The other day, I was doing some dog training with Atlas and Muse. We just so happened to be outside of a dog park, and several dogs were off leash. Now, if you don’t know already, Muse is a reactive dog. Normally, I wouldn’t even think of taking her to a dog park. But, we’re working on her reactivity around other dogs. So training at the park is good for her. But, as this woman’s dog was approaching Muse, I had to say, “Leash your dogs, please. My dog is not friendly.”
Now, some of you might be reading this and asking, “If your dog isn’t friendly, why are you at the dog park?” Training a reactive dog requires putting them near situations they react to. You can’t train a dog to not be reactive if you can’t put them in that situation.
Let’s look at that one further.
Training a Reactive Dog.
Reactive dogs don’t know how to handle certain situations. When I walk Muse up the street, and a dog runs towards a fence, she reacts. She whines, she barks, she even jumps up on me when I’m trying to control her to not go crazy. When she jumps, it’s her way of looking to me to protect her from whatever she’s feeling. Controlling her in this situation is difficult, to say the least.
However, by bringing her near dogs, not in the dog park, that would be disastrous, but near it, she’s getting better. She’s realizing that she’s not the only dog that’s outside. Because of this, her reactivity is getting better. At the beginning of each training session, she has a hard time until I get her to relax. Within 10 minutes, she’s calm, even though the dogs are still running around. It’s for this reason that other dogs should be on leash outside the dog park area.
Back to why leashes are important though. Any scenario I can come up with, a leash is important on all dogs. No matter how good you think your dog is. Unless your dog is trained to heel at all times, you need to leash your dogs.
Why Training is Important if They’re Unleashed.
Leashes are so important on any dog, unless, like I said, your dog is trained well. The dogs that I’m referring to, are the dogs that stay attached to your knee no matter what’s around them. They don’t go running circles around you, bounding off with tongues lolling out the side of their mouth. I’m talking, dogs that focus on your face the entire time they’re off leash. In my 41 years, I’ve only seen this with a handful of dogs. Most just run around while their owners don’t pay attention. Otherwise, they would’ve seen Muse start to get raised hackles, ears back, rearing to attack until I stepped up to my daughter and took her leash.
Most dogs that haven’t been through major training, can get into trouble. I get that you think your dog is friendly, but there are a lot of dogs out there that aren’t. Muse isn’t friendly, Annie wasn’t friendly, and that’s 2 out of 3 of my dogs recently that aren’t friendly. Now, Annie I socialized. But, during a run, she was attacked by a dog when she was on her leash. Ever since then, she became very reactive to all dogs.
Dogs Attack Dogs on Leash.
I’ve seen several scenarios where a dog attacks another dog, even though that dog is on a leash. Dogs on leashes feel more trapped than a dog just running free. Often, when a free dog runs up on the leashed dog, the leashed dog will feel threatened and defend itself. This starts a fight, usually fairly quickly. I’ve seen a lot of people say to the other person with a leashed dog, “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly.” That doesn’t mean the other dog is friendly though.
So if the unleashed dog goes into defense mode, they both fight. It’s the unleashed dogs fault at this point, regardless who started it.
The dogs in the training class with me may not always ignore another dog even if it’s friendly. If a dog feels that it’s space is invaded, they will show signs that they want the other dog to back off. This doesn’t always work, and some dogs take the signs the wrong way. And once again, a fight can break out.
Another Reason to Leash your Dogs
In Alaska, we encounter bears and moose all the time. In fact, we just had a bear in our neighborhood about 2 weeks ago. If you’re walking your dog off leash, and that dog senses that bear, they will go after it. Whether they’re trying to protect you, or just curious about what they smell.
If a dog goes after a bear, that bear most likely will turn and attack the dog. In fact, this recently happened with a guy that was out on a hike with his dog. The dog barked at the bear, and the bear attacked the man instead. Had his dog not went after the bear, the man most likely would have been fine. His dog was off leash.
A moose will also trample a dog if the dog starts barking at the moose. I’ve seen moose run after dogs before, and that would be a terrible way for a dog to be injured. But it happens up here often.
Final Words on Leash your Dogs.
Hopefully by now you understand the importance of leashing your dogs. One of my dogs is reactive, and she’s just not trained enough to not go after other dogs yet. I keep her on a very short leash, just for this reason. Her leash, is only 1 foot long because of this. When it’s a cooler day, I also have her muzzled as a precautionary measure. Of course, most people see this and think she’s a terrible dog. She’s not. The most lovable, cuddling dog I’ve ever had; she’s a sweetheart. It just so happens that she’s not confident around other dogs yet, and needs that training.
So, when you’re leaving the dog park and your dogs don’t stay attached to your knee, please leash them. Too many unforeseen circumstances can happen that can cause your dog to get hurt. Especially if that dog jumps on another dog that isn’t having any of it. Even if your dog is generally very happy and friendly, too many other dogs aren’t.
I can’t think of a single reason in which dogs should be off leash. Maybe because it’s too hard for you to walk three dogs? Get a better leash. Or, maybe you just don’t feel like it, well, if your dog gets hurt, would you feel like it next time? And the vet bills would be your own to pay, not the other person whose dog was on a leash.
For the sake of your dogs, leash your dogs. At all times.