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Maintaining My Off Leash Life!

Monday, April 01, 2013

I've been thinking about FREELADY's inquiry as to whether Charlie gets to run off leash when we take him for a walk in the woods.

He does.

And that's because (despite the very unfortunate muskrat massacre on New Year's Day cross country skiing . . . when he'd already exhausted his will power with several very provocative temptations) Charlie is almost always a very obedient dog.

We've taken all of our dogs to obedience training as puppies and as young dogs. Repeat sessions of obedience for each of them. And of course it's the dog owner who's really being trained . . . . but there are certain inherent and breed-related limitations!

Our very photogenic basset hounds (Ambrose, then Rufus) were much loved, but really impossible to train. They could never see the point of a "sit" or "down" command: they were already so close to the ground! And they were so ruled by their noses (bassets are scent hounds) that they had relatively little attention to spare for their humans. Our bassets spent a lot of time alone in the kitchen.

Our Irish water spaniel, Sabrina, was a highly individual one person dog: me. She simply did not connect with the other members of our family. She'd do what I told her readily enough, responding even to silent hand signals . . . but no one else. And that had fairly disastrous consequences.

Charlie, our golden retriever, lives to please. He is smart enough in the IQ department, but his outstanding characteristic is his high EQ (emotional quotient). He is intensely companionable and affectionate.

As a result, Charlie's life has been by far the most pleasant of all our dogs. He is almost constantly with one or other of us, moving freely throughout our house unsupervised. And that's because from puppyhood onwards we knew he would never ever mess anywhere, he would never ever chew anyone's shoes, he would never snatch food or get into the garbage. He joins us sitting on the verandah because we know he would never ever run into the street or chase a rabbit. And he runs off leash in the woods because we know he will come instantly when called. Every time. We only leash him briefly if there is someone else out hiking who might be frightened by such a large dog, and then only long enough for them to pass on by.

Charlie is trustworthy. He's trained himself not to be tempted to do what he knows we don't want him to do. He doesn't even consider such activities. He averts his attention from them. He focuses on the things he knows are OK.

It's possible to observe him doing all of these things. He's quiet but not subdued, not cowed or cringing, not suffering from any apparent loss of freedom. (Charlie has scarcely ever heard a cross word from any of us).

Instead he exudes confidence. He exudes a sense of dignity and satisfaction with himself.

So: in the category of "things I've learned from my dog"???

My own life is much more pleasant too since I've figured out that obedience to my nutrition tracking means I can trust myself "off leash"!

I'm not going to eat doughnuts. I'm not going to gorge on potato chips. I'm not going to inhale French fries. I've organized my life in such a way that these things aren't available to tempt me. So long as I drive past the fast food places and avoid those aisles at the grocery store and never bring any of it home I'll be OK.

And if once in a long while the dietary equivalent of an unexpected muskrat burrowing under the snow breaks my resolve?

I wipe off my muzzle, snap myself back onto my leash, haul myself back to my car . . . and just drive myself away.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • CANNIE50
    I dearly love a good analogy so of course I enjoyed this blog. I have a dog that looks exactly like this emoticon . He is a PITA in many ways but, out in the woods, off leash, he is a gem. It saves my sanity to take him to the woods to run his "ya yas" off. I still need leash training when it comes to food, I am sad to report. I need someone to follow me around and tell me "leave it, leave it, LEAVE IT!".
    1784 days ago
  • KANOE10
    That was a cute analogy. I agree with you. You have to allow yourself some deviances in eating..or exercise. The key is to jump back in the leash and get going again.

