For a link to the article, go here.
This month, we’re talking about the professional dog trainer’s “Don’t Do This” list.
Retractable, extendable leashes are one of the inventions that dog owners love and dog trainers hate. We hate them for lots of reasons:
- They teach bad habits. Flexible leashes teach your dog to pull on the leash to go anywhere. They encourage pulling. If you’re trying to teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash, the best way to wreck that is by putting your dog on an extendable leash. The leash is always tight. If the dog wants to move anywhere, there is tension on the collar and the dog has to pull into the collar to move. It’s a recipe for disaster if polite leash manners is your goal.
- They are dangerous. The thin cord can amputate (yes, chop off) your finger! Or your dog’s tail or toe. If you’re not squeamish, Google “flexi leash injuries” and click on “Images” to see all the damage that a Flexi leash can do to flesh.
- They’re way too long. Some of the leashes extend to 26’! If your dog is more than 6’ away from you, there is greater likelihood that your dog could get into trouble: he could run into the street (still on the leash), could rush up to another dog who isn’t friendly, or get himself into something dangerous (mouse poison, antifreeze, wild animal, etc.).
The only dog parks most dog trainers will use are empty ones. We know that dog parks are havens for inappropriate behavior (canine and human) and disease. Ew, need I go on – those two things right there are enough to convince this human that my dogs do not need to visit a dog park. But here’s more detail, in case you’re on the fence about dog parks.
- Dog fights. Not every dog that goes to a dog park should be there. Some owners take their dog to the dog park so they’ll “get used to” other dogs. Or to “socialize” their dog. No way! If you take your dog to the dog park, you could unknowingly be setting your dog up to be one of the dogs that the unsocialized dog learns from! I’m pretty sure you don’t want your dog to be the guinea pig that a grumpy or inexperienced dog learns on!
- Dismissal of real dog problems. Owners will frequently say “Let the dogs work it out,” if there’s a skirmish or scuffle. Sadly, that’s the wrong advice. We are guardians of our dogs. We take responsibility for their welfare. Letting dogs “work it out” can lead to veterinary emergency room visits or sadly, death. Google “dog park deaths” and you’ll find that there’s a real risk in taking your dog to a dog park.
- Health hazards. Parvo, bordatella, internal parasites, fleas, ticks, these are just some of the health risks your dog is exposed to at the dog park. Some of that risk is minimized if your dog is healthy and current on vaccinations, as well as if the dog park participants pick up the poop regularly and thoroughly. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a thorough list of communicable canine diseases here.
- Bad habits. Your dog can pick up the bad habits of other dogs in the dog park. Just like on the kids’ playground, bullying can also exist in the dog park. If your dog joins in on the melee, he could be learning inappropriate behavior that he’ll repeat outside the dog park. On the flipside, if your dog has a bad experience from the dog park bully, he may learn that going on the defensive early (growling, snarling, lunging, biting) is a good idea, even if a friendly dog approaches.
Leaving Food Down
Not only do most dog trainers not leave food down all day for our dogs (also called “free feeding”), but also we rarely feed our dogs from a bowl. We schedule regular feeding times for our dogs for a few reasons:
- It helps with house training. What goes in must come out. We use the scheduled feedings so we have scheduled and predictable bathroom breaks.
- We can immediately tell if one of our dogs is “off his food.” A dog refusing to eat at mealtime can be an early indicator that the dog might not be feeling well. If food is always available, it may be days before you notice your dog’s decreased appetite.
- Helps with training. Because our dogs work for food, we can use feeding time as a predictor of when our dogs will likely be interested in food. I can use all or part of my dog’s meal as training rewards. Every dog has to eat – you might as well use that food to accomplish some training. If your dog has continual access to food, it’s hard to gauge when he might be interested in training.