Take a Hand’s Off Approach to Dog Walks with Hands-Free Walking Systems
Look, Ma – no hands! Keeping your hands free while walking your dog offers a host of benefits. Kevin Roberts has some tips for going hands free while trekking with your pooches.
Hands-free dog walking is an unfettered option for those who enjoy spending time on the trails with their four-legged friends. I’m a huge fan of using a hand-free dog walking system because I can use trekking poles for technical or longer distance hikes. An added bonus is that with my dogs tethered to me, my hands are free to dish out treats, take pictures and pick up poop. And these days, there are plenty of hands-free walking systems out there to choose from, depending on the type of dog you have.
Overall, hands-free dog walking systems are split into two classifications: one for dogs who pull, and another for dogs who don’t pull.
Systems for Dogs Who Don’t Pull
If you have a well-mannered dog who doesn’t pull your arms out of the sockets while walking, enjoy it! These types of dogs can go on a hands-free leash either attached to a collar or a standard harness. One thing to be aware of: avoid a no-pull harness that is designed to restrict your dog’s natural gait. Long-term use can result in joint and health problems down the road. No-pull harnesses should only be used on the advice of a certified dog trainer as a short-term solution while you train your dog to walk properly beside you.
Non-pulling dogs should be put on an adjustable short leash, because they are going to be trained to walk close to you. A shorter leash means you won’t be tripping on it.
Keep in mind that the shorter the dog, the longer the leash needs to be. Sounds simple enough, but not all hands-free systems are adjustable. If you’re planning on walking a short dog, ensure the leash is long enough to reach down comfortable to his height. Likewise, if you are going hands free with a larger dog, you’ll need a shorter leash so that the dog avoids tripping on it. Adjustable hands-free leashes really take the guess work out of settling on the right length.
Now that your dog is walking politely next to you, put those free hands to use! When your dog is behaving properly, be sure to offer lots of tasty rewards and praise. The more praise your dog receives, the more likely he’ll walk where you want him.
Systems for Dogs Who Pull
When you’ve got a puller on your hands, the ultimate benefit of a hands-free leash is that your arm isn’t ripped out of its socket! But remember, with all that pulling power attached to your waist, special consideration needs to be taken into account or you’re going to be end up with a back injury.
I’ve found that the best hands-free leashes for dogs that pull can be found at any mushing supply company. These are wide enough to support all the way across the back. Plus, everything on this type of leash is made to be heavy duty, with durable sewn straps in place and metal loops that have been welded. Over time, a dog who pulls will put some real pressure on these systems, and you want one that’s going to last.
Dogs who pull will benefit from being fitted in a proper style half harness or shoulder style harness. These harnesses offer generous padding and allow the dog a full range of motion.
Even though your dog likes to pull while on a hands-free system, he must still be under your control. Your dog shouldn’t be allowed to pull you to the point that he’s gasping and wheezing for air. And when your dog is well behaved, there’s less of a chance that you’ll be pulled off your feet!
Hands Free Doesn’t Mean Carefree
Hands-free dog walking systems are wonderful, but it does add an element of danger for the user. While you’re tethered to your dog, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your surroundings. Sure, it looks funny on America’s Funniest Home Videos, but it’s not a laughing matter when you and your dog clothesline a tree! Other catastrophes waiting to happen include nosedives off of cliffs and encounters with wildlife and off-leash dogs. I’m not trying to scare you off of them, but if you choose to use a hands-free system, you have GOT to pay attention and be prepared!
To be used safely, hands- free systems need even more training than a regular leash. Once you figure out which system is the right one for you, spend some time to train your dog and yourself, to use it properly.