Long Energy Where "Service" Counts

Soft Paws: The importance of the leash

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By Charlene Marchand

For Capital Region Independent Media

Westina is a 1-year-old domestic shorthair, pictured with Columbia-Greene Humane Society Adoption Counselor Rebecca Warner. Westina was surrendered to us in the beginning of March through no fault of her own. She loves to play with toys, lounge in the sun, and snuggle with her favorite person. Contributed photo

I hope you were all able to take a glance at our last article, a reminder to all about the significance of your leash. The importance of that nurturing “umbilical cord” cannot be overstated.

It is common for dogs to exhibit aggressive, reactive or defensive behavior on-leash, when encountering other canines, felines, livestock, fowl, wild critters or human beings other than their pack leaders.

The immediate reaction of probably 95%+ of us, is to pull back on a lead, when faced with a “foe,” real or imagined. The restraint/corrective mode triggers a “can’t flee so I’ll fight” mentality with most canines. The tension that travels down your leash is never imagined by your dog – it’s real. Our beloved canine companions are very accurate readers of body language or cues, hormonal changes and more.

Our words can deceive, but never our true emotions or expressions communicated through our leash. We now have “Jack,” who was ready to say “Hi” to the approaching dog, barking, growling, lunging and “digging in” to do battle with the increasing resistance his collar and lead are giving him. The more we pull back, the greater is Jack’s desire/goal to break the restraint.

Think of your reaction when someone gives you an unwanted bear hug, without a release. Get the picture? We now have set up Jack for failure with the next street-walking encounter. He’s on-the-prowl for certain, now that our leash has successfully transmitted tension, insecurity, avoidance and lack of dog control. Corrections increase at the hands of frustrated or incorrectly advised owners.

Now we have a slew of dogs in my calming-signal class labeled dog-aggressive, people-aggressive, unfriendly, out-of-control, etc., etc. Where was that positive reinforcement blood flow down that umbilical cord (leash)? Where were the positive re-directs? Where are the competing or replacement behaviors?

It’s important to note that the above referenced scenario is irrespective of the type of collar used — flat collar, martingale, nylon or chain slip collar, prong, etc. When handlers learn the motivational “leave-it,” they often have more success with one choice of collar over another. Your dog’s collar is not “the enemy,” but incorrect and inappropriate equipment can make it more difficult to manage our precious canines.

Feel free to call us with any questions at 518-828-6044 or visit our website at www.cghs.org. Our food bank is open to any from the public in need of pet food or for those wishing to donate food from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Spay/neuter clinics for cats are $86 male or female, including a rabies vaccination and a 5-in-1 feline distemper combination vaccination. Nail clipping services are available every Saturday from 10-11 a.m. at the shelter for a donation of $10 for cats and $15 for dogs (currently prepaid only).

Charlene Marchand is the chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. She may be contacted at cghsaaron@gmail.com.

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