Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The "dog days of summer": a misnomer, plus a word about retractable leashes

I've been remiss in my dog-blogging, partly because I haven't been doing a lot of training, thanks to a recent heat wave here in NC. Temps weren't so bad last week, but they were still warm enough to keep my training time to a minimum, and this week temps have been at or above 100F, with high humidity that has pushed the heat index up to 110 on some days. It's so oppressive that all classes have been canceled this week at my training facility, even the ones in the covered arena, which at least has the benefit of providing shade.

I have been trying to at least get my dogs out for regular walks in the mornings or late evenings, because the exercise is essential for all of us. I'm also a firm believer that being stuck in the same old house every day, even if there's frequent backyard access, makes a dog bored, frustrated and even neurotic. A dog has to get out and smell the world, I think, to be happy.

This brings to mind a great topic that Christie Keith, one of the bloggers at Pet Connection wrote about yesterday in her San Francisco Chronicle column: retractable leashes. Some people love 'em, some not so much. On the first night of every puppy class session, I always tell my students that they should not use a retractable leash until they get their dog under control on a 6-foot leash. But then I never really incorporate any lessons on using retractable leashes because there's just not enough time in my 6-week puppy class (and frankly, most of the students still haven't mastered the control issue in that period--most need to advance through the pet obedience class before they can get and maintain control on-leash).

As for my own dogs, I only use a retractable with one--Lucy--because Mr. Gomez never seems to be able to get the distinction between being on a retractable and being off-leash. Once he gets past the 6 feet he's used to getting on his regular leash, his brain jumps to "off-leash" mode and he rushes ahead, only to get pulled short at the end of the retractable. I think with careful training and practice I could get him accustomed to it, but it's just fine with me to keep him on a regular leash. He's a bit reactive around other dogs and small children, so it's probably easier for us to stay out of trouble on a 6-foot leash. When I've only got Lucy, however, we do quite well with a retractable.

At any rate, I'm very happy to see Keith's article, because she very nicely explains the ins and outs of retractable leash use. I think I'll add copies of it to the materials I keep handy for students who want more info than we can cover in class. In fact, maybe I should carry copies on my walks and hand them out to people who seem like they could use it ... we usually run into several of them along the way, and I usually end up crossing the street to avoid them.

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