Off leash-not on the street

Off leash; "when are we going to work off leash?"  Many of my clients have asked me this and then I ask them "what do you mean off leash?"  Often the answer is "so I can walk my dog without a leash," or "I see people walking their dog down the street without a leash, I want to do that."  Hmmmmm.  Off leash work starts right away; as soon as you add your new pup or dog to your family.  Much of our training is done with no collar or leash, but that is when we are in the safety of a home or fenced yard.  Off leash walking down a street is not wise no matter how smart or well trained your dog is. 

                                                                Photo taken by Judy Kargel

I was out with my old ladies this morning, even Tilley rarely gets off leash now.  Her hearing is failing and she cannot hear me enough to run free.  Jessie has never had the freedom of "off leash" except for very isolated areas where she can run for miles and not get hit by a car.  But the last time she was off leash was a very longtime ago now.  Dogs are dogs; obviously right?  And being dogs; they can veer from the norm occasionally.  So even the most trained dogs can slip up from time to time.  And if a slip up occurs in an area with serious dangers, you may regret the decision to take off that safety line. 

What if you are walking down the street and a cat runs across the road?  I had a cat run across the road this morning as I pulled into my driveway.  Luke spotted it right away so when I lifted the back hatch I gave him a very firm "wait."  I grabbed his harness and held tight until we got into the house.  Luke is very well trained but in a moment of elevated prey drive he could easily forget and bolt.  Once your dog is hit by a car it is too late to change your mind, too late to put the leash on just in case. So what I say is the point? 

Yes I work my dogs off leash, Luke that is and in a park setting.  He is very good even with distractions but why would I risk the chance of him being injured?  There is no point, he is going to be walking beside me anyway so why not have a safety line between us?   Working off leash is essential; you don't want to have to have a leash on to control your dog.  But working safely off leash and just off leash wherever are two different things.  I'm not a big leash fan but they are wonderful for keeping dogs safe.

Off leash work is great and it is a terrific feeling having a dog so well trained.  But; never do it on a street, road, lane, path or blvd that has moving vehicles or is even near moving vehicles.  That's just plain common sense, never the less people do it and dogs are injured or worse.   A leash can save a dogs life.


  1. Thank you for this post. I'm amazed at the people who let their dogs off leash in unsafe settings. I would never let Bear off leash on the street and am even afraid to let him off leash in "safe" settings, like at the beach or unfenced park. I'm afraid he'll be having too much fun running and not realize how far away from me he is getting!

  2. The point of off lead on a road, street, lane of path near moving vehicles is that the dog is by your side at all times and not distracted by anything. It's like walking with a child and not holding their hand because you trust they will not walk on the road or run after a plastic bag, butterfly or dog. Off the lead in a park is way different, its just recall and heal but its good to practice keeping your dog by your side in a park with all the distractions.


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