Even with having had dogs all of my life, I have only used a hands free leash to walk them for a couple of years. And despite the decades more I have spent with a handheld leash, I hands down (no pun intended) prefer to walk with a hands free leash. My reasons for the preference are both of a practical nature as well as in conjunction with pack leadership principles.
First, what exactly is a hands free leash? Also known as a waistbelt, this is a leash setup made up of a belt that is worn around the waist with detachable 4 foot leash extensions that clip to o-rings that are part of the back of the belt. These belts can be used to walk one or multiple fur kids at a time. A similar setup can be created by just looping a regular hand leash through its own handle part to create a noose to go around the waist. The downside of this improvisation is that it tends not to stay on the waist securely. The actual hands free leashes are adjustable to allow for fitting over top of clothing and accessories such as treat pouches and poop bag dispensers can be easily attached. The leash extensions, or leads also come adjustable- from being as short as just under 2 feet to the fully extended 4 feet. This accommodates walking fur kids of varying loose leash walking abilities.
The practical advantage of using a hands free leash is that it allows you to do just that- be hands free. This affords you to not only be able to carry things like a cup of coffee or a parcel, but it also makes things like holding onto the hand of a child, pushing a stroller, picking up poop, and unlocking a door much easier tasks. Further, with the leash around the waist, I find I have better balance to counter the pull of a fur kid. When they do pull, they are pulling against my centre of gravity, which has the stability of all my weight behind it. With a handheld leash, the tug, for me, as someone with arthritis and easily dislocated joints, is a pull on the more fragile areas of my body- namely my hands, wrists, and shoulders.
From a pack leader perspective, having the fur kids hooked up to the base of my back provides a physical placement cue for them to be followers. Fur kids should always walk behind or beside- never in front of the pack leader because the one in front is who dictates where the pack goes and what the pack does at any given moment. I find with a handheld leash, it is easier to forget where the end of the leash gets to; whereas with the waistbelt and leads, when the leads brush up against the back of my legs, I am instantly reminded that fur kids are moving forward to pass. Then I am able to correct and redirect this behaviour in a more timely manner.
Finally, a pack leader needs to always convey confident leadership. The hands free setup supports this initiative by both forcing the confidence and by physically separating possible anxiety from the fur kid. The tendency to want to grip the leash in anticipation of a poor outcome is made a bit more difficult because the leash is not resting in your hand. And although fur kids can still sense anxiety, the tightened grip on the leash, a physical corrective signal, is not prematurely or constantly conveyed.
My experiences with walking fur kids with a hands free leash has been overwhelmingly positive thus far- both professionally with up to nine fur kids, and personally with my two boys. Keep in mind, a tool is most effective when used properly and made properly. A hands free leash complements calm, assertive leadership principles, and a well made waistbelt with leads has strong hardware and is comfortable to use. Just Fur Kids Dog Daycare® leashes, waistbelts, and leads are all made and supplied by Krafty Kanines®. This local small business has been supplying Calgary rescues and fur kid owners for years with its large range of solid coloured and patterned custom products. Come in for a demonstration of how the hands free waistbelt works today.