We have been planning a Fit Dog Friday hands-free leash post for a while now. Since I had not yet found the perfect commercially made hands-free leash, the intended post was going to be a how-to on making your own hands-free leash. But last Saturday at Petpalooza, I bought just about the closest thing to a perfect commercially made hands free leash, the Umbilical Belt. So, now, the Cascadian Nomads present a hands-free leash extravaganza! A review of our new Umbilical Belt, how it compares to other hands free leashes. Plus how-to make your own hands free leash or modify one you already have so you and your dog can easily get out and get fit!
Please note that hands free leashes should only be used on dogs that are properly trained to walk with a loose leash. Neither you nor your dog will enjoy exercise with a hands free leash if the dog is pulling. The Cascadian Nomads humans do not ask that the canines remain in a perfect heel on runs, hikes or long walks but we do expect loose leashes.
What I first look for in a hands-free leash is multiple dog capacity. I know that this doesn't matter to everyone but multiple dog hands-free leashes are the only ones I consider. The next thing I look for is durability. Like any sports equipment, it is going to take a beating and I want it to last. I have gone through several hands-free leashes that relied on way too much plastic to stay on my waist or hold the leash. So I have learned to steer clear of hands-free leashes with too many plastic parts. Then, not to be overlooked, I want comfort. Hands-free leashes with skinny belts, like The Buddy System, can be fine for short distances but when you are sweaty and have gone 10 miles, they can chafe. Skinny nylon belts like this that I have tried also have a tendency to slip and may need occasional adjusting on long excursions. I do, however, like skinny hands-free leash belts for snowshoeing because I can slip it through the belt loops on my snow pants.
I did once like the Mt. Tam Belt and Leash from Ollydog but it does have some issues. One is that purchasing it and two additional leashes is very expensive. Another issue I have with it is the elastic waist band. Although not a thin belt, the elastic can chafe, especially when wet, and elastic doesn't have much longevity. Then there's the attached pack, which in theory is a great idea. It may work for many people but I like more versatility. If I want a short, light hands free walk, I put some bags in my pocket and go. If I am going on a long trek, I carry a back pack and so does Huxley.
When I found the Umbilical Belt, I was very pleased. Mulit-dog capacity? Definitely. Durable? Yes. (There is no plastic on it.) Comfortable? Very! It actually feels supportive to my low back (which suffered some fractured vertebrae a year and a half ago.) And it attaches with Velcro so I will no longer be stopping to cinch up my belt. I will also admit that I love that this belt is made locally right here in Cascadia.
In my opinion, the only negative of the Umbilical Belt is the leash it came with. It is a little too long even for little Wilhelm. He continuously stepped over it but I simply tied a little knot at the top to shorten it.
To be honest, I rarely like the leashes that come with hands-free waist belts unless they are really good bungees. As long as my dogs keep a loose leash, I like them to have some freedom to sniff and explore especially when we are hiking or snowshoeing. Bungees are the best way for them to have this freedom and not get tangled. My biggest pet peeve (pun intended) is when we are all out to get a vigorous cardiovascular workout and we have to
Always consult a veterinarian about the nature of your dogs specific exercise needs and physical limitations. Check with your veterinarian before beginning or changing your dogs exercise routine.