What's the Big Deal?
Why are we so passionate about this? What about the dream of taking your retriever to the field up the street and letting it off leash so it can chase those tennis balls? Or allowing your dog to enjoy some freedom to run on a farm or at the beach?
The point is, there are other ways to let your dog enjoy freedom without risking his life. If your dog is off leash, he can run off, be hit by a car, bitten by a snake in the woods, swim in alligator- or snake-infested waters, be stolen ... the list goes on. Also, golden retrievers are wandering the path as he chooses – but YOU will be in control of the other end of that leash.
Leashes and Rescue Dogs
Leashes are extra important when dealing with a rescued dog. These dogs have varied – often unknown – histories that may make them more likely to run off. Your adopted dog may at one time have roamed the streets or been allowed to run free in a neighborhood. He may have lived in a backyard and learned to dig out or jump over on a routine basis. Sometimes, no matter how much they bond with their new family, these dogs remember those “wild and free” days and will take advantage of being off leash in a heartbeat.
Please take a few moments to read these stories – all true – to get in idea of how important safety is. And remember: Leashed is Loved!
From a Professional Trainer:
As a certified dog trainer whose dogs have impeccable recalls and compete in a variety of canine sports, I have high expectations that all four of my dogs will come to me when called. After all, I have worked very hard to ensure this. I spend hours in training each week and have invested a lot of money in various courses. But I have asked myself many times: “Am I 100 percent sure my dogs will come to me if they are in hot pursuit of a squirrel?” I am sure the yummy treat and toy rewards I have given them so many times are a reminder of what they get when they come when called … but is that squirrel better? What about Peaches, my lizard hunter? When she is hunting lizards, she appears not to hear anything around her. If Peaches spots that lizard and chases it across the street at the same time a car is coming, will she hear my screams or the car tires squealing? I am not 100 percent sure of that, so I don't take the chance.
How much do you love your dog? Is it worth the risk of losing him or her? I know I love my dogs way too much for that.
Even Presidents Can Be Stupid
Reprinted with permission: Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue
In the past several months, a number of DVGRR-adopted goldens have been lost and, horribly, one dog was shot. Thankfully, the dogs had their DVGRR collars on, so when we were called, re-uniting them with their families was quickly accomplished. One golden has been lost for almost six months, and hopes of ever finding him again are dim. After each incident, we called to educate the adoptive owner about the dangers of allowing a dog off lead – and to remind the owner our adoption contract requires that the dog always be on lead outdoors as a condition of adoption.
I had never let a dog in my possession off lead – until this Spring. Jim and I were at the beach for the weekend with our dogs (who are not DVGRR program dogs). As you can imagine, being at the human end of the leash was a task, as the dogs were straining to chase the sea gulls and romp in the water. It was a nice day and the beach was deserted. Since our dogs are trained, I decided to try this “off lead” thing to see what the fascination is about allowing dogs to run free. So, we unhooked the leashes from their collars. Big Mistake!
As soon as the leash unsnapped, all three of them took off, faster than I have ever seen any dog run. I gave commands but the dogs ignored them. I ran in the opposite direction hoping they would chase me – but they continued to run away. Their way . They ran so fast and so far, that in a few minutes I could no longer see them. I was running as fast as I could to try to watch where they were going. My lungs burned, my legs ached and I was crying, telling myself how stupid I was. After 20 of the longest minutes of my life, I found some surfers in the water and, thankfully, the dogs were playing with them. The dogs saw me and came running back. They were safe … that time. Will I ever do it again? Not on their life … and that's what it is – their life!
The next day, we took another walk on the beach. This time, the dogs were on their flexi-leads. They romped, barked and chased the gulls. They came running back to us, barking for us to join in the fun. Did they notice any difference? I doubt it. But Jim and I did. Our dogs were safe. They would never be placed in danger again by our carelessness.
DVGRR put the “no-off-lead” clauses in our adoption contract for the safety of the goldens. The policy also helps us live up to the promises we made to the owners who relinquished their dogs into our care, to be sure the dogs would always be safe. Goldens are sporting dogs – their instincts are to hunt. If someone wants a dog that can be trusted off lead, a golden is not a good choice. As I sat on the beach that day, catching my breath and crying, I remembered an incident a few years ago at a Golden Retriever Specialty show. This was an indoor event and parking was in a multi-story garage.
An owner arrived, got his golden out of the car and put him on a “sit/stay.” This dog was OTCH, which stands for obedience trail champion, the highest level in obedience training – a title that requires more training than most dogs receive in their entire lifetimes. The owner turned to get some articles out of the car, and the golden, seeing a bird at his level, broke his sit/stay and leaped for the bird. They were parked on the third level of the garage.
Quick and expensive veterinary care saved the golden's life; however, his career died, and his life would never be the same. He went through a great deal of pain and he would no longer be able to participate in the sport that provided him so much fun. This is living (and almost dead) proof that regardless of how well you think you know your dog, or how well you think he/she is trained, there are no guarantees!
No one should feel the terror I did at the thought of losing a beloved companion. Unleashed is unloved.
This letter was received by GRRMF recently:
To whom it may concern:
We are a family of four. My husband and I own our own advertising design business which we run from our home. We live in an enclosed neighborhood with sidewalks and a park.
In April of last year, we adopted a puppy Lady, from the animal shelter in Longwood/Sanford. After a few days of being home, she got sick and the vet diagnosed her as having Parvo. She died. The next time around, we bought a golden retriever, Sammy, from a breeder. I enrolled him in puppy school, and they taught us how to crate train Sammy, as well as some simple commands. The puppy school also told us to always have him on a leash. For months we did this. We walked him just outside our sliding glass door on the side of our house. As Sammy got older, I became more confident that he would not run off. When I walked him in our yard, I did not have him on a leash. For six months, he never went past the sidewalk. Occasionally, he would greet a person walking by on the sidewalk, but he never went into the road. It's not that I didn't think this was a possibility; but even if he did, there is hardly any traffic on our street. Even so, he responded well when I called him.
One evening, I walked outside with Sammy by our house. Before I knew it he was running toward the road. I yelled for him to come back, but by the time I got the words out he had already been hit. There had been a woman walking a Siberian husky on the opposite side of the street. I never saw it happen, he got out to the road too fast. I was told that the man driving the truck was not going fast at all. Sammy died of his wounds.
In hindsight, I know now that there were other options besides letting him loose. Sometimes we learn things the hard way.
I realize that I have probably rambled through most of this, but I think that I needed to get it out.
We have been given permission to reprint this letter for educational