Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PSA: When Dog Equipment Fails

 We know how tempting all the other dogs, people, squirrels and rats(!) we encounter on our daily walks can be to our city dogs in training, and we've always worked to use a variety of training tools to keep our dogs focused and safe-should temptation strike.
In the past few weeks, we've actually been hearing from a couple of people who have had their equipment fail. A dog that slipped out of his collar and got away. A prong that broke mid-walk. A pooch that wrangled out of his easy-walk harness. And our own hard-to-believe situation where the latch on our leash came unclipped allowing Mr. B to run down the street to meet a Giant Poodle (I guess a dog that looked like a big stuffy was too tempting for Mr. B).
Not to mention a recent scary incident where off-leash dogs severely attacked a dog in a neighborhood where many of us live and walk.
Here are some things we've heard, and learned, that are good reminders to keep all of us safe.

Double Collars and Leash Latch Security:
 When I was adopting Miss M, her rescue group had a policy that the dogs had to be double-collared. If we were using a prong we would double-clip it with a martingale, and harnesses would also be double-clipped..The martingales are designed to be anti-slip, and these are what our dogs wear (they also come in thinner sizes and with the chain closure) and can be coupled with most any training device as a double measure.
E also designed a system using a key chain coupler (coupling key fob) to make sure our leash latches are extra secure, and Mr. B will no longer be chasing big poodles down the street. He created a diagram and wrote about it here. 

Hold your Leash Securely:
 We've had too many incidents where people unintentionally dropped their leashes, and we've had their dogs come running up to us (even across busy streets!). I always walk with the round loop around the crook of my elbow, and holding the leash with my other hand, just to make sure a quick lunge from the pooches won't cause me to drop the leash.

Top-Secret Safety Recall Word (Getting your Dog to Come Back):
 Just in case your equipment does fail, it's always good to have a good recall to get your dog back. In one of our training classes we learned how to condition our dogs where they hear a top-secret recall word, used only in dire circumstances, which would have your pooch turning back--robot-like--and returning to you. We wrote more about it here. (Our word is Yikes!)

When an Off-Leash Dog Approaches You Unexpectedly:
 My biggest fear each time I step out for a walk is that another dog will have his equipment fail, a gate will be left open, or an irresponsible dog owner will have an off-leash dog. We'd heard about an incident recently in Logan Square, an area where many of us live and walk, where two off-leash dogs viciously attacked another large dog, on a daily walk, leaving her in critical condition and nearly $10,000 in medical costs.
I've been carrying a can of Direct Stop citronella spray,which is a deterrent which is harmless to dogs, but they really don't like it. It's enough to deter a dog that is coming at you, but I've also heard it might not be enough for an aggressive dog that intends to attack. We also have a horn deterrent and  mace/ bear spray that we bring on our SociaBulls walks in case aggressive off-leash dogs approach our group. We've never had to use them, and we probably won't have to use them, but we like to have them in the small chance we do encounter an aggressive dog.
Update: Thanks Laura for this link demonstrating how to secure a harness with a martingale: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/2011/10/collar-and-harness-safety/

We know the likelihood of many of these things is small, but we just wanted to share so everyone is aware. Anyone else have any tips to share?


HoundDogMom said...

I have been pretty lucky with my leashes not failing, but I hear about retracable leashes failing all the time which I use walking 3 dogs. Loose dogs area always my fear because I walk 3 hounds at once by myself and I would totally freak if we had an off leash dog come up to us just because I would be a tangled up mess. We only had one situation when a rottwiller approached us off leash, I am sure he was very friendly but when you have dogs on leashes and one approaching you it is tough to get a handle on it. I was screaming at the top of my lungs to get the owners to come get him. The owner says he is friendly and won't hurt you, I said I am sure but we have laws and you know I walk my dogs in this location every day at this time. Just keep him in his fence, PLEASE. I love all you are doing for the dog walkers in your area. You gusy are awesome. Sniffs, The HoundDogs

Anonymous said...

There is NOTHING scarier than an off leash dog running up to you...I worry about that constantly in my neighborhood. Good tips!

bigalrlz said...

Loose dogs are a CONSTANT problem in my hood, and I find the best defense is a LOUD and forceful "No! Bad Dog! Go Home!" Etc. What's interesting, I find if the dog's person is NOT around the "NO!" works, but if the dog's person is say standing on their front porch, they usually start yelling too, which ends up making my commands ineffective. It's weird because honestly, from past experience, I prefer to encounter a loose dog without their person vs with, because if alone I can handle them, but with their person around the dog tends to mind LESS and feel the need to go on the offensive. As far as equipment, we also double collar, a martingale with their tags, and prong for control, clipped to each other. We also use TRAFFIC leashes, which are only like 6 inches long and provide so much more control than a usual 6 foot leash. Thanks for all your good tips!

jet said...

wow, double collaring is pretty interesting, probably a good idea... when I first got Barbie she escaped from her collar a couple of times but she was very easy to catch - haven't had a problem since she has been wearing thick martingale. She can get out of harnesses too, but she only did that once when she was tethered while we are camping. I have had to keep an eye on her since. Bender broke a leash once going into doggie daycare - the stitching just exploded, so since then we have inspected his leashes carefully on a periodic basis.

