Off leash?? On the street??
Seeing a guardian walking with an amazingly well trained dog off leash can a beautiful sight. I am often asked from clients "when do we work off leash?" Yesterday as I arrived at the park; I unloaded Jessie and she started her sniff session immediately. We hadn't even left the spot where I had dropped her when I saw a couple heading our way. They were being followed by a very tiny yorkie; maybe 3-4 lbs. The dog was off leash and the couple was very much involved in a conversation as they walked passed us and up onto the street. I then realized that they were not going to check back on their dog; and the dog was coming to see Jessie.
The tiny yorkie had no apprehension when she approached Jessie. Because of Jessie's lack of good vision now she didn't see the little dog until it was right on us. She immediately postured and set about to teach the little dog a lesson in who the Queen of the world was. She was cut short when I opted to not engage in the lesson and got her moving on our walk. The little yorkie now a good 30 feet behind her owners trotted off with one glance back at Jessie. The idea of this tiny little dog on her own inspired this blog.
When is it a good time to have a dog off leash? I admit that having my dogs off leash and running free is just about the best thing. The dogs are free to run and play without restraint; but, there is a time and place for it. And I feel that a street in any shape or form is not the place. Anything can happen and in a split second a dog can dart after a cat, become spooked and bolt, or just forget their training and run off across a street. For me it is just not worth any risk of incident or accident to have a dog off leash while walking on a street.
The degree of reliable recall; having your dog come when called is also a big factor when considering taking off the leash. Of course if you never take it off then your dog is never going to get the off leash experience they need. Finding safe spots to have your dog off leash is getting harder and harder. There are dog parks which are a great safe place but many are too small and when you add too many dogs into a too small park you end up with a stressful situation. There are some amazing huge dog parks that I've seen online, lakes and acres for the dogs to run off leash, wonderful.
I often see people walking down the street with their dog 2-3 feet behind them off leash. I don't get this at all; adding a leash to this situation is basically like putting a seatbelt on as you set off to drive somewhere, a safety precaution. Adding a leash to a dog that is walking right beside you just makes sense and as a guardian it is your job to keep your dog safe.
Let's face it; we live in a leashed dog society. And although I do feel that leashes are overused there is definitely a time and place for them. Walking on the street is one place a dog should always have a leash on; they deserve that much from us.