Robin and I were at a Home Dog Training session in Gainesville last Thursday working with a new client and his four-year-old Boxer named Ollie.  Ollie originally belonged to our client’s sister who had him since he was a puppy.  She had recently moved into an apartment that didn’t allow big dogs.  Because of this, my client has adopted Ollie.  Ollie has only been in his new home for a few weeks and my client has “discovered” just how much energy can be “packed into a Boxer”. 

Pick the leash that is best for your dog

The initial emphasis of our lesson was to have Ollie focus on our client while remaining calm and respectful.  Once achieved, we provided Ollie with the proper channels to “get rid of his energy” in an acceptable manner.  From there, we expanded the lesson to set up a complete set of rules and boundaries that Ollie must obey. At one point in the lesson, I asked my client to bring out Ollie’s leash.  He brought out an extension leash.  We explained that this was not the best tool for Ollie and proceeded to explain our reasoning…

Over the last nineteen years of dog training, there are very few “never, never do this” rules that Robin and I maintain.  One of those rare rules concerns extension leashes.  The rule is “don’t use it”. Many dog owners use an extension leash with their dog because of a recommendation of a pet store employee.  Guess what, the extension leash costs many times more than other leashes and pet stores need to make a profit.

Dog owners also use the extension leash because they think it makes their dog happier. This is because their dog can easily run all over the place with little constraint when they are out and about.

There are many failings when it comes to the extension leash.  The two major ones that we would like to share with you are as follows:

  • NO TEACHING IS TAKING PLACE: It is true that many dogs appear to be very happy as they run all over the place attached to an extension leash. The issue with this is that the freedom and lack of positive control of the leash does not allow for any training or direction from the owner. When you push the release button on the leash, your dog takes off and pays no attention to you.  There is no button that will turn him around or bring him back to you.  This means that you do not have the ability to gain his focus to teach him obedience or control inappropriate behavior.  You can never be your dog’s respected teacher. No focus, no learning, bad tool.
  • KEEPING YOUR DOG SAFE: You are your dog’s teacher, protector, provider, best friend, and caregiver. One of your most important actions in this role is to always keep him safe.  When you are out in public, a situation that had previously been safe and secure for your dog can quickly become dangerous. If you need to immediately get your dog’s attention and get him back to you, trying to tug on a taught, thin cable will most likely cut up your hands.  There is no “return button” on the plastic handle of the extension leash. If your dog has suddenly run into the street with oncoming cars, you have a major problem.  Again, the extension leash is a very, very bad tool.

Bottom line, never, never, never use the extension leash.

We constantly recommend “the old fashioned and boring” standard six-foot leash for your dog.  It is a “plain Jane” device with no buttons, no gears, no springs, and no plastic handle. There is a sturdy clasp on one end that hooks to your dog and a comfortable, looped handle at the other end you can firmly grasp. This is the perfect teaching tool that will allow you to teach your dog and keep him safe.

Some of the specific reasons Robin and I like the “boring six-foot dog leash are:

  • GAIN AND MAINTAIN YOUR DOG’S FOCUS: Focus is critical in teaching. Even though your dog isn’t always staring at you, if he is aware of your immediate presence, you have his focus.  When there isn’t a whole bunch of wire, springs, plastic, and gizmos between you and your dog, you and your dog can “feel each other” through the leash. That is what is accomplished in the standard leash.
  • PROVIDE YOUR DOG CLEAR DIRECTION: I have discussed a dog’s propensity towards linear learning in the past. It is the most effective way of directing your dog to the right outcome. This implies that the best way for you to teach is through linear teaching. Linear teaching focuses on “singularly, clearly, and consistently directing your dog towards the appropriate outcome”.  You normally have a leash on your dog when you are working on things like “proper walking”, “not jumping”, or “come to me now”.  When your dog is wearing his leash and he starts to diverge from the proper course, a simple tug on the leash will regain his focus on you and allow you to easily direct him towards the appropriate action. This is the core essence of linear learning.
  • YOUR DOG’S SAFETY: As I mentioned earlier, you are your dog’s teacher, protector, provider, best friend, and caregiver. This means that you must always create and maintain a safe environment for your dog at all times.  If something happens that may place your dog in a dangerous situation, you can easily grab a standard leash and pull your dog back towards you and safety.  This “simple safety solution” provides you with the confidence you require to be an excellent teacher and resolute leader for your dog. When your dog observes these qualities, he will clearly understand that you are the leader, and he will always provide you with respectful focus.

Robin and I are often at training sessions where the client has a large dog.  When we ask them to bring out their dog’s leash, they will bring out a half-inch-thick leash.  Although there is nothing wrong with these thin leashes, they are really designed for small dogs (puppies and minis).  If you have a big dog, we strongly recommend that you use a standard leash that is one inch thick.

We always recommend a six-foot leash as your basic training tool.  The six-foot length allows you to practice most obedience exercises and can be used as a redirectional, behavioral tool around the house.

Besides the six-foot leash, we recommend that you get a longer leash.  When you go into the pet store, you will see that they are normally called “training leads”.  The only difference between a “training lead” and a “normal leash” is the length.  For training purposes, this is the only difference you want.  Although they come in lengths from ten feet to one hundred and fifty feet, we suggest that you get a half-inch thick twenty-foot training lead for your puppy or small dog and a one-inch-thick thirty-foot training lead for your large dog.

You will use the training lead when you want to practice obedience commands such as “Come” at longer distances. It is a great tool for backyard recall exercises as well as practicing controlled off-leash walking.  It is also a great tool when you are potty training your dog to go outside in an unenclosed area.

So, the bottom line is “Extension leash – BAD. Regular leash – GOOD”.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.