Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can We Talk?

It's no secret that Friends of Portia is implacably opposed to letting unleashed dogs set paw on any urban, suburban street, lawn or park. Indeed every single one of the attacks on my leashed dogs have occurred within a few feet of the attacking, unleashed dog's house.

But there is another problem encountered by anyone who walks an adequately leashed dog: The Retractable Leash.

There is one setting in which I would give my ok to the use of a retractable leash: In The Country, Where No Other Dogs Are Present.

On city and suburban sidewalks, in city and suburban parks, retractable leashes are a serious hazard, both for the inadequately restrained dog, and for properly leashed dogs and their walkers.

One of Portia's Good Friends is Zoe, who walks her Chow Chow mix, Lucy, in a nearby park. Like many rescued dogs, Lucy is--shall we say--discriminating in her choice of canine friends.

I admit that I totally identify with Zoe and Lucy. Having met Lucy, I can assure you that she is a sweet, adorable creature. She is a loving, dependable companion to humans. However, she is one of thousands of canine companions who are devoted to their humans, but are not so sure about their tolerance of other dogs. So, of course, Zoe does not take Lucy to off-leash parks and takes all reasonable precautions when she walks Lucy on leash.

But there are no reasonable precautions that can withstand an encounter with a dog on the end of a retractable leash.

On a recent morning, Zoe and Lucy encountered, not one, but two Little Bundles of Fluff at the end of retractable leashes. I doubt the owners of those dogs had any idea of just how much strength it took for Zoe to keep their vulnerable little companions from serious injury.

There is NOTHING more tantalizing to an adequately leashed dog than the sight of a Little Bundle of Fluff making its erratic way along a path or lawn, which is what a retractable leash permits--encourages--a dog to do. And THEN, there is the moment--the inevitable moment--when the Little Bundle of Fluff realizes that it is receiving the intense, undivided attention of a Big Serious Dog.

Gentle reader, I can scarcely bring myself to describe what invariably happens next. The Little Bundle of Fluff chooses to confront the Big Serious Dog, lunging and yapping. If the human at the other end of the retractable leash is typical, he or she will interpret their darling's suicidal behavior as "an invitation to get acquainted with a new friend."

Proper leashing of dogs permits their walkers to adjust for optimal distance between turf conscious dogs and to control their dogs when optimal distances cannot be maintained. Good leashes make for good canine neighbors. Good leashes make it possible for Lucy and Bingley and Magic and Odie--and many, many other dogs I might name--to enjoy walks without jeopardizing themselves or other dogs.

But retractable leashes compromise these protections--and in the process compromise the safety of all humans and dogs in the vicinity of the retractably "leashed" dog.

Furthermore, many city codes--including the city code of the City of San Marcos where Lucy and Zoe's ordeal took place, specify that leashes are not to exceed six feet, which makes all fully extended retractable leashes illegal.

But who is going to bother with that technicality when there are so many totally unleashed dogs creating havoc.

So please. I beg of you. If you plan to walk a dog of any size, invest in sturdy equipage. And, especially, if your dog is a Little Bundle of Fluff, you should NEVER FOR ONE SECOND consider placing it on the end of a retractable leash. If you really care about its well being, pick it up if you find yourself in the vicinity of a dog who shows intense, undivided attention to it. I promise. The other dog is not looking for a new friend.


  1. Thanks again to Portia's Mom for highlighting the dangers of the most simple, pleasant thing in the world - walking your dog.

  2. Oh boy! Did you hit one of my major pet peeves!! As the owner of a pet grooming salon, I can’t tell you how many times, I saw a dog come through the door and what seemed like 15 minutes later in walks the owner. How many customers asked me why I didn’t carry the retractable leashes? I lost count. Of course, the next question. Why? The purpose of the lead is to control your dog. The retractable lead gives you a false sense of control. We’ve adopted/fostered a lot of dogs in last 30 years and many came with a retractable lead. Guess what we did with them? Smash the case and in to the trash. Thanks Portia’s mom for pointing out the dangers of this invention.