View Full Version : when do you have confidence to let off lead

22nd February 2010, 03:53 PM
Just wondering your thoughts on when it would be safe to let two 9 month old pups off their leads when out walking. We have some fantastic quiet walks where we are living and Belle and Ben love to get their feet wet in the stream, its very quiet no cars not many people im just afraid if we let them off they will run for the hills.
Just today they managed to escape from the back garden whilst the builder who is doing our patio left the side gate open, he found them half an hour later 2 Km away.

22nd February 2010, 04:21 PM
I think you just answered your own question, by saying they are escapers. Unless and until you can be one thousand percent sure that your dogs will come back immediately you call them then there is no way to let them safely off the lead in a public place. Any vicious dog could be around the corner, a cyclist come free wheeling towards them or a small child who may be afraid of dogs.

I used to let mine off the lead in a local sports field which was fenced off from the road with a gate at each end, but had to stop when new people moved into the area with uncontrolled dogs that I was afraid would hurt mine. They had already bitten a JR!

22nd February 2010, 04:29 PM
I wouldn't let my three year old off leash.My husband lets her off leash in a woodland area that she knows very well and she never strays more than a few metres away from him.If I did that she'd be gone off into the sunset:mad:.
I certainly wouldn't let her loose in an urban area.
You are so lucky to have gotten them back after that workman left the gate open.They have zero road sense and you could have been looking at a tragic outcome.

22nd February 2010, 04:34 PM
Ok, a few thoughts here! :) :

Have you begun training recall? That is your first priority! :) An untrained dog cannot be expected to return when called, and even if the dog knows his name, that isn't 'recall' and will get sporadic attention if used to try to recall the dog at best. Now -- it generally takes many weeks of working on recall before you'd ever want to consider letting a dog run off lead, especially puppies that young, and especially two together -- two area lot more likely to bolt (one following the other and only paying attention to each other). There are lots of posts on recall in the training section with links to training sites to help you along the way. But remember -- work with one dog at a time; the other cannot be anywhere nearby or in sight. Start inside at home work up to the garden on a long line, then outside on a long line, slowly introducing distractions. Only when recall is perfect on a long line with distractions should they be let off lead. Better to only have one off lead for a while rather than let both. :)

Recall is the single most important thing you train your dog to do and is likely to save its life at some point during ownership so you are right to be asking and giving it a definite priority :thmbsup:. Any good rewards-based obedience class will cover the basics (and at 9 months, they ideally have been through at least one good obedience class -- and separately so they don't pay more attention to each other -- already. Be aware you need to teach each individually, separately, in all training as it is virtually pointless in training two together.

The other questions are (on the basis of your two having run off)

1) do they have collars and tags? You want to be sure they can find their way back if they ever are so unfortunate as to get out again :). That must have been pretty scary -- that is a long way for two puppies to have travelled and you must be so relieved they came to no harm. We all often forget something as simple as up to date tags.

2) are they spayed/neutered? An unspayed female in heat can be literally attacked by dogs 5 times her size and be badly hurt. Males left intact are highly likely to endlessly try to bolt, can smell females in heat from over a mile away, and are prone to fighting. Also: intact dogs are prime targets for thieves to keep/sell for breeding and for dogfighting bait.

3) Just in case they were for some reason left outside during the day: please don't forget they are an indoor breed and can't really manage being alone outside very well. Plus this is just so risky to them. This is one of the most-stolen breeds in the UK/Ireland -- very high rate in Ireland according to gardai. Puppies are very high on the target list -- for breeding and to be sold on at best price. Cavaliers also don't have undercoats to keep them warm enough if left outside, and puppies of this age cannot keep themselves warm enough full stop in this winter weather -- they only have thin puppy coats. This breed also get anxiety problems left outside. Many of the dogs I get into rescue with behaviour issues are entirely due to the dogs being left alone outside, which is very hard on this breed in particular. Also see:


Some great posts on teaching recall:


Hope that helps!

22nd February 2010, 04:39 PM
I am paranoid, I believe Molly would not run off, Dougall would :eek: even so I will not let either
off the lead, I battled with my Husband and even threatened him with divorce if he let either off lead.
I am also nervous of other people and the lack of control they have over their dogs.
I am not saying this is right but its the only way for me.

