With Freedom Comes Responsibility
The loose dog emerged from the brush and began running towards the couple walking their leashed dog. Its owner came into sight slightly later and yelled, "Come, come here". The dog ignored his calls and continued straight for the leashed dog. "Don't worry, he's friendly," he yelled. The loose dog met the couple right below the sign which read, "Off Leash and Under Control Area".
The couple dropped their leash and stepped back watching anxiously. The two dogs approached each other slowly and stiffly, their tails erect, with their hackles bristling. The dogs moved carefully, circling, their eyes tightly focused, every muscle in their bodies tense. The owner of the off-leash dog came close and said, "Don't worry he only wants to play." Clearly, he was oblivious to the signals his dog was sending.
The fight began suddenly, dogs locked teeth to flesh. Both owners yelled, but neither dog listened; they were too involved in the fight. Adrenaline surged through their bodies making them immune to pain. Finally, exhausted and bleeding, they separated and their owners were able to grab them and keep them apart. Unfortunately, incidents like this occur too frequently and could usually have been avoided.
When we bring a dog into our home, we take responsibility for their care. We must take the time to educate our dogs to come and to down, and we must teach them how to greet other dogs and people. We must manage their behaviour with clear boundaries and expectations, and for some dogs in certain situations, we will need to keep them on a collar and a leash.
Even in off leash designated areas, we must be able to call our dog to us, especially when they are anxious to visit other dogs and other dog owners. Most owners love to encourage their dogs to play and to romp with canine friends. But like children our dogs will need to be reminded of the rules which are important for polite interaction.
Off Leash areas are wonderful places for owners to meet, and for dogs to play. But they are only fun and beneficial if dogs are under the control of thoughtful owners who ensure their dogs behave in friendly non-threatening ways.
If joggers or cyclists pass, it is courteous to command our dog to sit or to down. This controls our dog's urge to chase things which move, and allows people passing us to feel safe and comfortable. If another dog is walking on leash towards us, we should tell our dog to stay beside us. There is likely a good reason why the other dog is on a leash and if our dog runs towards it, we could be setting the stage for a difficult interaction.
The amount of freedom we allow our dog is determined by how our dog behaves when it is free. If our dog willingly listens to our requests, we can allow them more opportunities to be off leash and running freely. If our dog is defiant, aggressive, or untrained it is irresponsible to allow them off leash in public areas.
With freedom comes responsibility! Help your dog to make good choices. Teach them appropriate manners. Be a leader your dog can respect and obey.Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists