Leads, Leashes, and Check Cords

Leads, Leashes, and Check Cords

The Trainer's Main Lines of Communication and Control

With a good lead, leash, or check cord, nearly anyone should be able to have good lines of communication and control in training any breed of gun dog.

Leads, leashes, check cords. Every experienced gun dog owner certainly has one, and probably several, from each category of these canine communication, control and teaching devices. If you don't have any of these tools in your possession, you probably have either a perfectly trained gun dog or the wildest canine on the planet. Either way, learning more about these training tools will be useful for any gun dog owner-handler-trainer interested in making the training process easier, more efficient and more successful.

"Leads, leashes, and check cords provide the most direct and most basic 'lines of communication' between a dog and its owner," says renowned gun dog trainer Delmar Smith. Like any professional trainer, Smith recognizes the central importance of these teaching tools in starting and finishing all breeds of gun dogs. "Though electric collars are powerful and effective high-tech devices for 'reinforcing' basic and more complex commands, most all of these commands are first 'taught' by using the much more simple and very effective leads, leashes, and check cords," he says.

"The 'low-tech' lead, leash, and check cord are much easier and safer for any gun dog trainer to use and less prone to creating problems than an electric collar," says Tom Dokken, owner-operator of Oak Ridge Training Kennels in Northfield, Minnesota. "With leads, leashes, and check cords, there are no batteries, no buttons, no radio waves to interfere with their operation. Making big mistakes in training are less likely when using a rope or strap than when using electricity," he says.

Leads, leashes, and check cords are a gun dog trainer's main lines of communication and control in teaching any breed of canine what they need to know around home, in the yard, and on a hunting trip.

"Now remember, I'm a major proponent of 'e-collars' in dog training. But I've always advocated first teaching dogs basic obedience and the more sophisticated hunting lessons by using leads, leashes, and check cords," Dokken emphasizes. "An e-collar is a remote-training mechanism to help dogs 'remember' what they've been taught with these simpler and more basic training tools."

A "lead" by definition is any short leash, usually under 12 inches, with a metal snap or a built-in slip collar on one end and loop for a hand-hold at the other end. The idea behind the lead is for it to be short enough so that anyone "leading" a dog can apply an upward pressure to the canine's body or actually lift the animal's front legs off the ground. By doing this, the handler can more directly and efficiently stop a dog from moving or lead it into a particular direction. Though this works most easily on small canines (less than 50 pounds), even the big 100-pound-plus bruiser can be best controlled with a lead, provided the handler is bigger and stronger than the dog is, of course.

"When choosing a lead look for one that is strong in its design and construction," advises Harold Adams of Doc's Gun Dog Training Kennel in Adel, Iowa. "You want one that has a heavy-duty, easy-to-attach snap with a free turning swivel and a big and comfortable loop for a hand-hold. It's a good idea to always have a lead in your pocket or game bag as a quick, easy, and efficient way to control any canine in a training or hunting situation."

A check cord can be used with any gun dog to help teach quartering in the field as well as to train and reinforce the "come" and "whoa" commands.

A "leash" is like a lead, only longer. Usually at least several feet in length, a leash obviously gives a dog a wider range of motion than does a lead, but a trainer with a leash still has reasonably good influence over a canine student.

Check Cord As Standard Training Tool When Using Modern E-Collars
"Basic obedience and more sophisticated training both begin with a check cord in the yard. Once the canine student has learned a course of desired behavior taught with a check cord, the e-collar is then used to enforce and re-enforce various commands," says George Hickox. "Coordinating the 'control' created by the check cord with the 'persuasion' provided by the e-collar begins in the yard and carries over into the field." This is a main message in Hickox's training seminars.


"Generally, a leash six feet or longer gives a dog more freedom to move around from side to side," says Jim Keller, a gun dog trainer from Lincoln, Nebraska. "The dog trainer, however, loses leverage in controlling a dog on a leash because there is often too much slack that needs to be taken up before a correction can be made.

"Though a longer leash certainly has an application when a dog needs to be allowed some short-range 'quartering' movement in the field, a long leash can be a hazard for someone walking a large dog down the street in town," Keller adds.

