If you look through recent posts on this blog, you’ll see that I’ve become quite the dog runner lately. Jack has accompanied me on all but 1 of my runs in the last few weeks, and he’s become a great partner on the road. The one issue that I have to deal with is that I’m still not entirely happy holding a retractable leash in hand while running (particularly when he bolts after a cat). In a discussion thread on Dailymile.com, the idea of using a hands-free leash was brought up (thanks John H.!). Apparently, these systems are used frequently in Europe in a sport known as Canicross where the dog leads/pulls the runner along while attached to the runner’s waist (visit http://www.skijor.com/canicross.html for more information). Here’s a video that that demonstrates this sport in action (thanks again to John H. for alerting me to this idea):
I’m now intrigued by the belt harnesses used in these canicross races, and am tempted to take the plunge and buy one for my runs with Jack. Little did I know that there is a huge diversity of hands-free leashes on the market. There was even a review of 5 hands-free leashes in the New York Times last year. Based on that article, I’ve honed in on two potential options, both pictured below:
Z-Hands Free Leash
“Our hands free dog leash is perfect for sports such as running, jogging, walking, hiking, or just out for a comfortable walk around the neighborhood. This leash combines all of the advantages of our handled leash, with a super wide, padded hip belt that allows your dog, or dogs, to change which side of you they are walk on, without dragging you around.
The flex section adds to the performance of this product, and is included in a flex size for your dog. Perfect for absorbing the interaction between you and your dog as you walk, run, or just explore. This is the best hands free leash on the market. It comes with a Z-Handle that rides on board of the Z-Hands Free Belt with the extension webbing section so that you can switch to a handled leash with ease.“
The Buddy System
“The Buddy System is designed for the comfort, convenience and safety of you and your pet. It has unique leash and collar attachments that allow you to easily release and reconnect your pet. These attachments also allow you to stow the leash out of your way when not in use. (You NEVER have to carry the leash.) The Buddy System is available in the standard version and now a light weight version designed specifically for smaller dogs. Here are some useful hints to help you get the most out of the special features of this leash system.
The Belt is 1″ wide and attaches around your waist. The belt is adjustable
Two webbing loops with female quick release mechanisms are suspended from the belt. The loops are designed to be moved anywhere along the perimeter of the belt.
These loops serve as the leash attachments to the belt for either end of the leash. When the leash is not attached to your pet, simply click the unused end into the unused loop attachment and the leash is out of the way, but, still handy when you need it.
You can also adjust how the leash hangs on the belt when not in use by sliding the webbing loops along the belt. The loops can be side by side so the leash is dangling or slide them apart to wrap the leash around your waist.
The Leash has two male quick release mechanisms. One of the mechanisms attaches to a webbing loop on the belt. The other attaches to The Buddy System Collar Attachment or to the remaining webbing loop on the belt when not attached to your pet via the Collar Attachment.
Like the belt, the length of the leash is also adjustable ( see System Specs ). The width and the weight of the leash come in two different sizes ( see System Specs ).
The Collar Attachment
The Collar Attachment has a female quick release mechanism and a swivel hook. The quick release attaches to the leash and the swivel hook attaches to your pets collar or harness.“
Both of these products received good reviews from the NY Times article mentioned above, but they differ in several ways. The Larz system comes with a padded belt (appealing since my dog is very strong) and is pitched as being specially designed to avoid injury to your dog, whereas the Buddy System is a simpler design (this was the top choice in the NYT article). Prices also differ: $26.00 for the Buddy System, $56 for the Larz system (this one has more modular components).
If anyone reading this post has experience with either of these products, or a better suggestion on a hands-free leash, I’d love to hear from you – you can leave a comment below!