Is it cruel never letting a dog off leash?

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Is it cruel never letting a dog off leash?

This is a discussion on Is it cruel never letting a dog off leash? within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; So here is my question. My gsd/some sory of hound mix is always on leash unless we are in a fenced in area. I don't ...

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Old 11-13-2017, 01:59 AM
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Is it cruel never letting a dog off leash?

So here is my question. My gsd/some sory of hound mix is always on leash unless we are in a fenced in area. I don't trust that she'll come when called if the distraction is big enough. I live in urban area. Lots of cars all the time. Also she is easily scared and i don't know what would she do if something scared her. She might bite someone out of fear, or she might run in a different direction and a car might hit her. So the result is that she is always on leash. If it is a routine walk, she's on a short leash. If it's a playdate she's on a 7 m leash. Am i being cruel to her?
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Old 11-13-2017, 03:08 AM
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Very basic point, if she does as you fear, she's badly injured or she dies. That's unfortunate at best and cruel if such a result can be easily avoided.

If you can get a decent trainer to work with your/her issues, she'll probably get better, your confidence improves, she responds better to you, her confidence improves...

If that's not an option, search out (rescues may be a good start, dog clubs, etc.) a secure field. You may have to pay for it.
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Old 11-13-2017, 03:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Ptolemy82 View Post
Very basic point, if she does as you fear, she's badly injured or she dies. That's unfortunate at best and cruel if such a result can be easily avoided.

If you can get a decent trainer to work with your/her issues, she'll probably get better, your confidence improves, she responds better to you, her confidence improves...

If that's not an option, search out (rescues may be a good start, dog clubs, etc.) a secure field. You may have to pay for it.
She has a trainer. For about 2 month now. I don't think i'll ever be able to let her off leash. I am way too scared to take any chances. I would be sick with worry every time she's off leash. I don't know how can owners trust their dogs like that. Everything can happen in a blink of an eye. I'm just worried that my overprotectiveness will damage her in some way.
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Old 11-13-2017, 07:41 AM
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It's not cruel to keep your dog on a leash if the dog can not handle being off of one. Just make sure she gets plenty of exercise in a fenced in area. Some dogs can be off of them some can't. I don't think a dog on a leash is cruel. :-)

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Old 11-13-2017, 08:01 AM
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Tough question and I don't know if there is one definitive answer. I don't think anyone could say it's cruel in your situation and I think you are wise to manage your dog the way you have described regarding use of the leash.

I've seen too many trust their dogs off leash in areas where the dog shouldn't be off lead and bad things have happened unfortunately.
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Old 11-13-2017, 08:49 AM
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Talking if a life on leash [outside of fences] is "cruel", then most urban-owners R sadists.



being off-leash OUTside a fence isn't mandatory for a dog's well-being - some dogs can handle it, others cannot. Plus, where U live is a huge factor in when or if it's ever safe to let a dog run unfenced.

Dogs can live long, happy lives with lots of enrichment, & never be off-leash outside a fence; it's perfectly OK.
U just find other ways of giving them time & space to run - a tennis-court, a fenced field, a long-line on open terrain such as a beach or park; all kinds of odd spaces in urban / burban areas can become dog play zones.

I'm not all that keen on dogs running loose out of sight - injuries can happen anytime, & wooded areas can have all kinds of natural hazards or un-natural ones; venomous snakes, yellow-jackets or hornets nests underground, ya never know.
Leghold traps or poisoned bait are planted by humans, & that they don't INTEND to catch or kill dogs, won't magically prevent it.
I like the dog to stay close-enuf that i can see what they're doing - Eating anything i haven't identified 1st is off the list of OK-behaviors, so a solid 'leave it' is among my prerequisites for earning off-leash, unfenced time.

Jogging a dog beside a bike using a k9-Springer is great for conditioning & exercise, & most dogs love it - 10 to 15-mph is a good pace, once they're accustomed to the pattern & can halt on cue at curbs, intersections, etc.

Fetch, flirt-poles, vigorous tug games, off-leash agility inside a fence, even using obstacles while on a leash [jump up on a bench or curb or walled planting, walk along it, jump down...] are all good exercise & fun.

Don't beat yerself up; we don't all live on 50 acres in Colorado, with a 2-mile driveway & no near neighbors. Dogs can thrive in studio-apts in Manhattan or Tokyo, trailer parks in Alabama, & townhouses in Boston.
It's all about the care they get from their families.

- terry



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Old 11-13-2017, 09:16 AM
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It sounds like you're doing fine in your current situation. I've had dogs that I would never trust off leash outside of a fenced yard. Given the amount of traffic in your area, it just makes sense to have any dog on a leash.
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Old 11-13-2017, 10:32 AM
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I do think it's important for dogs to be able to run unencumbered, but that can be achieved in a fence in area.

