Thursday, February 2, 2017

Staying focused on your dog -- not your smartphone -- and using the right equipment on walks can help avert tragedy

I run up against a lot of carelessness in my day-to-day adventures with dogs. That has nothing to do with the dogs themselves, mind you. It’s always the humans: the unnecessary distractions on the biped’s part (usually because of mobile phones, and more on that in a minute), people who insist on interacting with my charges, dogs off-leash, the ‘my dog is friendly!’ folks and most of all, the guardians that insist on using retractable leashes. Yes, that last one, oh, so annoying. And dangerous.

I’ve written about retractables in the past; while they seem like the perfect solution when walking a dog, the dangers are numerous and aren’t limited to the dog.

Admittedly, I use them in some situations, but they are extremely rare. When my dog, Bruiser had been diagnosed with cancer, his sleep and potty schedule was off kilter. I found a retractable (one with an LED flashlight attached!) quite useful so that he could have some autonomy to go potty at any hour of the day/night, while I could remain sleepily barefoot on the deck. I work with a lot of families whose pets are in hospice, and I recommend a retractable for this reason to help make their lives a little more manageable. Retractables are often used when a pet is recovering from TPLO or other surgery and need to be kept from exceeding their prescribed activity level while in their yard, while still indulging their need to walk around unencumbered.

I’m no stranger to expressing exasperation with many pet products, and this week has been no exception, I’m afraid.

Browsing Facebook, I noticed that there’s a new “leash” slated to hit the market. Not only is it retractable, so it can give your dog more physical space (in theory, a great idea), but it aims to help address some vexing issues, one of which the fact that humans are too distracted by their mobile phones to pay attention to their dog while they’re in a public place. No, seriously -- that’s what the company’s founder said in a video, seen by clicking here. I'll assert how horrified I was with the seemingly comedic lightness of the caricatured scenarios with dogs (off camera) making an abrupt and unwanted approach with another dog, getting hit by a car and 'scaring' a child. None of these situations are funny.

“Bad things can happen in the blink of an eye, and let’s face it: with smartphones, the distractions can be ridiculous.”

You don’t say!

(All of this is disappointing, as I am otherwise an ardent fan of the company's flagship product.)

I have more mindful solutions -- things I employ on a daily basis -- that can save you a few dollars and more importantly, a tragedy.

  • Use some self-control and turn your mobile phone off when you’re out and about your dog and pay attention to them.

  • Skip the retractable and opt for a 25-foot + dog lead. These trusty products don’t get enough press nor praise. You can keep the lead gathered up securely as you need (yes, you’ll need your full attention on things and both hands free) or allow your pet to roam more freely while still being safely tethered to you.

You’ll thank me one day, but in the meantime, your dog will stay safe and happy and likewise, everyone else will, too. Watch a long lead in action below.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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