Off-leash behavior

  • Off-leash behavior

     Lesley updated 4 days, 18 hours ago 10Members · 15 Posts
  • simone

    January 13, 2021 at 1:09 PM

    Hi all, I have a 5 months old Labrador named Watson. He’s really good off leash, mostly stays close to me and comes back reliably on recall. The challenge i have is when he approaches other dogs he wants to play with them and charges towards them, stopping then a few feet from them and jumping around playfully. Then socializes and eventually play.

    I wonder what the perfect off leash behavior of approaching other dogs should be. Can I get to a point where he could approach other dogs off leash more calmly and greet them gracefully? And if yes, how to get there?

    Thank you in advance!


  • Riggan

    January 13, 2021 at 3:35 PM

    Hi, Simone! I’m going to speak from the perspective of the owner of the other dog. I don’t want an off leash dog to approach my dog at all! While your dog may just be interested in playing, you don’t know whether the other dog wants to play or not. They might be aggressive, or fearful, or any number of states. An off leash dog approaching them could set them back months in their training to overcome whatever reactivity they may have. So the best approach, from my perspective, would be to approach the owner with the dog in a controlled heel (whether on leash or a reliable heel off leash). You could then ask the other person if it would be OK for the dogs to play. If they say yes, then you are already in a position to do a controlled introduction (see Robert’s video on how to do this). But I never want an off leash dog running up to my dog.

    Have fun with your pup! They grow so fast… Puppyhood can be a challenging time, but it is also loads of fun!


    • BusaGir1

      January 13, 2021 at 7:52 PM

      Very well said.

  • simone

    January 13, 2021 at 3:51 PM

    Thank you Riggan, that makes a lot of sense. Watson is my first dog and I have a lot to learn. In the park I usually go there are a lot of off-leash dogs so I am trying to educate myself of what’s the right behavior / etiquette and what’s right and safe for all dogs involved.

    I assume that even if both dogs are off leash there needs to be some control on how dogs approach one another?

  • Bill

    January 13, 2021 at 5:26 PM

    Hi Simone,

    1. Congratulations – Watson will surely bring years of joy.

    2. Kudos to you as a new owner for being responsible and reaching out for some hints, tips, tricks, etc.

    I echo Riggan’s observations and comments. As you are now the pack leader, Watson is relying on you to care for, set direction, and protect “the pack”. Like Riggan, I too am an owner that does not want dogs approaching. As I monitor my K9’s responses when other dogs are approaching, I note very different reactions when he sees dogs off leash or he sees dog’s walking their owner/handler. If the other dog is on leash and responding to its pack leader – its a quick glance and he moves on. Whenever I am asked, I politely decline invitations from strangers for dogs to meet without exception. I restrict these meetings/play times when it is with people I know and dogs I trust and with whom we have had a proper greeting/meeting. I do not want my K9 to have an arbitrary meeting be the start of a reactivity issue. Dogs are likely to tend towards reactivity, the lunging, barking, etc., when they are on leash as their fight/flight instincts are impeded as there is no option for flight, that only leaves fight. Compounding the issue is if one dog is off leash and the other dog is on leash. Exacerbating the circumstances these meetings are usually head-on. When dogs are initially meeting they approach from the side/flank. This allows either dog to “flight”. When the other dog is on a leash – there is no option for flight, which leaves one option.

    All the best as you and Watson grow and thrive together. He is lucky to have a committed owner like you.

  • simone

    January 14, 2021 at 9:15 AM

    Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. I really appreciate it and I am grateful for the learnings (just 24h after signing up for this course!). I want the best for watson so I’ll keep asking novice / silly questions and thank you in advance for your patience!

    • Alin

      January 14, 2021 at 9:56 AM

      Don’t forget about submitting to Robert’s AMA member videos. He uploads twice a week and all questions he receives are answered.

      That should be used for serious, complicated answer where you want to make sure to his expert advise on.

      If you go to the members page you will see the two most recent videos to get an idea of how it works.

