Dog on the Couch

2016-07-14 06:00

Hi Susan,

I prefer to walk my dog off leash, but have met with disapproving looks from other dog owners. Isn’t it true that dogs need time to run free?


Hi Tracy,

There is probably little a healthy young dog enjoys more that running unrestricted. The open-mouthed, lolling grins and galloping limbs are a joy to watch. But of course this can end disastrously if the dog is not properly trained to stop on command and come when called.

“Freedom” in any cultivated society cannot be absolute. So it is clear that allowing and enjoying such freedom demands that good rules necessarily be obeyed. This is where responsible dog guardianship is so important. It may be considered unnecessary for a dog generally contained in a private property to be responsive to a stop-cue, but surely even in one’s own grounds there will be instances requiring control, such as when gates are opened, or when vehicles enter or leave. It is also necessary to grant that not all humans relish the idea of being jumped on when visiting or when out in public places. Other humans and dogs have a right to their personal space and some may find the idea of this being breeched offensive or even frightening. The benign intent of a strange dog bounding up unexpectedly to another might well be misconstrued by the other dog or human as threatening. Good social skills require us to be aware of others’ needs, concerns and rights.

In some countries it is mandatory for dogs undergo a minimum amount of training with a certified dog trainer, and this has led to in a considerable reduction in dog related incidents.

Your dog’s ability to learn to respond reliably to recalls, “halt” and “leave it”, requires more than simple training. Work needs to be done in the face of distractions that replicate as closely as possible a variety of scenarios, temptations, threats and dangers that might be encountered in unforeseeable situations. Breed and previous history will also play a part in the challenges, degrees of success and the amount of time required for training.

For example, it will generally be easier to teach a reliable recall to a Border collie than to a Beagle. A rescued dog having spent months roaming the streets in search of any and every scrap he can find to make up his daily meals, or one with a background in some dreadful puppy mill, will generally be liable to find it difficult to respond to a recall if he is following this inculcated trail. In such cases a lot of understanding, patience and perseverance will be required of the trainer and handler.

Dogs do need time to run off leash but they also require training to earn this freedom. It is up to you, the guardian, to do the necessary groundwork if you can, or engage a reputable trainer. You hope to see your children develop skills and manners to the best of their abilities, and so it should be with your dogs.

Because many and varied factors are involve with social interactions, we can never guarantee how animals, including humans, will behave in a particular situation, but we do know that a good grounding will favour the best ends. - Susan Henderson© (accredited animal behaviour consultant).

Your dog’s ability to learn to respond reliably to recalls, “halt” and “leave it”, requires more than simple training. Breed and
previous history will also play a part in the challenges, degrees of success and the amount of time required for training

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