Dog off leash to dog on leash:
A topic as explosive as it is ubiquitous, and one that can regularly lead to emotionally heated tempers. I will now try to look at it objectively and “take it apart”.
At the outset, I must say that this is also a topic for which there can probably be no clear guidelines set in stone. I myself am caught in a certain ambivalence here when trying to find the one, all-encompassing solution. I will therefore also try, with the help of examples, to illuminate this topic from different angles.
However, what bothers me a lot is that there are also trainers and dog schools who spread or share opinions and attitudes on Facebook and Co. and are obviously not aware of their responsibility. Because many people in our information overloaded society simply tend to take such careless postings unfiltered and above all unreflected, because they come from the “experts” after all. Even though true core statements can be found, they are mostly postings based on emotions and short-term annoyances, because the author simply wanted to vent his or her feelings via social media. Yes, even trainers don’t have patience forever, but they should probably be a bit more careful and considerate when disseminating certain information.
As an example a comparison is to be regarded here that a (strange) human being comes to another human being and licks him this over the face, sniffs at all possible places or jumps to him even in the arms, on the shoulders or elsewhere. Just for fun, people also do something like that, of course not necessarily with strangers, except for hidden camera maybe.
Yes, of course I do not do that, because I am a HUMAN and not a DOG.
It is worked here with exaggerated horror scenarios and here again: YES, of course there are extreme cases, which are also not to be excused or supported, but therefore I can not generalize this and induce uncertainty, even fearful behavior.
And it is exactly this generalization, a generalization of extreme situations that should be considered as a justification for general rules of behavior that I criticize. I am concerned with the way something is communicated and how it is trained, or what training may be lacking in dog school. Just like in driving school, also to be more responsive to people.
Of course, good dog trainers differentiate in truth much more accurately than they might quickly share in the heat of the moment, but this is precisely where the danger lies.
I know this topic from both perspectives. I will also come back to it in examples.
The question and approach for me now is:
- What do I want (for me and my dog) and.
- What do I not want.
Let’s assume wide nature and a really “nice”, sociable, socialized and just happy dog:
I want to let this dog run free, I want him to run wild and move freely, because I know that he will not attack any other dog, whether on a leash or not, somehow unpleasant. The recall, of course, should fit halfway. But I know that I would not have to worry about either child, dog or human.
In truth, there are many more dogs where this all works without a hitch than dogs where something like this could cause a problem. Only with such “problem-free” dogs, one visits as a rule also less the dog schools, with which certain distributions would be explained yes also…
A dog, which hangs outside in wide nature at a drag line, has by no means automatically a problem with a free-running dog. Mostly they hang on the dragline for protection against running away and/or hunting instinct. You see this very often.
And again: Of course you can’t see it so easy and relaxed, if you know exactly that your dog can quickly become a leash jerker. You should be that honest with yourself or have trained a 100% recall. Otherwise it can be with a relaxed togetherness of course nothing.
I do not want to be called or hinted, (permanently) and especially in an unpleasant way, to take my dog on the leash. Sorry, not because of bad experience (as tragic as that may be), out of “principle” – especially not in far nature and out of any other stubbornness. Just as it is not my place to recommend the park as a better place to such a counterpart, it is not the other person’s place to restrict me and my dog in any way. (Again, I have to be sure of my dog!!!).
Very well I would like to be able to take consideration on my encounter, if it is really urgent necessary – see example MERLIN further down. Really people, that is rarely really the case. Yes, we have brought in here more stress than necessary, because we do not trust each other any more, but this may change again, so that we can take into consideration the really problematic cases and not move in an isolated world.
So, right after this the other side of the story:
I have a rowdy, a crazy, an unpredictable, … let’s say an unicum.
Just like the extremely fearful or sick or injured dog.
I want the person whose dog may be approaching me to be aware that I may be holding such a dog on a leash and know that his dog will quickly let go of us here or can be well called back. I expect that my counterpart does not fall then into an indignation, if its dog is attacked by mine possibly something, which I have of course under control, provided that the other dog seeks also fast again the wide or is ordered back. But I also do not want to immediately fall into a “panic” and exactly that requires the cooperation and the experience of both sides.
I do not want the dog that comes running towards us, completely uncontrollable and absolutely unsuitable for free running, to put me in a really distressed situation. Accidents and mishaps can of course happen, but that should remain the only exception.
