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posted: 7/25/2013 9:26 AM

Using a leash is not only safe, it's the law

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  • Trish, a 72-pound, female, shepherd mix, is about 6 years old.

    Trish, a 72-pound, female, shepherd mix, is about 6 years old.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Meet Kashi, a 30-pound, female Spitz, who is about 8 years old.

    Meet Kashi, a 30-pound, female Spitz, who is about 8 years old.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

By Ellaine Kiriluk

I was Downtown yesterday evening and noticed how many people were walking their dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, mixed breeds, purebreds.

Multiple dogs on separate leads, two dogs on a single leash with "V" attachment. A dog on his leash wearing a basket muzzle. A little dog on a retractable leash walking quickly down the street.

Except for the dogs playing ball in the park, all the dogs were on a leash. And they got leashed before they came out of the park. All the dogs being leashed made for a comfortable and safe environment for everyone -- including the canines. Leash laws do work.

There is a large variety of leashes available for all of us who have dogs. As with collars, the size of the leash you use depends on the size of your pet and the collar he's wearing. The HSUS describes the variety of leashes available to owners.

The basic flat leash is six feet long. It comes in a variety of materials and colors, including leather and covered rope. If you have taken your dog to a dog training class or obedience training, you have probably used a leather leash.

Another leash used by many people is the retractable leash. It is a thin cord wound onto a spring-loaded device inside a plastic handle. As your dog walks away, the cord unwinds. As he walks back to you, the cord retracts. The device also has a button that allows you to control how much of the cord is extended.

Although this leash allows the dog more freedom to explore while walking, these leashes have drawbacks and, according to the HSUS, can even be dangerous. The cord can break. If your dog is strong and suddenly takes off running at full speed, the cord can snap and your dog can escape.

You or your dog can be injured by the cord whipping back at you, or you can both be entangled by the loosed cord. Or, as I can report from personal experience, the cord remains intact but you can be pulled over and find yourself on the ground.

The handle of the retractable leash is bulky and can be pulled out of your hand by your dog, resulting in his escape. Also, you have minimal control over your pet with a retractable leash. Your dog may get far enough away from you to run into traffic or jump on people or other animals.

A long line leash varies in length from 10 to 60 feet and is typically used for training. It may be flat and made of leather, nylon or cotton, similar to a basic flat leash, or it may be a thin cord made of plastic or nylon. You and your dog can be some distance from each other and you can still have control over him so he can't run away. When training your dog, you can practice "come" by calling him from greater distances using a long line leash.

A bungee leash is made of rubber tubing or an elastic section and is made to stretch. According to the HSUS, these leashes are designed to minimize the risk of injury to your dog's neck as he pulls. But the best way to get your dog not to pull is to train him to walk on a loose leash.

A slip lead looks like a regular leash but has a metal ring instead of a clip on one end. You pass the handle end of the leash through the metal ring to form a loop and then slip the loop over your dog's head.

Pulling on the handle tightens the loop around your dog's neck and allows you to walk your dog on a leash when he's not wearing his collar. Only use a slip lead when a regular collar and leash aren't available. Don't use the lead as your regular leash because you can damage your dog's windpipe or even strangle him.

I have several leashes hanging in my closet. I prefer a flat leather leash when walking my dog. My brother-in-law prefers a retractable leash when walking his King Charles mix. Whatever your preference, using a leash when walking your dog makes the exercise more enjoyable for all of us out there.

• The Buddy Foundation is a nonprofit (501c3), all volunteer, no-kill animal shelter dedicated to the welfare of stray, abused and abandoned cats and dogs. For information, call (847) 290-5806 or visit

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