No Dog is 100% Reliable
When I talk with clients, I remind them that I personally am not 100% reliable all the time, so there’s no reason to expect a dog to be 100% reliable. They totally understand that. I never have to convince anyone otherwise. It’s an obvious truth.
Yet, I still see many dogs off leash around town.
This is a problem.
Here’s another obvious truth:
If you do not have your dog restrained in some way (whether behind a fence or on leash), disasters can happen faster than you can respond.
Recently I was talking with a dog trainer who had worked with a family with a larger dog. The mom was taking the dog into the fenced-in backyard. From the front door to the gated area, she walked her dog off leash.
Generally speaking, this dog did very well around distractions. On this day, however, the dog was triggered by a child on the sidewalk. The dog charged the child and attacked. Due to the damage, the dog was ordered to be euthanized by the judge.
This entire situation was completely avoidable. All they had to do was keep the dog on leash.
On my own street, I know of 3 dogs who have been hit by cars in a handful of years. Two of them died. One lost an eye. Their owners considered them to be fine off leash. For whatever reason, at that moment they weren’t.
These disasters were completely avoidable. All they had to do was keep the dog on leash.
Learning from Others’ Mistakes
The School of Hard Knocks often sucks. Basically, we make mistakes, and we learn from them.
But why wait and suffer the consequences of personal mistakes when we can just as easily learn from the mistakes of others instead?
To me, the ability to learn from the mistakes of others is a sign of wisdom.
Today, I want to promote that kind of wisdom. I want to look at why your dog needs to be on leash at ALL times when outside of an enclosed, protected area (such as a fence in backyard).
What is Reliability?
The magic number: 80%.
Yep, that’s it, just an 80% response rate is considered reliable behavior. So, when you are training your dog a new skill, if they are able to perform it 4 out of 5 trials, then they are demonstrating reliable behavior.
That means 20% of the time, they don’t respond appropriately.
I heard a dog trainer once try to put reliability in perspective for students. He asked, “Are you willing to be me $50 that your dog will perform the behavior on the next trial? If not, then you’re dog is not ready to move on,” which is to say it hasn’t achieved a reliable level of behavior.
Are you willing to bet $50 that your dog will respond to you when you tell it to “leave the guests alone”? If it doesn’t listen, then you’re just out $50
Now, are you willing to gamble with your dog’s life, betting it will not get triggered by something and run into the street and possibly get hit by a car? People do it all the time.
Are you willing to gamble that your dog will not get triggered and attack another dog, a neighbor cat, children, or jogger? People do it all the time.
If you have a dog off leash outside of a containment area, you are doing nothing less than gambling with your dog’s life.
1. Leashes Keep Your Dog Safe
Someone in my general neighborhood has a dog who struggles with dog-dog reactivity. Whenever we walk by the house and the dog is outside, we go to the other side of the street. The dog is on a tether, and I admit that I worry that it might break free. Nonetheless, my dogs are pretty good about ignoring that dog’s reactions.
Whenever that dog goes by in their truck and sees my dogs, whether they on a walk or inside their fence, it hangs its head out the window and barks at them.
One day I was working with Loki outside the fence on the sidewalk on his long lead. (When vehicles go by, I keep it short as a precaution.) The truck went by with the dog barking out the window. This time, Loki reacted. He barked at the passing dog and lunged. The leash stopped him from going after the truck.
This was completely new behavior. The aggressive behavior out of the other dog had finally reached a point where Loki was triggered enough to react. Furthermore, he started reacting to trucks in general on walks. (I’ve since worked him through a process so he has stopped reacting to vehicles.)
The point is this: Loki used to be really good about ignoring traffic. But, he developed a trigger with danger that I didn’t expect because of a new association. Thankfully, he was on his leash, or he might have been badly injured.
Please, keep your dog on leash to keep it safe.
2. Leashes Keep Others Safe
When I ask people if they think it’s a good idea to allow their dogs to run off leash, the typical response I get is “It’s friendly.”
I’m glad they are confident that their dog will be friendly toward others. But that’s not the only concern here.
What if their dog decides to go visit other dogs who are out on a walk on leashes? And what if those dogs aren’t ones to appreciate a visit, or are dog-dog reactive?
If a dog walks up to a situation like that, it could start a dog fight, and the person who is being responsible by having their dog on a leash is now in the middle of it. This could lead to injury of the other dog or the person. And, heaven forbid if there is a child also involved.
Keeping your dog on leash is also about respecting others.
Please, keep your dog on leash to keep others and their dogs safe.
3. Leashes Keep Yourself Safe
When I’m out walking my dogs and kids start to approach and ask if my dogs bite, my response is to say, “All dogs can bite if they are made to feel scared.” It’s true. Just because your dog has never bit anyone up to this point, it doesn’t mean it will never happen. It is always a possibility. (As an added safety measure, I don’t let anyone the dogs don’t already know well to pet them on walks.)
If your dog is running around off leash, you don’t have control over it. What if it develops a trigger unexpectedly like Loki did? What if your dog is off leash and starts an otherwise-avoidable dog fight or bites someone?
I truly hope this never happens to you (or me!). I don’t know what kind of legal issues you might face. So, I strongly encourage you to avoid situations where you do not have control over your dog.
Please, keep your dog on a leash to keep yourself safe.
Leash Laws are about Public Safety
Since the wellbeing of others isn’t always in the forefront of people’s minds, leash laws seem to be necessary for the good of the public.
They aren’t about the government trying to control you. They aren’t about the government exercising power over you because it can. In other words, they aren’t about government officials being dicks.
Rather, leash laws are about reminding people of the importance of behaving responsibly as dog owners and enforcing a boundary that keeps others (and yourself) safe.
Teach Your Dog to Walk on Leash Without Pulling
One of the most useful skills you can teach your dog is to walk nicely on leash. It’s not extremely difficult, and it’s a whole lot of fun for everyone…if you know what you’re doing.
I’ve written an easy-to-follow, illustrated, Force-Free, No-Pull Leash Training ebook so you don’t have to spend the time and money scheduling time with a qualified trainer.
So, if you want to start to enjoy those walks with your canine companion, pick up the ebook by clicking the link below.
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Hi! I’m Bo McGuffee, owner of Puppy Tutor Dog Training. My mission is to make human dog training accessible and affordable. If you are looking for an alternative to the more aggressive training styles out there, then you’ve found the perfect dog trainer for you and your dog.