Hanna said...

I've had the metal swivle attachment on the end of a leash (where the clip meets the nylon leash) break before. I had the leash for at least 5 years at the time and it SEEMED fine till it snapped so also maybe buy new equipment regularly to make sure parts are new. Luckily my dog has a good recall and I was able to recall him from a biker with a small dog who suddenly appeared.

Kerri said...

We use a martingale with the chain to prevent the dog from slipping out of his collar, but I've also had a leash clasp fail on me. I'm just glad my dog likes to stick close to me when we do walk off leash on designated trails. Since we're used to hiking, he didn't feel the need to bolt.

Our emergency recall word isn't nearly as dramatic - we use "YUMMY treats!" to get him right at my side. Works like a charm every time. But you have to make sure you have something super delicious when training - like real meat.

Breakfast With the Bennetts said...

Before Bella came to live with us Boxen and I were approached by three big dogs that were free from any restraint. They were not in play mode they were in protection mode. We were in front of their house on the sidewalk. I was terrified. Before I knew it Boxen was between me and the dogs doing his really scary growl/bark and that stopped the dogs. The owner then came running out and called the dogs back. He apologized profusely and later bought Boxen a steak to reward him for protecting me. After this I started carrying pepper spray. Also both of my dogs are double collared. Well, there is a harness and then a connecter that goes from the harness to their collar should the harness give out. I have never had to use the pepper spray and I hope I never have to but it does make me feel a little safer.

Also something to think about is securing your dog in the car. We put the leashes through the seatbelt so that if anything were to happen the dogs could not bolt. I once saw a dog jump out of a wrecked car and over an overpass bridge because he was so scared. The paramedics didn’t know he was there and just opened the door. After that seatbelts are mandatory in any car ride.

Sarah Loves to Bake said...

Great post! I have never thought about our equipment failing so thank you for sharing this. I'm definitely going to check out a key chain coupler!

Newsboy said...

I love the double collaring idea. I just started putting Summer in a harness and that seems to work very well. She can't slip out and I don't worry about choking her and lately she's been great on walks. I also got her a Sirius Republic collar (for Valentine's - yes, pathetic!) and that's been great. On our first real run this weekend we were approached by a +100 lb dog on a retractable (!! Really!) leash. Either because of extra training, or the few Sociabulls walks we've been able to make, or maybe we got lucky, Summer just trotted on by and ignored his challenges. What is it with people and retractable leashes?

Trissi_V said...

Some of the things you mentioned are my worst nightmare and things I have gone through just recently.

Apollo has had an off-leash dog go after him when I was walking both the kids one day. The owner came running over when I took a firm stance and told his dog to "BACK OFF"...I scared him and the dog right back in their car and they left. The thing is before this dog got to us, he was yelling, "She's friendly" (so friendly she bristled and showed teeth when Apollo ignored her and walked by).

Laci is the escape artist and I have to keep her in a training collar vs. her normal collar since she can slide her head right out of it.

She has also bolted out from around me just recently in the new neighborhood from the backyard. Thankfully, she really loves the "Come here!" game. I got down and called her over in my happy voice and she came sprinting right at me; its her favorite game when we play and ever so useful when things happen.

Rebelwerewolf said...

Mushroom actually managed to unbuckle the seat belt while she was in her seatbelt harness and would have run charging into traffic had the belt buckle not been caught in her harness. After that, we were extra careful to leash the dogs before opening the car door, but we will also start looping the leash around the seatbelt in case we're in a collision. Also, if anyone else was looking for the link to the instructions + images on the keychain coupler leash attachment: http://pittiesincity.blogspot.com/2011/05/doggystyle-leash-walking-style-and.html

In Black and White said...

Such a good reminder that I really need to get on to improving my walk-safety equipment. Especially given Billy's strength, a harness back up would be wise, not to mention some stronger dog deterrents, given the problems I do have in my neighborhood (now the weather's better, we have at least one off-leash dog encounter a week...)
Thanks guys!

Froggy said...

I love that the Halti has a clip that attaches to a collar. I need to get an additional clip for the collar to the leash. You can never be to careful!

K-Koira said...

I once had Koira slip out of her collar while walking down a really busy street with tons of traffic. It was terrifying to me. Luckily, she simply ran the block and a half back to the car (on the same side of the street), and was easy to catch once there. I have walked her in limited slip collars ever since then to prevent her from getting that chance again, I know next time we may not be so lucky. (Then again, we've done a lot of training since then, so my hope would be that next time, she would recall to me easily.)

