At the time, they probably weighed about 25 or 30 lbs each, which normally would be pretty manageable for a (I'm not gonna say exactly, but I weigh slightly more than 100 lbs.) person, but their pulling power and mass seemed exponentially higher than a mere 60lbs. Dave and I had to walk them together, or if only one of us was available, we had to walk them one at a time. Training seemed like an impossibility, although we tried. Littermates tend to bond with each other so completely it's as if they share one brain. I think these two share about half a brain between them.
Because I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and a bit of arthritis in my hands, we developed strategies to cope with the pulling. I took them on very long walks to tire them out. I worked with them individually. I scanned 100 yards ahead for squirrels and cats and food. I tied big knots along the length of the leashes so I could grip better when I needed to. (And I needed to often!) We bought them special harnesses designed to minimize pulling and maximize control.
Dave decided using a retractable leash might be easier than trying to get them to stay so close, and he thought maybe it would be easier for me to hold onto. Since we were walking them individually, it seemed like it might be a good idea, but I soon found out that retractable leashes require a degree of expertise, and might not work so well for people who have a hard enough time walking and chewing gum at the same time (people like me, for instance).
I just couldn't get used to the locking mechanism, and didn't like the way they got so far ahead of me. I also found that the hard plastic handle was difficult to grip and left my hands aching at the end of a walk. I went back to the old fashioned soft nylon 6 ft leash with big knots tied in it.
After about a year, and lots and lots of training, I was able to walk them together by myself. Now that they're 5 years old and together comprise about 160 pounds of pure muscle, (and don't forget-still sharing that half a brain) I'm able to walk them every day by myself, calmly and sedately, for the most part.
The retractable leash got used only occasionally, and always by Dave, who still thought it was easier than a standard leash. Until this morning.
We had gone on a long walk together, I had Abbie and Dave had Cooper on the retractable leash. We were almost home, when a neighbor's dog rushed off the porch barking her head off at Cooper. Dave stopped to let them sniff, and I walked ahead. Suddenly, Coop decided to get all frisky and playful and wheeled around, slamming into Dave's knee. Dave went down, and Cooper charged past me, while the leash played out... then Dave let go, just as I made a grab for it.
I didn't manage to grab the soft, 12" long strap, or the plastic handle (see above photo). Have you ever had a rope burn? From hanging on to a thin nylon cord being pulled through your fingers at about 60 mph?
As Cooper blew past me, Abbie's one quarter of their shared brain yelled: "GO!!!" And away she went, too. Meanwhile, the cord was cutting through my skin like a hot knife in butter. I went down hard and finally let go. They ran into a neighbor's driveway as I lurched to my feet, grabbing them both before they could escape. Dave was still sitting on the sidewalk, nursing his knee, when I looked down at my hand, now missing about 4 layers of skin. Crap. We hobbled the last block home and I iced my hand for the rest of the day.
Tonight I googled "retractable leashes" and found this tip on the Flexi website:
Do not use this leash with a disobedient or uncontrollable dog, since they are more likely to wrap the cord/tape/belt around people or to run off at high speeds.
And how about this one:
Gee, thanks for telling me! I guess it could have been worse -- at least I still have all my fingers. Now where did I leave my sledgehammer? That leash is toast!