Our clients are always asking us why we strongly recommend that they keep their dog on a leash when out and about when they see their neighbors outside with their dogs just running around off leash. Although we don’t say that “they have to do this”, they are always curious why we have taken this position when they see so many of their neighbor dogs without leashes…
I have maintained this position for as long as I can remember. My “always wear a leash” rule was actually strengthened and reaffirmed quite recently. It all came about after a conversation I had with one of my clients in Norcross last night. Before I go on, I want to remind everyone that this was his initial lesson, so we hadn’t had the “leash conversation” yet.
Well, he told me that he would often allow his dog off the leash when they were outside in the front yard. For the most case, this never caused any issue at all. It just so happened that the day before I arrived, they were outside just hanging out. His dog was off leash, as always. All was fine. Then, his dog suddenly took off running at full speed down the street after the trash truck. He took off running after his dog and finally caught up with him when the trash truck stopped again about a hundred yards up the road.
“This has never happened before”, he explained. “My dog loves to play with my neighbor’s dog next door and will always stay in the yard. We go up to the park just up the street and play fetch. He stays by my side the entire time and comes right back inside when we are done. We are often outside when the trash truck passes, and he has never just taken off like that.”
Just to reaffirm my stoic position, we do not condone having dogs off leash at any time. The “real world” has unlimited things that can distract and engage your dog. To quote Forrest Gump, “Sh*t happens”.
Since you can’t predict and train for anything that might happen, you can’t unequivocally state that your dog won’t take off, running down the street after that trash truck. It is your job to keep your dog safe. Since you can’t guarantee your dog’s safety when outside without a leash, we strongly recommend that dogs are always leashed when outside in an unenclosed environment.
It doesn’t matter if you live on a quiet, country road or a busy avenue in the city, the road can always provide dangerous situations and precarious encounters. You need to acknowledge them and take the appropriate steps to mitigate and eliminate the danger to your dog.
With that said, what are some steps you might take that would give your dog some fun and freedom outside while maintaining his safety? Do you need to keep him on a six-foot leash all the time?
Here are some suggestions:
Invisible Dog Fence: Besides being a behavioral dog trainer, I also used to install invisible dog fences. My back finally told me “No”, so I no longer provide this service. My experience in installing and training dogs to use the invisible fence showed me that it is an excellent option if you want to be outside with your dog without a leash.
A wire is installed just under the surface of your yard around the perimeter of your property. The wire emits a signal that is sent to a special collar (receiver) that your dog is wearing. If your dog gets too close to the wire and the edge of your property, he receives a mild stimulation (varies based on the dog fence brand). Your dog is trained (by the Invisible Dog Fence trainer) to turn around and move back to the house whenever he receives this stimulation. It will take about two to three weeks of daily training so that the dog consistently realizes that going near the edge of the property is not fun and staying on the yard and near the house is fun.
A Strong Tether Placed in the Front Yard: This is an “old school solution” that will permit your dog some expanded freedom to roam around in the front yard while blocking him from leaving your property and going in the street. Pound a strong stake into the ground in the middle of your front yard. Attach a training lead on your dog’s collar or harness and then tie the other end to the stake. You will have to do a little bit of “tinkering with the length of the lead” to make sure that your dog can’t run into the street or get wound around obstacles in your front yard.
Stay inside the training lead’s circle when you are out with your dog. You don’t want him to try and run to you and then get “yanked back” because he reached the end of the lead. If you are playing fetch, make sure you don’t throw your fetch toy too far away so that it lands outside the diameter of the training lead circle.
A Little More Freedom When Walking: Well, when I used the word “freedom”, I might have stretched the truth just a bit. A more accurate description of what I am suggesting you provide is probably “relative, but managed freedom”. For some reason, many people seem to use a six-foot leash when walking their dog. There is nothing wrong with a six-foot leash and it is an excellent tool to safely walk your dog.
I often suggest that my clients get a longer leash (known as a “training lead”) to walk their dogs. The length I suggest depends on your area and specific preferences. My “rule of thumb” is that the training lead is between twenty and thirty feet.
As you walk your dog, it is up to you whether you keep him right by your side (at about three feet) or allow him a little more freedom (walking at a greater distance from you). If you are walking in a crowd, or walking where there are cars passing, you will use less of the training lead and keep him right by your side. If you are in a quiet and empty park, you may give him more lead and a little more freedom to “check more things out”.
If you are going to employ this option, you must be constantly observant of the environment around you and your dog. If your dog is walking farther away from you because you have given him a little extra lead, you must constantly observe the immediate environment to make sure that he is safe. If you observe a safety issue or something that might become a safety issue, bring in the lead and return your dog to your side. When things are safe again, you can give him some lead and room to roam.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.