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At the End of My Leash

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A little pup on our street came to see the Mama last week. Jake’s Mama was worried that he had developed some crazy allergies *practically overnight*. He had started chewing at his paws to the point that he had chewed some fur clean off. He had a bald spot. He looked like the Daddy.As the Mamas were talking, we noticed something very important: the pup was wearing a collar and he was pulling like he was a sled dog in the heat of a race. *BINGO* This wasn’t allergies. It was a neck injury.
Hi. My name is Felix and I am a rehabilitated leash puller.
Here I am, pulling on the leash.
Before I came to live with the Mama and the Daddy, I almost never got to go for a walk. The boy I lived with liked me OK, but he wasn’t responsible enough to take care of himself, much less properly take care of ME. The very first thing the Mama did when I can home (right after hug me and kiss me to death) was clap a leash on me and ask me the best question ever:
“Wanna go for a walk-walk?”
Do I ever! Let’s go! Go! GO! So off we went, the Mama realized immediately that we were going to have an issue. Not 10 minutes into our walk, there was a searing pain in her shoulder. According to the Dogtor, I had given her an extreme strain and came close to dislocating it. WHOOPS!  In my defense, I was excited. It was my first walk in like, a bazillion years. And I didn’t think I could actually hurt her. I weighed 17 lbs, for barking out loud. What kind of a fragile wimp was this new Mama of mine?
Gulp. This doesn’t mean no more walks, DOES IT?! Thankfully, the Mama switched to the other arm and our daily walks continued. Badly. The Mama tried to train me not to pull and I would try. Oh, how I would try, but there is just so much out there to smell! and see! and explore!!! I HAD TO PULL!
I was really good at pulling on the leash – and I was teaching baby Koly MY bad habits.
Enter the Trainer.
We learned a whole lot from our awesome trainer – not just how to help my leash pulling, but a whole lot about how leash pulling is actually really bad for your health and wellness. 
I know I’ve mentioned before that I have a bark-load of allergies. I’m a hot mess. Until we met our trainer, we had always been quick to blame my paw-chewing on my allergies. All hours of the day and night, I would be trying to gnaw my paws off. The first thing our trainer did, was explain that this could be a result of my leash pulling. GULP.
Dogs who pull should wear a harness NOT a collar.
Yeah, who knew, eh? That was our first big change. A collar sits right around some pretty important body parts – the spine, the trachea, the thyroid gland and a whole lot of lymph nodes. Is this an area we really want to be jerking around on a leash and applying a whole lot of pulling pressure on? No way, Jose.
Here are just a few health problems associated with chronic leash pulling in a collar:
  • Chronic Pain – Any human out there with a back injury knows exactly what I am talking about. All it takes on one good *snap* correction on the leash to leave your dogs neck & spine out of alignment, creating chronic pain.
  • Collapsed Trachea – That’s your windpipe. Did you know that pulling on your leash can actually crush your trachea, making it difficult to breathe and putting a ton of stress on your lungs and heart? This is a big problem, especially common in small dogs.
  • Thyroid Issues – The collar puts pressure directly on the delicate thyroid gland. Over time, repeated pressure and damage to this gland could affect how well your thyroid works. Since the thyroid regulates heart speed, blood pressure, and body temperature, amongst other things, this could be a really big deal.
  • Paw Licking & Chewing – Pressure on the sensitive nerves around the neck can give you a “pins & needles” feeling in your paws and forearms, leaving you gnawing away at your own arm like you’re Coyote Ugly. This can also be the reason some leash pullers develop a limp in their front legs.
There are only a few of the potential issues. So with that information in hand, we got me a brand new harness and we started training.
I’m an umbilical dog.
I know what you’re thinking? What the bark is that?! Umbilical training is method used to teach your dog to follow your cues when on leash. And it’s so easy.
Before you start, buy your dog a long leash – long enough to loop around your waist and still have a decent amount of slack for your dog to lay down and a harness. It doesn’t have to be a fancy no pull harness, though the Easy Walk harness with the front loop is an excellent choice.
  • Loop the leash around your waist and clip it to the dog’s harness
  • Go about your daily life – laundry, cleaning, yard work – whatever you gotta do. As you move about, your dog will need to watch your cues and body language to determine when to walk and when to wait.
  • When you stop moving (ie. to wash dishes, load the washer, ect). Allow your dog to relax using a SIT or DOWN command. When you are ready to move again, tell them LET’S GO
  • If your dog pulls, plant your feet and refuse to give way or speedily move in the exact opposite direction. **this is really important. NEVER give in to a pulling dog.**
This little technique was SO SIMPLE and it worked SO WELL with me.
I, Felix T Doodle, am a rehabilitated leash puller. 

Well, most of the time. I still get over excited sometimes, but for the most part, I am part of the no-pull posse. My paw chewing reduced dramatically, going from chewing the literally all the time to only chewing when I am having an allergic reaction. And while I miss my extensive and gorgeous collar collection, I don’t miss being a pain in the neck. Literally. As an added bonus, this was a great bonding experience for the Mama and me.

Our little buddy down the street has a brand new harness and he went to the canine chiropractor this week for a neck adjustment. We are happy to report that his paw chewing has practically disappeared. Him and his Mama have started a new training protocol and hopefully, soon he can declare himself a rehabilitated leash puller just like me. 

For more info on the potential risks associated with collar pulling, check out one of our very favourite holistic vets, Dr. Peter Dobias and his post on the subject.

Does your dog pull on the leash? Got any great training tips?

the Mama and I are in no way professional dog trainers, but we see this issue fairly often when we are asked about our experience with allergies. We strongly recommend anyone with a pup who is an “allergic paw chewer” try out a new harness, see a canine chiropractor and see if this helps your dog. It sure helped mine.


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