Off Leash Dogs: They are trained for off leash or they are not. "Pretty good" is irresponsible.
True Story: I was at a Charlotte, NC local hiking trail (different day then the picture) with a dog in training for dog reactivity. The dog in training was ON LEASH. I also had my two personal Pit bulls with me for part of the rehabilitation process and they were off leash (and they have been properly off leash trained). From about 50 yards away I saw a woman hiking with her Yellow Lab coming around a bend in the trail. The Lab was not on leash. The moment the Lab saw me and my dogs it took off full speed right towards us. I told my personal dogs to "sit" and "stay." They did. The Yellow Lab was still charging. While my own dogs were sitting calmly I backed away with the reactive dog in training (on leash) so the Lab would meet my two friendly Pit bulls first. I said loudly to the woman, "Please call your dog." She did...several times... to no avail. The Yellow Lab came full speed up to my personal dogs and they all sniffed each other for a while and everything went fine. By the time the dog greeting was over between the 3 dogs, the woman had caught up to her dog and put him on leash. She apologized over and over and said, "I'm sorry, I just cannot walk him on leash because he is so strong and pulls so much, so I like to let him run out here on the trails and he listens most of the time. He is friendly." I politely said I could see that he is friendly but not all dogs out in public are friendly and the dog I had with me on leash was in training for dog reactivity and aggression. Her jaw dropped as she said, "Oh my gosh! I am so sorry." I politely reminded her that her dog could have really been hurt. As we started talking, her Lab was a bit hyper on leash and trying to pull towards the other dogs. My personal dogs (off leash the entire time) remained at a distance. The dog in training with me (on leash) was under control in a sit position. She commented, "I cannot believe how your two dogs are so well behaved off leash! How do you do that?" I told her I was a dog trainer in the Charlotte, NC area and I would be happy to train her Lab for off leash obedience and to walk well on leash for her (without pulling). She became very excited, engaged and asked a lot of great questions. I eventually explained the only SAFE & RELIABLE way to train a dog for off leash obedience is with proper remote E Collar training. She frowned and said, "Oh no. I could never do that." Ummmmm... E Collar she couldn't do but allowing her dog to run up to any other dog or person without permission is acceptable or even safe? Ummmmm....
In my opinion, the above situation is completely inexcusable and irresponsible, regardless of how friendly the dog is. Unfortunately the above situation is all too common in our communities. Too many dog owners feel, that even without proper off leash training, their dog is "pretty good" off leash and it listens "most of the time" and... their dog is friendly so its not a big deal to take their dog off leash. However, taking an untrained dog off leash is a big deal and here is why:
1. Many people (and canines for that matter) are scared of dogs. It is unfair to subject these people (and fearful dogs) to unwanted solicitation by an untrained off leash dog.
2. Regardless of how friendly one's dog is or how good one's dog may be off leash without official training, at some point, a verbal or hand command will fail and then... the owner is left helpless... just hoping that bad things don't happen. That is not fair to the public.
3. It is unsafe for your dog: your dog could approach an aggressive dog on leash, run in front of cyclist or maybe run into the middle of a road, among many other things.
4. Untrained off leash dogs simply give ALL off leash dogs a bad rap.
There is only ONE way to reliably and safely train dogs for off leash obedience and that is with proper "collar pressure training" via E Collar (electronic collar). It consists of several steps with positive reinforcement, clicker/marker training, long-line training, command, body positioning, rewards, collar pressure training (with leash and e collar), etc. While nothing is 100%, E Collars give us the ability to communicate with our dogs from a distance. They provide the ultimate assurance that our dogs will be SAFE and RELIABLY obedient when off leash, especially when food lures and verbal commands fail and they will. However, it is a PROCESS. It is NOT, by ANY means a matter of "slap an E Collar on a dog if they don't come when called, hit buttons." Absolutely NOT... not even close. When dogs go through the proper process, remote e collar training provides the safest and most reliable way to communicate with a dog while off leash and... dogs have a BLAST with off leash training and they LOVE to see their E Collars out because they associate it with off leash fun!
I encourage all dog owners interested in off leash obedience to look at the hundreds of off leash videos on the Allegiant K9s Facebook page and the Allegiant K9s webpage and you will easily observe dogs that are happy, confident and SAFE while off leash...even with distractions present! Allegiant K9s only trains non-aggressive dogs for off leash obedience.
Please, if you want your canine buddy to have off leash freedom, then have them properly trained for off leash obedience... for the safety of your dog and the safety and comfort of others!
"Balanced Training - Balanced Dogs"