At Custom Canine Care I have a policy that I will buy the necessary accessories for any dog that I walk on a regular basis, as and when these are required. I find this an easy way to build a good equipment base over time, without one huge financial investment. I don’t see the need to own each piece of eqiupment in every size “just in case”, but my system means that I always have the equipment needed for the actual dogs that I walk week on week.
When I started off I used flexi leads way more than I do now. I think the trouble with flexis is that dogs either ‘get’ them, or they don’t. I have seen strong pulling dogs transformed by flexis and the extra freedom afforded by them, but for other dogs they are a potential hazard. Some individuals seem unable to understand the finite nature of a flexi and will repeatedly crah into the end of the length of lead. This is bad enough when the dog is walked on a harness, but could be potentially damaging to the tissues and bones of the neck where the flexi is used on a collar.
Flexis also diminish my own control; contact with the dog is much less than I can achieve with a soft double ended lead, and control can be poor. All that said I do still use flexis and have some dogs (of all sizes) who have worked out the ‘rules’ and don’t get tied round trees and lamposts, or run at full speed until they run out of lead. For these dogs, flexis do give a fair amount of freedom, and they are easy for me to ‘manage’ – because of the automatic retraction and locking mechanism.
I find an excellent alternive – especially for those dogs who are a liability on a flexi, who pull at the end of the extended flexi or who just don’t seem to be able to ‘get’ how the extending lead works – is the soft long double ended lead. My favourite is the 3m lead made by Mekuti, and I have three of these that I can use either together or individually. The mekuti leads are soft to handle, have a clip at both ends and a number of rings along their length to give maximum flexibity of use. They can transform a pulling dog when used with a balance harness (one that has a clip ring on the shoulders and the chest of the dog), and offer excellent control with a large, strong dog. I am tiny – only 5 foot – and need to find ways to safely control the large German Shepherds that I walk, especially as they can be reactive when confronted with some dogs. The contact with the dog is excellent and techniques like stroking the lead to help a reluctant dog to move forward can be employed. Because they have a clip at both ends these leads can be strung together giving a long leash that needs would in but is strong and effective.
I am absolutely sold out to harnesses for walking with dogs in a safe and balanced way. Neck collars can constrict breathing with any dog who pulls on the lead (which can add to panic and reactivity), and head harnesses are often hated by the dogs themselves. A soft balance or training harness such as Mekuti or the Xtra dog range is excellent and can help most dogs not to pull when used as a training harness with a long double ended lead. This system allows the pulling dog to rebalance and a system of releasing tension as soon as either point of the lead is put under pressure by the dog, soon teaches that there is nothing to be gained by trying to pull. Most dogs seem to prefer to walk in balance once they are given a way out of the “they pull/we pull” counter balance effect that occurs so often with a standard lead and harness or collar.
I find that perhaps the greatest need when walking dogs is flexibility in the use of equipment. There is no “one size fits all” answer to the question of what makes the best system for safe, enjoyable (for both me and the dogs) and controlled walks. Some dogs are completely safe off lead, others are delighted by the freedom of a flexi and many need help to stop pulling and get back in balance.
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