22nd February 2010, 04:48 PM
I never let my deaf dog off lead. The other four are generally good when well away from traffic (I would never allow a dog off near traffic). I know their limitations -- have to get Lily on a lead if another dog is getting within about 100 yards as she is aggressive (harmlessly, but annoying and often worrying to owners) with other dogs. Leo is very good but is easily distracted and has poor directional hearing; will bolt for the places he likes to go swimming so has to be on lead in some areas. Tansy is pretty good -- tends to stay right on my heel. I use every walk as a training session, carrying treats and giving rewards for occasionally calling the various dogs back. Recall isn't something that is trained then used when needed; it needs constant positive reinforcement as does any skill for dogs (or people!). Usee it or lose it applies to dogs too! :lol:

Karen and Ruby
22nd February 2010, 05:23 PM
I walk Ruby 80 % of the time off lead- only time on lead is around roads etc She is amazingly good and never strays more than a few feet away from me (unless we are playing retreive games where I send her away)
When she was younger I spent ALOT of time training re call. In every place and location I could- dont think because your dog will come in from the garden when called it will come back when out in the big wide world.
Once I knew her recal was good in all sorts of locations on a long line I would start un clipping her
Every now and again I would call her back and put the lead back on and carry on with the walk, then let her off again- I would repeat that many times during the walk so that she wouldn't associate the lead with the end of her fun!
Even then Im still always on the look out for potential dangers and pop the lead on at any point where I feel there is danger about.

Charlie is a whole other story and as much as it upsets me to say it, I cant ever see a point in the future where he willl be trusted 100%.

Good luck with your pups but as Karlin said- its a very long process and if your babies have escaped before they probably will again!!

22nd February 2010, 05:52 PM
I try and walk my dogs quite often off lead in safe areas. From the day they came home we practiced recall. I didn't let either off lead until he came EVERY SINGLE TIME I called him in the house and out in the yard. When I finally let him off leash on a walk Mindy was there as well and she stays close to me. I always release from a sit and call them back frequently. If they don't come back first time at "squirrel speed" I usually clip on their leashes and decide that it's just not an off leash day. Max has always been very good and when we walked yesterday he wouldn't even leave my side. Rylie - although not yet neutered at 9 months will chase after sticks and run but I can never be out of his sight. When I call him back he comes with so much enthusiasm that I would certainly be knocked flat on my behind if he were a larger dog as it usually entails a full body slam:D (we're working on stopping BEFORE he reaches me rather than using me for his brake). Of course I let them know that I have yummy treats along and there is really nothing more interesting in the world than me:)

22nd February 2010, 07:40 PM
Only Casey can be off-lead and she's deaf. I think that makes her depend more on eyesight with me because she is always looking at me. The boys----forget it. I will never, ever try to have them off lead. They are maniacs when they are together and would run right into the road, or wherever danger was for sure. They just have zero fear.

For me, the risk is far greater than the reward.

Daisy's Mom
22nd February 2010, 08:53 PM
I am sad to say that I don't think I can ever let Daisy off leash unless there is a fence and no other dogs. She is just so weird around other dogs, plus she will chase anything that moves. We've worked on recall a lot and I will say that in a couple of emergency situations (dropped leash, when she's darted out a door/fence, etc.), she has come back to me when she has escaped IFF she knows I have a treat. But I'm very sad that I just cannot trust her.

I grew up with dogs that we literally could have walked almost anywhere with them off leash (although we didn't unless we were at a park or somewhere far away from roads.) They just stayed with us because they were more interested in us than they were in anything else in the environment. Sadly, this is the complete opposite with Daisy. Everything and everyone is more interesting than me when we are out. She would run under the wheels of a car in a heartbeat or charge up to the hugest meanest dog she could find and try to jump up on his neck. It breaks my heart.

(Actually, even walking ON-leash where I know there will be other dogs is a major mental obstacle because I know how embarrassing her behavior will be. She has no idea that her life is much more constricted than it could be because of her dog reactance on leash. (I say on leash because one time I got the nerve to take her to the local dog park and she was perfectly fine. She wasn't even particularly interested in the other dogs there. So it's definitely leash/dog interactive reactance. She's the doggy love of my life, but I have to say she is very odd in some ways. Certainly different from other dogs I have known.)

23rd February 2010, 09:33 AM
I have let Leo off lead a few times but despite recall training it is very hit and miss therefore I dont do it anymore.
It could be that I wasnt patient enough but I was woried I would lose him for good.
I bought a 20ft training lead and when we go out over the forest I put him on that, that way he gets a really run but i can still haul him in if need be:D

I think you know your dogs better than anyone and it's up to the owner as well as the dog.