As for stopping other off leash dogs, I heard a great tip. It won't always work for a dog aggressively wanting to attack, but is a great way to keep an over exuberant off-leash dog out of your dog's face. Basically, just take a handful of treats and throw them into the dog's face as soon as they get within throwing range. Most dogs will stop dead to find the treats. If you have a leash reactive dog and a problem with friendly, bouncy dogs running up to you and causing problems, this is a great method to try out. Of course, as the other dog is eating the treats from the ground, you have a chance to hightail it out of there.

Two Grad Students and a Pittie said...

This is extremely good advice, Havis leash broke once. ITs very scary!

zoki said...

these are great tips. our trainer taught us to associate emma's recall word with food. we use the recall word to release her from her down/stay to eat. we also got a tip to practice recall by having two people hide in various areas of the house, use the recall word, and then feed yummy treats when the dog finds you. then move and hide again.

i just love your blog because we are in the same situation - urban living, condo, no yard. and you offer so many little tweeks and suggestions that are so helpful.

Jenn said...

Double collaring with the prong collar is necessary. Thank you for pointing this out/ reminding us!

brooke said...

We use our Sirius Republic martingale collar, leather collars, and for day care we use a quick release collar (their rules). We have a pinch collar that we rarely use anymore and Darwin's wonder walker body harness that helps for walking her in new areas where she gets more excited and is more prone to pulling. We've never had a collar or leash fail, though even with the martingale collar her head still slips through if she wiggles enough.

We've had one dog attach Darwin after pulling himself away from his owner on his flexileash - dropping her into the road (thank goodness on a not busy street). He rushed over and was biting on Darwin and I yelled "HEY" and it startled him enough that he stopped and looked at me and his owner FINALLY came over and pulled him away. I wonder about sprays and stuff, but at the same time I think I'd be so shocked in the moment I wouldn't think to pull out the spray and use it.

ha! said...

Thank you for this PSA. It is a good reminder, I have had a prong collar fail, a leash clasp stop springing shut, a wiggle worm work her way out of a halti collar etc... not to mention my neurotic hound. Walking down a street very near my house a pick up truck slowed down, stopped, the driver jumped out and started pummeling a man now walking middle of the road, my leashed genius went into a catatonic state just when I was most anxious to high tail it home!

Stephani said...

I have to harness and collar my pups because they have both wriggled out of just the collar when I take them out to potty. My neighbors refuse to leash their dogs so I have had numerous times where the unsupervised neighbor dog charges my dogs and they freak and back up and pull out of their collars. Thank goodness there have never been any injuries. Sometimes being a great doggie parent involves taking the extra steps to protect against the bad dog parenting of others.

Of Pit Bulls and Patience said...

The tip I give to clients whose dogs are aggressive to deter friendly dogs who just don't know any better is: throw treats in their face. A handful of tasty treats will stop most well-intentioned dogs in their tracks long enough for you to get away while keeping the situation calm.

I do also carry citronella spray as a precaution, but I've never needed it.

Anonymous said...

excellent psa!

we're had lupine collar clasps open during walks, so now all our leashes have 'coach' clasps that are a full round circle. Ah. security.

Two French Bulldogs said...

thanks for thereminder of that leash. My Lilys unbuckled 3 times. Thank goodness she did not realize it
Benny & Lily

Laura said...

Here you go!


Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kitty+Coco said...

Great tips about the spray! Need to get some for our dog park outings. We pray some of our greatest fears about aggressive dogs come true.

Emily said...

One night Jay and I were taking a walk with our two dogs and a stray dog came up and started to attack our dogs-- well our dogs aren't confrontational but when a random dog came up like that they got in defense mode. It was super scary but finally Jay just kicked the dog and yelled and it ran off. Everyone was unharmed but if he hadn't reacted I don't know what would have happened. Anyway, it's always a possibility so I keep my eyes open and stay alert-- I don't walk on my phone or use headphones, I keep my mind on what I am doing. Also we use "traffic leads" often, so our dogs are tight at our sides-- through training they walk next to us anyway, but the traffic lead makes sure they aren't in front of us. I think a short leash is key for safety. Our leashes are just over a foot long. They pretty much reach from our hand down to the level of our dog and that's it.

dogssimply said...

Great post. I have a Presa Canario that once broke my latch on the leash while at protection training. The problem was it wasn't his turn at bite work and he went flying at the agitator.

The embarrassing thing is I sell dog supplies and didn't take care to use the quality stuff I sell. I've learned my lesson. I make sure I use a quality leash and collar even if we're just on a walk.

Unknown said...

We don’t know when our dog equipment will fail, so you have to be ready if ever this situation happens. The most helpful tip I found in your post is training your dogs when you called them. It’s not only for your dog’s safety, but also for the safety of other people. Study the behavior of your dog, and learn how you’re going to make your dog calm down when it’s feeling aggressive.

>Mariah Blum

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