Walking Your Dog Off Lead - Safely
Never letting a dog off the lead is a sad way to live for a dog. They are less likely to sniff where they want to sniff when they are on the lead. They don’t get to run, or dictate the areas they visit in the order they want to visit them in. When we don’t let our dogs off the lead, it’s usually because we are scared of them running away and most often because we really love them and don’t want to lose them.
There are some dogs who need to be on a lead admittedly. Scared dogs who tend to run when spooked. Dogs who are new to a new home or wildlife chasers all need the security of a lead for them and for others. Most of the time though an off-leash run can be provided somehow. Even if it’s a case of hiring a free run field for half an hour, which are thankfully starting to appear all over the place as the needs of our dogs are becoming better known.
To have freedom from being walked on the leash all the time, our dogs need to learn a reliable recall. A good recall is crucial and for most dogs it’s not that hard to teach, again it’s all about motivation.
Dogs need an excellent reliable recall to ensure they don’t put themselves in any danger and they don’t bother others in the area, which can put themselves and the others in danger. Excellent recall means they come back when we call them because we motivate them to do so. When dogs are racing around a walking area, visiting everyone in that area, they can be causing problems. It’s generally respectful not to allow an off-leash dog to approach other dogs who are on the lead. Think about how how vulnerable a dog on the leash can feel.
Now add fear, anxiety, illness, injury or other vulnerability to how that on leash dog feels – there is no other ethical option than to respect the space of dogs in the area. We don’t know strangers’ dogs’ and we really shouldn’t be exposing them to social situations because we don’t or can’t recall our own dog. The other situation we might find ourselves in here is that our friendly dog might be friendly to the wrong dog and get themselves bitten or attacked.
Teaching recall is quite easy and it’s something we can practice on every walk. A set of steps which begin with finding a motivator and end with delivering that motivator when your dog comes back is all it really takes. Practicing in a boring area and raising distractions gradually will ensure your success. As I don’t want to turn this book into a coaching manual (with respect for the readers of my other books) I’m not going to go through the steps here but you can find them in my book:
Which covers the coaching steps of ten different behaviours including recall.
The most important thing about teaching recall is that you don’t take any risks, neither with your own dog or anyone in the area. If you think you are going to struggle, drop me a line and I’ll find a professional trainer or coach close to you geographically that I can recommend to come along to help you.