One of our local animal control officers came into the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter the other day with an obvious look of frustration on her face. She had just come from tromping through the woods, looking for a dog who had run away from its owner during their daily walk. The ACO had met the owner, who already had been looking for the dog for several hours, after the dog had gotten spooked and jerked the leash out of her hand. This is not uncommon, but the situation was complicated by the fact that the dog was on a retractable leash, thus making the chance for entanglement highly probable.
If you’ve ever used a retractable leash on your dog, you know that it takes time and training for you and your pet to get used to it. You’ll be wrapped around many an obstacle until you learn to be alert at all times and until the dog learns to respond to subtle tugs on the leash to avoid trees, mailboxes or any other obstruction that the long, thin leash can wrap around. You can purchase leashes that are capable of extending anywhere from 10 to 18 feet, and they’re great for walks on the beach or other open, uncrowded spaces.
They should never be used on a dog who does not know or respond to the basic commands of walking obedience. If your dog doesn’t heal or come when you call him, you’ll end up trying to reel him like a fish, which can be difficult for you and dangerous for him. They should never be used on walks where you might encounter lots of people or animals that are strange to your dog. You need to have complete control of your dog in order to keep him out of the road, keep him from wrapping the leash around other people and keep him from approaching other dogs.
One of the cardinal rules of retractable leash use it to HANG ON! If your dog suddenly takes off after something, you better have a really good grip on the handle. Unlike regular leashes, there’s nothing to wrap around your hand as a safety measure.
In the situation that the ACO dealt with last week, the dog got scared and took off running, pulling the retractable handle out of the owner’s hand. The dog ran into the woods, and it took more than four hours to find him after his leash had gotten entangled in trees. Thank goodness this incident ended well, in spite of some stressful moments for the dog owner and for the dog himself.
Along the lines of having your pets under your control at all times, keep in mind that soon trick-or-treaters will be out and about in your neighborhood. Most animals are terrified of people in costumes, even if they are people whom they know. Keep your cats in the house. If you have outside dogs, make sure they cannot come into contact with passersby. Keep inside dogs safely sequestered in rooms that do not have access to doors opening up to zombies, superheroes and evil witches … be safe!