"I have at least three different lengths of leashes in my training gear bag," Keller says. "They range from three feet to nine feet and up to 12 feet each, with a loop for a hand-hold so I can communicate with and control any kind of gun dog in a yard training environment or in the field."

"Of all the tools available for training a gun dog, the check cord is among the most importantÂ'¦that's because this simple device can be used to help teach any hunting dog nearly everything it needs to know to be a good citizen around the house and yard and to become a great performer in the field," says George Hickox, owner-operator of Grouse Wing Kennels. "A check cord is a long leash in the form of a rope or strap made from natural fiber such as cotton or hemp or from a synthetic material such as plastic fiber or polypropylene. The material from which a check cord is constructed is important because it will have a major influence on how the training tool functions.

Leads, leashes, and check cords usually come with a choice of snaps that range from the standard "bolt type" to the more sophisticated "locking" type or the "lock-jaw" variety, each with a built-in swivel and in a brass or nickel-plated finish.

"Check cords are usually 12 to 30 feet in length and give a dog the widest range of motion in a training session or in a hunting experience," Hickox continues. "The longer the cord, the easier and more efficiently the trainer can grab it to communicate commands and to teach a command or enforce obedience."

Several features need to be considered in choosing a check cord. The first of these are quality and design. Because a check cord will receive extreme physical abuse as a dog drags it through rough habitat, the cord material must be very strong and durable. Synthetic materials are probably best in this regard, though some natural fiber hemp ropes are almost equally good. A check cord with a fairly smooth finish will easily slip through dense vegetation or other obstacles without creating excessive drag or getting hung up.

Check Cord As Standard Training Tool When Using Modern E-Collars
"Basic obedience and more sophisticated training both begin with a check cord in the yard. Once the canine student has learned a course of desired behavior taught with a check cord, the e-collar is then used to enforce and re-enforce various commands," says George Hickox. "Coordinating the 'control' created by the check cord with the 'persuasion' provided by the e-collar begins in the yard and carries over into the field." This is a main message in Hickox's training seminars.


Stiffness is another important characteristic. Because the check cord will be "whipped" through heavy cover, the stiffer it is, the better. A highly flexible cord usually will tend to wrap around and catch on everything from clumps of grass and tree saplings to fence posts and corn stalks. There are times, though, when a lighter, more flexible cord is better, such as working a pup or young dog in a yard training situation. The best policy, therefore, is to have both types of check cords on hand for each purpose.

Snap quality and connection to the check cord are additional key features. Again, because the check cord will be dragged hundreds of times and miles through the most hostile habitat, a secure snap such as a "lock-jaw" type is good insurance against accidental disconnection. Likewise, the snap must be securely knotted to the cord or clamped to it with some sturdy, reliable piece of hardware.

Color is the final important consideration. A light and bright color should be standard for the check cord so the trainer can easily see it, grab it, or step on it in heavy cover.

"Of all the teaching tools available to a gun dog trainer, leads, leashes and check cords are the most essential," says Randy Bartz, a professional trainer from Oronoco, Minnesota. "Versatile, inexpensive, compact, portable, durable, low maintenance, and most importantly, effective--leads, leashes, and check cords are the main lines of communication and control in teaching any breed of gun dog what they need to know for good behavior around the house and yard and for a good performance on a hunting trip."

Where To Find Leads, Leashes and Check Cords
MeraPet Industries (Chris Kite) 1-877-LEASHES. Plain and braided leashes, leads, and leashes in harness leather as well as poly and nylon.
Center Creek Check Cords (David Winans) 1-417-659-9159 cell 417-434-3277 winandsd@msn.com. Specializes in hand-made, heavy-duty, poly check cords with metal keepers used to clamp on snaps.
Bolin Gun Dog Leads and Leashes (John Bolin) 217-942-9789 www.bolincalinstrings.com. Leads and leashes made from braided parachute cord are among the strongest and most durable on the market. Come with standard or lock-jaw snaps in brass.
Mendota Gun Dog Products (Doug Lassey) 1-800-224-1121 www.Mendotaproducts.com. Leads, leashes, and check cords in polypropylene and nylon. Makes a functional British slip lead (lead and choker combination) in two diameters for small and big dogs.

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