  • ZAC-Croatia

    January 16, 2021 at 5:23 AM

    Nice words Riggan, agree 100%

  • Felix

    January 17, 2021 at 10:05 AM

    Hi Simone,

    Like you I have a young (almost 1 year) old dog and I enjoy walking her off-leash on the trails near where I live. Personally I like to let her roam about and she always follows me, never runs off and is generally very good (aside from a habit of trying to eat discarded chewing gum!)

    The trails can be busy though and I wanted to be responsible, so I have spent a lot of time working on recall, including recall around other dogs. If we are coming up the trail and there is another dog on a leash, I will call Luna back to me and she has to sit or lay down – so there is no interaction with the other dog without permission. Generally if the other dog is leashed, we will just wait until they have gone past (or if necessary I will temporarily put Luna on the leash).

    So that would be my advice – it takes work (we also use the remote collar) but this way we can safely walk the way we want to and also respect that not everyone wants their dog to interact with other dogs.


    • Alin

      January 17, 2021 at 10:22 AM

      This is pretty much the route I take as well. I call Enzo back to stay until the other dog passes. Then it’s business as usually.

      I always wrap a 5ft leash around my shoulder to waist so it’s always on me but not in the way at the same time.

      Great advice.

  • Riggan

    January 17, 2021 at 11:48 AM

    I wish all people were this considerate! I was out on one of the mountain bike / hiking trails recently when I saw 2 big dogs on the other side of a ravine. Then 2 more dogs appeared (the smallest was a German Shepherd) and all 4 started across the ravine toward me. About then, the owners on bikes appeared around a bend in the trail. They called to me with the typical “Don’t worry – they’re friendly!”. As I tried to shield Lance as best I could, I called back with a firm “He’s not! Please get your dogs under control!” While Lance has fear issues, he is fortunately not dog reactive. There was no way I could keep 4 big dogs away from him, and he was clearly not happy with them converging on him, but at least he didn’t do anything that might have started a fight. I can’t imagine what might have happened if it had been someone who truly had an aggressive / fearful dog or if the person was scared of dogs. It’s bad enough when it is a single dog, but to have a pack of 4 of them at once? They looked like a shepherd, a rottweiler, and maybe 2 mastiff mixes. What in the world are people thinking?!?!?!? Lance got a ton of praise as he was standing there with them sniffing all over him until the owners were finally able to get their dogs under control.

    That said, a bit later, I ran into some other hikers with their dog off leash. As soon as they saw me, they called their dog and he immediately returned to them. Such a nice change!

  • Teresa

    January 17, 2021 at 1:16 PM


    I was reading at a park picnic table once when a pit bull came racing across the field with its owner chasing after it far behind. Two park workers ran to the table next to me and jumped on top of it, and, thankfully, the dog followed them, but ran by me first. I grabbed its collar, and, again thankfully, it stopped and waited quietly until it’s owner caught up. Of course, they explained that the dog was friendly, but it’s really frightening for many people to be chased by a dog. I had another instance where two pit bulls ran up to my young granddaughter. Again, the owner gave assurances of their friendliness when she caught up with them, but it definitely made me feel nervous having them approach unleashed. You can use a long leash in public settings which can give your dog some running space, but still give yourself control over whatever situations arise. Your dog looks like a great companion!

    • Alin

      January 17, 2021 at 1:22 PM

      You grabbed a pit bull by it’s collar while two people where hiding on top of a table? I bet those people were wondering where you keep your superhero cap hidden! 💪💪

      Nice job Teresa!

  • Colin Wight

    January 17, 2021 at 5:05 PM

    We go to a dog beach almost every day, but I’ve put a lot of work into my dog not going running up to other dogs. For lots of reasons other people have stated already, you just don’t know what issues the other dog has. But it’s also about his training. I don’t want my dog getting more pleasure from playing with other dogs than he gets from being with me. I have to be the focus of his attention. You see so many people walking their dogs on the beach and not interacting with them at all. No wonder the dogs run off. They’re probably bored stiff. I’m constantly interacting with my dog to make sure he’s focused on me. I even have a tee-shirt that says, “sorry, no people. I’m only talking to my dog today “.

    • Lesley

      January 19, 2021 at 8:44 AM

      Sounds like a really good way to be.

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