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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Making and Using a Solid Leash

A solid leash can be helpful with a smaller blind deaf dog.  It allows you to have a way to give subtle leash cues at your dog's neck level, which are clearer to the dog than if they come from far above her.  It also will save your back from needing to bend over to give those cues or lead your dog around obstacles on a walk. Think of it as an extension of your arm to allow you to reach down lower.  

A solid leash can be useful during walks on busy sidewalks or in areas that you will need to steer your dog around obstacles or people, or when teaching certain training exercises when you want your dog to stay right next to your leg.  A solid leash will not be very useful on walks when you want to let your dog sniff around and explore.  A regular or long leash would work better for that.  

It will take some practice for you to learn how to handle the solid leash fluently.  There is less slack than with a regular leash, so your cues travel directly to your dog's neck.  You will need to use much less leash pressure - sometimes just a small adjustment of your hand or wrist will give a different cue to your dog. 

You can use a very simple and inexpensive version of a solid leash, or you can create a very elaborate one. The solid leash I use is a curtain rod that was the right length for me to hold easily in my hand and also reached down to my dog's neck level.  Getting one that is too long will be cumbersome to hold. Getting one that is too short will require bending over to hold it.

The curtain rod has a finished surface and has comfortable end caps on it.  It has a more finished look and feel than a wooden dowel rod, which would have worked just as well.  I cut up an old leash with a small clip that wouldn't be too heavy or clunky for my dog's neck.  I left a small tab of leash connected to the clip. This allows for a bit of flexibility between my dog and the rod.  I then used heavy tape to attach the tab of leash to the end of the curtain rod.  Voila!  This version works so well for us that we haven't seen a need to change it.

Notice there is a bit of leash between the rod and the clip

This leash is meant as a guide to help cue your dog around obstacles and people.  Please don't use it to pull or push your dog.  Take the time to teach your dog the cues and you will be amazed how easy it is to convey information to your dog through a gentle touch on the solid leash.  

You can use the same techniques for teaching regular leash walking to teach solid leash walking.  If your dog already knows gentle collar cues, it should be easy to review the steps with the solid leash.  But don't assume that the cues coming from the solid leash will feel the same to the dog as what she already knows.  Take some time to review and keep it a positive experience for both you and your dog.  

If you would like some help with the steps of teaching leash walking to a blind and deaf dog, here is a great article to help you:  Click here to go to the article.   The same steps in the article can be used to introduce the solid leash to your dog.  

The solid leash is not a tool that I use every day, but I have found it very helpful with Treasure, who is a small dog, in certain situations and for teaching certain behaviors.  I hope if you have a smaller dog, that you may find it helpful as well.  

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