Going off lead: be brave!
Talking to a friend recently who has a nervous, rescue girl and I found myself saying “you could let her off lead you know. She’s not going to go anywhere, you’re her mum”. How can I be sure? What if she sees a squirrel? What if she chases a deer? Maybe she’ll get scared! It’s too difficult 🙁
I have to admit, I’m pretty smug and annoying with my girls. They are off lead for about 98% of our walks and I am completely confident in their obedience. They come back, they wait when told, they don’t run into the road, blah blah blah. I’m so lucky. But then, I do have Border Collies, so it’s really easy. Hmm…
When I took Ounce out for her very first walk I let her off the lead. Scary. Of course I had already practised her recall many times at home, but even so, it was daunting.
Training the puppy has not been without its moments! Most memorable was the time when a man came past us, running flat out. Ounce immediately went haring after him, round the corner in a flash! Trying desperately not to panic, I stood and called her ‘positively’, (ie not yelling my head off) and just moments later she came tearing back, happy as Larry.
I also remember when my friend got her first puppy from me and I went to visit her. I guess Nell and Luna were about 4 months old. We went off for a walk and I was surprised that Nell was on lead. “Let her off” I urged. Thankfully she did and never looked back.
Finally, here is a video of when I looked after Charlie Brown, from Aura’s litter. He is also going out for one of his first walks. And he’s not even mine!
Why go off lead?
I wrote about this in one of my first ever posts: why go off lead It’s interesting to think how far I have come since I wrote that post; I know so much more about other dogs and how trainable (or not) they might be. So let’s recap.
Reasons for going off lead
- more stimulating for the dog
- better exercise – your dog will typically travel 3 or 4 times as far as you do, if they are off lead
- safer – your dog can move away from anything they are not happy about
This last point is the key for me and something I often talk about. When your dog is on lead they are able to pick up exactly how you are feeling. This is partly from your smell and partly from the lead itself. Any anxiety you have transmits directly down the lead to the dog. How ironic that the worry you have about your dog can cause the dog to worry about you!
Reasons to keep/have your dog on lead
- control near danger – mainly roads. Dogs do absolutely understand the difference between roads and pavements and many dogs happily walk calmly beside you along a road. BUT there are always squirrels, or moments when their focus shifts. Cars are big, dangerous objects, so it’s not worth the risk, on the whole.
That’s it. I honestly can’t think of anything else. Of course dogs do run off after rabbits etc. Any dog with a strong prey drive will do this and it is a real challenge waiting for them to come back. I appreciate that they may be gone for hours and may go a long way. I don’t know how patient I would be with a dog like this. But I do know that when I go up to the woods I see many Spaniels and Labradors, all off lead, so it must be possible to manage this? Let me know if you disagree?
The other main reason dogs are kept on lead is because they ‘don’t like other dogs’. When they are on lead they have nowhere to go, so of course they won’t want another dog coming into their face. When they are off lead, they will move away. They may turn round and tell the other dog to go away, but if they can move, that’s what they will do.
Go on – you can do it!
Practice, practice, practice. Use a long lead at first, make sure your dogs know their name, then go for it! Please?
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