Leashes kill – again

March 29, 2011 at 9:11 am 16 comments

Flexi-type leads are attractive largely because they lure dog owners into a false idea of freedom. They encourage dog walkers to substitute the easy out of physical attachment for mindful attention and training.

In a sadly overdue step to make dog walkers safer, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that extension leashes will be outlawed on San Jose park trails after a dog walker was recently killed when she became entangled in a long leash (I suspect this was a fully extended Flexi type lead), fell and hit her head.

I’ve said it before and [sigh] I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to say it again – while any kind of leash presents some risk, extension type leashes like the uberpopular Flexi-lead present a terrible hidden danger to dogs and dog owners across America every day.

Throw away the attention substitute leash and put the time needed in to train your dog to come reliably when called, ignore distractions on command and walk politely at your side. Your dog will love the attention and you’ll love the results.

Entry filed under: dog obedience, dog training, dogs. Tags: .

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pawsnmotion  |  March 29, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Couldn’t agree more. In addition to the leash that substitutes for attention and training, stop it with using the backyard as a free dog-sitter, leaving the dog outside unattended to bark at everything and anything that walks by, and otherwise generally behave like a delinquent!

  • 2. SmartDogs  |  March 29, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Ditto with taking your untrained and socially inept dog to a dog park to ‘socialize’ it (while you chat on your iPhone and drink a latte).

  • 3. H. Houlahan  |  March 29, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Remarkably, the article does not say whether the leash belonged to the woman who was killed, or even if she was walking a dog.

    It wasn’t, and she wasn’t:


    Asshat was riding a BICYCLE with the dogs — two huskies — on long leashes. None of the news coverage says what kind.

    Long leashes will still be permitted in open areas. This leads me to believe that people will still be allowed to use retractables as long as they keep them shortened on trails

  • 4. Jill  |  March 29, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I have a long, deep scar across the back of my knee from one of those damn things. Some fool in the park couldn’t control their dog (harness + flexi is the deadliest of combinations) who went around me to try and get to my dog (who was doing her best to politely avoid him). Felt like I was being hamstrung with piano wire, and it took _forever_ to heal. More than once I’ve been asked if the scar came from being in a knife fight.

    Earlier this week, I crossed the street to avoid the twenty-something walking her gigantic untrained Malamute on a harness and flexi, all the while chatting away on her cell phone.

    Flexi’s ought to require a permit to carry.

  • 5. ruthcrisler  |  March 29, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I know a walker who was cut almost to the bone, through some substantive calf muscles, by a retractible leash when someone’s golden retriever ran ’round behind him and then back to his owner. I also know a dog who nearly lost a leg due to being caught up by its retractible leash after bolting away from its owner. It was discovered some hours or days later tangled in a bush.

    Add to that the fact that it is near impossible to adequately handle a dog of nearly any size, when the handle of one’s leash is the equivalent of a small carton of milk.

  • 6. Leashes Kill | Pack Journey  |  March 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    […] Smartdogs’ Weblog suspects the leash in question was a Flexi-lead. I own Flexi-leads for only one reason: so when I have to take my dogs out for a potty break they can roam to where they can take care of their business. Otherwise, I think Smartdogs is spot on: Flexi-leads encourage a misguided impression that the dog has “freedom” while on a walk but substitute a handler’s attention and training. This is why I’m putting in the time necessary to train my dogs to come on command, ignore distractions when asked, and walk in heel. This entry was posted in Responsible Ownership. Bookmark the permalink. ← Creatures of Habit […]

  • 7. Luisa  |  March 30, 2011 at 12:20 am

    The six-foot leather leash is my favorite because it’s so easy on the hands. Flexis, oy… A good friend suffered a serious Flexi-cord cut on her hand in an encounter with a loose dog. I friikin hate Flexis.

    Here’s a Murky News report on the Tragic death of Mrs. Head and the new dog-leash ordinance. Size-wise, the Mercury News is a shadow of its former self, but when it comes to journalism it beats the Comical to a soggy pulp.

