Off Leash Dogs

Not too long ago, I was asked to be a guest speaker on dogs for a horse riders' organization.  I was peppered with questions about dog behavior and dog body language.   It was amazing to me how little some of the horse lovers knew about dogs, even though many of them had dogs.  I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, as many dog lovers don't know much about their animals.  At any rate, one of the questions was why do dog owners want to have their dogs off leash?  When you think about it, that's a very interesting question.  I know I love to walk my off leash dogs, but why? 

We can say it's because that's the best way for dogs to get their exercise, and of course that's true.   But I think the main reason is that they are such fun to watch.  My dogs seem to be able to find interesting stuff  pretty much everywhere they go.  They investigate their world with gusto, weaving from one side of the road to the other, shoving their noses in bushes and holes, and madly chasing balls that I let loose from my Chuck-it.   They see oncoming dogs, and I watch them behave appropriately - slowing down, circling the other dog, giving a cursory sniff and then moving on.  They race ahead, only to stop and turn around with a questioning look in their eyes - aren't you coming?   Of course I am.   I'm thinking of nothing except how cute and interesting they are; I'm letting my brain relax and enjoy itself.    At those times, my dogs are the essence of companionship, and I imagine other people might feel the same way.

It's such a privilege to be able to walk dogs off leash, and I realize that it's not a reality in many parts of the country.  But for the locations where it is, I think it's extremely important for us humans to realize how lucky we are, and to train our dogs to be courteous to others while walking.   If we start early enough, it's not difficult - probably because unlike other training, this type of training can work with the genetic grain, rather than against it.  All we have to do is teach our dogs to ignore other people, avoid other dogs unless invited to visit and to keep relatively close to their humans.  The equipment needed is a long line and treats...and maybe a ball and Chuck it.    (if you're interested in  the specifics, visit our website at www.marinhumanesociety.org  and look for the training handouts). 

We dog owners know how wonderful our dogs are; I'd like the horse owners to think our dogs are pretty wonderful as well.