Taking a leisurely stroll with a dog has become hazardous for some in the Halifax region.

Rosemary Mooney, an occupational therapist at the Halifax Infirmary, said she’s noticed an up-tick recently in the number of people she’s treating who have been hurt while walking their dog.

At least a half-dozen people have needed treatment for hand injuries so far this month, she said.

“We do get them at other times of the year, too, but it’s probably more common now because people are trying to hold onto their dogs and they don’t want to fall,” Mooney said.

In all cases, the injuries occurred because they were holding the leash incorrectly and the dog suddenly lunged forward, causing people to break bones in their fingers.

“They didn’t realize that could happen, and we have a lot of dog owners,” Mooney said.

“People love their dogs, and they take them out all the time so they’re not aware that this could be possible.”

These particular bones take up to six weeks to heal and then at least two months of physical therapy are required, becoming a burden on the health-care system and causing people to lose work for a preventable injury, she said.

“They’re hard to rehabilitate. They’d have to go to therapy for a long time afterwards, and sometimes they don’t get the full function back,” Mooney said.

Tristan Flynn, a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant and owner of Jollytails, said he’s known people who have been hurt because of incorrectly holding a leash.

“It’s the epidemic of people who have dogs that don’t walk on a loose leash,” Flynn said.

“Dogs are pulling, dogs are reacting to other dogs they see, and if people are holding their leash around their fingers and their dog suddenly shoots out, it’s going to cause breakage.”

If a dog consistently pulls or is prone to be reactive at other dogs or cats, Flynn suggests people use a walking tool like a front-clip harness or a head collar.

“But I’d prefer a front-clip harness because that way the dog is not going to have the momentum to pull you with such force that it’ll break your fingers.”

The most common mistake he sees people make is wrapping the leash around their fingers. It’s not as simple as just hooking the leash to a dog and heading out; there’s technique and some training required to properly walk a dog.

“But I think it’s done out of the need of wanting to make sure the dog doesn’t get loose,” Flynn said.

“So I can understand if people have an aggressive dog or a dog that might not come back, that they want to make sure their dog is secure.”

Aside from how you hold a leash, Flynn said the best advice he can give is for people to be constantly aware of their surroundings.

“When you’re walking, make sure you know what your dog is looking at so that you can anticipate if your dog is going to lunge out so you can brace yourself.”

Source:  http://thechronicleherald.ca  Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada Chronical Herald News