Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Flexi Flubs

You are familiar with flexi-leads, those expandable leashes on a plastic hand grip that conceals the coils and stops them..... or not?  When I lived in the city, these were the gadgets that allowed people to visit my bushes, trees and lawn and claim they were "leashed".  Encountering one on the sidewalk was a risky act because suddenly you and your own dog, walking nicely in heel position at your side, would find yourself in the path of a dog expanding territory rapidly at the end of such a leash.  It seems having an extra 10 feet causes people to think that their dog has the right to every one of those, even if it is no longer in a public place or is encroaching on someone else's space.  No doubt one of them has even uttered the words "it's my right."  They would be wrong.

Your dog does not have right to come in contact with me or my dog simply because you can.  And of course, if a fight occurs you will hear "he never did that before" and depending on the breed, it may be labeled your fault.  He does not have the right to walk in my yard and water my bushes. 

At this point, you may have the opinion that I dislike flexi-leads.  I do not.  I dislike some of the idiots they are attached to, but the tool itself is not at fault.  I use them myself in certain training exercises.  I use them when I am working with a new dog and want to build a recall/attention but cannot do it safely off leash.  I use it for building speed in retrieves.  The tape type device is what is commonly sold now, but some people may still have the string version.  The string version isn't sold now because dogs were injured by having the string wrap around their legs, so do be careful.
Flexi leashes are wonderful tools when used correctly.

I had an appointment at the vet today.  Cooper, my IPO3, Type 1/CE USAR dog was there to have his elbows Xrayed to pave the way for a potential romantic tryst with another pretty little brindle Dutch Shepherd.  He sat next to me and waited our turn to check in.  The woman to our left who was in the act of checking in, had two small terriers on flexi leashes.  One of the dogs decided to approach Cooper and had the line pulled out approximately 8 feet when I coughed and said, "hey, your little doggie is over here."  She didn't say anything.  No apology, no commands.  She retracted the leash as the other dog wrapped it around her legs a few times.  She dragged the two beasties away (as people seem to do when they own small dogs and can physically move them instead of simply training them) and went about her visit.

This isn't the first time I have encountered behavior like this in a veterinarian office.  People view it as a dog park and want to sit next to you, critical if you ask them to stay farther away.  In case you are one of those, allow me to point out a few reasons why you may wish to reconsider.

  1. Not all dogs love other dogs and vet offices not only are a more confined space, but your dog may be overwhelmed with the odors of other fearful dogs.  Do not create a fight or bite that does not need to occur.
  2. Understand that when your dog pulls toward another dog, and you pull him back you are actually creating more drive toward the thing he was deprived of.  If he has already gotten too close to the other dog, the result may be a snap.
  3. The dog you are allowing your dog to go visit may be sick.  It may be contagious or infected.  After all, this is a vet office.  Some may be there for routine check ups but many are there because there is something wrong.  Many dog illnesses are transmitted through a lick.  Let your dog give a doggy kiss to the sick dog, and you just brought home something to your other dogs.  I have been in a vet office when a puppy was diagnosed with parvo.  Believe me, your heart skips a beat.  Now imagine if you had signed the death warrant for your own dog by allowing it to come in contact with that puppy.
  4. That nice dog your dog is about to jump on may be friendly in other circumstances but today he is suffering from cancer, or arthritis, or recovering from surgery.  And you are about to cause him pain.  Don't do it.
For the sake of the safety of your dog and those around you, consider using a regular leash with a strong clasp and sturdy handle and not allowing your dog to make bad decisions. Be a good citizen and a good customer at the office of your vet. And please, leave the flexi leash at home.