Good luck Mel

23rd February 2010, 09:35 AM
you must have total confidence in your dog to do this & make sure their recakll is excellent.

uncontrolled off leaders is a bit of a bug bear for me! we have 2 akitas that are always on lead, the cavs we do let off in enclosed safe places, they are trained not to approach other people or dogs.

i am actually typing with one hand today down to an off leader who decided to attack my akitas on sunday, they are not good with off leaders who run at them, & will defend themselves unfortunately this dog did, in the snow & ice & i hended up in hospital on sunday with a dislocated shoulder through this off leader runningf at them i fell quite heavily.

you dont have to just be careful about your dog but respect others also, and dont risk your dog approaching others that are not friendly

23rd February 2010, 10:25 AM
All my dogs had training and in a training environment their recall is great be it inside a hall or even if class is held in a field. But with my Rosie as soon she is of the lead her nose goes to the ground and she goes deaf, she is very food orientated but even if I carried a chicken in my pocket she be gone. After I lost her for 2 hours in a 200 acre wood I never let her of lead again. Also when they are in a pack they behave differently to when I take them out separate. And like Tania said I just donít trust other owners to have bad dogs on a lead.

Brian M
23rd February 2010, 10:52 AM

This is a previous pic of my four all off lead ,apart from Lily they all went to The K. C. Good Puppy and Good Dog courses so their recall is not too bad and they all tend to follow each other and sniff the same things and of course my secret weapon is Luke who as he is only 14 and one of the girls does a runner hes quick enough to go round them up .Plus I am most careful not to let them off lead anywhere remotely near traffic as none have any road sense at all ,and I am ultra wary of any large dogs as like others I trust none so near them they all immediately go on lead under control.:)


Tails from left to right Daisy, Lily ,Rosie and Poppy.:)

Rj Mac
23rd February 2010, 03:12 PM
Our 3 are really very good off lead, and when we reach the parts of our walks that are away from traffic, they all get off for a run and a swim, which our Lab adores :rolleyes:

I am ultra wary of any large dogs as like others I trust none

I'm sorry Brian, but as someone who gew up around German Shepards, and I have a Large dog myself,who is as soft as they come, I find that statement a little off, not all big dogs are aggressive or intimidating, some small dogs can be more troublesome than the bigger 1s for instance we have a neighbour who has a little Pug,which is one of the most "dog aggresive" dogs i've ever met,

I think the only thing i'd say about letting off lead, is to know your own dogs, and their limitations or tolerence levels:thmbsup:

Daisy's Mom
23rd February 2010, 03:31 PM

I'm so sorry that you were injured. What you described is exactly what I'm afraid Daisy would do -- go charging up to a big dog. She's just nuts and has no common sense. When she was young, she'd hunker down and wag her tail when approaching another dog, but as she's gotten older, she just charges up into their face. I don't think she actually wants to attack them, but she just wants to kind of bowl other dogs over one time and then she leaves them alone. Very bad doggy manners. I know that certain dogs just won't take that kind of rudeness without responding and I can't blame them.

Believe me, we have really tried to work on this. I've been in tears of frustration over it a few times. We've been through puppy kindergarten, Obedience 1, Obedience 2, and she has her Canine Good Citizen award (kind of a fluke because she had become used to the other dogs in the class so by the last class, she was kind of conditioned to being around them. If it had been a strange dog, there is no way we would have passed the meet and greet part of the test. She, of course, was absolutely perfect on every other aspect of the test.) We started an agility course last year, but she just couldn't handle being near so many dogs on leash and she almost got eaten by a boxer, so we quit. We took classes for about 5 weeks, but she was just such a distraction to the other dogs and owners because of her stupid lunging that we just couldn't continue.

It would take one skull-crushing bite and I'd lose my little Daisy, so I can't risk it. We still work on the dog reactance during our walks in the neighborhood and often now when she sees a dog behind a fence she will turn to me for a treat rather than barking and going ballistic as she used to do. So that's some progress, but if we see another dog on a leash, it's all over. I think it kind of started with frustration at not being able to greet other dogs immediately when she is on leash and it's just escalated to this state. I used to trust that if I did let her approach, she would be friendly (if wild), so I would make sure she didn't jump up but would let her sniff noses. Now I don't even trust her to do that because she nipped a border collie on the lip once when they were meeting each other on leash. I was mortified and every time I see that lady and her dog in the neighborhood, I am so embarrassed that she is probably thinking I am the worst dog owner ever.

