off leash

Reading dog body language

Not the puppy from today but Elsa clearly stating how much she loves to play with Yogi and as a puppy.  (Taken a couple of years ago)

Not the puppy from today but Elsa clearly stating how much she loves to play with Yogi and as a puppy.  (Taken a couple of years ago)

We were out as the sun came up this morning.  Hearing about our impending heat today, Elsa and I head out to the park early, before the heat hit.   Like myself, Elsa needs to workout strenuously daily; so I love when I can get her power run in before the day starts.  Today's run was a quiet one, as we were out before most others, nice.  

As we were ending our walk we ran into a woman and her 5 1/2 month old yellow Labrador.  From far away I could see his rambunctiousness and that he was quite a handful for his guardian.  Elsa watch carefully and I watched her intently.  As we got closer I could see the question coming from the human on the end of the puppy's leash.  

"Can he meet her?" the woman asked.  I'd been monitoring Elsa's body language well before they were upon us.  Elsa LOVES puppies.  But, she is very wary of adult dogs because she has been attacked several times.  So...I read very carefully before meeting any other dogs face to face.  I go with what Elsa tells me, and if it is another adult dog we typically get space and keep on moving.  But this morning she told me that she was interested in this little man.  

Even though the youngster was exhibiting direct eye contact and straining at his leash to meet her; Elsa knew that he was non threatening.  Elsa is probably one of the best readers that I have ever met.  She also knows who she wants to meet and this one was someone who she wanted to meet.  Her tail was high but not all the way up; and wagging slowly in an excited by not overly excited manner.  She reached out to get a sniff and there was no snorting.  Snorting is her stress signal that I listen carefully for. 

I asked how old he was before allowing a greeting.  He was 5 1/2 months old and even as large as he was, Elsa knew this before I did.  I let Elsa sniff him as he strained at the end of his leash.  I HATE on leash greetings.  Even the friendliest dog greeting can go wrong if they become tangled.  After their first sniff I unhooked Elsa.   Watching like a hawk (as I always do) Elsa's body language went from interested, happy and a little tense while on leash; to instantly no worries and calmly excited off leash.  

The release of tension (unhooking the leash) gave her the freedom to move about, away or closer as she felt the need.  Leashes can interfere with body language drastically.  Of course there are leash laws and most of the time our dogs MUST be on leash.  But it really is amazing to witness the huge change in body language on and off leash.  

Even though Elsa had clearly shown me that she wanted to meet the young man this morning; she was much more relaxed off leash while interacting with him.  She truly is amazing with puppies.  So many adult dogs are not big puppy fans; they don't want to put up with their antics.  But not Elsa, she much prefers puppies over adult dogs.

It always amazes me what she allows puppies to get away with.  Even puppies that she has never met before are allowed to push the boundaries that an adult would NEVER be allowed.  The puppy bounded around, jumping on her and pawing her with his huge feet.  I thought that she might give him a bit of a schooling on etiquette but she just enjoyed his naughtiness.  Now... had this boy been her little brother; he'd would have had a great deal of education at 5 1/2 months of agee.  Elsa is an amazing teacher with the patience of a saint.    

Elsa and Forest (little mans name) had a short romp before I stated that we were going to continue our walk.   "Quit while you're ahead," one of my motto's in life.  They had had a great interaction, so I chose to end it and keep moving along.  Elsa was happy, Forest was happy and both guardians were happy.  I hope to meet Forest and his guardian in the park again; Elsa really enjoyed his crazy and energetic puppy antics.  

Dogs are SOOOOOO much more versed in communication than we humans are.  We can go on and on with our words without saying anything.  But dogs, they speak volumes with their body alone.  Paying attention to that and knowing your dog is so important when living with dogs.  Canine body language is fascinating and telling.  

Do you know what your dog is saying? 



off leash dogs

"My dog is friendly" they shout out as their dog charges us.   How many times have I heard this?  If we have snuck up on someone off leash, which happens from time to time, I get it.  But typically even when people see us at the park, they unleash. 

The other day I pulled up to one of my favorite parks when I saw a woman entering the park with her two dogs.  Neither were on a leash; so I waited to see what she was doing.  "Great," she was walking around the park.  I called out to her to leash her dogs.  Like most every person I run into with dogs off leash, her dog would not come.  She called and called while Elsa and I waited to head out on our walk.  

