There is no better feeling than having confidence in your dog. To me, confidence means knowing your dog and understanding what your dog is capable of and having the assurance of being in control of your dog if a situation arises.
The best thing for me is being able to walk, run, play or just be with my dogs in public and unrestrained, I know some might disagree on the fact, but, I can see my dogs are more content & feel they are being more fulfilled in being a dog – sniffing, exploring, etc. Using their own senses to stay with you & not the physical barrier of a lead. This requires you to be switched on & able to recognise & act on your dogs immediate behaviour. Whether it be correcting an undesired behaviour or positively reinforcing a desired one.
From what I’ve seen in Newcastle, this is the common consensus. Many dogs are walked unrestrained, some are obedient and the majority are not but even so I can see that Newcastle have their dogs best interests at heart.
But do we have it all wrong…?
Take your dog for a walk in Newcastle and expect to encounter another dog off lead – take your dog for a walk in Burleigh Heads and you’ll quickly realise your off lead method of dog walking, no matter how obedient the dog, is no longer acceptable – just as I did. It seems that a busy place like Burleigh Heads would rather see unfulfilled dogs on leads than fulfilled dogs off leads.
On leash walking is no bother with dogs who know boundaries and limits but as we were walking past other restrained dogs I began to notice a trend. A large portion of the dogs we came in contact with were very determined dogs. They insisted on charging out in front of their owner and crossing the path in our direction.
My concern –
If the dog was not on a lead it would be very intimidating not to mention a very disrespectful way to greet another dog, but we as humans for whatever reason feel that this behaviour is okay because the dog is restrained. What became clear and concerning was that people were positive & confident knowing their dogs were just a tug on a lead away from being ‘safe’.
So do we disregard obedience & teaching our dogs respectful manners, especially the way in which dogs greet other dogs? Do we fail to put in the effort our dogs deserve from us all because of the lead? What has made us believe that a lead is the answer to a dog who is uncontrollable unrestrained? Why have we decided to stop providing the leadership our dogs need? Why has this become acceptable?
What can we learn from this?
This false sense of social obedience is not a positive one for dogs. When a dog is allowed to act disrespectfully around another dog, should the owner be surprised if another dog snaps, snarls or has a ‘go’ at it? I confidently say they shouldn’t be! We can easily relate this to a human situation and how we feel when strangers invade our personal space – give it some thought.
I do not disagree with leads, they have many great uses. But I do believe they allow us to ‘lose control’ of our dogs & still be socially accepted. Put in the effort to work with your dogs & teach them the difference between good manners & bad. Earn their trust & trust them. Learn their body language & if walking with a leash ask yourself – “Would I have full control over my dog without this leash?” The answer should always be yes. Walk your dog on a leash when required to do so for the purpose of abiding by the law, not because you actually need it!