Monday, July 8, 2013

Leash Work or Line Handling

It's called different things, Leash work, line handling, leash control, etc.

But the connection from you to your dog is as important as speech is at times. Your dog, whether you realize it or not,  listens to everything that you say through your leash. If you're sad, distracted, mad, whatever your emotion is, guaranteed it will be transmitted down that line. The leash also transmits corrections or tugs that you do intentionally, but at the same time they transmit how you hold your hand,  where you hold it, and the little things that you do that you don't even realize you've done. If you talk with your hands you should be careful about waiting them around as you're talking to others. The dog will get used to this behavior, but in the wrong instance they can take it as a correction should you yank the collar.

Looking at the leash itself, it can be made out of many things, but either way it is either loose or tense during its use. It is used by many people to make sure the dog doesn't run off, this is  can be a sign of an untrained or poorly trained animal. The leash should be there for the dog safety, and any laws or ordinances the required. A well trained dog should never have to held back or restrained in some way so that it doesn't go somewhere or do something with the handler does not want. If you have a good training, and acceptable circumstances around you, you should be able to bring your dog back to you by voice, or not have the dog leave in the first place by training. (Part of our responsibility as dog owners or canine handlers, is to expose the dogs different situations with their training so that we, and they, are prepared and we'll know what they're going to do in those situations. Not every situation can be prepared for or exposed to the dog, so when it does happen, instead of being upset by the situation, use it as a training opportunity. Or mark it down for an opportunity later in that dogs training.)

In a well trained dog's circumstance the leash can be used to communicate to the dog upcoming left or right turns so that the dog knows which way to turn, but even that can be done away with if the dog is already paying attention to your feet and your direction.

So aside from training, let's look at the uses and proper handling for the leash.

Types of leashes: The type of leash you choose  is completely up to the owner or the handler. You can find them in nylon, cotton, leather, even fake leather. It's up to your hands as to what is comfortable and safe. Another thing to consider is length. Standard length seems to be four or six foot long. You can get shorter lengths but there tends to be more tugging on short leashes by those that don't have  good training with their dogs. And with a leash longer than 6 foot there tends to be a lot of confusion and stepping on leashes, getting them wrapped around things, and the dog tripping over them. So I would stay with the standard length of 6 or 4 foot. For training I usually use a 4-foot lead as it allows me enough room to let the dog make choices and be right or wrong with out unwanted pressure on their collars. And there's not a lot of balling up of leash or winding it up so the dog can be next to me and not have a whole bunch of leash laying on them or around them.

For advanced obedience and teaching your dog to stay or come, using a long lead can come in handy as well. Long leads can be anywhere from 10 to 30 feet long. You can buy them at pet stores or even at feed stores. Usually they come in cotton.

Handling of the leash: Pick a side that you want your dog to walk on. Its okay for the dog to walk on both sides, however start with one side for your initial training and teach the dog how to do it properly, then you can incorporate the other side after the dog learns the basics. Whether its left to right is completely up to the handler. Sometimes this matters due to the handler being right or left handed. If it's a service dog there may be other implications or reasons to having the dog on one side or the other.

The leash itself should make a "U", coming down from your hand and looping back up before touching the ground, to the dogs collar. There should be no tension on the leash where the dog is pulling a handler. Again we're not going to go into how to train a dog not to pull, merely how the leash should be handled. If the dog makes a change from one side to the other or has to navigate around objects, your job is to keep the leash clear of their legs and the objects that they maneuver around. If you're not successful, the leash can hang up on you, the dog, or said objects and can provide a correction. It may not be an intentional correction, but in the dog's mind there was a yank on their coller that stopped their forward movement. You'll notice when this happens the dog looks back to you as if to say, what did I do? You don't need to make any fuss,  you may merely need to clear the line and continue on your way.

If you're a dog owner, your job is to provide a comfortable and loving home and experience for the dog. Good training and good equipment will help you in this challenge. If you are a service dog owner or handler, your job is to do the same, as well decrease the need for micro managing so that they can do their job and provide for their handler. Good training a good equipment goes a long way to making the life and job as a dog easier. And in turn this makes our lives easier! And more enjoyable for everyone!