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  • Be AWARE

Leashes: The choice matters.

Walk through any pet store or type the words “dog leash” into an online search and you’ll quickly find a few thousand options for restraining your pooch.

Leather leashes, bungee type, stretch material, slip leads, fancy braided designs, chain leads, every pattern of cotton print designs imaginable, retractable leashes, and the list goes on…there are many choices!

Like most dog owners you probably own a variety of leashes, perhaps even one or two that have passed down from one canine family member to the next.

When choosing a leash it is a matter of personal preference regarding the material you select. The more important factor to pay attention to is the length of your leash and how far away your dog is from you when you’re out and about together.

Some choices are more appropriate than others depending on the area you’re visiting that day. If you’re planning on heading to an open green space to let Fido sniff and roll in the grass, then a retractable leash or a long line may be perfect choices.

But if you’re planning to stroll through a typical urban neighborhood or stop by an outdoor cafe to visit with friends, then keep Fido attached to a standard leash of no more than 6 feet in length.

While some leashes are fabricated with fashion in mind, the length of the leash determines its functionality. If you happen to have a less than ideally behaved dog, you need more control and have a responsibility to exert it when you take your dog into public locations. Not many people are overjoyed to see a barking, lunging, or even happy but wildly excited dog barreling toward them.

The right leash, combined with the right collar or harness allows you to control your dog’s momentum and (hopefully) stop them as needed.

Before you protest that your dog is never ill behaved, that he’s always polite and friendly, bear in mind that for many people, the length of the leash a dog is attached to will equate to the perception of control.

Even the most well mannered dog can be highly disconcerting to others when he’s attached to a retractable leash but walking 15+ feet in front of you. It can be unnerving to pedestrians that worry the dog is going to tangle them up when they walk by or agitate other dogs because it appears that Fido is unattended and “on the loose”. Fears about a dog accidentally stepping in front of vehicles or bicycles are amplified when the dog is at the far end of a 20 + foot leash so keep your dog in check when in traffic areas.

Even if you are perfectly capable of controlling your dog on any length of leash (or even off leash) the real difference is about perception. Perception is the reality you should be thinking about.

As responsible dog owners it is important to have empathy for those we’re sharing public space with. As hard as it may be to believe, not everyone loves dogs as much as we do. Some people have suffered traumatic incidents with dogs and they truly have fear around them.

Be considerate, it won’t cost you anything and it earns respect.

If we want our dogs to be welcome in more public places it is incumbent upon us to demonstrate a level of awareness and accountability that affords these privileges.

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