13 Apr

Off Leash Reliability

“My dog will pull me down if you don’t have your dog under control.” While enjoying a trip to Salida for a dog training seminar with our working dogs, we decided to take the older, retired dogs on a quick swimming trip nearby. Both dogs totally reliable off-leash, we let them have some fetch time.

About twenty feet away in this vast trail system, a woman stopped with a very large dog — obviously concerned. She looked at me, and then at Bailey (my ten-year-old Labrador Retriever) with a scowl on her face. Her large dog was wearing a choke-chain, and the tight leash was wrapped multiple times around her wrist.

I called Bailey to heel position, smiled at the woman, and told her she was fine to go past. Clearly, she did not believe me.

“My dog will pull me down if you don’t have YOUR dog under control”, she said with some serious irritation in her voice. Not one to argue, I nodded and lightly held onto Bailey’s collar, who was much more interested in going back in the water than he was this big dog. The dog owner struggled past (despite there being alternate routes that didn’t have other dogs nearby) and I released Bailey to continue his swim time.

At some point, it seems we forgot about personal responsibility with our dogs. How my old, neutral dog was at fault for this woman not being able to walk her dog is beyond me; but in a way, I do feel for her. It is hard to trust that the off-leash dog in front of you actually has a reliable recall, and isn’t going to come charging at your dog as you walk past. Perhaps if we all took more time to train our dogs to a reliable point before taking them to high traffic areas, we wouldn’t be so bitter. For now, my old dog will continue to prove that not every off-leash dog is a nuisance, and that dog-neutral dogs still exist.

SHAINA ZIMMERMAN

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