Leashes don’t come with an instruction manual—but they should! As a professional dog trainer, I often wish that leash manufacturers would pass these safety tips out to every new dog owner.
They seem simple, but leashes can both keep your dog safe AND place them in harm’s way.
Dogs have two ways of dealing with threats: fight or flight. A dog that is not interested in confronting a threat chooses “flight”—they move farther away from what scares them. A dog that chooses not to back down from a threat will “fight.”
By leashing a dog, we take away the choice to flee from what frightens them.
By leashing a dog, we take away the choice to flee from what frightens them. We are, in effect, forcing them to fight if we allow what they fear to get too close.
We don’t always know how our four-legged friends will react in every situation, but these guidelines will help you to keep your dog safe and get the most out of your walks.
Introductions on Leash
- Let your dog say “hello” to a friendly dog, but keep it short and sweet! Just a polite sniff and be on your way. Not sure if the approaching dog is friendly? It never hurts to call out “Can we say ‘hi’?” before greeting an unfamiliar pup.
Two on-leash dogs can quickly go from joy to frustration.
- However, don’t let your dog play with another while on leash. Unable to get the space they need for comfortable play, two on-leash dogs can quickly go from joy to frustration.
- Your dog doesn’t need to say hello to everyone. You may have a social butterfly, but other dogs don’t always fall in love at first sight.
- Be careful about leashed dogs in a space where most pups are off-leash. Every dog has the right to enjoy the outdoors even if they don’t like to socialize with others. If a dog is on-leash in a mixed use area, there’s probably a reason for it. If your dog isn’t under excellent voice control, leash them up when you see a leashed dog coming.
Leash Training Tips
Play the Name Game to keep your dog’s attention on you.
- Engage with your dog on your walk. Playing the “Name Game”—saying your dog’s name in a happy tone of voice, telling them “Yes!” or “Good!” when they look at you and rewarding them with a treat or affection—is a great way to build communication on-leash.
- Don’t use your leash as a punishment device. “Popping” the leash (quickly jerking it) does not teach your dog to walk more slowly; it causes pain and can lead to a collapsed trachea (especially in small dogs).
The Right Dog Leash
- If your dog pulls on leash, check out an “anti-pull” harness such as the SENSE-ation or Easy Walk for a pain-free way to improve your walks.
- Ditch your retractable leash. It’s much harder to keep your dog safe when he is 15+ feet away from you than if he is at your side. Retractable leashes can lead to both doggy disasters (such as car accidents) and human ones (such as skinned knees and elbows if your dog suddenly runs after something while you’re holding on to the leash’s handle).
- Never tie your dog up outside of a store. You may think the leash is keeping your pup safe by preventing them from walking away, but it prevents them from escaping any frightening stranger that wants to say hello. A dog that feels trapped is a dog that may resort to protecting herself with her teeth. Tying a dog up in a public space also makes them vulnerable to theft, a problem in many cities.
- If you’re uncomfortable with an approaching person or dog, politely inform them “sorry, my dog is not friendly” and continue on your way.