Help!  I can’t enjoy off-lead walks with my dog!

Help!  I can’t enjoy off-lead walks with my dog!

How a long-line gave us our freedom back

It’s a beautiful sight watching a dog run freely through a field or forest taking in the smells.  It’s a beautiful feeling when you call your dog and they come running back with enthusiasm. 

But what if you can’t walk your dog off-lead?  Is this the end of enjoyable walks with your dog?

There are lots of reasons why a dog must stay on the lead:

  • Unreliable recall – your dog is still learning a reliable recall behaviour (coming back every time you call them)
  • Prey drive – your dog loves to chase other animals and goes ‘deaf’ when there are things to chase
  • Local rules or laws – dogs are required to be on lead in restricted areas (e.g., deer birthing season in Richmond Park, many beaches or national parks)
  • Health / medical – your dog needs supervised walks following recovery from surgery or as part of an arthritis management plan
  • It’s unsafe to do so – nearby there are livestock, roads and cycle paths, and/or small children playing

When our dog Steffi matured, her desire to chase other animals became very strong.  Even with a good recall behaviour, it wasn’t safe to let her practice this behaviour.  

Steffi also had joint problems for most of her life.  As a puppy we discovered she had hip dysplasia.  She had two hip replacements on the same hip by the age of 4 and half.  By the age of 6, she was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia.

So, we had to let go of our dream of off-lead walks.  We needed to learn a new and safer way to enjoy walks together.

Long-lines are a great way to provide more freedom for your dog when they can’t be off-lead

We started training Steffi to walk on a long-line.  Especially with her large size (35kgs), this meant:

  • Walking without pulling on the lead
  • Heavily rewarding voluntary check-in’s – every time Steffi reoriented to me
  • Teaching a recall behaviour when she reached the end of her lead 

The long-line provided Steffi with the freedom to move, freedom to sniff, and the freedom to be a dog. 

Large red and white bull breed mix dog sniffing the ground

It’s possible to make on-lead walks as enriching as (and possibly better than!) off-lead walks

We also added enrichment games to enjoy together.  We practiced ‘hunting together’ – scenting for wildlife with me trailing behind her.  We finished ‘hunting’ activities with foraging for food on logs, in tree trunks and on the ground.

Recently I was a guest on my friend Jo Seller’s Podcast “Calm Dog Happy Life” where we talked about how to make on-lead walks more enriching:  

Teaching humans how to enjoy on-lead walks with their dogs is one of my favourite things.  It takes a little practice to learn how to enjoy on-lead walks together but it’s well worth the effort! 

Would you like to learn how to enjoy walks again with your dog?  Then get in touch, we’d love to help.

Nada Chebib KPA-CTP ABTC

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