Lead Handling - How to save your back
What is this "Lead Handling"?
When you use your lead essentially. Any time you put a lead on your dog you are handling them.
Now, my approach to the lead is simple:
The lead is a Seatbelt!
This means that the lead itself is not used as a primary means of correction, we use it as a means of keeping our dogs safe in the event of a breakdown or failure in training.
The Anchor hand
Due to the laws we are to abide by, specifically the Companion Animals act, both you and I are to have our dogs on lead...and with effective control. When I have a dog on lead, we must first take care of ourselves first! I have seen people receive pretty intense injuries due to - not simply their dog pulling - but because they had no idea how to hold a lead safely and effectively. How do we hold the lead? No worries, just put your thumb through the loop, wrap your fingers around it and squeeze your fist into your belly button. This activates your muscles and if your dog catches you unawares...you will perhaps stolper for a couple of inches but your brain will subconsciously compensate for the shift and tighten your muscles. This all but eliminates the strain on your joints. Meaning no more sore hip, back, shoulders, elbows or wrists! I have yet to see someone receive an injury on keeping an Anchor hand situated well.
Now girls and boys listen!
Here is something I have observed over time, when girls start to become tense, they move their Anchor up past their sternum. I presume it to be an innate defensive movement but I honestly don't know. The effect, though, is that this movement shifts the center of gravity and makes you girls top heavy. Meaning that you have to work harder and start straining your skeleton again. The boys...surprise they tend to lower their hand towards their opposite hip. This has the same effect as the girls, it puts strain, particularly on the lower back and puts you at a disadvantage as far as strength transfer is concerned. Both subconscious adjustments are defensive in nature, we must protect ourselves...from ourselves.
Here is how it should look
As you can see, the Anchor Hand is aligned over the navel.
The Thumb is inserted through the loop, irrespective of whether you have a flat or round lead.
Your fingers will then wrap around the remaining part of the handle. This adds friction to the handle and secures it in your hand.
The Thumb acts as the tether with your body. Despite some very committed and very strong and even fast and smaller dogs, I have yet to see damage to a thumb with this technique.
Your hand, balled into a fist, is then pressed securely against your navel. Your belly button is as close to the center of gravity as we can get. As such this then creates a strong base for you to be able to withstand a very strong pull.
With your Anchor hand secured, your brain will compensate for any shift in the center of your gravity, without a conscious thought. Now all you do is hang on.
You may well take a stutter step with your dog, but, you wont go flying because of them.
Furthermore, there is little to no surprise to the sudden jerk and as your muscles are unconsciously activated, there is no risk of sustaining an injury, certainly not if you had the loop around your wrist and where surprised then.
Here are two common errors
I have noticed that there are two most common errors that novice and expert handlers succumb to.
Girls tend to raise their hands up over the sternum. This is a slow migration of the hand and is a subtle enough shift to go unnoticed.
The problem being that now your shifting your center of gravity and your trying to use the lead as a means of protection, rather than as a seatbelt.
Guys tend to shift their hand to the opposite hip. This is an equally slow migration that goes just as unnoticed.
Here we have the problem that we are twisting our spine and shifting our center of gravity, but we are also loading up. We are getting ready to use the lead as a weapon, rather than as a seatbelt.
Go easy on me, these are simply my observations based on a few years, a few dogs and a few handlers of both genders. There are plenty of other errors, but these are by far the most common!