Is Off Leash Hiking Safe?

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June 23, 2020
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Is Off Leash Hiking Safe?

One of the biggest questions I get asked when adopters are choosing a dog is whether
or not it is off leash trained. There is nothing quite like enjoying a hike in the middle of
nowhere with your four-legged friend. Letting them off leash gives them freedom to explore
at the pace of their nose. Relationship building and a solid training foundation are the first
steps to unleashed adventures. It takes a little bit of practice but can be safely enjoyed
taking some minor precautions.

A huge part of off leash hiking is recall. The environment has many wild cards such as
cars, other dogs, wildlife, traps, cliffs, holes.
The ability to depend on a dog responding
to the sound of its name and commands
such as “come” can be vital. The beginning
of recall training involves getting a dog’s
attention. This could mean calling its name,
clapping, whistling, etc. When adding a
command such as “come” or “here”, it all
comes down to making yourself the most
important thing there is. Get excited when your
dog comes to you, shower him or her with praise,
offer lots of yummy high value dog treats.
Recall training is best practiced in short, frequent
sessions. Start out in a contained environment
like a yard or on leash. Work up from easy
with few distractions then slowly add in
more appealing external factors. If a dog is
struggling, work backwards and remove stimuli
from the environment. Even if a dog seems to
have the process down, you can never practice
too much.

Giving a dog freedom on trail means he or she
is free to run endless circles and wear itself out
logging double the mileage. Increasing a dog’s
physical fitness, it can wade in a river or roll
around in the grass. Off-leash hiking frees our
wrist from constant tugging and eliminates the
problem of leashes getting caught, twisted,
and tangled. Recall builds and reinforces
human to dog relationship, strengthening trust
and the bond. Freedom to be a dog goes a long
way in mental and physical well-being.

While we can search for the most secluded trails, they are
never without obstacles. Not all people like dogs and not all dogs
like dogs. Letting a dog run up and bombard other hikers is poor
trail etiquette and could be dangerous. Wild animals typically keep
their distance from humans, but if they do not, you want your dog
stuck to you like glue. Trails may have unpredictable landscapes that
threaten safety, such as water, cliffs, quicksand, etc. Keep your eyes
and ears open and stay aware of your surroundings.

Unclipping a dog’s leash and letting them romp into the wilderness is
extremely satisfying. Carrying the leash is a great safety back up. Watching
and listening on the trail helps keep you and your pup safe while you both
work your body’s and brains. Off leash hiking is an amazing environment to
strengthen your bond with your dog, while keeping everyone healthy and happy.

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