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The Dance of the Leashes

The knotted Leashes

          When Butterfly came home from the shelter in November, she didn’t know how to walk on a leash. She learned by watching Cricket, following her tail wherever it went. She sniffed whatever Cricket sniffed and peed wherever Cricket peed.

            Seven months later, Butterfly has her own ideas about what to a sniff, and where to pee, and who to greet, and when to stop randomly in the middle of the sidewalk and refuse to go forward.

            For their first pee in the morning, Cricket yawns and stretches, and waits patiently for her leash to be attached. Butterfly, on the other hand, does her flibbertigibbet twirls, and runs to drink some water and load up on dog kibble, fitting it into her cheeks like a chipmunk, or gulping it straight down.

            Within seconds, Butterfly’s leash is wrapped around her torso and through her legs. Then Cricket’s leash tangles around Butterfly too, threatening to pull off Butterfly’s paw, or her head.

A Tangled Butterfly

A Tangled Butterfly

            When Butterfly has hopped and twisted herself free, the girls pull me outside, often in opposite directions. I am yanked like a wishbone at the breaking point, one arm forward and one behind. We look like a stretched out version of kindergarten children in museums, where everyone holds hands single file so no one will get lost. And then the dogs turn me around until my arms are wrapped behind my back and I have to switch the leashes from hand to hand and do a twirl to find forward again.

I wonder what this would look like if done by rhythmic gymnasts.

            The dance of the leashes becomes even more complicated when a third dog is introduced. The third dog will inevitably have one of those skinny retractable leashes that could slice your leg off if it wraps around you. Then there is the moment when the dogs line up in a sniff train that either transmutes into a sniffing circle or a free for all where each dog is trying to protect her hind end while simultaneously attempting to sniff another dog’s butt.

The Three Dog Dance

The Three Dog Dance

And add a pole

And add a pole

The highlight of the dance is when the dogs sniff eachother’s tushies for inspiration and then do a simultaneous pee routine, like a synchronized swim team. This does not happen every day, and must be cherished.

            When Mom and I take the dogs out together we each take a leash. This, theoretically, should iron out the problems, but then it’s me and Mom square dancing, as the dogs weave in and out, and we pass the leashes back and forth.

            Cricket likes to use her leash to shepherd Grandma. She will quietly walk around to Grandma’s other side and then pull the leash forward, corralling Grandma. Clearly this would all be easier for Cricket if Grandma would agree to wear a leash.

            Back in the apartment, with their leashes removed, it’s as if the dogs are back in their pajamas, and I start singing my wistful version of a song from Annie, “You’re never fully dressed, without a leash.”

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

82 responses »

  1. i LOVE this! so true, funny & sad all at the same time. now, listen, because there is a two dog leash gizmo dealie thing that you can get, it attaches them to each other & your leash to the middle of the gizmo. instantly no more tangling at least between your two little angels. i will send you a photo of how it works, i use it myself whenever i walk my two dogs at the same time. i used to walk a 75 & a 70 pounder at the same time with it, and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE. i love how you love dogs. they are GOOD.

    Reply
    • I once saw two little Maltipoos on a leash like that, and they each pulled in opposite directions. I’m afraid that, without me in the middle to mediate, Cricket will drag Butterfly by the neck. I have to give it a try though. I know do. Maybe Cricket will surprise me?

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  2. rhythmic gymnastics, dancing with the stars, all sorts of possibilities, great post

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  3. I go through a version of this most nights when I take the dogs out for a walk. I have to admit though, they are not as bad as they used to be, but it’s still fun :o)

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  4. Walking two to three dogs all the time I am painfully used to tangled leashes. Good luck.

