Sunday, March 13, 2011

I'll Save the Leashes for the Dogs

When you take your dog into a public space, it's very responsible as the owner to keep it on a leash.  There are several valid reasons to support this practice:
  1. It's usually required by law.
  2. Dogs are flight risks.  You never know when a squirrel will taunt them in a manner than requires their immediate retaliation.
  3. Your dog can probably outrun you.
  4. You can't reason with your dog, so your leash is one of the few tools you have available to control or restrain him. 
  5. Leashes protect the safety of your dog and others.  
  6. Unleashed dogs are more likely to defecate or procreate at inappropriate times and places.  
There are many more reasons not listed here, but I think you get the point.  Unfortunately, there are well-intentioned parents out there who have blurred the lines on restraint devices for animals and children.  

Certainly you have seen in this at one time or another in the mall or the airport: a child outfitted with a harness, usually guised as a furry faced backpack, and tethered to the hand of their parent.  Some might argue that the reasons to use a child leash are not all that different from the same safety reasons you leash your dog.  To that, I counter this:  

It's de-humanizing.
Most humans are not on leashes (involuntarily or not), most dogs are.  Logic then allows us to deduce that putting a leash on a child is in some ways putting them on the same level of canines. 

You are bigger and faster than your child.
If you cannot catch your child and you have no medical reason to impede your ability to even try, you are either grossly out of shape or lazy.  Either way, you can change that and probably should seriously consider doing so.  Aside from the benefit of catching your child, you'll be setting a good example for him too. 

Mortality rates for dogs supports leashing,  but this does not translate to children.
I have no real statistics to back this up, just common sense.  I mean if unleashed children perished at a high rate close to dogs, I wouldn't be writing about this at all.  However, I did check Wikipedia for child mortality and the causes did not include "was not properly tethered to adult." 

You have many other tools in your parental repertoire to keep your child close at hand.
  • Holding them or their hand- seems to have worked so far for billions of children across countless generations and nations.  
  • Strollers- kids can't keep up at an adult pace, so you probably have one with you anyway.  And last I checked, they can be comfy and secure in one of these.    
  • Training - You can teach your child to mind you.  Imagine that!
  • Discipline - For when your child acts against the other methods, listed above.  I've heard it's quite effective in getting children to do what you say. 
Honestly, I don't know anyone personally that uses a leash on their child, so I am curious as to what a leash-wielding parent believes the benefits to be.  My best assumptions would be that it gives the child the "freedom" to wander within a tight radius of the parent or the child refuses to hold hands, sit in a stroller, be held, etc.  If a child is young enough to be harnessed, then I don't think they deserve any restricted roaming "freedom" and if the child freaks out over methods of control, well, I think that goes back to training, discipline, and persistence on part of the parent. 

So, when I have kids, I will keep them close at hand, but it won't be with a harness and a leash.  I'll save that for the dogs.  

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