For the Love of Pets
No More Tug o’ War
As fortunate as we are to live in a community that expects dogs to be off leash, there are times when walking your beloved companion on leash is a necessity. No matter how well trained your dog is, I highly recommend you always have him on leash when you’re walking near a busy road, or when you go to the vet—as you never know who you’re going to run into when you open those doors! And cats (and their owners) tend to have more appreciation for a dog that’s in control.
In the spring, when the trails are muddy and still un-passable, I find myself running on the quiet back roads of the Valley with my dog Stella. Stella doesn’t know what “heel” means, and the bird dog in her wants to explore every last inch of the terrain we are running on. I don’t trust her to not run in front of a car, so she’s on leash when we run near the road. I used to dread these runs. I told myself that bird dogs are not meant to heel. They’re supposed to be out in front of the hunter, flushing birds. So to expect her to heel is just silly. What’s really silly is that I’ve convinced myself this is the problem, rather than taking the time to train the dog to be more obedient.
After one of these runs with Stella on leash, I was so annoyed with her pulling my arm out of its socket that I ended up cutting the run short. I went straight to the internet and looked up “no pull harnesses”. To say that the Easy Walk Harness is a lifesaver is putting it mildly. The harness clips under the dogs belly and over its shoulders and then the leash clips to the front of the dog’s chest, instead of her back. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to get the thing on Stella, but it’s really quite simple—once you read the instructions. The rationale behind the Easy Walk Harness is this:
"Traditional harnesses can actually encourage dogs to pull harder because of the “opposition reflex.” That’s the reflex that makes sled dogs do what they do. The Easy Walk Harness' unique front-chest leash attachment stops pulling by tightening slightly across your dog's chest and shoulder blades. The gentle pressure steers your dog to the side and redirecting his attention back towards you."
Quite brilliant, right? While I don’t get quite the same joy as I do from letting Stella run off leash, this harness makes our outings far more enjoyable than when she was on a traditional leash. And it really works. In fact, it works so well that I convinced the Animal Shelter to switch from the traditional harness to the Easy Walk. Now all our dogs have their own Easy Walk harness so when the public comes to walk them, it’s an enjoyable experience, not a test of strength.
One of our best, but strongest dogs currently available for adoption, Murphy, used to take every on-leash walk as an opportunity to drag volunteers to all his favorite sniffing spots. No one ever asked to walk Murphy twice. Now that Murphy has a properly fitted Easy Walk Harness, people actually enjoy walking him. They come back with smiles on their face, rather than the looks of defeat and frustration we used to see.
The Easy Walk Harness is moderately priced and in the end it will save you lots of grief and unhappiness. Every outing with our dogs should be enjoyable, and for those rare times we have to put them on leash, I recommend using an Easy Walk Harness.
*Nadia Novik is the Operations Manager and Veterinary Technician for the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley, and will be regularly contributing Animal Shelter focused blogs for www.sunvalleymag.com.
About Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley
The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley, the first “no kill” shelter in Idaho, promotes companion animal welfare by providing temporary shelter for homeless animals, adopting them to qualified homes and reducing animal abuse, neglect and overpopulation through community education and spay/neuter services. More than 90 percent of its funding comes from private donations.
In 2010 more than 1500 animals received services from the shelter. This includes 388 animals that were adopted, 257 lost animals that were reunited with their owners, 247 shelter animals that were spayed/neutered, and 363 privately owned animals that were spayed or neutered at no cost to their owners, and over 6000 pounds of food distributed through our Paws for Hunger partnership with The Hunger Coalition. On an average day, the shelter cares for 35 dogs and 31 cats.
Additional information is available by calling 208-788-4351 or checking out www.animalshelterwrv.org.