Dogs Off Lead – Why bother?

Following on from my last post, about how we train our dogs to come when they are called, so that we can let them off the lead, I started thinking about why we should do that.

This is a tiny video clip of my dogs in the woods, wandering about, separately and together.  They can sniff and nose around in the undergrowth, they can wander wherever they choose to go and they can run about, unrestrained.  Busy in particular usually races around after squirrels when she is in the woods, living up to her name!  (Unlike the rest of the time, when she is pretty chilled 😉 )  You can see her in the video, trotting along.

Why bother?  Why do we need to let our dogs roam freely?  Many people walk their dogs on lead and they trot along, perfectly happily, so it seems.  Or they have their dog on an extendable lead, so that the dog can wander about, supposedly at will.

My feeling is that both of these options are better than not walking your dog at all, but that neither is really giving your dog the freedom to experience its environment fully.  I think that because a dog is so governed by its sense of smell, being able to roam freely, at their own pace, makes a big difference to their ability to ‘follow their nose’ and really appreciate the environment around them.  I think that walking a dog on lead is a bit like us going for a walk wearing a blindfold, or even more tantalisingly, a semi-transparent blindfold, which shows us that there are interesting stuff going on around us that we cannot investigate.

Reasons for walking your dog

I think it comes down to why we walk our dogs at all and what we expect them to get out of it.  My understanding is that there are a couple of reasons for walking:

  • physical exercise – of course your dog needs exercise.  This is a bit of a difficult one though, as there is so much variation in the amount of exercise people feel that their dog needs.  An hour?  Two hours?  Two walks a day?  More, or less? I see the amount of exercise as irrelevant, compared to the overall level of stimulation being received.  If you walked your dog for two hours, on lead, along the same paved paths every day, it wouldn’t be very interesting, would it?
  • mental stimulation – I feel this is more important than the physical exercise.  Going along different paths, exploring and being able to go off in different directions, is vital for a dog’s general wellbeing, in my opinion.  And of course if they can interact with other dogs along the way, they will have a much more interesting experience.

Of course there are many benefits for you in walking your dog regularly and at some length.  And it is great to interact with your dog while you walk.  I do most of my training while walking with my girls.  They practise wait, down, sit, come, retrieve and a few other bits and bobs.  My girls know how to ‘mind’ out of the way of cyclists and runners.  Off lead, of course.

Walking my dogs helps me plan and structure my work as a dragon.  To see what else I do, head to my other website IndePenDent Inspiration

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