Leashed or Unleashed: What is the best for you and your dog?
There is no time our dogs are happier than when they are out on their ‘walkies’!
They get the exercise, interaction and all the sniffing that they love. But as owners, we are confronted with whether it is better, and safer, to have our dogs on the leash or walking free.
We all know that dogs are freedom loving creatures, and by their very nature would much prefer to be off the leash. But the question is, is it in the best interest of your dog and you?
There are different arguments for both, and undoubtedly there are advantages and disadvantages for both options. In many regards it comes down to which is more important; allowing your dog to be free to roam and socialise, or the safety of your dog and others.
But in the end every dog is different. So what could be the best choice for you?
Rules and Regulations!
While in some countries you can see many dogs off the leash on city and town streets as well as parks, in many countries the LAW requires dogs to be on the leash in ALL unenclosed public places. Always follow the law first by checking out where you can have your dog off the leash.
Equally as important, before you start to unclick that leash, is to ask yourself ‘can I trust my dog?’ It isn’t an easy one to answer, dogs can be random creatures, but there are several things you should think of first, for your dog’s safety and others:
• Can you control your dog off the leash? Will it respond and return at your call?
• Is your dog well socialized? Will he or she not be aggressive or fearful towards people and other dogs?
• Is it a safe area to let my dog roam? Could there be ways your dog could be harmed or even get lost?
It is also good to be aware of other people’s feelings, you may trust your dog not to be a problem off the leash, but what of other people, with or without dogs. After all they don’t know your dog and may not feel safe seeing it off the leash.
Dogs are born to roam free!
Is there a more beautiful sight than a dog racing around happily off the leash? It is also a great way for your dog to explore, socialize and use it natural instincts, and it’s hard to deny that they will burn off more energy too.
If you trust your dog, you can have great pleasure in seeing them enjoy themselves in an open safe area.
But what about those city streets? You must consider dangers like traffic, other people, animals, and distractions.
Off the leash in public? Be sure, be safe!
Knowing the right and wrong place to have your dog off the leash is crucial, and is down to your best judgement of the safety and rules of where you walk.
Like stated before, you must know if off the leash walking is allowed where you live. If you are ‘good to go’ you should make sure your dog is TRAINED to be reliable off the lead in public.
In fact, there are laws in some countries that enforce training exams that have to be passed before your dog can to be allowed off leash (but under firm control) in public. But this type of training can be useful for any dog, anywhere.
The standard requirements for this training can include keeping your dog under control while encountering a stranger, the ability to recall your dog, and your dog staying calm and controlled while encountering a stranger with a dog on a leash. All these would normally be expected without you having to physically touch the dog.
If you can successfully train your dog to do these you can help ensure you have safe and trustworthy dog should it be off the leash. After all we don’t want to be tense and always worrying when walking our dogs, we want to enjoy it too!
Never ever let your dog off the lead in a unenclosed area, and especially on the roadside if you are not CERTAIN you can keep it under firm control!
But what about those of you not willing to risk, or unable by law, to have your dog off the leash? Or maybe you have judged that your dog is just not reliable enough to be free? Leashing will have to be the way, just make sure you do it right!
Staying attached to your dog.
The main advantage of a leashed dog, is that they should be under your control now, you have little fear of them getting lost, or running after that little poodle across the road.
There is also the option of getting a retractable leash so your dog doesn’t feel too constrained, and is able to roam a little further while still connected to you. You can also choose to leash them to a harness if you prefer not to be pulling at their throat.
100% leashing can be a problem if you have a dog with high energy needs, such as a Greyhound or Labrador for example. But you can also try to find other possibilities, such as having a garden or a safe enclosed area where you can have them walk and run off the leash. Dog parks are a popular solution to this and are especially common in the United States.
Just as there is off the leash training, so there is on the leash training!
It is best done early, especially as there is a chance older dogs will resent the leash or even be prone to leash aggression!
Aggression on the leash such as lunging at dogs or people, reacting angrily to being put on the leash, and being harder to control, are all possibilities. After all normally a dog would be able to put distance between something it is afraid of, on a leash this may not be possible.
If a dog that is off the leash or loud people or noises come close to a leashed dog it can cause a defensive reaction, panic and anger.
But if you can identify the source of the discomfort and work to relax your dog around this, it can help solve your dog’s leash problem. For example if your dog pulls and leaps on the lead because it is frustrated or excited, you must teach it that this achieves nothing, and praise it instead for calm behavior.
If you dog is instead insecure on the leash and that is the reason for any aggression, such as when it sees another dog, you can try distracting the dog with a treat or a toy, and this can help your dog associate these times with positive feelings.
It is most likely, whatever your dog is like, or wherever you live, that at least some of the time you will have to have your dog on the leash, so training them to accept their leash is crucial.
All our dogs are different as are all the places we live. So there isn’t one simple answer for all of us.
Obviously all dogs should love their walkies, both on and off the leash. Finding the right balance between the two is what you need to discover.
If you want your dog to enjoy walks off the leash, you have to consider what the law of the land is and how trustworthy is your dog. You must also be prepared to train your dog to be under your control, for your dog’s own safety and others.
However you cannot expect your dog to always be able to walk off the leash. There is a time and place for it.
On the other hand if you live in an area with stricter leashing laws or feel unsure about your dog being off the leash, then with good training your dog should adapt well to walking on the leash. But it is recommended if you know a safe, secure area for them to be free, let them off the leash and throw that ball, it is good for their health and happiness.
Whatever you decide, make sure you get out each day with your dog, and enjoy those walks together, come rain or shine!