“It’s okay….he’s friendly!!”
Let’s discuss the importance of Off-Leash Recall. How many times have you heard an owner yelling that out to you from afar as his off leash dog runs towards you full tilt while ignoring all his owners attempts to call him back? Often the dogs name is repeated over and over and over, the word “treat” is thrown in for good measure and there’s a hint of desperation in the tone as their dog gets closer and closer.
If you are walking a dog with on leash reactivity or on leash aggression, you already know what is horribly wrong with this picture. You also probably know full well that at this point, it really doesn’t matter if the dog is friendly or not.
If you are “that guy yelling at your dog as he charges towards me and my on leash dog”, let me explain why this is totally unacceptable. Sure, accidents happen, dogs get out and go for a runabout around the neighbourhood…this isn’t the type of scenario I’m referring to. This isn’t a loose dog that someone is trying to catch,…I’m referring to the person who purposely un-clips that leash and allows their dog off leash when they don’t have reliable recall. I’m sure you’ve seen them at the park, I know I have run into my fair share walking through Point Pleasant. This post also isn’t about where you can legally let your dog off leash,…you are responsible for your dog whether the area is designated off leash or not. This is about being in control of your dog if you allow them off leash. Even in designated off leash areas you must be in control of your dog at all times. It is the law. The off leash areas are not “anything goes” areas (although judging by what I’ve witnessed on different occasions you’d think they were). You should be able to call your dog back to you, and leash them, if necessary. If you can’t, your dog should not be off leash and the reason being is that the on leash dog that your dog is running towards may not react well to an unleashed dog coming into their space.
Dogs have 3 options when approached by another dog…
- they can submit (accept the dog in their space and sometimes put up with socially awkward or forced greetings). Not all dogs know how to properly meet other dogs.
- they can fight. If a dog feels threatened, they are likely to choose this option. (for dogs that have already had a bad on leash experience with another dog, they may have already developed on-leash reactivity or even on-leash aggression)
- or then can flee (i.e. avoidance, run away from the dog that is making them uncomfortable) This is not an option for an on leash dog.
If the dog that your off leash dog is running up to is on leash, they now only have 2 choices on how to handle the situation because the leash prevents the flight option. They can either fight or they can submit. Chances are good that you’ve seen a totally submissive dog before….they’re the dog that drops to the ground and rolls over the second a new dog approaches it. In this situation I really hope that the “friendly dog” really is friendly, because a bad experience can change that submissive dog into a reactive dog in a heartbeat.
For dogs that have already had a bad on leash experience with another dog (i.e. leash reactive/on leash aggressive dogs), this scenario can go terribly wrong. A dog that feels threatened while on leash may not wait to see if the approaching dog is going to hurt them, they may defend themselves right away and lash out. This is when fights happen…. totally unavoidable fights between two dogs that should have never met.
This is why it is so important to establish reliable recall before un-clipping that leash and allowing your dog to run.
We’ll assume for the purpose of this post that only “friendly dogs” are being let off lead (although I know for a fact that it is not always the case).
You should be able to call your dog away from an on leash dog that is walking with it’s owner. If you can’t, your dog shouldn’t be off leash.
If you cannot keep your dog in sight and under control, they should not be off leash. (We’ve encountered many “ownerless” dogs in the park).
If you cannot keep track of your dog because you are deep in conversation, (either on or off the phone), your dog shouldn’t be off leash.
This all applies to dogs running up to people without dogs as well. A lot of people enjoy walking in public parks, but that doesn’t mean that they have to put up with being accosted by off leash dogs jumping all over them. This may be common place in actual dog parks, but parks with off leash areas are not “dog parks”, they are for everyone’s enjoyment. It boils down to being respectful of other people and other dogs and doing your part to ensure that your dog and the other dogs you may encounter can be safely exercised whether they are on leash or off leash.
Please….be a responsible dog owner, because even a “friendly dog” can get himself into trouble.
If you want complete off leash control with your dog, including reliable recall, contact me today to discuss your training options.
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