On and Off Lead - Part 1

Exercise is one of the most important things in a dog’s life. It promotes not only physical wellbeing, but mental and emotional wellbeing - it’s not like they can take themselves out for a self-care day trip after all!

There are of course two ways that a dog can be exercised - on a lead, and off of a lead. Okay, this sounds pretty obvious, but both have pros and cons and both require different kinds of training and handling to get the most out of them, and to engage in them safely, for you and your dog.

Walking a dog on a lead… seems straightforward, right? The main thing to consider here is how much exercise and stimulation your dog is going to get, and what equipment you will be connecting you to your dog!

Question 1) How much exercise it your dog actually getting? Sure, going for a brisk 30-45 minute walk might feel like a nice workout for you but depending on the breed of your dog this may be more like a short stroll to your local coffee shop. If you have a “working dog” like a Kelpie or Border Collie then you’ll probably need to have a look at off-lead option in part 2 (coming soon!).

Sheriff (Border Collie) probably won’t be satisfied with an on-lead walk around the block…

Sheriff (Border Collie) probably won’t be satisfied with an on-lead walk around the block…

An on-lead walk for more energetic breeds is still a great way to stimulate them mentally with new sights, sounds and most importantly smells, so if you don’t have access to an off-lead park then why not find a walking trail along a local creek?

The important part here is keeping your dog on-lead around unfamiliar places where your dog can become easily lost from sight, and especially around running water - dogs are generally good swimmers, but creeks can be deceptively deep, with strong and fast running currents and potentially dangerous rocks and other debris. That goes for you too, so keep back from the edges or you might both end up wet and in trouble yourself! Similarly, watch for snakes in the warmer months, and be aware of local hazards such as ticks (stay out of the long grass!), breeding magpies (help!) and poisonous native plants.

Question 2) So, you have your location, but what about what is connecting you to your dog? You need a lead (obviously) and something to attach it to.

There are a wide range of leads available but the most important factors are a) that it is strong and durable - you get exactly what you pay for. It is also important that it is the correct length - too short and your dog can’t explore freely, too long and it will be unwieldy and can get tangled.

Fancy equipment can be more trouble than it’s worth if you don’t know how to use it!

Fancy equipment can be more trouble than it’s worth if you don’t know how to use it!

The choice of collar or harness, and what kind to use is much more dependant on your confidence as a dog handler, and the breed of dog that you have. If you would like more information on leads, collars and harnesses, fear not! That is a whole other matter for another blog post!

In Summary:

  • Walking is a fun and stimulating activity for a dog, but may not be enough for energetic dogs.

  • Be aware of your surroundings - don’t get lost, and keep your dog in sight on longer leads. Check to see if your area contains ticks and/or poisonous plants.

  • Stay Dry - don’t let dogs into the water off lead, and keep safely away from the edges to avoid getting dragged in yourself!

  • Stay Safe - keep an eye out for snakes in the warmer months, nesting magpies in spring, etc.

  • Be Prepared - poo bags, water bottle and collapsible drinking bowl, a small first-aid kit (for yourself and your dog) with a tick-removing tool, and sturdy shoes (no thongs in nature!)

  • You Get What You Pay For - a cheap lead and collar may end up costing a lot more in vet bills for your dog or doctors bills for you!

  • Don’t “Fake It Til You Make It” - get some lessons from a qualified trainer using the equipment you have spent your hard earned money on Incorrect usage can be harmful and make a problem puller much worse!

Vincent Coleman