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Why We Do Not Recommend Short Leash Greetings.

The leash is a tool with a purpose, and different leash lengths have different purposes. It is important to remember this because, in the same way that you would not use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, a short leash should not be used for social interactions. Let’s delve more into why this is.

The purpose of the leash.

The leash is both a training tool to give communication to the dog and also a management tool to keep the dog safe and society safe.

The short leash is usually used in urban environments when the dog must be kept close to the handler and when detailed communication needs to be given.

There are generally two types of communication that can be given by the leash through pressure.

Pressure can be defined as anything that motivates an animal to seek to remove it. This can be mental or physical. A classic example of pressure in the human world is the beeping sound in a car to motivate you to put on your seatbelt. The pressure here is the irritating sound, which motivates you to put on your seatbelt. The pressure is removed or released only once the seatbelt is on.

Pressure motivates; the release educates.

The leash can provide directional or correctional pressure.

Directional pressure has a constant light pressure motivating the dog to move in a certain direction to remove the pressure. This is used to guide the dog in the direction and placement that is appropriate at that moment in time. This might be getting on and off a bus or passing someone on the pavement.

Correctional pressure is a quick, uncomfortable pressure that motivates a fast change in behaviour. This is used to stop a dog in a behaviour or change their mind quickly. For example, a dog walks off the pavement into the road, and the handler taps the leash to give quick pressure that immediately makes the dog stop what they were doing. Similar to how you would move your arm to correct someone about to walk out in front of traffic.

Tension on the leash is communication, and handlers must, therefore, be mindful of how and when they use it.

It is important to remember that the leash is there to motivate the dog, not move the dog. This is dog training, not strength training.

The use of equipment.

Depending on the equipment, pressure can give different outcomes. A thick flat collar or a harness usually taps into the oppositional reflex of most dogs. When pressure is pulling the dog back, the dog naturally wants to pull forward (this is used in dog sports such as canicross, mushing, and protection). The pressure in these instances builds drive and arousal and causes the dog to want to pull more. Whereas a slip leash or a thin collar will cause the dog to want to move with the pressure to relieve it.

Dogs tend to learn in pictures. Therefore, the equipment you use can have with it a certain set of connotations and rules. This is used for service dogs, for example, when a guide dog is wearing their harness, they must not greet anyone nor stop to pee mark. However, when the harness is off, they are free to mark, play, and more.

Similarly, we can create expectations for dogs using our leashes. When a dog is on a short leash, it is usually because they are in an environment when it is not appropriate for them to be far from their handler. This is generally also not an appropriate environment to greet other dogs or people. If you need your dog to be able to walk past other dogs on the pavement, then it will be easiest to create an association for the dog that the short leash means we are going from A to B and not playing.

Creating clear rules and predictability.

Dogs cannot read our minds, so if we decide that sometimes it is okay for the dog to greet others but other times it is not, and there are no recognizable patterns to these rules, then the dog will be confused and frustrated. Dogs thrive on predictability and will anticipate everything. Therefore, the more predictable we can make their lives, the less stressed and frustrated they will be. Using equipment to mean certain rules helps the dog and the handler to keep this consistency and enables the dog to better understand what is expected from them within a stressful environment such as an urban city.

Short leash greetings.

The short leash restricts the movement of the dog greatly, forcing them to walk at our pace, in straight lines, and at a steady pace. This is an unnatural way for a dog to walk; they usually walk slightly faster than us and will switch between slow pace and running. They will walk a sweeping pattern and will often stop to sniff before moving on or even backtracking. Therefore, when we use a short leash, it is for environments when we need our dogs to behave a certain way, such as on busy streets or other urban environments.

The short leash also does not allow a dog to move towards other dogs in a large indirect arch, as would usually be polite. Instead, it forces them to walk straight head-on, which is a confrontational behaviour. And if they have equipment on that causes an oppositional reflex, they will likely also be straining and pulling forward, causing them to have their weight forward and shoulders broad. This is also a very confrontational pose. And if they are meeting another dog, there will be a lot of social tension and conflict built up from just their body language communication.

How well a dog is able to cope with this tension and social conflict depends on their tolerance and personality. Many are able to appease the greeting by becoming jumpy or play-bowing, or even rolling on their side exposing their belly. While others will growl or snap using distancing behaviour. The continued exposure to these types of stressful greetings may build an association in the dog’s mind that seeing other dogs while on a short leash is unpleasant and may make them reactive or overly aroused. This is a common phenomenon and is called leash reactivity.

The short leash removes the dog's option to flight, leaving them vulnerable if they feel threatened. Their only other options are fight or freeze. Most puppies will pick freeze, while some adults will pick fight. This will further exacerbate any leash reactivity and cause the dog to see other dogs or people approaching as a threat as they cannot flee.

Long leash use.

The long leash is used to give the dog maximum freedom without the risks associated with off-leash freedom. It is a brilliant tool to use while the dog is still in training and their recall is not yet proofed.

Allowing dogs to greet on the long line is appropriate because the dogs have the freedom to move as they wish, and thus we are better able to promote healthy interactions. It is important to try to avoid the long line getting tangled up around the dogs or yourself; this can take some mastery on the part of the handler.

Long lines can be used when meeting your with known dogs while still ensuring recall when necessary.


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