So, leashes for toddlers: that’s a thing.
And believe me, I can sympathize.
After all, if you’re in a crowd and your child is desperately trying to get his face onto the next Amber Alert, a leash seems like a great idea.
You probably think that, as a dog trainer, I’m all for putting your tot on a leash.
Isn’t that the ultimate in treating your toddler like a puppy?
But you’re wrong.
I don’t find leashes to be useful training tools, but for dogs I recognize that they are a necessary evil.
First of all, the leash is legally required outside your own yard unless you’re in a designated off-leash area.
There’s also the slight detail that the average dog can book it at 30 km per hour, or faster, which is a bit of a problem unless you’re Usain Bolt (and I’m really, really, not).
If my dog is dragging a long leash, I just need to get within 20 feet of him and step on it. BOOM. Dog caught.
Finally, if you want to keep your dog close for safety, you can’t just, like, hold their ear. They dislike that. So a leash gives you a handle.
But it doesn’t TEACH him anything.
Teaching a dog to walk close to you is actually taught best without the frigging leash.
I find owners use the leash to drag the dog around, instead of teaching their dog what they actually want. It distracts and frustrates the dog, who feels trapped.
Now, tell me – when YOU feel trapped, does that make you feel cooperative and ready-to-learn?
I feel the same way about leashes for kids. Sure, it’ll keep them safe in a crowd but it doesn’t teach them anything.
It’s not bad parenting, although people tend to equate it with that.
It’s just a sign that the parent doesn’t trust their kid not to take off on them.
But I’m a trainer.
I’d rather train my kid to stay close to me. I also have faith in the ability of young children to learn seemingly-impossible things. So I believed I could teach my son to stay close, even though at the time he seemed hell-bent on taking off for Abu Dhabi.
I mean, I had to teach him at some point, anyway. I can’t leash him when he’s 16 (although I’m sure sometimes I will be tempted).
Besides, my reasons for leashing my dog don’t exist when it comes to toddlers:
- No legal requirement to do so.
- Even I can outrun someone who can barely walk.
- We have these nifty dangly things called HANDS.
Hands? Are great.
We don’t need to use them to walk, which means that they’re just swinging free, which means that we can grab them and still be able to perambulate.
…Which means that there is absolutely no reason for my son to get away from me, so long as he holds my hand.
We instituted hand-holding as a rule when we first street trained him, basically from the moment he could walk.
But it was a trip to Vegas when he was 20 months old that brought us closest to considering The Leash.
The thought of your tiny one year old taking off into a crowd full of drunken, smoking gamblers can do that to you (no offence intended to any drunken, smoking gamblers who may be reading this. Well, maybe a tiny bit of offence, but just a tad).
Instead, we used it as a training opportunity.
How To Train Your
Puppy Toddler To Walk Off Leash