I like to make things complicated. I'll admit it. When I travel, I typically
buy the largest, most fragile, and/or most unwieldy souvenir imaginable, especially
if I'm in a country where I don't speak the language, just to make transporting
the item REALLY problematic.
I grow things in my garden -- well, I ATTEMPT to grow things in my garden --
that "just can't be grown in this climate." I develop obsessions with
authors and wines and movies that are well nigh impossible to find. I like
bucking the odds.
It is therefore not surprising that my dog of choice is world's tallest
breed, the Irish wolfhound. And I have two of them.
Walking My Wolfhound(s)
Since my dog's back is a little higher than my hip and his head easily reaches
my shoulder, we draw a little attention on our daily walks. "Why don'tcha
put a saddle on that thing?" is a favorite query, as is "Who's
Indeed, though I make a mighty effort to assume the role of alpha dog at all
times, there are times when my adult male wolfhound, Finnegan, gets the best of
me. He outweighs me, after all, and his passion for sniffing the nether regions
of a passing poodle sometimes exceeds my determination to keep him "at
heel." And so we struggle, just a little.
Then I introduced Little Miss Fiona, his new puppy "sister." My
baby wolfhound is just four months old, but she will be about the same size as
Finnegan within the next year. Besides the doubled food bill, doubled vet
visits, and doubled poop-scooping duties, I now have to reckon with walking TWO
Technology To The Rescue
Before I made myself crazy or bloodied both knees trying to control the two of
them, I found what may be a simple solution for about $10. Call it a leash-splitter, double leash, leash-coupler -- this ingenious little device goes by
several names. For the sake of simplicity, I'll refer to it as a
The device to which I refer is simply a Y-shaped configuration consisting of
three relatively short pieces of leash (leather, sturdy nylon mesh, or other
leash material) joined by a ring in the middle. There is a ring on one end of
the three-part "Y", to which you clip a standard leash, and clips on
the other two ends, which you clip to your dogs' collars.
I can't speak to the concept of walking two small dogs -- I've never owned
anything smaller than 70 pounds. I've had Samoyeds, a chow-chow, an Old English
sheepdog, and, now, my Irish wolfhounds. I understand that walking two small
dogs might best be accomplished with two individual leashes. But with larger,
more powerful dogs, one of the advantages of a leash-splitter is that one dog
acts as an anchor if the other tries to run off; if you had the dogs on separate
leashes, they could pull you in two different directions.
Although I use a head harness (also known by the brand name "Gentle
Leader") when I walk Finnegan alone, I use regular neck collars with the
leash-splitter. Introducing a second dog to the mix leads to unpredictable
pulling that could risk injury. Likewise, you wouldn't want to use body
harnesses with the leash-splitter. In my experience, body harnesses are not a
good idea for big dogs anyway; they enable far too much ability to pull on the part
of the dog.
Variations On A Theme
The basic leash-splitter such as I have is designed for walking two dogs of
similar size. There are variations for people with other needs. Adjustable
leash-splitters allow you to walk dogs of different heights. Bungee or
shock-absorbing splitters have the advantage (or disadvantage) of allowing one
dog to pull a little more without yanking the other dog and the human around. I
don't care for this latter idea, however, as it reduces the self-regulating
aspect of one dog acting as an anchor for the other's pulling.
A Word Of Caution
It should go without saying that any training device should be introduced
gradually and employed with care. A leash-splitter is not a "magic
bullet" for misbehaving dogs. You can get yourself and your pups into
trouble if you let them get tangled or if they gang up on you and yank you down
the street. I had been walking my older dog for two years when I introduced him
and his new "sister," to the leash splitter. Our
first few walks were just to the corner of the block and back. If they were
being good, we'd go to the other corner. Each discovered things worked better
when they didn't pull too hard, so in my case it was a great training tool for
the new pup as well as a good way to introduce them to walking in tandem.
Sally O'Neal lives, writes, and walks her wolfhounds in southeastern Washington. She writes weekly for sportsmansguide.com.