Ever a good reason for a flexi-lead?

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Postby amalie79 » November 14th, 2010, 4:11 pm

I thought I'd throw this out there and see what you guys think.

My mother has a border collie mix (we think) named Gypsy. She was found wandering around a small town here in Arkansas after a tornado and they never found her owners. She's probably 8 years old or so, and has a luxating patella and is definitely a lap dog-- not a very active dog at all. Even when I take her to a field to run around, take her to play with other dogs, she stays pretty close to us. When we adopted her, the woman at the rescue told us that she had recently been walked by an elderly man with a cane and she was perfectly behaved. We found her at an adoption event, totally calm, not at all concerned with the people walking by.

My mother has MS and her balance is not great. She walks with a cane, so this dog seemed to be the perfect temperament and speed for her-- older, chill, not very active. My father passed away a few years ago, my sister moved out to college, and my mother's springer spaniel died of lymphoma last summer. Mom needed a companion, so she brought Gypsy home and this dog has been absolutely perfect. They adore each other, Gypsy stays out of the trash, food, never has had an accident in the house, gets along with every other dog she's met and loves the people who come to my mom's house. She's a bit of a jumper, but I work on that every time I go over there. My mother also has excellent vocal control over her-- like most other BCs that I've met, it seems eerily like she understands English. She was definitely a family dog.

Now that she's comfortable with us, she gets very very very excited to see a leash and even more excited to go out on one. For potty breaks, and for general outside time, my mother doesn't leash her. I'm not thrilled about that, but that dog stops on a dime with one word from my mom, the neighbors know her, and my mother knows the other dogs in the area (it's pretty communal that way). So I don't worry too much about her. However, if my mother wants to take her anywhere outside the immediate vicinity, to walk around the neighborhood or go to the store, Gypsy pulls on the leash. If I'm walking at normal person speed, she's pretty ok after a couple of minutes. But when my mother goes at "unsure balance" speed, I'm afraid Gypsy's going to pull her down.

I know the key to this is loose leash training or an attention heel. I work with her when I can, and my sister tries to when she's home from college. I also think, like River, she'd get a ton better with constant, regular exposure so that the walk is no big deal.

Here's what I'm wondering. Is this a case where a flexi-lead might not be a terrible thing? Gypsy isn't a bolter, and doesn't seem to pull because it's the end of the leash, but because she walks at a more normal pace. The flexi would allow my mother to get down the stairs and start walking without Gypsy pulling her down. As Gypsy gets too far ahead, she's easy to call back. My mother is not great at training, but she wants to better-- it's just too hard for her to do it while Gypsy is pulling her. I just want my mother to be able to comply with leash laws, and take her dog out to places without being pulled down. The street isn't busy, and Gypsy stays out of it. I'm also getting her a sporn harness; she has an Easy Walk, but you don't have much leverage with that.

I'm not sure if using a flexi would just mean an increased chance of injury or if it would help. Again, I know that training is the real answer here, but I'm trying to work out solutions in the meantime as well as something to use concurrently.
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 14th, 2010, 4:23 pm

hmmm...interesting question. In my opinion, it depends on the dog. Some dogs will accept the longer leash as what they get, and make the best of it..."oh, fantastic...I've got 16-26' of room to romp around"...and some dogs will just get to the end of the flexi and pull also.

I do think it could be handy for some things, like getting down the stairs and such...again, as long as she doesn't pull once she hits the leash again. It would be handy to work on sitting/waiting also...she could have Gypsy sit at the top of the stairs, walk to the bottom and call her down the stairs, or the opposite...send Gypsy to the bottom of the stairs, have her sit and wait...and walk down herself.

However, my concern with the flexi is how much control your mom has in her hands...can she reel her in easily if needed, would the leash end up wrapping around her, does your mom use any equipment (cane, walker, etc) ever that would get tangled up also?

Honestly...best case scenario would be finding a trainer that will come to your mom's house and address the specific issues. Someone that knows dogs AND people with disabilities. :)
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Postby amalie79 » November 14th, 2010, 6:11 pm

Thanks, Erin-- those were some of my concerns with the flexi, too. I think it would be good for getting down the stairs, but my mom's strength in general isn't great. I've been corresponding with a woman who is a clicker trainer here in the area and is in the process of building a facility. We plan to take Robin there once she has it open (and assuming the fees aren't outrageous), and I'm thinking of us taking Gypsy with us if it's possible. The thing about this dog is that she has very little basic training, but she does what my mother tells her when she's off-lead as though she understands English (which has been my experience with BCs in general). It's really remarkable. Walking nicely on the leash and jumping are the only two things that she DOESN'T heed. She's smart, she just needs structure.

Maybe I'll get a flexi and see how she does with me-- see if she just maxes out the length and keeps pulling or if she'll stay somewhere in the middle. I can even take my mother's cane with me (which my mother hardly ever uses... >( ).
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 14th, 2010, 7:10 pm

Is she walked on a collar or harness...I know you said that she has an EW harness...is that the regular walking equipment?
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Postby amalie79 » November 14th, 2010, 7:45 pm

She gets to run around without a leash-- that's the regular equipment!

When she is walked, she's walked on a flat collar, I think. I put the EW on her when I really need to have control of her, like when we introduced her to Robin or if I take her to Petco. But I have a feeling my mother is mostly using the buckle collar. She just bought a step-in harness for her, and I walked Gypsy for a few minutes in that today. She was pretty good, but I think my mother would have had trouble getting her down the stairs in it.
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 14th, 2010, 7:51 pm

I mentioned this to John, to get his viewpoint from a disabled person's point of view...and he had a sound dog training point. It might be the pressure on her neck that's causing her to pull...so she stays close, does fine off-leash but just automatically pulls against the pressure on her neck when she's on-leash. I'd try perhaps a harness, even if it's not the EW...see if that helps.
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Postby amalie79 » November 15th, 2010, 12:13 am

Thanks, Erin-- we'll try that. She has the EW and the step-in harness, and Robin's Sporn fits her, too, so we have a variety of styles to try. :-)

Will probably try a flexi, too, just to see how she responds. My guys would bolt at the first sight of a squirrel and I'd lose a limb in no time flat. But Gypsy just isn't reactive to much of anything, so I'll be interested to see...
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 15th, 2010, 12:18 am

amalie79 wrote:Thanks, Erin-- we'll try that. She has the EW and the step-in harness, and Robin's Sporn fits her, too, so we have a variety of styles to try. :-)

Will probably try a flexi, too, just to see how she responds. My guys would bolt at the first sight of a squirrel and I'd lose a limb in no time flat. But Gypsy just isn't reactive to much of anything, so I'll be interested to see...


good...:) Sounds good!

I'd definitely try the flexi...and have your mom start working on some solid wait/stays inside, and on the stairs too. :)
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

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Postby mnp13 » November 15th, 2010, 1:12 am

I'd be worried that she'd get wrapped around your mom with tHe extra leash length. But outside of that, Erin's got this covered
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Postby tiva » November 15th, 2010, 1:50 am

The flexis that are all belt, not cord + tape, are a lot safer. The "compact" version is a lot easier for my smaller hands to grip and hold. I use a "classic compact all belt small" with Vanya in certain circumstances (when we're out in safe places and I get sick of tripping over his unretractable long leash). It's easy to hold, and even though it's rated only up to 44 lbs, it controls his 54 lbs just fine. Plus it extends with very little pressure, so it doesn't reward pulling on the leash. http://www.flexiusa.com/products/classi ... -small.php
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Postby amalie79 » November 15th, 2010, 10:46 am

Great-- thanks for that link, Nancy!

Gypsy mainly just needs more basic training, and my mom needs a safer way to just get her out the door so they can get going. I think a flexi and a harness would be a good start. Getting the training will be harder; this dog is my mother's baby, roommate, and best friend and she completely spoils her. Hopefully, I can get the ball rolling and show my mother how much more awesome she can be with a little training.
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 15th, 2010, 10:57 am

amalie79 wrote:Great-- thanks for that link, Nancy!

Gypsy mainly just needs more basic training, and my mom needs a safer way to just get her out the door so they can get going. I think a flexi and a harness would be a good start. Getting the training will be harder; this dog is my mother's baby, roommate, and best friend and she completely spoils her. Hopefully, I can get the ball rolling and show my mother how much more awesome she can be with a little training.


My dogs are pampered within an inch of their lives (just check out their collar collections)...but they're still expected to behave. A friend of mine years ago responded to a woman that said..."your dog is so spoiled!" My friend looked at her and said, "No, they're *pampered*, they're not spoiled. They're expected to behave a certain way, and they're rewarded for that...spoiled would mean that they get rewards for any behavior."

