Running with Dogs Off Leash?

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by jtclough on August 6, 2010

The one thing dog lovers can agree on is their dog is their best friend.  After that, the opinions tend to get a bit haywire.  For instance how should dogs be trained? Where should they be allowed to go? … and should dogs be allowed to be off leash or not?

Runner’s World recently published an article spread all about running with dogs.  And yeah, I got to get my paw in there with my professional opinion referred to several times in the articles!  However, on the subject of should your dog be allowed to be off leash there are a couple of sides to the story.  Here are the opinions published in Runner’s World in Should Dogs Be Allowed Off Leash On Running Trails?

Fitness Running With Dogs

Off leash is a great thing for dogs.  But only if they have had some great training in the area of recall.  Or “come to me” whenever called from whatever enticement that crosses their path.

That alone rules out many dogs who can or should be in the off leash category.  My personal opinion is those who have not spent the time in training to get their dog to reliably come to them simply should not have their dog off leash.

The good news is if you and your dog seem to fit that category you can get fit with a bit of cross training and everyone will benefit.  Not only can you get a great workout while running with your dog on leash, but you can also create training stations to work on recall training, stretching and other aspects of a well rounded fitness lifestyle.

Where Are the Best Places to Run with Your Dog Off Leash

A busy urban trail is not the place to have an off leash dog.  It just isn’t, I don’t care how well trained your dog is.  There is the issue of respect for the others who are navigating as well.  The chances that more dogs and people are going to create a situation that isn’t good for someone even while on leash when off leash dogs are involved are pretty high.

For some that means you may need to go on an adventure to find an off leash dog friendly trail, but that can be a really fun experience for everyone.  Check out for dog friendly trails in your area.  Find an area that takes you out in nature and have fun with your dog on a new trail, lake or river.  City dwellers can think of it as a get away and you’ll find if you start checking it out just getting an hour away from your normal routine feels like you are on a fun vacation.

The important thing to remember if you do have an off leash dog is it takes continued training just like it does to stay in shape for a 5K up to a marathon.  Recall is something you should practice with your dog everyday so you can go out in areas where off leash calls and your dog can run with open nimble paws.

Should Dogs Be Allowed Off Leash?

What do you think?  Your opinions are helpful in dog professionals helping everyone get along.  Complaining about the problem is one thing.  Doing something about it is another!

Wag more!

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1 Holly August 8, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Another consideration is the topography of where you’re running. The trail I run on has very steep sloping slides, and Didy would happily go over the edge if he smelled a rabbit or something. Even if he was very good off leash (which he mostly is) I wouldn’t let him off leash during our runs.
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2 Christopher LoVerso August 8, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I recieved this latest issue of Runner’s World and great info with running with your dog. I even like the section on which dogs are best matched for running. I’m glad you shared this info!

3 K9 Coach August 9, 2010 at 6:12 am

Hi Holly,
This is a very good point; topography. We also tend to go some pretty cool places with our dogs and some trails and terrain are a safety concern for the dogs while off leash. The Rio Grande Gorge trail has places that give you the same feeling as standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Not a place I’d want my dogs to slide down accidentally. A leash is definitely the answer in these cases.

Same with a few hikes we do. Wheeler Peak has two routes; a steep climb and decent, and another route that’s a bit further but without the steeps. We choose the longer route for dog safety reasons.

Thanks for the comment. Have fun with your dog and wag more!
K9 Coach´s last blog post ..Pawsuit of Excellence – Professional Development for Top Paw Results

4 Leigh of August 10, 2010 at 10:22 am

If there are local leash laws, those laws should extend to the trails.

I do not appreciate walking my dog and being frightened by seeing off-leash dogs. I don’t know if they are going to run up to my rescue, who does NOT enjoy meeting strange dogs face to face.

In my opinion, having dogs off leash anywhere where you might run into others is dangerous and rude.
Leigh of´s last blog post ..Another close call for Aura kitten

5 Dog Connections August 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

This is so funny. I started running with my dogs a few month ago. I got challenged to do a 10k in Victoria BC. Beside the fitness part of it, I found the dogs help me keep a study pace. I totally love it and they do too. I call them my little Canine coaches. Now we are training for a half marathon
It is great to see so many people are enjoying it as well.
Re the on or off leash.
I do both. I am lucky because I live on an island 45 minutes of Victoria BC. The roads I train on are fairly wide and I can see further ahead what’scoming. Timba my German Shepherd get time off leash for part of the run. As long as there are no houses and I can see ahead. Otherwise for safety I keep her on the leash. The other one Bear I have to keep her on the leash because she does not listen very well.
When we run on trails in the forest, they can be off leash because it is safe and very few people.

I think it is common sens. If your dog can safely be off leash then great. I think it is more fun for them. Otherwise I use a long 6 to 8ft leash that I tied around my waist so my arms are free. It gives them more freedom too. That seems to work good.

Happy running to all with your dogs

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