Our resident dog trainer on the importance of keeping your pet leashed
By Renée Erdman
Photo credit: Kristine Paulus/CC
If you have a dog, you have likely experienced this scenario. You are walking your dog on leash, and all of a sudden an off-leash dog comes straight towards you. You have nowhere to go. If there is someone around, they are likely saying “My dog is friendly”– or maybe they’re smiling innocently, and not saying anything at all. It’s an all too common occurrence, and it shouldn’t be happening at all. Are you guilty of the “lazy leash syndrome”?
Why leashes matter…
l. Leash laws keep communities safe
They protect people and dogs. They prevent traffic accidents, keep dogs from wandering off and getting lost, keep dogs away from people that are afraid of dogs or children that may get knocked over. They also prevent dog fights, dog bites, and dogs digging in yards that are the pride and joy of homeowners. You get the picture: leashes are important.
Dogs that are leashed and are approached by unknown dogs or people are at a disadvantage right off the bat. They have nowhere to go. How vulnerable would you feel? If rushed enough times by strange dogs, this can easily cause reactivity.
“Reactivity” means that a dog over-reacts to stimulus, whether it’s other dogs, people, sounds or objects. It could be due to fear or it could be due to an overexcited dog; the reasons vary. There are many reactive dogs out there (or I would be out of a job) and co-existing with dogs means respecting their space as well as their guardians. If you choose to let your dog off leash in undesignated areas, you are putting them at risk, not to mention your own dog who may get injured as a result.
3. Off leash dogs lack impulse control
Impulse control is the ability to control one’s impulses. Obviously. It’s common for me to see clients who gave up on loose leash training early on. As a result, their dogs are without boundaries – a potentially dangerous situation. They have learned that pulling gets them what they want; to be off-leash and doing whatever they please. This lack of boundaries can translate to bad behaviour in the home as well. Jumping up will get them attention, barking will get them treats, etc. My previous article discusses why leash walks should be training sessions. These sessions can create noticeable benefits in very little time and will teach your dog boundaries and the ability to control impulses.
All in all, try to remember that although you might feel comfortable with your dog off leash, it may be making other dogs nervous and unintentionally damaging the training regimen their owners are trying to accomplish with them. Adhering to leash laws will keep communities safe and our canine friends balanced and happy.