23rd February 2010, 04:39 PM
i would never let my cavaliers off lead in areas with traffic. they are alle very well trained, have passed several obedience tests etc, but in my experience cavaliers are a little bit scatterbrained -no offnece meant- they can be distracted and 'seduced' by something as simple as a butterfly and run off in pursuit while i am looking the other way....

in 'safe areas' they all walk off lead. teaching bella and sienna the recall was relatively easy, and both react instantly.
frida and kandis, my 'hunters' could walk off lead after 1 year of anti-hunt-training!! it was a very tough job to teach them that 'come' really means 'come now', though i started the recall training with them as i did with the other two.
i reward my dogs every time they come to me, also when they do it without being called. also they still every once in a while receive a 'jackpot'- special yummy treat or large amount af something very good - for a simple recall.

for the emergency situation, where they are too far away from me for the recall to have proper effect i have a 'down' signal. 3 sharp whistles and they all lie down straight away, almost on reflex. this is very effective and neccessary when walking in areas with game and birds.
my experience with working cavaliers is that they perform less well when the distance to the owner/trainer is too far. like in rough country hunting with spaniels i have tought them, and try to maintain this on all our walks, to go no farther tham 10-15 metres distance from me.

as for big dogs i rarely let them near big dogs, never, ever off lead, i simply find it too dangerous.
cavaliers, i am sure, have a more crude, not so refined signal vocabulary than so many other breeds, and are very often misinterperted by ohter dogs, or they simply do not read subtle warning signals from other dogs, and consequently get into trouble. getting into trouble with a big dog can mean serious injury to a small dog like a cavalier, who typically will not make a quick dash for it, like a jack russel, for example, but rather cower down and try to avert the danger.

i don't think big dog are agressive or dangerous, or anything of that kind. they ar just big and can do a lot of damage.

23rd February 2010, 06:37 PM
Just don't do it is my advice! It's never worth the risk.

I have always been able to let my "old girls" off lead on our country field walks (obviously I would never do so anywhere near traffic, or even where there may be a lot of other dogs) but two years ago I had a dreadful tragedy with a 4-year old I had recently "rescued". Her training was coming along well and, with the other dogs she rarely ventured far from me, but on the fateful day that I took her up our lane on her own, then risked letting her off the lead in the middle of a wide open field about 2 miles from the nearest road, she simply disappeared in a flash. Two terrible hours later we had a call from a nearby village to say she had been found dead on the side of another lane. She must have run and run and eventually crossed that lane, just as a vehicle was going by. Usually there is very little traffic, but, unbeknown to me, work had just started on a building development that day.

RIP Peppa - the tears and the guilt will never leave me!

Cathy T
23rd February 2010, 06:49 PM
cavaliers, i am sure, have a more crude, not so refined signal vocabulary than so many other breeds, and are very often misinterperted by ohter dogs, or they simply do not read subtle warning signals from other dogs, and consequently get into trouble. getting into trouble with a big dog can mean serious injury to a small dog like a cavalier, who typically will not make a quick dash for it, like a jack russel, for example, but rather cower down and try to avert the danger.

Very good description Renate!! And that is why I am uncomfortable around big dogs. I'm not so worried about the big dogs but rather how Shelby, in particular, interacts with them. That is exactly what happened when Shelby was attacked a few years ago. I just know she was sending some sort of signal to the dog and he reacted by attacking her. She didn't run, she cowered and he got the best of her. I really appreciate your description of how this happens. I explain to big dog owners "I'm not worried about how your dog will act....I'm worried about mine"

24th February 2010, 09:23 AM
The majority of people i find are very respectful of dogs on lead, unfortunately we have been having ongoing problems with the one that attacked mine on Sunday, and i have now got the dog warden involved.

we dont have any problems as long as the other dogs are under control and not jumping at them or all over them, which for some reason a lot of dogs seem to do! as long as they are not in their face mine will totally ignore.

its not just big dogs, there are many many small dogs that think they can behave like hooligans & a lot get away with it because they are cute. it wouldnt be sio cute if it was a rottie or akita behaving in the same way would it? i have lost count of the amount of times a silly owner has said to their dog "oh you will kill it - get stuck in its throat!"

you have all seen the photos of Thor & Freya with poppy & baxter, they are soft as anything together. what Thor tends to do to impolite dogs is lie on them - not attack but as said with such small dogs can be dangerous!

My big ones are on lead all the time because they are hunters, and even though we have had them at training & continue to work with them, i know if they saw something more interesting than me they woud be off! i wouldnt put others in that position or my dogs.

Thankfully Poppy & baxter respond well to training & commands are excelent at recall & will stop when given the comand and go no further, Baxter is especialy good.

like said it is knowing your dogs & its limits. dont risk him if you are not 100% sure, have respect for yours and other dogs around.

sorry i told you it was a bit of a bug bear of mine!:D

24th February 2010, 02:17 PM
Thanks for all of your suggestions, we will keep training them and hopefully they will respond.
There are a lot of lovely walks nearby us and we can walk for hours without seeing another person,dog or car so maybe in the future we will see. They are brother and sister and can be a handfull together so maybe i will try them on their own the first time and Ben is way better on the lead, as his is sister will chase anything that moves and can smell food about 3 miles away i think:)