SNIFF NOTES: The Importance of Leashes: Ensuring Safety and Control for Your Dog


Let’s talk leashes for a moment.

In Pennsylvania, the law says that a dog must be under the control and supervised by the owner at all times. While a leash is the easiest way to make sure you abide this, it’s not specifically stated by law.

Voice command is an option, but your dog must return to you every single time you call. No hesitation.

Townships and boroughs also have ordinances specifically dealing with leashes and dogs, so make sure you know the law where you live.

The importance of a leash should be relatively obvious, but there are a number of issues at play that some folks may not consider.

We have dogs here at the shelter that would never, and I mean never, listen to anyone if they weren’t on a leash. In fact we’ve had beagles that required a tight hold on their leashes because if they ever got away we’d never get them back.

Hounds, especially, tend to follow their noses, sometimes to the detriment of their own well-being, so a leash is a must. However I know some folks who have hunting dogs that are trained to obey and in that case it’s a different story. For our stay-at-home Snoopy-type beagle, leashes are really important.

We’ve also had a number of pups at the shelter who haven’t really been leash trained and as a result can be a little nutty on the end of a leash. They’ll pull and tug and generally act like fools.

For me, when I take a dog places I love a harness. Harnesses essentially wrap around the dog’s chest and provide a level of control that a collar doesn’t always give. I’ve actually been able to lift dogs using the harness, where a collar wouldn’t have worked as well.

Indeed, dogs can have a tendency to slip a collar pretty quickly. We had one dog, years ago, that knew how to get out of his collar. He’d be walking along on the leash and just stop dead in his tracks. The inexperienced walker would start to pull. The more the person pulled, the more firm that dog stood until you could literally see the collar slip up over his head and boom…he was free!

Those of us who knew what to expect would stop when he stopped. At one point, I did this with him and literally said out loud, “I know this game, buddy. When you’re ready to walk, we’ll go.”

I waited him out and eventually he heaved a huge sigh and started walking because he realized I wasn’t going to fall for his trick. It took everything I had not to laugh out loud at him.

Still, I much prefer a harness when I’m taking dogs out and about. They afford a whole lot more control, especially around other dogs.

A rather serious issue when it comes to leashes is with other dogs. I’ve talked to so many people who say, “Oh my dog just loves other dogs. He’d never do anything.”

And I want to say that’s really great, but you have no idea what the other dog will do.

Please, please, please keep in mind that even though you have a dog who is good with other animals, all it takes is a split second for a bite or a snap and you do not, under any circumstance, know what the dog you’re walking up to will do.

Dogs are animals. Yes, we often treat them as humans and in some respects that can be good because we start to see them as members of the family, but they still have teeth and can do a remarkable amount of damage if provoked.

And we have no idea what tiny little thing it might take to provoke them.

This is where I have to say I have an issue with the flexi-leashes. Yes, they give your dog much more room to move and run and that’s nice, but if your pup is fifteen feet away from you and another dog comes up and the two get into a scrap, what possible control do you have?

I’ve seen people with flexi-leashes paying no attention whatsoever to where their dog is going or what he’s doing and the leash is wrapped around table legs and about four different people in the room.

Being aware of what’s going on with your dog is critical when you’re around other people and animals. Sometimes I worry the people I visit think I may be a little rude because as I’m having a conversation, I’m constantly checking in – visually – with the four-legged friend I’ve got with me.

That’s in part to make sure I know what’s going on and in part to make sure he’s not going to the bathroom somewhere, but still, it’s a must.

It’s about control. Control is good in a lot of aspects of our lives, but it’s especially important with our animals when they are out and about.

Please be aware of the law about leashes – in your township and borough as well – and what is going on with your pup at all times.

I always believe it’s far better to be safe than sorry and if a little bit of consideration and diligence can keep your four-legged family member from being hurt, then it’s definitely something worth doing.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at [email protected]. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 263-5791 or visit the website CVAS also operates thrift stores in Chambersburg and Shippensburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the stores.

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