Join Date: Jun 2010
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I didn't vote either.... it depends on the dog and the relationship with the dog. And circumstances. There's no magic age that fixes everything.
Our first golden was pretty good off leash... but then he was also sick so probably did not feel like running when loose on our property. The two boys after him - went years before I could take them outside off leash. My one boy had horrendous elbows and went through pano as well in his first year and couldn't get across a room without stopping to sit and bring his front end up off the ground to get pressure off his front legs.... but with adrenaline - he could run like the wind if he got off leash outside. And you only could catch him when he was ready to be caught.
My two current boys were bonded with me right from the start and did not want to leave my side. That helped as far as them always being trustworthy off leash on the property - right from day one, through their teen months, etc....
Jacks, I kept on leash when hiking away from home.... until he was 3. Not because he ever ran away from me and kept running. But I had the experience of the boy before him being a runner until he was mature.
But after 3 - this dog has been perfect when off leash hiking with me.
Bertie came along and between the influence of Jacks and also his little personality being more Velcro than even Jacks.... he's been off leash on hikes right from day 1.
As far as calling off from wildlife, etc.... that's not an issue. I usually just call them and say "leave it" and that's all it takes.
When hiking out at parks or places where there might be other people and dogs around, my guys are trained to quarter back to my side when they see anyone or anything coming. This is so I can get them back on leash (this was the trained behavior right from the start)... but I could leave them off leash and they quarter back and stay at my side until the other people/animals pass. <- They do this even when they see deer.
Rabbits or squirrels... or birds... they might give chase, but are quickly called off. All this is just training. Doesn't matter how high drive your dog is. They should be trained to obey. Otherwise you are likely to get into situations like something I saw a couple weeks ago....
Somebody's cattle dog got loose and went running for the main road and just started chasing cars left and right. Fortunately, the people in this area are great people. A lot of people stopped their cars and blocked the road. And many got out to help the owner catch their dog. End of the story was the owner catching their dogs and tearfully walking back to their car, thanking people and crying the whole way.
I've been there with prior dogs (that one with the elbow dysplasia and pano especially) and never want to be in the position of chasing a dog who doesn't want to be caught. Hence - obedience training and working with a dog very closely to get them good off leash (if they get off leash) is so necessary.