Saturday, September 6, 2008

One Leash, One Mind

The leash Doggie Sensei uses is a simple 6 foot leather leash connected via D ring to a 10'' nylon "short" leash. When worn around the shoulders, it is the perfect length for keeping my dog at my side while giving her enough slack to move to sniff or do her bathroom stuff.

There are many other products that will give dynamic extension, multiple rings to create a harness, and the ability to encircle your waste so that you can run hands free. I don't recommend these for several reasons:
  • The leather leash is "springy" and you'll need that extra elastisity when you dog charges, or worse, if you close-line something.
  • The leather leash will absorb all of your sweat. This may sound gross, but your dog, aside from being a surface learner, is driven by smell. The scent retained in your leash when you are leading will continue establish you as pack leader. The scent will be associated with the run or "hunt".
  • The leather will be smooth enough so that it can move quickly in your hands without very little to no rope burn. This is important, especially when running you may miss that squirrel hiding behind the tree and should your doggie charge, you'll be able to grab the leash quickly.
  • The length is perfect keeping your doggie close to you during a time when you want to take quick control. If you watch Cesar Milan at all, his perscription for a well behaved dog is for you to be vigilant and intervene before your dog gets into the "red zone" and you lose control.
  • Retractable leashes do not re-enforce the leadership role you need to assume over your dog. Out of reach, out of mind. Many times it is a simple touch on the flank that will dispell a dogs rush to the red zone. Close proximity during a walk or run only re-enforces the lessons you have been working on with your dog while at home. Retractable leashes do not give this ability.
I want to discuss proximity to your dog when you exercise in greater detail. With the leash draped around your shoulders and neck, you'll have to be aware of what your dog is doing. If you're not, you could get hurt. But think of getting hurt, rather, think of it this way: when you drive you're going at speeds that can harm you, so you pay attention. Awareness of what your dog is doing is enhanced when you are conscious of where the leash is going. When wrapped around your shoulders, you'll know right away if your dogs drifts of strays, and you'll be ready to quickly guide them. You'll know when the dog is looking to the left before she starts to pull away from you. It will all be communicated up the leash to your shoulders and neck, so you won't have to have them in sight to know what's going on.

The leash really becomes an extension of your touch, and in another sense, it communicates to your dog your intent. The more active you are with integrating the leash into your "tactile" senses, the more in tune you'll be with your dog. This physical relationship will strengthen your ties to one another.

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