    Re the accident on a trail in San Jose: the guy on the bike may have had six-foot leather leashes. I don’t think anyone knows.

    My sister walks that trail all the time [it’s a stone’s throw from her home] and my cur-dog Smoke and I walked it with her a couple weeks after Mrs. Head’s tragic accident. My sis thinks the biker wasn’t using anything like a Flexi, since she’s never seen dog people using them on this trail. [“You see them at Starbucks,” she sniffs.] A smarter class of dog person on Los Alamitos Creek Trail, apparently. On our walk my sis and I [and Smoke and Lily Pug] passed a whole lot of dogs and all were on real leashes and under control. Impressive, actually.

    Walkers, runners, horseback riders and bikers all share this popular trail, which isn’t wide, though the biker in this case may have been on the parallel dirt horse-path [which is next to the narrower paved trail at that spot]. It’s the kind of place where you keep your eyes and ears open, because there are horses, and bikers and runners zip past, and other dogs are often present. Not Flexi-friendly at all — dogs need to be close to their people and well-behaved.

    Contrary to the story in the SF Comical, Mrs. Head did not lose consciousness at the time of the accident, and the biker stayed with her until paramedics arrived. It was one of those awful, Natasha Richardson things where the victim of a fall says she’ll be OK, then winds up in the hospital later, and dies. Taking two dogs for a run on his mountain bike may not have been the smartest thing, but the biker did stay with Mrs. Head until it appeared she would be all right. He wasn’t charged with a crime, and again, he may have been using six-foot leather leashes. My sis thinks it was more of a perfect-storm, freak accident than anything else.

  • 8. Yrag  |  March 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    It is bizarre that a blog would express how dangerous a leash is. I am reminded of the phrase – “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. In this case, “people not thinking don’t kill themselves, leashes kill people”. You can not blame the inanimate object for how it is used. Cars kill people all the time, but do we blame cars? Well occasionally we do, but on a comparison to deaths – drivers kill people in droves. Caveat, we drive with common sense. Like a leash, you use a leash with common sense. If you let you poor pooch run too far from you need a to have enough space to recover should something happen. Just like – driving a car. It is not more training of your Dog – it is training of the person. Common sense should prevail and we can stop blaming inanimate objects for our own lack of fore thought.

  • 9. Wild Dingo  |  March 31, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I love this post. And I hate flexis however, that last comment is interesting. It doesnt’ take much to realize if you put in the time to actually train, you don’t NEED the flexi, which in my opnion (when I ONCE owned one a LONG time ago) are heavy and klunky. if you want to take the leash off you can’t stick it in a pocket or wrap it around your waste etc. yes i off leash my dogs (GSD and Husky), but they are also being trained on e-collar while off-leash (gasp!). Like you I have strong opinions on training methods (very similar to yours) and because of it, i have a husky with a decent (not perfect) recall that was trained w/o e-collar up until now. but we’re working on perfecting it under every temptation (cats,wildlife, livestock). Anyway, if dog owner becomes a true dog handler and trains and is really present with their dogs, it doesn’t take much to see how useless and inconvenient a flexi is.

    and let me add off-subject: I love this blog! your dog Charlie is a lot like my dog Loki (the GSD) and technically I should not have been able to move out of the US to Switzerland with such an anxious dog like him, but the work i put in, it gets easier and easier each time. i love reading about Charlie! i also classically condition my GSD to scary things. over time it gets faster and faster for him to “get over” stuff.

  • 10. Suzanne  |  March 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I hate retractable leashes with a deep passion. I have a permanant scar on my calf from the one and only time I used one. And I really hate it when clients bring their dogs into the clinic on one. Inevidetebly they leave it loose so the dog runs all over the waiting area bothering other animals. And it not like they’re winches or something, where you can retract it and drag the dog back to you. You still have to scramble after a wayward dog that doesn’t listen to get him back. The ones who use the end of the clip like a slip lead or choke chain are the best. Then you don’t even have a collar to grab onto, and there’s the nice risk of the dog being garroted by the line.