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  5. I totally get this post and agree that sometimes I am convinced my dogs are at the wrong end of the leash. Factor in The Red Man who is not only entangling leashes but also doing elaborate barking at the top of his lungs and twirling and twisting the leashes into a knot! Everything he does is highly dramatic – even going for a walk. 🙂

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  6. Ah the dance of the leashes….one where mum never wins! 🙂

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  7. What a fun post. As a walker of 2 dogs, I so understand the dance. Even dog trainers have wondered how I balance them without getting tangled. It is, for sure, a dance. You made me smile. Thank you – Lorian

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  8. Ha, never thought of it as a dance before, but you’re right

    I have 3 Jack Russels. Walking them to and from the park on their leads used to be a nightmare. I was constantly criss-crossing hands in an often vain attempt to stop the leads getting tangled. Then I decided not to try and make them walk to heel but to walk in front of me like a team of huskies. This made things a lot easier, especially when they each learned to occupy the same position relative to each other. Still have problems in the park though. If I’m running late for work I keep them on the lead instead of letting them run free. That’s usually when the trouble starts. Another dog will approach to say ‘hello’. My 3 will bark and snarl to warn it off. It will ignore these and circle me, looking to approach from a different angle. They will turn and twist in response and soon not only are their leads hopelessly entangled but they have wrapped their leads so tightly round my legs that I can’t move without falling over !

    Ggrrrrrrr !

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  9. As I used to walk my sisters two Dogs I always found it rather tangling to. Two little Yorkshire Terriers. Good post 🙂

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    • There’s a tiny Yorkie next door, but I don’t think she would ever tolerate walking with another dog, of any size. She thought my fluffy, Zen, Butterfly was a scary monster in need of scratching.

      Reply
  10. Great post – I think the “three dog dance” is very difficult :o) I like the first picture, it looks like a symbol – would be great for a valentines picture :o) Have a wonderful sunday.

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  11. That’s why I go leashless but never get out of the back yard-it’s big. Kaci gets into trouble so she gets the leash treatment.

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    • I dropped Butterfly’s leash one night on our way back from a walk, and she sprinted straight down the path to our front door, and waited for me. Meanwhile, if I ever dropped Cricket’s leash, some small animal would die.

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  12. Too funny! I think anyone with multiple dogs has to relate. 🙂

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  13. This is hysterical! I love it. I really lost it lol when I saw the picture of the pole!!! I walk a large Greyhound and two small Rat Terriers. Some times the little guys walk UNDER the greyhound, and then we really have a mess. I have been so wrapped up in leashes that I can’t even move. We used to have two little Jack Russell Terriers on our street and one day when we were walking they ran up and tangled all of us into a bundle, and we really could NOT move! Now I use a thingie that goes around my waist and I attach the leases to it.

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  14. Aaaah. This is so cute. Of course the dogs are probably having fun with you as they rev up the excitment for their humans who must constanlty manipulate dogs and leashes

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  15. You are such a wonderful writer and amusing too. As an owner of two dogs I know the dance well and your description of the dance made me laugh a knowing laugh. Thank you for that! 🙂

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    • Every time I see the enormous golden doodle down the street, I think, why not? And my Mom drags me away. I keep thinking I can handle more of a dance than I really can. But it looks like so much fun!

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  16. I can totally sympathize with this situation. I used to have a coydog (about 80 pounds) a wolfdog (about 60 pounds) and a purebred husky (about 70 pounds) that I had to walk all at once. The coyote is terrified of everything, the husky thinks everything is the most awesomest thing in the universe and simply must be attended to immediately, and the wolf had never been leash trained previously. I only have one good arm, limp pretty badly, and have a neighborhood full of over-reactive “little yippers” that drive all three of them into frenzies (the coyote wanting to get away, the husky wanting to make friends, and the wolf not understanding that if it’s further than 4 feet out, she’ll have to wait for me to get there before she can move up to it.)

    More than once the three of them pulled me down or had me or themselves hopelessly entangled in their respective leashes (and I had tried those “leash link” doodads, which usually didn’t end well due to them all trying to pull in separate directions), but it was always an adventure… and now I have the proper name to call it. Dance of the Leashes, indeed. I can’t wait to see the Riverdance guy try THIS act…

    This post just cracked me up and made an otherwise gloomy day. Thank you. 😄

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  17. I love this post! It reminds me of when I had two dogs and did “Dance of the Leashes.” I tried the dual link thing, two on one leash. Sometimes it worked, and some days they each wanted to go their own way. Thanks for this, your posts are always excellent. 🙂

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    • Thank you! I had the dogs on a single long lead once, still with their own leashes so they could have a bit of personal space, and Cricket managed to drag Butterfly over a three foot drop to the sidewalk. It’s never a good idea to underestimate Cricket’s willingness to kill her sister.

