These tools were made for (dog) walkin’

A walk in the park should be just that for both the dog and the owner. Read up on these leash, harness and halter options so you’ll be ready to help your veterinary clients find the finest fits for their canine companions.

This pooch is prepped for a peaceful pace. (emmapeel34 –

For many dogs, a walk with their owner is the most highly anticipated event of the day, and we know it’s good for the bodies and minds of the creatures at both ends of the leash. But when a dog’s on-leash behavior is out of control, walk enjoyment (and frequency) can plummet. To help owners control the chaos of leashed walks, consider these humane walking tools.


Fixed-length leash: A standard, fixed-length leash is an absolute must because it’s the perfect tool to help teach dogs to walk politely. Leashes that stretch or are retractable can actually teach and reinforce pulling behaviors. Instead, a fixed-length leash is just that, meaning there’s no guesswork on the amount of space the dog can venture away from its owner before hitting the end of its rope (err … leash). The set length is important for teaching the dog that the freedom to move forward doesn’t come until the dog feels slack instead of tension.

There are a variety of options within the fixed-length family:

  • Length. A 6-foot leash is ideal for most dogs. A 4-foot leash increases the likelihood that the owner will grip too tightly on the leash without allowing for slack, thereby increasing the likelihood of tension in the dog (and increasing the likelihood of reactive behavior).
  • Material. The standard nylon leash can be an excellent choice, but climbing rope material leashes are an increasingly popular option. Both materials are ideal for their strength, durability and limited flex. In most cases, a leash with built-in bungee stretch will cause challenges for owners trying to teach loose-leash walking skills. It can also make it more difficult to reel in the dog when needed. However, for owners with pain or mobility issues, these options can help reduce the jarring pull to joints if the dog suddenly lunges and hits the end of the leash.
  • Other features. Some leashes are equipped with carabiner clips that allow for a quick clip to an eye bolt or around a fixed point (like a tree) for a hands-free training session or around the waist for a mobile, hands-free walk or training session.

Retractable leashes prove problematic in almost all situations. Most (if not all) of us are familiar with the unwelcome greeting of a dog rushing up to clients from across the waiting room that results in distress for the pets and a tripping hazard for the people, or the fearful dog that panics and flees away in desperation when the leash handle slips out of its owner’s hand and “chases” behind the fleeing dog.

But if they are going to be used (and they will, regardless of our warnings), educate your clients on where it’s safe to do so. These are not devices to use in crowded spaces like sidewalks, the veterinary office or a training class. Rather, they need to be limited to an open area, such as a large park, where the dog can actively move and sniff with freedom without impeding upon other dogs. If clients are using a retractable leash while leash training, encourage them to use a back clip harness rather than one that clips in the front or clipping the leash to a…

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