My feeling is that being off-leash in an unenclosed area is a luxury. It is not appropriate for all dogs. There are some places where I'm more comfortable with my dogs off-leash (for example: those where I have far-reaching viability and can see approaching dogs/people, and those where there is not near bye traffic). Both my personal dogs have a natural radius that they tend to stay around me. My older dog has no behavioral concerns, so if she were to suddenly engage with a stranger or another dog (which I do try to avoid when walking/hiking) then it's not the end of the world. My younger dog isn't super into strangers or other dogs, but because of this is more reliable about being called back to be leashed and less likely to seek interaction. I also feel confident he'd never actually bite out of fear, even in the highest pressure situation. My feeling is he's more likely to choose flight, and since I'm his safe space he's more likely to run to me than try to run away.

I do think it's important to lay groundwork for off leash reliability, however. I've worked with dogs who have no recall, and twice have had dogs like this pull leashed out of my hand and get us into really stressful situations that were very dangerous for the dog, because they weren't going to come back until they wanted to, and we were in places with cars and foot traffic.
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Old 11-13-2017, 11:39 AM
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No, i don't think you are being cruel, I think you are making a sensible decision based on what you know about your dog and your situation.

The one thing you can be sure of as a dog owner is that someone somewhere will tell you are doing it all wrong, and it's not unlikely that they will add in the word 'cruel' or other unkind things while they're at.


But it's up to you to decide. If I was in your situation, I might make the same decision.

There are some people who believe no dog should ever be off a leash outside of safely enclosed/fenced area. So that's the other view.

I do agree with Moonstream about the safety value of training; leashes break, get dropped, people trip & fall, forget to shut gates, etc. but that's a training issue.

I personally think being 'off-leash' doing dog things has a high value to a dog, but then I am also privileged to live in an area where there are plenty of places where this is both safe (relatively)(for a trained dog) and legal.

Just keep making your decisions based on your knowledge, seek opinions, think about them, and then decide. Sounds like you've got it about right, but that's just me.
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Old 11-13-2017, 03:08 PM
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It's not cruel, it's safe and smart for your dog. As the owner it's your responsibility to protect and keep your dog safe and healthy. I do agree that it might be good to train your dog to trust you and have good recall just in case it ever gets loose accidentally. Things happen by accident very quickly.

I adopted a known escape artist dog who was also impossible to catch from a shelter over a year and a half ago. Things have been quite interesting to say the least. He's trained me in all the clever ways he's found to outsmart me and find to get loose. Opened gates, jumped out of high six foot fences, two together, jumped over baby gates, knocked out two window air conditioners, broke the window screens and almost jumped out third floor window before I got to him, chewed through eight and a half leashes so far, jumped out of the car the minute I opened my door from the back right through the driver's seat!??, Took off a harness and wiggled through a tiny opening in a closed door in one move and took off, , dug out, you name it. Once he gets out he runs fast!!! Won't come back for food or other dogs or horses or anything. Might come back and stay just out of reach for a while then run off again. Used to take an hour every day in the dog park to catch him. If he didn't go to the dog park to run and play God help us both he was a hyper holy terror who chewed up everything, stayed up all night racing around the house like a combination of Dennis the menace and roadrunner and would drag me around on the leash so much he actually snapped a leash in two once. Then another mad chase around the busy streets if the city. Fun times.
And I never deliberately let this creature loose, but he was determined. If he was a cat he's used up at least five or six lives by now.
Now he somehow made it to his third birthday, I have lots of new gray hair and wrinkles and a new habit of cursing and muttering to myself lol and he will walk loose at my side late at night around my neighborhood or where my horses live at night and stay right with me and come when I call him most of the time. Unfenced large dog parks he'll take off initially but come back in a few minutes and I can at least see him and go catch him even if he doesn't come running right away. But overall is much better unless he's after a rabbit or something he's chasing.
But he was so determined to escape all the time it was essential to teach him recall. It still needs a lot of improvement but it's much better than it was. It's smart to teach it in case of emergency so your dog doesn't panic and bolt if it does accidentally get loose one day. It's very easy to drop a leash or leave a door or gate open. I dropped the leash while paying the mechanic for a car repair once and of course my mutt took that split second opportunity to bolt again in a city in a street. He came back and literally ran right into a large dog being walked and got bitten pretty good as the dog thought he was being attacked. Only reason I caught him was the other dog wouldn't let go of his ear for a while so I caught up. At least he didn't get hit by a car.
Very stressful first year trying to keep him safe when he kept breaking out. Felt like a parent with a self destructive child. If I chained him strangers would come up to me and threaten me for being abusive but he'd chew through leashes in under five minutes. Couldn't chew through a chain, don't see how that's abusive if it kept him alive.
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