Leather Leashes vs. All Others – Part 1
March 27, 2008
I’ve always found that a six foot leather leash — nothing fancy, but something well made with brass fixings and reinforced stitching — is my favorite, as many times as I’ve used other leashes.
I never thought I would be one of those dog owners with an extendo-leash, the kind that has a hard rubber or plastic shell with a hand grip and a tough woven fabric 16 foot leash like the Flexi Soft Grip Comfort 1 retractable Cord Leash.
I’d see other people using them, or misusing them, barely keeping their dogs under control, and I formed a prejudice against ’em. These people were not ‘managing their dogs.”
It’s a line that has been drilled into my head by my favorite dog trainer, “Manage your dog.” I’m responsible for my dog’s safety and well-being. I should teach her good, polite behaviors and enforce them whenever we are outside or when company arrives. Any failure, any slice of wanton household destruction, any breach of protocol that puts my dog in jeopardy IS MY FAULT because I’m not properly Managing my Dog.
We recently added a new pooch to our permanent pack, Luna, a black female American style Labrador. Huxley, our chocolate Lab will be 6 this year. Our best guess about Luna is that she’s somewhere between 18 months and 2 years. After several months it became clear that her presence was having some effects on Huxley.
There were two noticeable behaviors: he began drinking exclusively from ‘her’ water bowl. And when we made the trip from out side door to our back yard – essentially the width of our one-car garage — he began asserting his independence by wandering down the drive way to pee over by our over-sized Christmas tree.
Next he’d saunter over to our 90 year old neighbor’s house across the street, position himself in the middle of her front lawn, squat and take a huge dump for all the passersby to see. He loves our neighbor Peg and she loves him and he wanted the world to know he was leaving her a brown token of his affection. Worse yet was when he’d lope across Prospect Drive and obliviously put himself in the path of mini-vans & SUVs.
There could not be a more public demonstration of my failure to Manage My Dog. And Huxley, is, by general consensus, a well-trained, polite canine. My analysis: He knows his behavior is transgressive and he persists because I believe it is status-related. She has to go right into the back yard to do her business while I, being senior, have more freedom than her! This independence is a part of Huxley’s character, he’s not your velcro-dog type at all.
But when this recently led to Huxley nearly getting hit by a van, I was totally freaked out, heart pounding, breath coming in short hyperventilating bursts — and resolved to get back to leashing him AT ALL TIMES!
Fortunately, the circumstances were all in our favor that morning. It was broad daylight, I was a few feet behind Huxley with a leash and a treat, yelling his name. The driver clearly saw both of us and slowed to a stop as I rushed passed, yelled jumbled apologies and gratitude over my shoulder, and continued after Huxley.
I was clearly Not Managing My Dog. I was failing spectacularly to Manage My Dog, in fact. This was my well-trained, polite Labrador? The one who never before was adamant about refusing to take that short walk across our drive way in the back yard, the fenced and secure and happy back yard? This starts happening when it becomes clear that Luna is here to stay and not another one of our many foster dogs; clearly her presence must be the triggering factor? Robert Park, author of the terrific Voodoo Science would say my belief engine is going into over drive here.
Disclaimer: I cringe when people anthropomorphize their dogs, but find that it is an impossibility for me to to completely avoid. All such statements should be understood in this context. It helps me to parse my beast’s behavior in terms that I can understand.
This interpretation is my own invention and may or may not correspond with the internal analytics going on in my dog’s brain. That it’s useful for me does not equate with its accuracy for representing Huxley’s thinking. I do think Huxley is thinking. I’m convinced of it.
I’m equally convinced that our mental syntax is so different, canine to primate, that all my interpretations of his internal mental states should be offered only as heavily qualified guesses.
But we talking about leather leashes and extendo-leashes, weren’t we? We now own two extendo-leashes and I’ve learned how to operate them without slicing off my own (or anyone else’s) fingers and extremities or causing blindness to anyone. Yet. These are some of the actual cautions from the packaging. Seriously, you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end if your dog’s collar came loose and the ribbon and metal clasp were speeding rapidly back to you.
They do certainly give your dog more freedom to explore further away from you. But you have to pay attention and anticipate when you want to draw your dog nearer because she is always more than an arm’s length away. These extendo-leashes can be used properly, even if many people operate them at the far end of the safety spectrum.
But for control and all around functionality give me the dead animal skin every time.
More to Come