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      • Ouch! Poor Butterfly! A while back, I had a thought about using the dual hookup on Lucy and Biz, but thought better of it. I envisioned being dragged by 150 lbs of dog. It’s singles for them.

  18. Haha! When my friend and I take our dogs for a walk in the park together, they always end up doing the Leash Twist! Sometimes I think they’re laughing just watching us trying to untangle them LOL! 😉

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    • They ARE laughing. They think humans are great entertainment. They do all of these crazy things just to see how we will react. Maybe it’s a long term Anthropology project and all of the pets are in on it together, posting their data in pee puddles around the world.

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  19. Whenever I complain about my sole (soul) doggie, I think about people who have multiple dogs. It just seems so complicated.

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  20. Wow! That is quite some tangled leash dancing going on there. This is so well written it was almost like we could see it all in action. Hugs and nose kisses

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  21. Such a great post–probably a bit more fun to read than to live! My mommy applauds your ability to handle the dance of the leashes, and just for the record she thinks that those skinny retractable leashes are an instrument of the devil!

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  22. I just went to the y connector between the 2 loops on their collars so I can walk both on one leash.Talk about yelling at Kasia that she has to learn to work and play well with others…lol…good piece though- enjoyed it!

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  23. Beautiful and funny at the same time. I love it!

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  24. We don’t get out the leashes much at Sundog but when we go to our mountain cabin the leashes come out. Walking 3 Golden’s is about all I can take be fore they take me for a walk.

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  25. Quite funny! And soooo cute!!

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  26. Hi Rachel!
    Thanks for stopping in to check out my newest Canine Collar Creation. I put a little more color to it and am posting it now. Like your blog and I think I’m gonna tag along if you don’t mind. L

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  27. Ps. Loved your last post ! Duh That’s what started this thing typing. Ahh…. a leash, two leeds one handle.

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  28. I do not have a dog but I have witnessed very similar circumstances and it could get very embarrassing.

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  29. Used to do this when we lived with my daughter – we had three dogs between us – I could only manage two at a time!
    David
    PS Thanks for popping in to see me at http://ja2da.com

    Reply
  30. I have only one dog, but when she was younger we attended agility classes and I watched others going through the same dance with dogs of varying sizes and temperaments. While sitting on the sidelines and observing, with my not-so-obedient dog excitedly wrapping her leash around and around me as if decorating a barber’s pole, I noticed that one or two of the owners had their dogs on very short leashes and the dogs walked quietly, one on each side.

    At the suggestion of one of the trainers I began to walk her with a shorter leash and within a week of going for short walks Rally was walking quietly at my side. The secret seemed to be to hold my arm stiffly at my side and not give way when she pulled. Once she figured out that pulling was not gaining her anything, she settled on the leash and walked quietly at my side.

    The reason I had to do this is because I often was walking a young horse on one side and Rally on the other. I couldn’t take a chance on a leash getting wrapped around my horse’s leg. Also, dogs are smarter than horses, if a horse can learn to walk politely at my side I felt that surely a smart dog like Rally could learn this.

    This may not work for dogs who can’t get unleashed yard time, but I have a friend who has two boxers and they learned to walk quietly at her side. They had to because individually they weighed as much as she did and if one of them decided to take off she would have been dragged down the sidewalk like a sled. Sometimes situations demand more control on a walk.

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  31. Great post, Rachel. I particularly love your “and add a pole” photo.

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  32. Our Chicki has a habit of dancing round and round, which results in her leads twisting around my wrist. Sometimes I think she’ll cut off my circulation!
    Wonderful post!

    Reply
  33. Tweeted this and two others! Your posts are awesome!
    Happy New Year!

    Reply

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