Updated: Feb 10, 2020
There's nothing more soothing than wandering in the forest with my dog. It's our time to de-stress, connect, enjoy the silence... and the squirrels. Daily walks have been a part of my life for 20 years. I call it 'forest therapy' and my dog loves it just as much as I do.
With freedom, comes great responsibility!
It turns out, I'm not alone. Most Yukoners love walking their dogs. Who doesn't want a well-behaved, attentive dog at their side on a gorgeous Yukon trail? Unfortunately, off-leash Yukon dogs get themselves into trouble on a regular basis. They take run away, attack porcupines, chase joggers and bikers, and get into dog fights. So, we need to take recalls seriously.
Recalls don't happen overnight
Recall training takes time, practice, and plenty of reinforcement. If off-leash walks are important to you, it's totally worth the effort. Make recalls the funnest game your dog plays with you! Run away, call your dog and start a game where your dog chases you. Reward with toys, high value treats and lots of praise and fun. If you're thinking about using an an electric shock collar, please think twice. Studies show that electronic shock collars can lead to increased anxiety and aggression. They work instantly because they hurt, and that's no fun.
Introducing the long-line
The reality is that not all dogs are suited for off-leash hikes and walks. This includes my dog Timber (yup, the trainer's dog is on a long-line). Timber has an awesome recall. She also has an obsession with squirrels and dislike of unfamiliar dogs getting up in her business. I want her to be safe, and I don't want to inconvenience other dog walkers. Don't worry, her life on a long line is pretty great. She enjoys the same running, sniffing and fun that off-leash dogs enjoy. The only difference is that I have an'emergency back-up if we run into a cheeky squirrel or Cujo the off-leash jerk-face.
How can you tell if your dog is ready to go off-leash?
Here is some simple criteria:
You're ready to remove the leash if your dog:
Can recall in the presence of wildlife (squirrels, gophers, porcupines, etc.)
Can recall away from unfamiliar dogs
Can recall away from hikers, runners and mountain bikers
Is friendly towards unfamiliar people
Is friendly or disinterested in unfamiliar dogs
Use a leash or line if your dog:
Loves to chase wildlife, hikers, runners or mountain bikers
Rushes up to unfamiliar dogs in an overly friendly (or unfriendly way)
Behaves in a fearful or aggressive manner towards unfamiliar dogs and people
Off Leash Alternatives
15 foot biothane line for 'in town' walks: provides room for sniffing and exploring (without losing an arm). A slightly longer leash can also prevent leash reactivity, as it allows dogs to express more natural body language.
30 foot biothane line for wilderness trail walks: provides room for running, trotting, sniffing and fun (without losing your dog, dealing with porcupine quills, or getting yelled at by a passing jogger). Lines this long should always be clipped to the back attachment of a harness.
Harness: should be used to prevent choking and injury when using long-lines.
Kicksledding: is a great way to exercise your dog while keeping them attached.