Ray established a long a time ago the fact that he had a very strong prey drive, and walking him on a leash always had the potential for problems if caught unawares.
The advantage of only six feet of leash is that he has a very limited distance in which to accelerate to “chase speed”! I can only imagine what it would feel like if he accelerated the full length of an extendable leash! The problem of “shock” when Ray runs out of leash is compounded by his build. While I am a long way from being an expert on dogs, I still remember my physics from school, some of which does seem to have an application here!
Ray, as everybody notices when they see him, is predominantly German Shepherd and they are pretty strong dogs. Most German Shepherds that I have seen have an interesting side profile because their spinal column tends to “drop” as it runs from neck to tail. Rottweilers however seem to have a more horizontal form, and Ray is the compromise. While he may look initially like a German Shepherd, his head and his long back legs would seem to be Rotti genetics.
Back to my memories of physics and the “lever principle” (leverage ability is relative to the distance from the fulcrum), it would seem reasonable to assume that, all other things being equal, Ray’s long back legs could potentially give him some additional power!
With this background in mind, we were recently walking Ray around our general neighborhood and I was on the other end of the leash. We were in a residential area that had no sidewalks, so were walking on the edge of the road and Ray was checking out various scents in the grass alongside. I usually look a little ahead of Ray because of his habit of grabbing anything remotely edible. If I can see something that may be of interest to him before he does, I have an opportunity to use “leave it” and reward him as appropriate. As an aside, he generally responds very well to “leave it” even to the point of ignoring squirrels… but he has to hear “leave it” before his senses are totally focused on the object of interest!
At one point in our walk, I saw a rabbit. It was about 12-15 feet ahead of us and about 3 feet away from the side of the road. We were moving along quite slowly because Ray was totally engrossed in exploring scents in the grass. This was not particularly surprising because very close by was a drainage ditch and we know that many creatures “run” the ditch and shelter/hide in the pipes under the various driveways.
The rabbit was very near to a driveway, so I watched with interest as we got closer and closer. I was expecting it to see Ray and dart into the pipe. When we were about 8-10 feet away from the rabbit, I was really getting curious. The rabbit was staring at Ray obviously monitoring him very closely, but Ray had his head down and still checking out the grass. I didn’t want to give a premature “leave it” and confuse him (“Leave what?”), but this did seem to be a good time to prepare for a sudden lunge from Ray with the resulting arm wrenching pull from the leash!
We got closer and closer and at about 6 feet from the rabbit, I was braced ready for the inevitable. The rabbit was going to leap into the pipe and Ray would have to be prevented from trying to follow it. But none of that happened. The rabbit just sat, clearly tensed up for a quick departure, and watched Ray get closer. Ray still had his head down and was snuffling through the grass!
We passed within 3 feet of a sitting rabbit and Ray showed no signs that he even knew it was there! His sense of smell has appeared to be very good on other occasions. His eyesight would seem fine, although we do occasionally wonder about that when he overlooks what, to us, is the obvious. Of course he could simply be letting his nose guide him around. Given the ability of the canine nose, I can accept that visuals are secondary to dogs. The final possibility is his proven ability to focus so strongly that not even yummy treats exist!
Our conclusion was that whatever was holding his attention in the grass was totally absorbing to the point where nothing else existed at that moment. I still find it unbelievable that Ray could walk within such close proximity to a rabbit and not react to it! Over three years with us and we are still learning things about him!