I am a big believer in hands-free use when it comes to dogs. The hands-free feature is no doubt convenient and there are many different styles on the market (including ours) that have wonderful reviews and experiences behind them. I have walked and trained dogs this way for years, and find it very beneficial. In this blog, I want to discuss the pros and cons of using a hands-free belt when training, walking, hiking, or jogging with your dog(s). I also want to address some safety concerns.
Hands-free eliminates the urge to jerk on the leash (which I wholeheartedly support), allows the handler to relax both physically and on leash tension, greatly reduces the pressure on the handlers shoulders and back, and frees up our hands for offering rewards, picking up waste, petting our dogs, etc. Having your dog or puppy attached to you is also a great way to work on potty training (which we will cover that in detail in one of our upcoming videos). There are many great reasons to consider hands-free!
There has been some debate about the safety of this feature. I understand and completely appreciate this and there are certainly precautions and common sense the MUST be used to avoid problems. Some say that if the dog is attached and pulls hard or quickly, there is a chance you can be pulled off of your feet and possibly even sustain an injury to your back. My personal experience does not support this. I have had major shoulder injuries with hand-held leashes from dogs pulling suddenly, but to date, have not experienced any shoulder or back problems from using hands-free. It seems, for me, that my hips are better able to absorb impact than my arms and shoulders. Also, I am very careful and use common sense anytime I am working with or walking a dog hands-free. I am in no way indicating that it is impossible to become injured if a dog lunges while using hands-free, I am just offering my experience and urging the use of common sense.
If your dog is large and/or very strong, lunges, or pulls hard, I would not recommend using a hands-free system. I also wouldn't recommend walking a dog at all if it is pulling or reacting to that degree. Injury is quite possible with these types of dog behaviors, no matter what you are using to walk them. Use our training methods to work with the dog first to eliminate this behavior prior to considering the hands-free feature. That way, you can enjoy your walks and eliminate the risk of injury of any kind whether it be from using a basic leash or hands-free belt. Lunging and pulling dogs present a risk no matter what method you are using.
If you have a dog that is small or a larger dog that is trained to not pull hard or lunge quickly and want to enjoy the hands-free experience, here are my recommendations:
- Always wear hands-free belts at the hip, not around the waist.
- Be prepared for distractions; squirrels, cats, other dogs, etc.
- Be alert and aware of your surroundings. No cell phones!
- Choose an adjustable leash. This will help reduce any trip hazard, as you can suit it to your dogs height and your stride. A shorter leash is safer.
- Keep one hand resting on the top of the leash at all times if you are unsure of your dog's reactions for any reason.
- Practice how to quickly remove the dog and/or belt before use. The quickest way is to unbuckle the entire belt at the waist and simply hold on to the belt with the leash and dog attached. Or, if you are using our system, you can un-clip the leash from the d-ring on the belt which leaves you with the leash attached to the dog.
- Relax your shoulders and back and enjoy the walk!
Remember that hands-free is a wonderful way to enjoy walks, hiking and jogging with your trained dog but precautions and common sense must be used to ensure safety.