This is one of the most useful little tricks I’ve found in all my years with Peach and Lucy, and now I use it with anyone’s dogs I happen to walk! (Though I undo everything before giving their lead back heehee). I never knew I was holding onto (no pun intended) so much anxiety until I tied these little knots and felt it melt away… and, of course… the moment I relaxed, I saw the relaxing impact on the pup on the other end.
These simple knots came across my path when Peach and I were living in London, England. Since a horrible incident in 2013, Peach is what you’d call “Reactive”. (A post that’s coming very soon!). She was never a barky dog before that time; she loved all people and definitely loved all dogs. But when it all went wrong, that little personality turned on a dime and suddenly there was a fearful, sometimes entirely out-of-control, fiery, Terrier-shaped dragon on the end of my lead. For years I tried so many methods to help her, but it was whilst in England that we hit our stride. (Only took me 3 years).
We were quite good at passing dogs of all kinds before moving there thanks to positivity training, but when Peach was immersed in the moped/motorcycle-filled city, I could see there was a need to up my game. This is where the knots came in.
Before making my lead into a piece of macrame art, I’d been keeping my excess lead wrapped around my wrist and hand; usually very tightly, and never quite knowing how much was left unless I was looking down all the time. So I’d either end up holding her too close (making her more likely to react), or too loose (and no Terrier is gonna heel if you constantly have a loose lead!). Once I added Lucy to the mix, my arm was getting a bit cumbersome, and sometimes a tad numb.
It was on a particularly bad day in the UK that I did a quick google about extra things I could do to help Peach relax (and me). In the midst of a few small articles, a few people made comments about the technique of tying knots at particular spots in their lead so you’re always knowing where your dog is. By lightly holding this knot in your palm, through your fingers, and then hooking the end of the lead over another finger, you’ve got the light touch of a butterfly as well as the control your Terrier may need. (Plus you get all the feeling back in your hand).
The difference in Peach’s reactivity was almost laughable. Gone was the twitchy, reactive dog, and in her place was a much more relaxed Westie. Still keen to get a look at passing dogs, and definitely still needing to be talked to when a scooter would park in front of us, but even things like her stride were noticeably calmer. More elongated. It was gorgeous to see.
For the humans in the house (cause I know there are far more doggies reading this than humans 😉)… this method created a calmness in ME that I again laughed at. A good laugh! I couldn’t believe it. I felt more connected to Peach in so many ways. I felt more able to be the dominant… the leader of my little pack; knowing where she was. Plus, I felt I was able to communicate with her far more fluidly. It was a gentler connection between my hand and her body than when I had the lead wrapped around my fist.
I’ve made a little diagram that shows how much lead I’m allowing for a “heel” distance between me and Peach. It’s not tight – it allows the lead to fall a few inches below their neck before it comes back up to me (of course, this is only if they’re heeling properly haha).
I’ve ended up making two knots in my leads. I’ve made a “heel” distance, and then another knot about a foot farther than that (pretty much midway between the “knot” and the “end loop” in my diagram), for the moments Peach or Lucy want to fall behind or have lots of sniffs on a relaxed lead.
If you’re not using your retractable lead the next time you’re out for a walk, I encourage you to try the magic! It might take a few tries to get your knot in the right place for you and your pup, but I hope you feel the freedom we did once you do! I’d love to hear how you do in the comments below.
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