Retractable Leash

Written by Michelle O'Neil on July 12th, 2010


I’d been thinking about buying Jingle one of those retractable leashes. When I first mentioned it, HT was against it.

“Won’t she just forget how to heel?”

I put the idea away for a while. I do that sometimes. Substitute his judgement for my own.

Often we get caught up in the erroneous belief that because Jingle is a service dog, we have something to prove. Like if her behavior isn’t exemplary we’ll be facing the raised eyebrows of the community, many of whom contributed toward Riley’s receiving her.

Jingle should heel perfectly, 100% of the time, never bark, never jump, never display any sort of regular dog-ness.

And yes, for some types of service dogs, that kind of control would be very important. But Jingle is trained in behavior disruption. Responding to a child’s meltdowns. That is her “service.” Heeling perfectly, while it’s nice, it’s a constant struggle.  

When does she get to be a dog?

Why am I pushing her so, to walk directly by my side, to never succumb to sniffing? 

When does she get to live a little? I usually give her some ”free” time on our walks, one whole solid block to sniff, but it’s never enough. She wants more, more, more! And who can blame her? Do you know how many dogs are peeing all over our neighborhood? It’s like taking me through a chocolate factory and not allowing me to have a sample or two.


She’s a great dog, and she does really well, but I’m sick of constantly trying to control her. So, finally, in full defiance of my husband, I pulled into Petco, and on the front table as you walked in sat a basket of retractable leashes (with skeletons) on sale for just $6.00.  It was a sign, a pink, (slightly disturbing, why the skeletons?) sign.

We gave it a whirl. Jingle loves it. I love it. She’s behaving so much better on walks, having that freedom. And when I need to reel her in, she still heels. Perhaps even better than before, because she’s gotten some of the ants out of her pants.  

The moral of the story is, don’t hand over your judgement to someone else, no matter how well intentioned they are and no matter how much Ben & Jerry’s they have brought home for you in your lifetime.  

Riley feels Jingle’s new leash is very “goth.”  Pink retractable dog leashes are the first thing you think of when you think goth. At least, they will be now.

Wishing you and yours freedom to sniff or whatever else makes your heart sing.



3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Amanda says:

    Meg doesn’t get the whole walk to heal on the lead thing either. She’s so used to being off it I think it puts her off her stride. Off the lead she’ll come and walk by you as long as you remind her every ten paces….the only time she really goes on the lead is going to the vet so may be that has something to do with it. It’s one of the joys of living in the back end of no-where :D

  2. Eileen says:

    I know just what you mean! I use a service dog, one of whose main jobs is behavior interruption. He doesn’t need to be at a perfect heel at all times to do his job…but I feel so judged by the community when he’s not. It probably doesn’t help that even when he is heeling perfectly we are not-infrequently stopped and questioned since he’s a small dog (no need to be big for what I need). Anyway, he wears a vest when we’re in public, and that’s my way of telling him he’s on duty. Obviously he’s ready to work all the time, but on duty his manners have to be on. Stay in a heel, no sniffing, no greeting people, lie quietly, etc. This is a very clear way for me to tell him when he can be a dog, and when he needs to work and be in control. And it lets me give him freedom so easily! I imagine dirty looks when I walk to a store with him free, then put on his vest and walk in, but I know I’m in my rights, and his behavior is nothing to complain about!

  3. Maggie says:

    We have a 4 Paws service dog named Kermit. I have been reading your blog ever since you got Jingle. I love reading about your entire family and life with Jingle. Kermit is a great dog and does a great service for his boy. But we get the same thing from people. Especially at home where he is more ‘dog’. Still working on the greeting people thing at home. Picked up bad habits from our older dog at home. I am so glad the retractable leash is working well. We have found as well that your first instinct is usually your best! Thanks so much for your blog. I love it!