    1784 days ago
  • NANCY-
    What a beautiful thought provoking blog. Being 'off leash" is an excellent thought to ponder.
    I think I need some more training and then will be more trustworthy. :)
    1785 days ago
    This is excellent!! I lost it with the muskrats yesterday but am back on track today.
    1785 days ago
    Charlie is certainly a wonderful role model. :)
    1785 days ago
    Wonderful Charlie! Wonderful Ellen! I loved the word picture. Leashed desires and temptations averted. Joy and dignity in obedience.
    1786 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Loved the run down of your dogs and the personality traits. Your Charlie sounds like a rare special treat all right. A wonderful, conscientious owner will bring out the best in a dog, but they have to be 100% committed too. But no one is perfect and its good to understand the rare lapses, forgive and forget and move on and being your usual awesome! self As you truly are. And your awesome dog! What a pair! The dog show obedience trials are lucky they don't have you and Charlie for competitors!!!
    Just amazing discipline!
    Keep up the great work!
    1786 days ago
    Wow! This one surprised me... what a great analogy! Thanks for my image of the day... being dragged by my collar and leash back onto program when needed.
    1786 days ago
    I love this analogy! I can see you snapping on an imaginary muzzle and leash, and heading out to the car!
    1786 days ago
    Beautiful dog! I had a golden lab once. Best dog I ever had and if I ever get another dog it will be a golden lab!

    Good blog about salt. My wife is trying to cut is out of everything and I think that's wrong but she's the boss!!

    Have a great April!


    1786 days ago
    lovely blog -- and great dog!
    1786 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    Enjoyed the blog. Snapped my leash back on a few days ago as I was getting too sloppy.
    1786 days ago
    You know what they say about dogs resembling their people? You and Charlie are both wonderful!

    My dog, Cassie, now about 14 or 15 years old, was a rescue dog who came to me with issues. She bonded to me quickly but at first would not let anyone else in the house. She minds me well enough in the house but once she's outside she wants to go her own way. She gives me a look that says "Inside, I'm a person; outside, I'm a dog." I keep her close to me now, but when she was younger, she would chase squirrels, eat yucky things, and still be a sweet shaggy protector and companion. Now, have I just written a biography of myself?
    1786 days ago
    good analogy!
    1786 days ago
    I want a dog just like Charlie. But I guess the lesson to be learned here is that I need to be more trained myself. And guess what? 2 weeks today emoticon !

    That gives me the strength finally to start dealing with my other addiction emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon well you get the idea.

    Success (and obedience) gives us strength. To defeat all our "addictions". Thanks for your insight my emoticon friend.
    1786 days ago
    Great blog!
    I have trained myself pretty well, too.
    1786 days ago
  • CHERYLA2012
    Oh my gosh, yes!
    ... My own life is much more pleasant too since I've figured out that obedience to my nutrition tracking means I can trust myself "off leash"! ...
    Exactly! It's a freedom and a pleasure, not a restriction or burden.
    emoticon emoticon
    1786 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/1/2013 10:59:17 AM
  • JLITT62
    Fascinating blog!

    Hmm, my dogs & cat are fairly obedient (but not quite in Charlie's class if they could reach the counters I've no doubtthey'd counter surf) BECAUSE they're so food motivated.

    Not quite sure how that lesson applies to me . . .
    1786 days ago
    I'm not there yet, but it's always great to read your blogs and see what life I could have if I got there!
    1786 days ago
    Love the things you've learned from your dog! Charlie sounds like a real prize. Although our dog is good in many ways, (probably as good as we've taught her to be), I miss my old sheltie that we had for 16 years. She was a mind reader and empath, always trying to figure out what we wanted her to do and knowing when we needed a nuzzle. She almost seemed to have human sensibilities. Our dog, Kahlua, is going to greet you and lick you no matter what we say and will always have to be put outside when the kids have snacks because she isn't going to leave them alone. Oh, well. She has a good heart.

    So great that you understand that your commitment to tracking is not giving up freedom, but enabling it. Enjoy your days of exuding confidence and living with a sense of dignity and satisfaction with yourself as Charlie has taught you!!

    1786 days ago
    Loved this blog. You're right. We all need to be trained "off leash". Glad Charlie sets such a food example.
    1786 days ago
    Life is much more fun when we're responsible - seems like it should be the opposite doesn't it?
    Got me thinking
    1786 days ago
    Great blog, great lesson! "Things I learned from my dog", indeed! emoticon

    Thanks for brightening up my morning. Now off to the gym for me!

    emoticon emoticon emoticon m
    1786 days ago
    Will you come on over and be my personal obedience trainer for a lifetime or two? Please?
    1786 days ago
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