I don't trust people.

My big issue with dogs off leash is it is typically people who have no control over their dog and don't understand their dog.  I had a guy say to me "he won't come," when I asked him to leash his dog.  Ummmmmm...what?  Yep, true.  Like the woman in the park; she could barely get her hands on her dog.  

She finally leashed her Golden Retriever up and had a straggling Doxie trotting behind; because she only had one leash.  Seemed like we could head out so I got Elsa out of the car and we started on our way.  Not minutes into our walk I turned around to see that the woman had unleashed her Golden and it was now romping in the park with an off leash pit bull.  I watched the interaction and it was too intense.  The two got into it, sounding like two Grizzly bears brawling.  The Golden was the instigator and after ending the first fight he immediately went after the other dog again.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  

The man with the pit bull leashed up his dog and head out.  Elsa and I were almost at the car at this point and got in.  I was furious.  

                         People like this ruin it for everyone.  

Should you unleash your dog?  Perhaps.  But ask yourself this.  

- Is there anyone else around?

This is the most important question.

Even if there are no other dogs around; there may be people who don't feel comfortable around unleashed dogs.  At one of the parks where I walk there are a couple of people who are very uncomfortable around dogs.  Unleashed dogs are downright scary to them.  Respect that.  

No matter how friendly your dog is; other people and/or dogs may not want an interaction.  If you would like your dog to have an interaction with another, ask first ON LEASH.  

- look around, is there anyone else in the area?
- is the area a safe place to unleash?

Just because others are out with their dog, like you; does not mean that they want anything to do with you.  This is something that always puzzles me.  If you are out for a nice dinner; do you want to interact with everyone else doing the same?  NO.  

Think about it.  

Control, under control.

                                                       Only under control.

"Heel, ahhhhh, NO, I said heel," was what I heard coming up behind us.  After having a quick look over my shoulder and noticing that there was a woman walking a Dalmatian, I heard this commotion.  I looked again to judge their distance and speed.  We had a few minutes so I calmly  moved Luke over to my right side.  Luke and I were just finishing up our walk when we were subjected to this ridiculous display of training gone wrong.  She continued with her useless words which obviously meant nothing to her dog.  Did she think that all the words made it look like her dog was trained?  Perhaps. 

When I am out in public with Luke; I am uber cautious.  He is old and frail and it doesn't take a whole lot to knock him over.  So the sight of an unleashed dog sends me into my protective Mother Grizzly mode; it is my job and I take it very seriously.  I certainly do not want to hear someone's measly attempts at getting control of their unleashed dog coming up from behind us.  But, there we were with exactly this happening; and I was growing angrier by the moment.  The owner of this poor dog continued to bellow orders which he clearly did not understand.  He most definitely was not heeling; I'm not sure if she even understood what the word meant. 

I talk about leash/off-leash a lot and this was most definitely one of those leash  moments.  The woman had no control over her dog.   They got close enough that Luke could now hear the woman yelling and he looked around to see what was going on.  He stopped for a moment when he saw the dog; but I coaxed him along so we could finish our walk.  I could literally feel my own posture changing as they got close enough to touch us.  Honestly, if you have no control over your dog KEEP IT ON A LEASH.  Bottom line, really easy to understand.  As they passed us her dog wandered closer and closer requiring a laser beam stare from me directed at the owner.  She brushed it off saying "I know you want to say hi to that dog, HEEL, AHHHHHHH, NOOO, HEEEEEEL."  Really?

They passed us and moved on towards the street.  Yep, she was crossing the street off-leash as well.  Her dog started smelling the ground as she headed across the street yelling "heel."  The dog finally lifted it's head and followed her across the street and onto the path on the other side.  Endangering your dog's life like this is just stupid.  I am never a fan of off leash on or nearby a street. 

When I was in Oregon recently I noted that many of the parks and beaches state that dogs must be on-leash or  under direct control, which means within sight and responsive to commands.  When we were at the beach I saw both on-leash and off-leash dogs under control, nice.  Off-leash does not always mean that your dog should be running around willy nilly, doing whatever they please and not listening.  Off-leash should mean under control unless they are contained securely in your own yard.  If your dog is not reliable off-leash then they should NEVER be off. 

If they are in training, then get the training accomplished before taking off the leash.