If I see one more online argument about Flexi-Leashes, I’m going to scream.
I understand the problem with extendable leashes. They can
- injure people when the cord wraps around a finger or leg
- frighten a dog if dropped
- allow a dog to get into trouble before their person knows it.
But the argument devolves into bickering over whether extendable leashes can be used properly by some people. And everyone misses the point.
It isn’t whether equipment is good or bad. It isn’t whether it is used properly or improperly. It’s about the relationship.
Everything is about the relationship.
I know how to use an extendable leash appropriately.
- use it only in open spaces where we’re less likely to meet off-leash dogs, playing children, or other distractions
- lock it before approaching corners or intersections
- keep my hands free so I don’t drop it or lose control
But I have no intention of buying one. Because it wouldn’t improve my relationship with my dog.
Walking Honey on a six-foot leash or walking her off-leash keeps me connected to her.
I don’t want to be pulled down the street or have her choke so we continually work together on training. I want her to choose me over squirrels, stinky trash, and other people. So our off-leash walks are full of snacks and games.
Both walking on a regular leash and walking off-leash build our bond.
If I had an extendable leash, I’d get careless. I’d pay less attention to Honey than the mechanism of the leash. I’d miss some of the things she stopped to sniff. And it wouldn’t build our relationship.
So why bother?
The interesting thing about asking the relationship question is that you might answer differently than me. And that’s fine. Because we’re all different. But we’re all putting the most important thing at the center—our relationship with our dogs.
You, dear reader, are elites in the world of dog lovers. I’d like you to help me change the conversation.
When considering using a piece of equipment with your dog, choosing an activity, or picking a place to go, ask yourself: Will this strengthen our relationship? Or weaken it?
It’s a much better question than
- is it 100% safe (nothing worth doing is without risks)
- does it work (efficiency is a boring and reductionist life philosophy).
How different would debates about extendable leashes, dog parks, or taking our dogs to public events be if we asked ourselves first, will this improve our relationship?
After all, isn’t that why we have dogs? For the relationship?
Your Turn: What question to you ask yourself when you’re making decisions about your dog? Does thinking about your relationship make the right choice clearer?