Sun 23 Aug 2009
Would you buy a product that includes a pamphlet warning that the device may cause serious injury to your eye and face? How about if the pamphlet also warned of rope burn abrasions, severe cuts, appendage amputation and a rather strong warning about never using the product near small children?
I doubt you would but I see these confound things all over the place. The most common type is sold under the brand name Flexi Lead.There are other brands available – usually cheaper made – including one manufactured brand that was recalled last year because it tended to snap resulting in a clasp projectile heading right plunk into your head. To read the recall follow this link. http://www.caninekingdom.com/index.php/Dog-Product-News/Worldwise-Inc.-Recalls-Retractable-Dog-Leashes
It’s been pretty warm lately here on the East Coast so we’ve been walking our dogs in the municipal park which skirts along the shores of a large lake. The prevailing winds drop down from the mountains and whisk along the lake creating cool, dry breezes.
The park includes several large grassy sports fields and a real pretty pathway all along the shore. There are several boat ramps and a few floating docks. It’s a nice place to take a stroll. It’s a nice place for a dog too.
My husband and I share our home with two German shepherd dogs Tsunami, a retired SAR K9, and Annie, who we adopted as an adult. Tsunami tolerates just about any situation but Annie is a ‘reactive’ dog. She is suspicious of strange dogs and people and will react if they get too close into her ‘comfort zone.’
She enjoys getting out of the house for a good walk as well as the next dog though. We’re diligent about keeping her away from other dogs and people. When we see other folks, particularly dog walkers, we go off to the side, feed Annie treats and tell her she is the best dog in the world and wait for them to pass. This works well for all and keeps Annie in a calm, happy state.
Yesterday, we were walking along the lakeside trail. I noticed a woman with a big dog across a field, heading in our direction. They were fairly far away but they were on my radar screen. At one point we were all walking on a parallel path separated by about 50’ and a row of cedar trees. This was all well within Annie’s ‘comfort zone.’
In the wink of an eye – calamity! The large Lab mix was on a Flexi type lead. For some reason, who knows really, he decided to charge us. Galloping straight at us – I could hear the cable buzzing away just hoping that: 1) it wasn’t one of the extra long 25’ leads, 2) the woman had the strength to hang on when this 100-pound dog reached the end of the lead 3) the cable lead was strong enough and would not snap.
The dog garnered momentum and after 25’ – hit the end of the cable and sure enough – the woman was pulled off her feet, the plastic handle contraption yanked from her grip and the dog was heading straight for us armed with teeth, 25’ of dangling, dangerous, amputating cable and a clanking, useless plastic handle.
Hal, ever the vigilant Marine, quickly handed Annie (who was now in full fight mode) off to me and we retreated as my husband stepped in to avert a disaster.
Hal charged the Lab with hands outstretched which slowed the dog down some – enough so that he was able to step on the amputation-causing wire cable and halt the dog. Once the dog was contained he was – fortunately for Hal – quite people friendly. The embarrassed, bruised woman caught up and all was well. Kind of. The handle of the retractable lead was damaged, the cable could no longer be coiled back and the woman had to walk to her vehicle with 25’ of dangerous, amputation, severe cut, rope burn abrasion causing cable in her hands.
Things don’t always turn out this well. Sometimes the cable wraps around people, children, dog limbs and body parts causing very, very severe injuries – and yes – amputation.
In some cases I blame the users of retractable leashes as much as the manufacturers. There are controls on the handle. The cable can be set on ‘lock’ for a pre-determined distance. Unfortunately this distance can be too far – far enough for a dog to plunge onto a busy roadway after a squirrel while mom is obliviously chatting with a neighbor.
Another control allows the dog to run to the end of the cable and if the dog stops for a sniff the lead automatically recoils into the handle as the distance between walker and dog decreases. It’s kind of like Spiderman’s web on vertical mode, ping-ponging back and forth. I’ve seen people think the Flexi was on a short ‘lock’ mode and ouch! The dog is out in the middle of the street or grappling with a nearby pooch, dangerous cable wrapping around everything.
Retractable leads are very popular. Users say they allow their dogs to get more exercise. There are so many pleasurable, safe ways to provide exercise for both you and your dog.
By using a retractable, the handler loses the opportunity to educate their dog on how to walk properly on lead. The dog also loses the association with its handler because they can get, and stay, if they prefer, far away. Giving a dog more line to pull simply means he’s pulling further away, never knowing his limits. Retractable leads foster the dog’s disassociation with the handler, the exact opposite of what we strive for in our relationship with our dogs.
I highly recommend four to six foot leashes. Many laws stipulate that a leash be no longer than six feet. There’s a reason for this. The dog is near you, presumably in control and will not present a danger to others.
It’s really clever and can prove invaluable when you need that control if a situation arises. Visit www.CanineKingdom.com for the newest collections of safe and beautiful leashes.