Leash Lessons

A leash is a leash is a leash, right? Wrong!

If your pup’s on a less-than-ideal lead, you may actually be encouraging pulling or even hurting your dog. For those of you who walk your cat (yes, it's possible!), it's important you have the right gear, as well. Without the proper equipment, you could be endangering your kitty without knowing it! Use this guide to find the best choice for your dog and cat so you can start off on the right paw.

Dogs:

Simple leash and collar (pictured below): Many dogs actually do well on a traditional collar and leash. If your dog is easygoing and obedient, a simple leash may be all you need. Keep in mind, however, that the dog’s collar should fit comfortably tight around the neck. It should not be so tight that it chokes the dog, but it should not be so loose that s/he can easily slip out of it, either. This is especially important for very young or very strong dogs.

dog leash harness

Slip leash and collar: This type of leash tightens when you tug on it and prevents the dog from backing out of the collar. A slip leash and collar can also be placed higher around the neck for more head control. Slip leads are great for puppies/young dogs learning to walk on a leash, strong dogs, and little furry escape artists.

Full-body harness (pictured below): A full-body harness works best for dogs that have a sensitive or collapsing trachea, as this type of leash does not put any pressure on the neck of the dog. It is also a great option for brachycephalic breeds, like pugs and Boston terriers, or for any dog whose neck is the same size or larger than its head. Unfortunately, the full-body harness also allows the dog to pull more comfortably (think sled dog) and actually encourages tugging. For this reason, harnesses may not be ideal for larger dogs or those prone to pulling.

dog leash harness training

Gentle Leader (pictured below): The Gentle Leader looks a bit like a muzzle and is, in fact, often mistaken for one. This type of leash fits over the muzzle of the dog to discourage pulling. It also acts to calm the dog as the pressure on the top of the nose is a maneuver used in wild dogs and wolves to assert dominance. Gentle Leaders are especially helpful for puppies and for dogs prone to pulling.


Choke chain: Choke chains with prongs should only be used when you and your dog are under the supervision of a dog trainer. If the chain is too tight, it can injure the skin on your dog’s neck or even damage deeper structures within the neck. 

 

Cats:

Simple leash and collar: This set-up is actually a HUGE no-no for cats! First, cats have delicate necks and throats, so putting pressure on them by using a leash attached to their collars can hurt them. Second, the vast majority of cat collars are "break-away" collars that are designed to keep your cat from accidentally hanging him/herself if it gets caught on something. That means that if Kitty pulls hard on her collar and leash, her collar could just snap off... and off she goes! That's definitely not a desired outcome for a walk, so, please, do NOT attach a leash to your cat's collar. Read on for better options:

Harness and leash (pictured above): A good option for your adventurous cat is a cat harness like the Come With Me Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash shown above. This harness fits around the cat's neck and back and provides a leash attachment between the should blades. Because the harness is made specifically for a cat's anatomy, it is very difficult for a cat to get out of. While some dog harnesses may work for cats, most will not as they're not designed to deal with cats' extreme flexibility. (Most cats can easily escape standard dog harnesses!) However, like dog harnesses, these are not ideal for cats that pull or jump during walks.

Walking jacket and leash (pictured above): For expert feline escape artists and cats that like to pull and jump during walks, walking jackets like the Kitty Holster shown above can be ideal. Walking jackets have more coverage and pressure distribution and are extremely difficult to escape provided they're properly fitted. Additionally, there's no need to slip them over Kitty's head like a standard harness, so cats that don't like putting their heads through things are more likely to do well with this type of set-up. Walking jackets can be found in both velcro and snap closure.

For both the walking jacket and the standard cat harness, it's important that they be fitted properly to the individual cat. Different brands have different size guidelines, so be sure to measure your cat (around the neck and around the chest behind the front legs) to find the proper size. Once on the cat, they should be snug but not too tight (you should be able to fit one or two fingers under them, but no more).

 

Need advice on what type of collar, harness and/or leash to use with your dog or cat? Call us or contact us to make an appointment

 

This blog post originally appeared on The Drake Center and has been modified for re-posting.

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