You may not realize how common dog walking and dog handling injuries are, however everything from severe finger and wrist fractures, to dislocations and ruptured tendons. Below are five strategies to help keep your fingers, hands and wrist safe:
1. Don’t wrap the leash.
It may seem safer to loop the leash handle around your fingers or wrist than to just hold it in your palm. However, if the dog takes off quickly you may not have time to unwrap the leash and before you know it you have fallen down, or already suffered a fracture or crushing injury as the wrapped leash constricts tightly around your hand. The bones can separate, and there’s also likely to be cartilage, ligament and tendon damage which could require surgery. By holding the leash in the palm of your hand you have more control over the dog. You’ll be more likely to pay attention if you have to keep a firm grasp at all times but you can also tighten or loosen your grip immediately if you feel the dog start to pull away.
2. Don’t put your fingers under the collar.
You can also suffer severe twisting fractures if your fingers are under the collar and the dog jumps or pulls away. It’s similar to when a football player gets a finger caught in another player’s facemask, and the facemask goes one way, the finger another. Dogs don’t always decided to sit still no matter how well trained so try pinching the collar around the edges or grasping the attachment ring instead of the collar when fastening the leash to avoid a potentially twisting finger injury.
3. Keep your dog on a short leash.
The longer the leash, the more leash there is for the dog to pull — and more potential for trouble if the dog takes off. You could fall or get dragged, suffering severe bruises or fractures. The hard yank of the leash can cause not only hand and wrist fractures, but tendon or ligament damage — or even dislocations — to your elbow or shoulder. It’s also easier to trip on or get tangled up in a longer leash. Give the dog a little leeway when you stop to let the dog sniff around or do its business but keep a shorter leash when you’re walking, so you have more control over the dog’s movements.
4. Walk — don’t roll.
Regardless of your skill or comfort level, it’s never a good idea to walk your dog while riding a bike, scooter, skateboard or Segway, or while rollerblading or roller skating. The introduction of wheels already puts you off-balance and less stable than walking. Add a dog that suddenly starting running and you’re likely to suffer an injury.
5. Most important, pay attention.
You need to be able to react to a situation if your dog decides to run after a squirrel or another dog on your walk. You don’t want to be caught off guard so don’t talk on your phone, text or engage in social media, don’t wear headphones or a Bluetooth headset, scan the surrounding area for things that might attract or frighten your dog, such as other animals or cars, and watch where you’re walking so you can try to avoid obstacles or unstable terrain.
When to see a doctor
If you suffer an injury while walking or handling your dog, don’t ignore it. When you get home, apply ice to the injury for 10 minutes. One hour after icing, seek medical attention if any of the following are true:
- You have significant pain and swelling.
- It hurts when you press on the injured area.
- It hurts when you move your wrist, hand or finger, or you don’t have full range of motion.
Even if your symptoms improve, see a doctor if they are not completely gone within 1 to 2 weeks. If you can still move your hand, wrist or finger it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t broken. Also don’t assume that because the injury was caused by a dog that it can’t be serious; use your judgment and be seen by on the hand and wrist specialists at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic.