn’t need a lot of training. However, my stepfather has ruined him as a leash walker.
Sitka often comes to the office with me. Our office is in the very busy neighborhood of Old Town and Sitka is from the nice, quiet streets of River Forest, where he walks on a retractable leash. He has no idea why he can’t run 30 feet ahead of me in the city or why I get so upset when he pulls me down the street. As a dog trainer, being pulled by your 120 pound dog is embarrassing.
I have worked with Sitka on leash walking skills many times. When I do this he is always on his Gentle Leader or Sensation Harness. However, when I just want to run from my car to the office, I tend to be a bit lazy. I don’t want to have to put on his equipment so I just clip my regular, six-foot nylon leash to his collar. The skills I taught him on the Gentle Leader and Sensation should work, but because my stepdad walks him every day on a retractable leash, Sitka does not understand why he suddenly can’t run 30 feet ahead of me.
I’ve said 30 feet twice now. I know I’m repeating myself, but I just want to be clear that I’m not exaggerating. Why, oh why, is your dog 30 feet in front of you? What happens when a dog comes around the corner? “Oh, hello, GIANT dog! Where is your owner? All the way across the park? Awesome.” Then this new dog and their owner either become entangled in the unforgiving rope that is the retractable leash or they try to get away and Sitka wants to run after them. A game of chase is always fun, no matter what you’re attached to.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that retractable leashes are dangerous.
Many little dogs have become tangled and hurt due to the rough rope. I’ve seen people with scars from the rope dragging against their skin when their dog walks around them, and of course, the leash generally comes with an amputation warning. AMPUTATION!? I have never been in fear that my nylon leash would cut off my finger. I’m not sure about you, but I’m pretty attached to all ten of my fingers and would be pretty upset even if I lost a pinky due to a retractable leash incident.
So, please don't follow in the footsteps of my stepfather. Listen to your dog trainers and walk your dogs close enough to you so they can’t get in trouble. 30 feet is way too far.