Originally, the leash is a tool to control the dog. A dog tied to a leash cannot leave, cannot escape, it must follow us. The leash gives us the power to control the dog's body. Fear can allow us to have partial control even on its mind. Nothing gives us the power to control its emotions.
For a long time the leash has been associated with control, but at some point someone thought it was bad for the dog, and began to promote the use of the harness (which has less emotional and physical impact compared to a collar) and long leashes. Very long. The longer, the better, for sure they are at least three meters. This way, the dog can get an illusion of freedom, instead of control. The dog still cannot run away, but at least it can be further away from us and move inside a larger space.
WHAT IS A LEASH, FOR ME AND FOR THE GENTLE TEAM?
1. The leash is not a rope to force the dog to stay near me. It is a space. It is the space between the snap-hook and my hand. It is a social and familiar space, which includes my dog and me. Inside this space, the dog must feel safe.
2. To feel good in this space, the dog should not be betrayed: it should not to undergo tugs, tensions, pulls that cause stress, or be forced to go in the direction of a perceived danger. Whenever my dog on a leash feels stress or fear, I betray its trust.
3. The length of the leash depends on dog's ability to handle the freedom that is granted to it. The longer the leash, the more the dog is capable of dealing with what it encounters on the way without "exploding" emotionally: feeling fear, aggression, anxiety, insecurity, stress. If the dog is perfectly capable of dealing with a context, I let it free. If the dog is in difficulty, the leash is short. Therefore, the length varies depending on the level of expertise of the dog.
4. The leash controls the dog. No point in denying it: holding a leash gives us the power to control it physically. Control does not imply abusing one's position of strength. We can think of a leash like the hand of an adult who takes the hand of a child to protect the child from danger when crossing a hazardous street.
5. The harness reduces stress caused by tension, tugging and pulling, but this doesn't mean that the person who has the leash in his hand should be less sensitive. It does not justify a use of the leash as a tool of force. If you pull back or upwards, the dog will still feel stress. The degree of stress can be proportional to the difference in strength (a small dog more easily undergoes abuses), and to the individual sensitivity, but all dogs suffer from being treated like potato sacks.
6. Dogs don't learn to walk on a leash. There are dogs that go out 3-4 times a day for years and they still pull when on a leash. Walking on a leash without pulling is the result of a good relationship, good communication, and our ability to understand and help the dog to feel well in our presence. It is not the dog’s responsibility, and it does not depend on how much our dog thinks that we are strong or dominant.
7. Even if the dog is tied on a leash and cannot go away, this does not mean that we can ignore the dog. On the contrary, since the dog depends on us, it is important for the dog to be able to communicate with us, to understand where we are going, let us understand what worries it, and what it needs. Having a dog on a leash increases our responsibilities, it doesn’t reduce them.
8. The leash should not be used to force the dog to tackle something that scares it or someone who sets off a reaction of fear or threat. Forcing the dog to suffer will only make it lose trust in us, and make it even more responsive.
9. If the dog is more tolerant and less aggressive and scared when it is free, and it is more responsive when it is on a leash, the problem is not the leash: the problem is the one who holds the leash in his hand. If the dog bites the leash, the problem can be external (the dog lets off frustration or aggression on the leash), or it can be the one who holds the leash in his hand.
10. Do not use retractable leashes (Flexi). They are dangerous for the dog and for whom may meet you.
Text Alexa Capra
Photos Daniele Robotti
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