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Mastiffs and Flexis and Prongs. Oh, My!

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

graphic of Mastiff dog face

I was hiking with Sierra around the local park trails yesterday when we spied a woman walking her dog. I’d seen this dog before—he’s hard to miss, being a bullmastiff. The handsome, brindled dog, who looks to be an adolescent, is normally walked by a man. Usually when we pass them, the man is telling the dog to knock it off because the dog has become mildly reactive toward us or another passing dog. This time, though, the dog was being walked by a woman—the wife, I presume.

At the point we encountered each other on the trail, there was no way for either of us to retreat—we had to pass each other, unless one of us wanted to do a U-turn and go way out of our way. So I stopped and waited as the woman led the bullmastiff to the side of the trail and asked him to sit. Hugging the opposite side of the path, I urged Sierra forward. As we passed, Sierra looked at the dog, and the dog became aroused. In a split second, two things became obvious: the dog intended to lunge at Sierra, and the woman did not have control of the dog. The dog was wearing a prong collar, and the woman had him on a flexible leash. Yes, a Flexi lead—with a prong collar! Although she had pressed the button that stops the lead from rolling out any further, the dog was able to drag her toward us.

At the same time the dog, all bluster and slobber, moved toward us, I inserted myself between him and Sierra. I’m not sure exactly how I ended up with my back toward the dog instead of facing him head-on and telling him to leave town, but it was the something about the combination of how we were physically situated and the vague notion that I’d be in position to kick back at the dog if needed while keeping Sierra safe. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, as the woman was finally able to gain control of the dog and drag him off. They walked off without a word.

I see people on a regular basis who do things with dogs that leave me either scratching my head or wanting to growl rather aggressively. Still, I’ve never before seen anyone walk a dog on a pinch collar with a Flexi lead. Whether you believe pinch collars are a viable training tool or a torture device spawned by Satan, there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. Attached to the clip of a flexible lead ain’t it. We continued on our walk unscathed, but I know we’ll run into the dog again. I’m hoping for the opportunity to have a few words with whoever’s on the end of the lead before things get out of control. I’d hate to think about the potential damage to dogs—the bullmastiff or others—if things don’t change.


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