I also don’t want to be criticized and excluded for a dog that is perhaps less sociable, but that perhaps at a certain distance a communication and approach can possibly take place, perhaps I can even be helped. So why not maybe for support but a small piece of the way together with both on the leash.
Especially in extreme cases, I would like us to use ideas like the yellow ribbon – Yellow Dog or Gulahund, especially if it is really about very important distance. I write extreme cases because a certain desire for distance – probably very much seen on the area under consideration – just goes too far for me. An avenue, a park, etc. is something different than a vast (hiking) area in the wild. To “occupy” space there because I want to train seems too much of a good thing to me. There I already find my little places. Because if I must leash my dog every 200m outdoor in free nature again, because somebody trains, then it becomes also boring.
There is nothing more beautiful and more important, than the dogs also times tidy distances freely move and itself “let loose”. Some dogs will never experience this anyway. With a well trained recall I have already gained a lot, but not everything has to “work” perfectly.
It may be that there are people who are not of the opinion here and also walk longer distances with your dogs on a normal, rather short leash. Personally, I do not think this is desirable and it is exactly the rare cases that I would like to accuse of a certain ignorance, an ignorance of almost wanting to deny something to the many other, happy and compatible dogs. These are of course again only my personal experiences. But I had already gained the impression more often that dogs were instrumentalized here, as a showpiece without much naturalness and cheerfulness.
But one thing is clear and not debatable: Just as we can not forbid a mountain biker to thunder down the slope, we simply have zero right of instruction here, we can prescribe anything to other dog owners. Only in the case of a damage, such a course of action for the affected will become a problem of course. Perhaps in the way we communicate, more should be kept in mind.
It is about togetherness and I don’t want to use the term “respect” so much, but rather about mutual understanding. However, also the understanding that some dogs can move well and gladly as well as without problems without a leash. It does not always have to be the perfect dog with perfect subordination, it can also be sometimes quite normal, cheerful and “problem-free” dogs simply.
It is not easy to write down this complex subject. Because too many combinations of dogs, owners and conditions as well as areas/locations arise. I prefer to keep an eye on the constellations that work well, instead of making sweeping generalizations based on unfortunate incidents. Above all, a little more factual, less emotional and especially less “puffery”, because we must also still be able to deal with joggers, mountain bikers and children and those with us….
Now here are a few examples from my own experience:
My two German Shepherd mix Rhea and Merlin both came from the shelter. After Reha’s death, Merlin’s behavior unfortunately changed a lot to the negative. Let’s say, he became a little “reactive” 😉 This was on the one hand certainly due to the loss of Rhea, but, for me today in retrospect very classic, but especially due to the fact that I could not give him at the time then also additionally the guidance necessary for him. Another reason was perhaps already at that time that he possibly already had pain due to his beginning, Gracilis contracture (permanent shortening or scarring of tissue, here the Musculus gracilis). At that time, and this is already 13 years ago, not many veterinarians knew about this disease. Just to get the diagnosis was an expensive and lengthy affair.
Anyway, at this time Merlin was no longer an affable dog, although I had tried very hard. So we went for walks or hikes as well as we could at times when we were most likely to be undisturbed, and at some point I avoided contact as well as possible, since he already hurt himself often enough on the shortened muscle and then lay screaming on the floor in front of me. How often had I thought to myself “that’s it now”. Everyone who knows such a situation knows how terrible that is.
Anyway, once we were on the way back from our walk in a free and spacious area, when I already saw an owner with a free running dog in the distance. Looking ahead, I swerved with Merlin as best I could to let man and dog pass. As it had to happen, the dog came running over to us and Merlin, in his offensive manner at the time, lost his nerve. And of course he hurt himself again in this situation. As much as I was angry at the time, albeit composed, it naturally degenerated into painful “yelling” from him again. Nevertheless, on sober reflection I have to say that this “strange” dog was an absolutely sociable, very passive dog and it was simply up to Merlin himself to tackle this dog offensively. Of course, at that time it was certainly already the pain that had brought him to this behavior, so to speak “attack is the best defense” but exactly with this he has in the end brought the pain back to himself.
Of course I was also irritated because Merlin, my emotionally close bond, was hurt and in pain, but I can’t blame all the other people who walk freely in nature with sociable dogs for our suffering at that time.
