Tonight I encountered a scenario which made me truly thankful I can trust my dog off leash. More than that, I pictured how insane it might be to even encounter this scenario with a poorly behaved dog. One of the biggest reasons I train and encourage others to train for off leash reliability as a goal for training is because you might be in a scenario someday where the management tool of choice isn’t available… you don’t have your remote collar on, you don’t have food with you, you don’t have a leash on your dog or, the all to common, collar break (this alone has happened on a flat buckle, halti, prong and choke chain with me).
My wife Karlynn and I stopped by my parents house tonight for dinner. Karlynn and my son Brennan got there a little earlier, but not to far behind was me and Rocky fresh from running in the fields. Karlynn had to return back to work early and I was taking Brennan home.
Here’s where things start to go south…
Just as I’m getting Brennan’s snow suit on, my father informs me that the elevator in his building is still on service because someone is moving in and just went all the way down to the basement (presumably so the folks moving in could reload it). My parents live on the sixth floor. My mother as thoughtful as she is, suggests calling the building super to fetch the elevator for us so we didn’t have to brave the stairs, but me being the head-strong get-it-done person I am opted not to wait.
So I picked my 25 lbs one year old son, slung his diaper bag over my shoulder and beckoned Rocky along off leash. All the way down six flights of stairs, Rocky kept in step with me. Once we reached the lobby, he continued hanging beside me. We came out the doors to find another dog coming in, and instead of bolting off to say hi and engage with it, Rocky snugged my leg and moved on with his pack. I downed him by the van so I could strap Brennan in his car seat and then loaded Rocky into his Kennel. Once home, I gathered my son—who was sleeping soundly at this point—and his bags while Rocky waited patiently in the kennel, no fidgeting, whining or barking. I cracked the hatch and let him out.
Without giving a command, Rocky stayed tight to my leg, yielded doorways and space to me so I didn’t have to worry about tripping him, sat when I stopped to fiddle with my keys all without a tether between him and I.
Once we opened the front door, the mission was complete and Rocky rewarded himself with some gulps of water before coming up and laying down in Brennan’s room while I tucked him in.
I had to give Rocky one VERBAL command the whole time, and that was to let him know we were leaving my parents. Not another word was spoken.
Our relationship is not always this care free or easy, there are many opportunities Rocky will take to see if the rules still apply. But he always intuitively knows when I need him to be sharp. Whether that means being on point as an escort to Brennan and I or helping me evaluate a dog aggressive dog… I’m thankful my dog doesn’t always need a leash!