Part 2 of 5 (Part 1 of 5 here)
Part of my desire to further train the boys is selfish. I hate leashes. I hate walking dogs with leashes on. I am not making some grand statement that leashes are bad and wrong and should be abolished. They have their place and can be great tools. But in a way, I compare it to potty training a kid. It sucks to do, but life is a lot better once they get it. (And I have never met a dog who walks off leash, who poops on pavement of any kind, or anywhere near the paths people (and animals) use. Off leash dogs go poop alone in the woods, or tall weeds, or in the middle of some bushes, somewhere out of the way, behind some cover.)
The first general objective in training and specifically leash training, is to get to the point as rapidly as possible where you no longer need the leash to control your dog. This is one of the most frustrating and misunderstood parts of modern life with dogs. Putting a leash on a dog does not mean that the dog is under control. For the vast majority of non-city situations, dogs (even or especially untrained dogs) are better to deal with and less likely to cause damage and chaos off leash than on it. A well trained dog needs a leash like butter needs margarine.
This is what kills me about leash laws and the method of enforcement. Like so many of our laws, the letter of the leash laws does not at all match the spirit of the leash laws. But people do not understand leashes, or dogs. The point of having a leash law is to capture the idea that you (human) are responsible (morally and more important to this discussion, legally) for the actions of your dog. Your dog should be under control. Well – that probably should be the intent of the leash law, but in practice that is not the case. In practice (and in enforcement) the law is simple – keep your dog on a physical leash at all times. This my friends is completely counter productive.
A poorly behaved dog is a poorly behaved dog. On leash, off leash – it makes no difference. If you can’t keep your dog from coming to eat my sandwich at the park (or whatever) when it is off leash, what makes you think you can manage it with him on leash? I am in decent shape now, but still had actual muscles (small ones) and stuff back in the mid 90s when I really began dog training. One 65 pound hound dog could pull me down off my feet and drag me around if I was not careful.
And he grew to be closer to a one hundred pound dog. Now, working with a dog to get them prepared to walk off leash (and on leash) is not automatic, and there are many steps between getting your dog home from the shelter and happily walking through the woods (or the city) leash free. It is going to take longer for some teams (dog/s and biped/s) to get there and some may not. But the end goal is just that – an END goal. The pursuit is life long and enjoyable. You and your dog will teach each other stuff. You will both get and stay healthier (inside and out). There will be less and less need for you to say anything negative or even commanding to your companion.
So – it burns my biscuits that there are still people that we see regularly that at a minimum frown and scowl and refuse to say “hi” every time we see them because Lucas is walking beside or behind me passively while I stroll along with his leash tucked in my belt. Some of these folks have seen us doing this for over 10 years. And some of these people still actually say to us, out loud, every time, “You need to put that dog on the leash right now!” I try to stay polite, but I always retort. I cannot let it go. To the folks with excessively bad attitudes who refer to the fact that “It is the law!” I usually end up with some form of, “hey, want me to follow you around and see which laws you decide to break today?”
Maybe this comes from folks who have been seriously hurt. Maybe these are weird ass law sticklers. (I don’t think so. I have watched some of them and they don’t use their turn signals which is also illegal and way more dangerous than Lucas walking beside me.) Or maybe these are just deeply unhappy people who need stuff to yell about and get mad at. I am sure they find no shortage. But what kills me is the misunderstanding of the law (or the purpose of the law). I have talked with cops, park employees, and animal control workers in several states (at least 5) about this and they all say the same thing. They do understand and agree that control is the objective not some piece of fabric. And they generally only issue citations to people whose dogs are out of control. But they almost never give any citation or even a verbal warning to the folks whose dogs are on leash, but out of control. And when the old lady complains (or whatever) they crack down on everyone who is off leash regardless of the level of control.
Like I said. Burns. My. Biscuits.
Once you get to that state, that well-behaved-off-leash state, you can begin to do some really fun stuff together and you can take your dog everywhere and people will be amazed (most people).
Stay Tuned…Part 3