I have a confession to make. Please don’t think less of me or think me a hypocrite. I had to buy it. Think of its as research. It could help thousands of pet parents and their dogs. I struggled with the decision. I thought I could wait it out, thought I could be patient enough for serendipity to drop one in my lap. But then it happened. I couldn’t resist any longer. As a dog professional, what I’ve done is tantamount to sacrilege, but please know I did it with the best of intentions.
I bought a retractable leash — the Devil’s Leash.
There. I said it. In the wrong hands, a retractable leash is a garrote slicing hands and fingers. It is a trip wire, snarring unsuspecting walkers, joggers and bicyclists on the path. It is too much freedom for an overexcited dog. In short, the Devil’s Leash is a disaster waiting to happen.
I had a hunch that I could find the only good use for this leash (with the exception of the leash as a paperweight or holding the bag down in the bottom of the trash can.) Let me explain. Walking a dog in a cart isn’t that different from walking a fully-abled dog…except for those wheels. The combination of these mobility makers and a leash creates the opportunity for some very tricky situations.
When I walk Half Moon in his cart with a traditional nylon leash, I spend a lot of time managing where the slack in the leash falls. If the leash lands in front of him, he gets his prancing front legs tangled in the leash, after which it usually ends up underneath him and on the wrong side.
If the leash drifts to one side of his back, I risk it getting tied up in his wheels or the axel, which will lock up the wheel, or worse, flip his cart if he turns quickly to the opposite side. As my dad used to say, he’ll go “ass over apple cart” when that happens and, if you’ve ever seen the panic, frustration, and irritation of a dog in a flipped cart, you know I don’t want that to happen.
Walking a second, non-cart dog with another traditional nylon leash at the same time compounds the problems exponentially. Helen, my boxer/rottie mix is an active walker. She loves to explore all the smells, darting from one side to another, joyfully following her nose. Half Moon, on the other hand, tends to linger at especially odorous spots for longer. Although Half Moon is an excellent driver (he’s the Head Driving Instructor at A Loyal Companion, after all), he isn’t always careful about rolling over Helen’s leash when arrives at a sniff spot. So when Helen bolts on to the next location, Half Moon is launched, wheels first, like a boulder on a catapult.
So, in the name of research, I purchased (Dog help me for supporting this industry) the Devil’s Leash. And I wasn’t disappointed in its performance. It solved the majority of my loose leash issues. When used with a back-clip harness, the leash stayed well away from his wheels. The slight tension from the nylon tape of the leash wrapping around the handle’s internal flywheel created a taut connection between my hand and the back clip of Half Moon’s harness. There was no slack to slip toward his wheels, no puddles of leash for Helen to pad through. I was freed to scan for random food-like items he might snatch up from the ground and managing Helen’s leash as she flitted from scent to scent.
I think it’s important to note here that Half Moon is about 15 pounds. A small, energetic dog in a wheelchair on a 16’ retractable leash is much different than an energetic 75 pound dog in a wheelchair on a 20’ retractable. If you are considering a Devil’s Leash for a larger wheelie dog, I recommend caution. Don’t let the leash extend any further than you can control your dog, usually about 6-8 feet. No matter what you believe, in the heat of a moment, you will not be able to reign your dog in fast enough to avoid disaster, be it another dog, a discarded chicken bone, or scurrying lizard or bunny.
As wonderful as it feels to walk more comfortably with Half Moon, I’m still chagrined to be seen using the Devil’s Leash. I fight the urge to explain myself to every passerby, justifying my decision to use such a loathsome tool. Although I still consider them to be one of the most evil and dangerous inventions in the history of dog gear, when employed in this narrow use, they can be less devil and more angel.