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Loki Off Leash - is it too big of a risk?

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Tonight we were walking on a secluded trail and the buckle on his half of the coupler broke. Loki took off like he was shot out of a cannon but he kept running back to make sure we were following.

Tex and I pretended to be fascinated with a piece of grass so Mr. Nosey would come close enough to be caught. I petted him and treated him with a blueberry and let him run again. He did the whole lighthouse trail and had a great swim. I was a little worried when he went far out in the choppy waves but he came back when I signed him in. I caught and released him about 6 times - good thing he likes blueberries.

After a good long run, he started staring at shadows and barking at the ground so I leashed him and went home. I thought he did great BUT his recall is not bomb proof. We are not likely to ever meet people or dogs, just maybe bears and chippies. I wouldn't dream of doing this where there could be cars or people.

How do you know when your dogs recall is good enough? If it's not, the consequences could be horrible.

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That's such a hard question. I can't comment on your situation with Loki, since his deafness makes it more difficult. I know with Zoe how far I can trust her, and when. I stopped letting her off-leash in our yard because she was wandering too far off (typical teenager, blowing me off). But before then I felt pretty confident, because she'd always come to "check in" with me and wouldn't wander too far from mommy, and she always immediately obeyed "inside" (go to the front door to go inside). Plus again I wouldn't do it out in a strange place, but in our yard she knew the boundaries.


So I really don't know when I'll know she's back at the trustworthy state again. I honestly don't think ANY dog has 100% trustworthiness. But you need 99% at least.

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My dogs have fair recalls. I let them off leash when I am the most exciting thing around (out in the middle of the woods, no cars or anything nearby) or if we are in a fenced area.


To keep them checking in with me, I sometimes turn and run the other way when they are not looking. When they find me, I give them treats. Then I let them go play again. Most of the places we go, they know when it is time to go back on leash, but they also know the fun does not stop there.


I may be the only person to actively encourage tugging and grabbing the leash all the time, but I find it works very well as a long-lasting reward. :D Works for me. Your mileage, as they say, may vary!! At certain spots in the dog parks and in the woods, when they look tired enough to stop running, we go back on leash and tug, tug, tug all the way back to the car. And yes, when I am sick of it, they do stop when I ask. :rolleyes:


So far, so good. Sure can't wait for my 10 acres to be fenced, though. Lots of fun stuff we can do in 10 acres for hide & seek & fetch & all that.


Allie + Tess & Kipp


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I think it's good enough when you can call your dog off of whatever could be the coolest thing at the place you are going.


Examples you can call your dog off of:

Other dogs in agility class or the dog park

Squirrels (or animals) in the woods, etc


Also would be great if you had a 'stay with me' command so the dog stays close. I have that with my dogs so they walk close to me instead of up ahead - that way I can grab them if need be or prevent them from running after something by buying more time before they get to it.


I can call River who LOVES other dogs before she goes after them in agility class and at the dog park should I choose to. To me, that's pretty obedient and I would trust her (99%).


Oh yah.. might be totally diff story with Loki. Perhaps investing in a vibrating collar would be worth it - so you could call Loki from a far distance or when she's interested in something and not looking at you.

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The answer to your question. You will never "KNOW", if your dogs recall is good enough in the sense of the question. I remember a situation where state police officers were camping with their K-9's, and of course the dogs were off leash. We all know how well police dogs are trained...BUT... and a very big BUT... one of the dogs spotted a deer in the woods, and took off after it... of course the police officer recalled his dog, to no avail, but the genetic prey drive apparently kicked in, and the "predator" part of that K-9 cop won out!!! they never saw that dog again.

Soooooooo, in reality, you can NEVER, be 100% sure, when your dog is off leash. You just need to decide if it is worth the risk. It only takes once or not! MAYBE, that will never happen to you and your dog. Ever since I heard that story from the Forest Ranger, when I had my GSD off leash (who was very well trained also), I am very reluctant to take my dogs off leash in an area not contained .

I know some people will write in and say their dog is 15 yrs. old and never ran off when off leash, always came back... etc, etc... but life is a risk, and you just need to decide where you want to take your risks, I suppose. :rolleyes:

I don't mean to be a pessimist, and I am glad you and Loki had a great time, but ever since I heard that story, I feel like I should at least pass it on if for no other reason than to honor that amazing GSD lost in the Blue Ridge Mountains, somewhere :D

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I remember a woman (who may identify herself) in Tennessee who lost a dog in a park there while at National Finals, got her back the next day, but what a nightmare. I'll never forget the empathy I had for her, knowing she was far from home and how impractical and impossible it would have been to camp out there until she found her, IF she was still around at all.

I had a little dog scoot DOWN a buff to the river once and he could NOT get back up, which presented my boyfriend (eventual spouse of 24 years...and this incident helped sway me over to keeping him) with the opportunity to show off his rapelling skills to retrieve that little twerp. I guess I'd vote to not let off any dog in a dangerous or unfamiliar area, especially one far from home if he didn't have a rock-solid recall and I could reel him in anytime he got near out of sight, which can be a hassle the more dogs you have loose. Tough call.

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Originally posted by Debbie Crowder-BaaramuLuke:

I remember a woman (who may identify herself) in Tennessee who lost a dog in a park there while at National Finals, got her back the next day, but what a nightmare. I'll never forget the empathy I had for her, knowing she was far from home and how impractical and impossible it would have been to camp out there until she found her, IF she was still around at all.

Um, that would be me. And my dogs have excellent recalls. But that day I opened the van and Willow and Twist (just a youngster then) took off before I knew what was happening (or could get leashes on them as if I remember correctly dogs needed to be leashed in the park, but I usually let them out of their crates and then leash them). I can only surmise that they saw a deer. Twist came back and Willow did not. We did a lot of searching (this was in a state park with a 5,000-acre state forest behind it--so a huge area in which to lose a dog). We were searching late that night and got out there early the next morning, hiking the entire 5-mile trail we had intended to walk the day before. As we walked we saw numerous caves and sinkholes, and my heart sank too--I had horrible visions of her having fallen into one of those caves (essentially just deep holes in the ground with no way out) and starving to death down there.


Anyway, the good news is that when we got back to my van she was waiting for us, and had even brought up the glove I had left for her at the trail head the night before. She was lame and had a cut over her eye and I still wonder if she didn't fall into a hole and was just lucky it was one she could get out of.


I still allow my dogs to walk off leash, but I keep a very close eye on them.


I guess it comes down to how comfortable you feel. I know with my dogs I can use my whistle to call them back and the whistle will carry over long distances. You don't have that option with Loki.



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