That is why it is also my concern to establish the yellow ribbon (yellow dog) for exactly such cases again more and to help to more publicity.
So I know the problem and the desire for absolutely no contact very well.
During a walk, also in free nature in a spacious hiking area, I was walking along a path with a shelter dog, obligatory with muzzle and dog leash, when I saw in the distance already a whole horde of dogs coming towards us. At that moment I thought about how quickly I would be able to take off my dog’s muzzle (was possible), but left it at that and could have just let go of the drag line in case. Almost at the same time I heard, the woman running after the pack, already “do not panic, do not panic” to me. Well, in such a situation you can only remain calm and collected, especially because it is not likely that it is a pack of wolves on the hunt, out to prey. It is very important to grasp the situation and get ready for action, in any case it is absolutely counterproductive to panic in advance and possibly take away the dog’s security. Because if you panic, your dog will end up feeling compelled to protect as well. The encounter went without incident and my foster dog handled the situation admirably.
Do I think it was misbehavior on the part of the owner? Not necessarily. Because she was already very sure of her “pack” as it turned out in the subsequent acquaintance. They were also excellent, very happy and social dogs and the running towards them happened out of joy and exuberance. The owner would have prevented it also in principle, was just too late with it, because she had not seen me in time.
Another more problematic example:
Again walking with a shelter dog, I passed a woman with a Pit Bull or AmStaff mix some distance away. Maybe today I would even turn back, but probably that would have been too late. At that time I could observe very well how the dog of the lady was already on certain excitement level and the owner had noticeably the situation not very sovereign in the grasp. I went therefore briskly past, the two always in the eye and it came, as it had to come, the dog tore itself loose. As sovereign as my protégé dog was at the time, which had its positive aspects, I was also aware that this could quickly lead to an escalating situation. The strange dog increased itself very fast into an “excited” behavior purely, into a direction “tilt” as I was taught at that time over these races (I would not know now at all whether this would still have a general validity) and my dog began already noticeably this behavior not to approve.
Fortunately, I had food to practice with (treats), threw it generously to the other dog and removed myself from the situation at a fast pace. No “running away”, but simply determined and consistent. In this short period of time, the owner was able to approach her dog again and re-leash it.
This is absolutely to be seen as a failure of the dog owner, because she should have known her dog better or was not suitable for this dog at all. However, I do not want to exclude a mishap and “accidents” do happen. However, it remains for me in this situation a principle misconduct of the owner. The race of the strange dog may be unnecessary to note here, I did it to the description of a potential, physical superiority, because I had to do with individuals of this race, which were absolutely sociable and it would never have come in such a situation to problems from their side. However, one does not know this in advance and can only recognize it in the short term.
Contact of two or more dogs on the leash:
Of course you can let dogs together on a leash. In the big city as well as in the nature it can work great and if not, it will be broken off. At the same time you do not have to force it. Can, but does not have to. There is no only one or the other is right here.
Exactly here we have to consider however again conditions:
Are the involved “fit enough” in dealing with the leash (also dragline) and in recognizing a runaway? Are the parties involved able to get out of the situation quickly enough without hectic if it threatens to escalate?
Yes, maybe you’ve got me there now, possibly I’m wrongly assuming here that people can simply do that when they get involved. That people can estimate their counterpart halfway well. Especially the human-dog team as my counterpart. But maybe this can be brought more into a training.
Pay attention to HUMANS, not only dogs. If the human as dog owner does not want, I think it is to recognize, then let him, even if his dog speaks another language possibly. We all have bad days, maybe even pain and just want to get our dog out. You can already tell, by the body language of the human times!
Make eye contact with the human, observe how he deals with his dog. Is he confident or overwhelmed? Does he seem easy-going and communicative or is he already getting on your nerves. Look at the looseness or tension of your dogs, listen to your feeling.
I am not talking about “contact training” here. Especially don’t do this with your own dog, you have been in a relationship for too long and it doesn’t necessarily benefit you. I am talking about everyday situations with “normal” and sociable dogs.
And if everything fits, then let your dogs sniff, watch it, do your leash unraveling “dances” and always keep an eye on the situation. Maybe you’ll end up walking a bit together, maybe you’ll let them both romp around freely, or maybe it just didn’t work out and you’ll continue on your separate ways without stress.
Stay loose, don’t make too much science out of it.