Who’s In Control?

By Mary Oquendo

Every spring a friend of mine lovingly plants flowers along the walkway leading to her shop entrance. Without fail, a client walking their exuberant dog on a retractable lead will decapitate all her flowers. But it is not just the daisies that bear the brunt of a pet that is not in someone’s control.

Or how about the time I chased a 14-year-old English setter, who could barely walk, but apparently running was not an issue, for nearly an hour when I neglected to secure him while walking his two secured brothers to my grooming van. I was fortunate that he tired out before I did.

In both cases, no one had control of the pet. The purpose of keeping pets under control is to prevent harm to themselves, other pets, an owner – as well as yourself.

Owner related factors that hinder our ability to keep our clients’ pets under control include excessive leash lengths, poorly designed collars and leashes, shoddy quality or worn materials on leads and collars, as well as loose collars.

Excessive leash length

Some dogs are under the impression that they are rodeo cowboys and you are the calf. Trips and falls caused by a too-long leash may lead to broken bones, blunt force trauma, torn muscles and ligaments, and more. Such an injury could sideline a groomer. In fact, trips and falls are the second highest recorded injury, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The owner may fall and harm him or herself, or even the pet. Even if the owner created the situation by bringing an improperly restrained pet into your business, any damage caused will be under your liability.

In addition, excessive length can place pets in harm’s way – and not just the pet attached to the leash. Retractable lead cord may extend up to 26 feet. The owner may not intend for the cord to get that long, but the locking mechanism could fail or accidently be moved into the unlock position. I personally have clients that tie about eight leashes together and form one long lead. A dog could dart into the middle of the street or come into contact with a larger aggressive dog or be the aggressor. This pet is now too far from the owner for the owner to react to any danger.

Poorly designed, shoddy quality, or worn out leashes and collars

A powerful or motivated dog can snap flimsy retractable lead cord or tattered leashes. My own lab, Sugar, broke airline cable because he had a desire to leave my yard to chase a squirrel. In addition, the handles of most retractable leads are bulky and unwieldy. A determined dog can yank the handle right out of a hand and continue on their way. In addition, if the handle is dropped, it may make a loud enough noise to startle a pet causing it to run in fear.

On the flip side, if a running dog does not snap the cord or leash it may be stopped abruptly when the lead reaches its full length, resulting in trachea, spinal, and neck injuries. These are costly and chronic conditions. The pet may never fully recover. In addition, there are documented cases of people losing a finger because the cord was tangled around their hands as it was rapidly extending outwards.  Retractable leads wind and unwind quickly, creating an environment for cuts and burns on fingers, arms, legs, and hands.

Loose collars

A dog that can easily slip out of his collar becomes a danger to himself and others around him. I spent two hours one afternoon chasing after a dog that slipped out of his collar in the parking lot. We were located along side a very busy road. I was able to retrieve him before a car hit him. If you can slide more than two fingers between the pet and the collar, the collar is too loose.

So what’s a groomer to do?

The first thing I do when I am greeting the client is to remove their setup and replace it with my slip lead. You can offer this slip lead to your clients to bring their pet in on a future visit. Personalized slip leads are fairly inexpensive and people like gifts. It makes them feel appreciated. Show the owners how easily the slip lead attaches to the collar. There is the added benefit of your business name and number being paraded when the owners walk their dog.

Then I take the time to educate this client on the dangers and suggest safer options. My suggestions would include:

Martingale collars.

They are made with two loops; the larger loop is adjustable and should be slightly loose. The leash is clipped to the D-ring on the smaller loop. A slight tug on the leash pulls on the smaller loop causing the larger loop to become snug around the dog’s neck. However, for dogs with delicate tracheas or neck concerns, a harness is a better choice.

Front clip harness.

The D-ring is located on the center of the chest. Many dog trainers prefer this type of harness because it limits the dog from pulling on the leash, while allowing the owner to control the direction the dog is moving.

Back clip harness.

The D-ring is located in the middle of the back. This is for well trained dogs, as it will not discourage pulling.

Replacing worn leashes and collars.

For any of the above to be effective, they must be sized properly. A display in your business with these various options can also add to your bottom line.

It is as much our responsibility as it is the owner’s to ensure that pets in our care are in someone’s control from the time they enter our establishment until the time they leave. Are exiting doors and windows secured? An open window protected by a screen is not secure. A pet can easily push through and escape. Are dogs on a lead when walking them from table to tub to cage? I require cats come in a carrier. As a mobile groomer, I keep a cat carrier on hand for those clients that do not have one.

Pets in the control of the owner or groomer are safer. No one wants to see his or her pet or client injured coming to a grooming appointment. And let’s not forget the tragic fate of the flowers my friend plants every year. Remember that proper leashes can prevent decapitation.

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