The most “liked” column I have written for Dogster was about why it is critical to observe leash laws. Nearly 20,000 of you clicked that button. The article struck a nerve because owners who flout these laws exist from coast to coast. Some of them angrily responded to my article, insisting they had every right to have an off-leash dog who runs amuck and molests (“he just wants to say hi!”) other dogs and humans. Many more of you wrote to tell me about the severe physical and psychological damage your dog has suffered because of a run-in with an off-leash dog.
If you’re looking for a leash that’s easy on the wallet, safe and durable, the Blueberry classic leash is a great choice. We love that it comes in 12 different colors and five sizes (ranging from four to five feet in various widths) so that it can work with nearly any dog. If your dog is easy on the leash and doesn’t require a lot of control or guidance, a standard nylon leash will do the job. We recommend this leash for dogs 75 lbs and under, as larger pups may need a stronger version.
Please remember to remain calm at all times, and utilize jackpots (more treats or better treats) when your dog accomplishes something that was difficult for him; i.e. not pulling you toward the neighbor dog! Jackpot for any eye contact or focus on you! Keep leash training sessions short and FUN! You can train several times a day, but you don’t want to push you or your dog past the point of fun! Puppies, especially, have short attention spans and if you insist on puppy training past the point of fun, usually around 5 to 15 minutes, your pup may start to dislike, and even dread training!
There are also bicycle dog leashes, especially designed for people who enjoy taking their pet in a ride with the bike. The leash is an aluminum tube with a plastic coated cable which runs down through the tube. It extends out of the tube end a couple of feet to allow for ease of movement for the dog. One end connects to the bike and the other to the dog's collar. This keeps them safely away the bike.
In Connecticut, dogs are not permitted to run at large except in the situation of hunting. Still, if the dog has vicious propensities and the owner still allows it to run at large and a person is bitten, the owner can be fined for up to $1,000 and is also liable for 6 months of prison unless the victim has abused the dog and provoked the harmful behavior.
Since that article ran in June, three dogs who have graduated from my Growly Dog class have been attacked by off-leash dogs. My clients work hard to calm their dog’s anxiety when they see other dogs (which often stems from being attacked the very first time by a rude, off-leash dog!). We help these over-anxious dogs learn to trust their handler, and we rebuild their faith that they can walk safely in their own neighborhood. We make significant progress in keeping these dogs calm and focused on their owners instead of hyper-vigilantly scanning for dangers . . . such as an off-leash dog. In some of these cases, the unleashed dog owner was held responsible and now must pay fines in addition to medical bills; one of my clients ended up having an $8,000 hand surgery after breaking up a dog fight. I have enough stories like that to fill up a very long, pathetic book.
Teach a cue. Introduce your puppy to a sound cue that means, “food is coming.” Some people like to click and treat, some people use a word like “yes,” and some people cluck their tongue. Whichever you use, the method is the same: In a quiet, distraction-free area, with the puppy on a leash and collar, make the sound. The second your puppy turns toward you and/or looks at you, reward him with a treat. After a few repetitions, you’ll notice your puppy not only looking at you, but also coming over to you for the treat.
The truth is: If it is the law and you allow your dog off leash, you are breaking a law. In a civilized society, members do not simply pick and choose which laws apply to them. I repeat this mantra: It does not matter that you perceive your dog to “be friendly” or that “he loves other dogs.” It does not matter because the dog you have no voice control over is hurling himself into the faces of dogs who very well may NOT be friendly to other dogs. Your dog galloping right up to a leashed dog is rude canine behavior, even if you are running behind your dog screaming: “Don’t worry! He’s friendly!!” You endanger your own dog and all those you allow him to terrorize or bother.
Indiana is one of the states that has a restraint statute, which means that dogs must be restrained at all times. Otherwise, if the dog bites a person when not restrained the owner is subject to civil liability and criminal penalties. (Cite needed; definition of "restraint" needed; discussion of local Indiana ordinances forbidding dog tethering needed.)
Scheduling multiple training sessions throughout the day will help your dog learn more quickly because dogs like schedules and he will depend on, and look forward with happy anticipation until you can go out again! I like training right before breakfast, lunch and dinner because my pups are hungry and pay more attention to me, and I can even use their kibble (food) for reward!
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