    Not sure I like the sound of using yet more regulations to get rid of them, though. Sounds too much like reactionary politics to me, and those rarely end well. You can’t legislate for common sense.

  • 11. Richard  |  March 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I cannot believe what a nation of sheep this country has bred.
    The concept of ‘Needing’ yet another law to protect you from a 1/4′
    piece of rope over 6′ long is offensive to a nation that was founded on a pioneer spirit. that once bred MEN whom stormed the beaches of Normandy. My God, People! We have SO many laws now that no person can possibly conduct a normal day with being in violation at some point during the day, an excellent example of this is the book “3 Felonies A Day”

    You act as though the person responsible will have no consequences for killing the woman…negligent manslaughter
    well covers the crime already…

    Several of you have stated grievous injury, at the very least you have an excellent Tort Case. pursue it if you feel wronged, there is certainly no shortage of lawyers out there and that’s a whole problem there.

    Millions of laws have not made us safer, just more litigious, and less free, Please quit trading my freedom (And your children’s) for temporary security, because in the end we all have neither Freedom nor security. a small knife easily defeats a 1/4″ Rope. Carry one if your that terrified of it.,

    When Seconds count, the police are only Minutes away.

    BTW For the most part laws and police are little more than recording historians, they rarely stop a crime in progress.

    Be alert to your surroundings and you can avoid much!

    Laws turn MEN into sheep!

  • 12. Ed  |  April 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I don’t see how it wasn’t a flexi. I, personally, cannot handle a long line with one hand and I have never met, seen, or heard of anyone who could handle a long line with one hand well enough to do so while riding a bike. Although it’s possible that, thanks to sloppy reporting, the “long” in the news story is 6 feet. Lot of 4-foot leashes out there there days.

  • 13. kblover  |  April 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    “It is not more training of your Dog – it is training of the person. ”

    I agree and disagree with this. A well-trained dog may not need a leash at all except to comply with law. Otherwise, no real difference. So on that point, I disagree that it’s not about training the dog. A dog that doesn’t break away from the handler, etc, won’t need a flexi (and maybe not any leash).

    That said, people do need training too and, obviously, inanimate objects don’t typically hurt things on their own. No kidding. However, if the chance of injury are higher from mis-using flexi-leads than regular ones, why not use the regular ones? People kill people, not guns, so why do guns have safeties on them? Why do cars have airbags? People drive with common sense, right?

    The reality is that not everyone will have common sense.

    I agree that yet another law isn’t going to do a whole lot and is probably unnecessary. How will it be enforced? Will there actually be manpower devoted to seeing if people use flex-leashes? What if they are in the locked position? Is that still a “flexi-leash” and does it matter as long as the dog isn’t running amok unwinding it, but in a locked 3-4′ length?

  • 14. Jacob  |  April 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    I guess I am the dog owner you’ll hate and villify then. My dog wears a harness. We use a long flexi-leash on our daily walks.

    I see this as our best option with this dog. Although his recall is usually excellent, it will fail if another dog appears. He is not so good with other dogs, so there will be huge agression and an unhappy time if he is off-leash when we meet another dog. This is why he is leashed. It is so that your dog will have a happy day if you come across us on a walk. Yes, we are working with a highly-qualified trainer to help with the aggression towards other dogs, but we still keep our dog leashed, as per the trainer’s advice.

    We opt for a flexi leash instead of a regular leash because it is more fun for us and for our dog. He has more freedom and we can do more running and jumping over things. It works better for us. Also, we walk in remote areas and rarely meet anybody.

    If you come along I will make sure the leash doesn’t wrap around you or harm you in any way, but you’re still against flexi-leashes, right?

    I think you should be against stupidity and irresponsible behaviour. Making blanket statements about this particular leash seems crazy to me, and it reduces my respect for you quite a bit. I have enough trouble trying to do the best thing for my dog without people wanting laws against our leash.

  • 15. John Kitley  |  May 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I agree with Richard. The lead isn’t the problem. The fault is either with the holder of the lead or the person who didn’t look where they were going.

  • 16. Dimitrios  |  May 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Dumb dogs and their dumb owners.

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