Walking off lead
Don’t punish your dog with your laziness? That’s harsh, I know. Please ask yourself, why your dog should be sentenced to a life of doing the same shitty walks, on lead, because you haven’t bothered to build your confidence and let your dog off lead? Honestly, there is no excuse good enough for me.
Reasons for going off lead
Why should you bother? Simply:
- It’s more stimulating for the dog – you don’t have to stop every 10 seconds whilst they sniff something
- Being off lead is far better exercise – your dog will typically travel 3 or 4 times as far as you do, if they are off lead
- It’s safer – your dog can move away from anything they are not happy about.
I understand, it’s really challenging. And scary, really scary, letting your dog wander about without you being able to immediately control it. Things will definitely go wrong. That’s life. Don’t ruin it for your dog by restricting them their whole life? Here are the excuses and my responses. You may not like them…
My dog will get attacked
Dogs do get frightened. The more you worry, the more likely they are to be afraid, bark and be attacked. Dogs do not necessarily want to play or be friends with every dog they come across. That’s fine. You are there to watch out for them. Call them to you and either hold onto them, pick them up or just get their attention and reward them, as other dogs go past. Or let them look, sniff and wander over. Just observe and pay attention to the interaction. It’s fine.
Ideally, you want the other owner to also be paying attention and understanding what is happening. It’s no good saying ‘My dog is friendly’ if they other dog is clearly frightened. That’s really annoying! But if your dog barks at another dog and you call him, apologising and getting hold of him, it’s fine. Isn’t it?
I appreciate that small dogs are more vulnerable, but they are also more aggressive and annoying! If they wind up a big dog, they might get eaten! Watching them and calling them away should still work though. When a big dog is off lead and can get away, there isn’t much of a problem. All of this problem can just as easily happen with dogs on lead. In fact, dogs on lead are much more aggressive than those off lead.
My dog is scared of everything
‘Reactivity‘ in dogs is hard to live with. You want to protect your dog from the big scary world and the easiest way to do this is keep them on lead. Ultimately, many people find it too stressful walking a dog that is frightened of other dogs, or bikes, or cars. Sadly, some of these dogs never go off lead and often end up not being walked at all.
You can often fix this problem, with patience and persistence. As the owner of a barking, scared dog, I know that it is really challenging, but I persist in walking him off lead. On some days, I walk where (and when) it is much quieter, so we don’t have to deal with it at all. I’ve also found that walking in woods means the dogs we meet are more laid back and are also off lead, so it is much less of an issue.
My dog will run off
He might. Start by calling your dog at home. Does he come back? Did you reward him? Was there play and excitement from you? Have you practised recall hundreds of times? You should be able to understand your dog and his motivations, so that you know when he might run off.
Lots of people say their dog will come back fine, until there is a distraction, such as another dog, or a squirrel. True, but it’s still possible to get them back, with enthusiasm, rewards and practice. Of course, some dogs get the scent of a squirrel or a deer and are off! They will run for miles, chasing something. Scary! I can’t really comment on what it is like to own a dog like this, but when I go to the woods, there are plenty of Spaniels and Hounds of all shapes and sizes, running around off lead. So it must be possible.
My dog will get lost off lead
Some dogs do get lost. I’ve lost some of mine, over the years. Fortunately, they are required by law to wear a dog tag, with the name, address and phone number of the owner clearly shown. I recommend a flat ‘Indigo‘ tag, instead of a dangly one, although stupid people may not find this. If you have an old dog who does wander, how about a lovely yellow tabard with your number on it?
Fortunately, we are also now required to microchip our dogs, so if they are lost, they will be found and sent home. People are pretty caring. Social media is full of dogs being found and then reunited. It works, hurray.
My dog will get run over
Yes they might. If you walk beside a road and pay no attention to your dog. I have had one of my dogs hit by a car and it was awful. We were crossing a road, with 5 dogs off lead and one (Sunny) went before I was ready and bounced off the wheel of a car. I was lucky, because she suffered no injury at all, although the vets kept her in for observation.
Did this stop me crossing roads with my dogs off lead? No, it did not. I’ll put the youngest on lead for a year or so, but I just pay close attention and manage them. I don’t recommend doing this, but it is possible. I don’t normally walk beside a road with them off lead. You have to do a risk assessment and decide what is right for your dogs.
Generally though, off lead is always better than on lead. If you keep your dog on lead, they are living a poorer life. In my opinion.
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.