By Lisa Ellman
I admit it. I’m guilty of breaking the law. I let my dogs off leash at the beach.
My Border collie mix is so fixated on the tennis ball that it is a virtual leash. And although my little Corgi loves to wander off, he is always responsive to the “Come” command. It is critical that your dog be trained to respond as quickly as possible and to come when called.
This command may not only save your dog’s life, but may also save you from a major lawsuit.
Recently, I was at the beach with my dogs, the little one running around looking for dead animals to roll in and the big one eagerly focused on the next throw. As always, I was scanning the beach for other dogs, on or off leash.
When I see someone coming, with their dog on a leash, I immediately leash my little guy and give the big dog a stay until they’ve passed. This day I watched as a couple walked by with a middle age looking boxer.
The boxer is lunging on the leash towards us, but they pass without incident. At a certain point, I let my dogs continue their play. I notice the boxer is now a few hundred feet down the beach and is off leash.
A few seconds later, I look again and the boxer is now running full speed towards us. In a panic, I call my little one to come and leash him up. I grab a hold of my big dog and put him in a “down stay.” The boxer is almost upon us.
In the distance I see the two people running towards us and hear the words they’re screaming, “Come! Come!” The boxer lunges at my big dog as I’m holding him. Now I have the boxer by the collar in one hand and my dog by the collar in the other, trying to keep them separated. The boxer slips his collar and is on my big dog.
Immediately, I let go of my dog’s collar so that he could defend himself.
With the boxer on top of my supine dog, the people arrive to pull him off. In the midst of their apologies, a woman and her child appear, and this woman is pi**ed off. She begins yelling at the boxer people that, instead of a dog, it could have been a child, or her child; that the boxer attacked, and a dog like that should NEVER be allowed off leash. She was absolutely right!
This is where owner responsibility comes into play. If you know, or even think your dog might not respond to your commands in an open, uncontrolled environment and/or has aggressive tendencies, do you really want to risk a lawsuit and/or possible euthanasia for just the few minutes of letting the dog play on the beach, the playground or the park?
Keeping your dog on leash is the safest route for everyone, and there are training leads available, 30 or 50-feet long, to use if you want to give the dog the feeling of being off leash.
And the long lead is an excellent tool for teaching the “Come” command.
Training your dog to come to you consistently, and without hesitation, is probably the most difficult thing for them to learn. It takes a lot of time and effort, but consider the alternatives.
Save yourself the risks, go out there and get to work.
Lisa Ellman has been working with a wide range of animals for over 20 years. Her passion, however, is dogs, and in 1996 she founded Good Dogma Obedience Training. With a foundation built on positive reinforcement, Good Dogma provides basic obedience training and behavior modification for the family dog and human members of the pack. Lisa’s comprehensive theory on training is a simple one: “Train the human, condition the dog.” Good Dogma is a monthly feature of Simply Clear Marketing & Media.