So...it is possible to love your dogs, cherish your dogs and yes pamper your dogs, while still asking for good behaviors. :) It becomes easier, actually, imho.
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby amalie79 » November 15th, 2010, 11:18 am

TheRedQueen wrote:My dogs are pampered within an inch of their lives (just check out their collar collections)...but they're still expected to behave. A friend of mine years ago responded to a woman that said..."your dog is so spoiled!" My friend looked at her and said, "No, they're *pampered*, they're not spoiled. They're expected to behave a certain way, and they're rewarded for that...spoiled would mean that they get rewards for any behavior."

So...it is possible to love your dogs, cherish your dogs and yes pamper your dogs, while still asking for good behaviors. :) It becomes easier, actually, imho.



Oh! I agree 100000%. My dogs are beyond spoiled, too, but I have basic expectations. My mother, however, is the person who doesn't really MAKE Gypsy DO anything; and because it's just teh two of them, she hasn't been forced to. I think it's also a little bit of laziness, coupled with the fact that I don't know that she's ever had a really well-trained dog-- she's been lucky to have dogs that are really responsive to her, but none that are particularly, formally well-trained, so I don't think she quite sees the benefits of it as much as she should. Frankly, I think all I need to do is teach that dog a solid "stay" and she'll see the benefits. That's the most useful command, in my opinion, and it made me a believer! It drives me nuts that I can't tell Gypsy to do those same things that I can tell my dogs.

I've also started talking to my mother about the possibility of a service dog. I think Gypsy is a little too small to be a "balance dog" for her, but I know I would feel better if I knew that she wasn't going all over town alone. She weaves when she walks, and this could help her keep a straight line. She's fallen down a few times, already. I think a really good service dog could help her keep some independence. I may be picking your brain about this as I start looking into it a bit deeper.
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 15th, 2010, 11:48 am

How tall is your mom, and how tall is Gypsy? I'm going to be training a balance dog...(see my SDiT diary in this forum)...starting in the next weekend or so, and I'll be documenting our training.
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Postby amalie79 » November 15th, 2010, 12:08 pm

My mother's about 5'6" and Gypsy is about 45# and maybe knee-height at the shoulders; I'd have to measure her later. Gypsy also has a luxating patella, so I would worry that providing assistance for mom to get out of chairs, etc. might be too physically hard on her. I started looking at your service dog diary, from the beginning-- I'll go back to it and keep up with what you're doing! But, I went to the Fidos for Freedom website, and the dog Whiskey, that was on the homepage, is exactly what Gypsy looks like, but Gyps has slightly longer fur and more curled tail. I would say that Gypsy is a collie/shepherd mix, but she looks just like a back and tan border collie. That used to be a common BC color, but now they eventually just became tricolor. She does have one tuft of white on the back of her head, so... who knows.

At any rate, we used to have a service dog organization here where we live, but they had to shut down due to lack of funds. I'd like to also look into poodles or "doodles"-- Mom's allergies are OK with Gypsy, but Simon and Spinner, our lab mixes, always gave her a hard time. She's been around poodles and doods without too much trouble. My sister-in-law owns golden doodles and works with some dood organizations, so I'm going to talk to her, as well.

Thanks again, Erin-- I really appreciate all your input with this!!!
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 15th, 2010, 11:19 pm

Just an FYI...I've seen and heard of a lot of "doodles" washing from programs...they're not really very good SD candidates (aside from my whole problem with the idea of doodles). I know a lot of poodles that are good SDs though.
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Postby amalie79 » November 16th, 2010, 12:28 am

I find the whole idea of designer dogs distasteful, and I can't say I'm overly enthusiastic about the high energy level of my SIL's dog; I can say they are pretty smart, though. I understood that doodles were developed to be less allergenic service dogs, combining the good parts of poodles and retrievers. Some experiments don't pan out, though.

Good to know that the doodles aren't holding up. Like I said, if my SIL's dogs' energy level is indicative... they wouldn't be good for our needs. I just assumed hers were particularly active..
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Postby TheRedQueen » November 16th, 2010, 12:39 am

I have yet to meet a doodle of any sort that I'd take home...they tend to be energetic and kinda stupid. (they're usually created with low-quality poodles and labs/goldens/etc.) They also require a bit of grooming...so it's not like you're getting away from grooming fees! lol I never understood why there was a need for such a dog, when poodles existed.
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