Dog leashes have come a long way. Today, specialty leashes serve functions and provide benefits to dogs and their walkers. For example, a large dog who tends to pull will benefit from a no-pull harness, which shifts the dog’s weight distribution from his front legs to his back legs, making him easier to control. A slip collar will enable you to issue corrective distractions with the leash. An elastic leash, meanwhile, is useful for correcting pulling behavior without causing discomfort, as the elastic acts as a shock absorber.
The Mechanics of Elastic Leashes
An elastic leash offers a degree of give when the leash is pulled. The amount of give is determined by the percentage of the leash fabric that is elastic. Some are completely elastic; others have elasticated sections and are otherwise rope or nylon. When a dog pulls a non-elastic leash, the force transfers through the leash to your hand, forcing your arm forward. To regain control, you need to tug the leash toward you. When a dog pulls an elastic leash, the elastic absorbs the force by stretching, then it contracts slowly, gently applying pressure to the dog.
Benefits of Elastic Leashes
The main benefit of the elastic leash is that it is self-correcting. If you have your hand jolted by an overenthusiastic dog, your instinct may be to apply equal force to the lead as a corrective measure. This can hurt and possibly injure the dog as the force he applies to your hand returns to his neck. The shock absorption of an elastic leash make it difficult for the dog to jolt his walker and for the walker to jolt him back with the same force as a nonelastic leash. Instead, the leash gently contracts, slowly applying more resistance as the dog pulls. This degree of equity between walker and dog, combined with heel training that teaches the dog to walk gently, ensures that the dog is discouraged from pulling but is never startled. Elastic leashes are best suited to dogs who already walk well on-leash.
Drawbacks of Elastic Leashes
Elastic leashes won’t work for every dog. Some will be so excited or hyper that they’ll simply ignore the corrective stimuli that the elastic provides. Some elastic leashes, meanwhile, can extend too far, effectively prohibiting owners from quickly stopping their dogs from lurching at passersby or other dogs. A high degree of elasticity will exert a force during contraction that is strong enough to defeat the purpose of gentle correction. Some dog owners find that elastic leashes offer insufficient control over their dog’s movement.
Alternatives to Elastic Leashes
Chest harnesses offer a high degree of control, as the force of a gentle tug is transferred to the dog’s body very efficiently. This means you don’t need to yank the leash to stop your dog from pulling. However, chest harnesses work by applying a degree of discomfort to your dog whenever he pulls. Head collars remove a dog’s ability to pull, because they attached to leashes only by the head -- a weaker area than the body. A dog that tries to pull wearing a head collar will find his efforts simply result in his head turning sideways.
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