Is it safe to walk your dog off leash?

To leash or not to leashI have never let my dogs off leash in a public area regardless of how safe it is. Now, that being said I have small dogs and perhaps if I had bigger dogs I would feel differently. But lately I have heard of, and experienced some troubling incidents regarding dogs allowed off leash.

My nephew’s dog was recently viciously attacked by an off leash dog. He lost an ear and was terribly traumatized. A friend who occasionally lets her dog off leash in a rural area was happy she had her medium-sized pup on a short leash when she almost ran into a coyote!

I was recently at the Vet’s office and a client exiting an examining room letting his small terrier roam the waiting room, I was the only one there with my chihuahua in my lap. But I was thinking what if a big unfriendly dog comes into the office.

At a public city park where leashes are required, a friend of mine was walking a very well behaved Pit bull on a leash. A medium terrier ran up and immediately started to bark aggressively at her dog. The owner did nothing but scream at his dog as the dog continued to harass the larger dog. Eventually the dog ran off followed by the owner who was completely irresponsible. That could have ended badly, some people should not own a dog.

Skunks are not dog friendly!Even if you think your dog is super friendly, you can never really be sure if other dogs are going to behave. I find that some people just think their dogs are perfect. Also, even in populated areas, there are still wild animals. Many a curious dog has had a unfortunate encounter with a skunk.

 

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

If you do decide to walk your dog off leash, here are a few important suggestions to make your experience as safe as possible. (courtesy beverlyhillsvets.com)

  • Stick with parks or other natural areas that have some type of perimeter fencing.
  • Visit off leash areas when there are fewer people and pets around.
  • Instead of a public area, visit a friend or relative with private land, where your pet won’t encounter others.
  • Ensure your dog’s ability to respond to your commands, even when there are distractions.

 

BASIC COMMANDS

Dog on a leashSome of the basic commands your dog should have mastery of include (courtesy thesprucepets.com):

  • Loose leash walking
  • Heel (both on and off the leash)
  • A reliable recall
  • A reliable emergency recall
  • Leave it
  • Drop it
  • Look (watch me)
  • Stay
  • Go to its place

 

STOP ON A DIME

In addition to have a good solid recall, it is equally important to be able to get your dog to STOP ON A DIME. As pointed out in this article from patriciamcconnell.com, stopping immediately is a vastly different exercise than being able to make your dog come back to you. This may be necessary when danger is imminent or maybe you are trying to avoid a possible catastrophe. Or even when you need to catch up to your dog who is too far ahead. A commonly used cue in sheep herding that serves this purpose is “Stand,” which means “don’t lie down, but stop moving.”

Overall I would never let my dog off leash anywhere! For all of you that let your dogs off leash, please take care and remember just because your dog behaves, someone else’s dog may not.

 

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

Walking Your Dog Off Leash: Is it Really Safe? [lifewithmutts]
How to Train Your Dog to Be Off the Leash [thesprucepets]
6 Tips for Taking Your Dog Off Leash [preventivevet]
An Off-Leash Walk Ended in Tragedy for My Dog, and I Was Powerless to Stop It [dogster]
Is Your Dog Safe Off Leash? [patriciamcconnell]
Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates’ Blog Walking Your Dog Off Leash: Is it Really Safe? [beverlyhillsvets]
Top 10 Basic Dog Training Commands [thesprucepets]

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