When your dog is already out of control, you might be reluctant to take off the leash and give up your last defense of control. But I’ve seen huge improvements in problem behavior when dogs are given more freedom by being allowed to run around off leash.
The physical benefits are clear. Humans are slow, dogs are FAST! With four legs to our two, a sedate stroll around the neighborhood just doesn’t cut it for even a small dog’s exercise needs. When dogs get to run around off leash, they can move in a way that is comfortable and natural for them.
But there are mental and emotional benefits for your dog too. Going new places and using their senses to explore can actually make your dog smarter and more emotionally stable. That means they’ll learn what you’re trying to teach them faster and be less reactive to fast movement or loud noises. Regular exposure to new things (you might hear it called enrichment) makes your dog easier to live with, even before you do any training.
Finally, it’s just cool to see your dog running around off leash. Observing what your dog chooses to do on his own time will teach you a lot about his personality and what is important to him. Some dogs are athletes, and run just for loving to run. Others are investigators and diligently collect news about what every other dog in the area has been up to. A few are even most interested in what you are doing! It’s very humbling to watch your dog at liberty and realize he is a full and complete being with priorities of his own.
However, there are risks involved in letting a dog off leash. For one, it’s illegal in most of Columbus. If your dog doesn’t come when you call, you are limited to fenced in areas where your dog can’t get lost or find trouble. Those areas are mostly dog parks, which carry their own kinds of risk. Over the next couple weeks, I’m going to share some ways you can give your dog off leash freedom while staying safe.