I admit it, I’m guilty of breaking the law. I’m one of those people that let my dogs off leash at the beach. My Border collie mix is so fixated on the tennis ball launcher that it is now a virtual leash. And although my little Corgi mix loves to wander off, he is always (eventually) responsive to the come command. This command may not only save your dog’s life, but may also save you from a major lawsuit. It is imperative that your dog be trained to respond as quickly as possible to come when called.

Several weeks ago I was at the beach with my dogs, the little one running around looking for dead animal carcasses to roll in and the big one eagerly focused on the next throw. As always, I was scanning the beach for other dogs, on or off leash. When I see someone coming, with their dog on a leash, I immediately leash my little guy and give the big dog a stay until they’ve passed and I know my dogs will not disturb them. On this day I watched as a couple of men walked by us with a middle age looking boxer. The boxer is lunging on the leash towards us, but they pass without incident. At a certain point, after they’ve passed, I let my dogs continue with their sports. I notice that the men and boxer are a few hundred feet down the beach and are doing something that requires the dog to go back and forth between them, off leash. A few seconds later I look again. The boxer is now running full speed towards us. Quickly, in a panic, I call my little one to come and leash him up. I grab a hold of my bigger dog and put him in a sit stay. The boxer is almost upon us. In the distance I see the two men running towards us and vaguely hear the words they’re screaming, “Come! Come!” The boxer lunges at my big dog as I’m holding him. I scream at my nephew to take the little one. Now I have the boxer by the collar in one hand and my dog by the collar in the other, trying to keep them separated. The boxer slips his collar and is on my big dog. Immediately I let go of my dog’s collar so that he can defend himself. With the boxer on top of my supine dog, the men arrive to pull him off. In the midst of their apologies a woman and her child appear out of nowhere, and she is pissed off. She begins yelling at the men that, instead of a dog, it could have been a child (her child) that the boxer attacked, and a dog like that should NEVER be allowed off leash. Of course, she was absolutely right.

This is where simple common sense comes into play. If you know (or even think) you’re dog might not respond to your commands in an open, uncontrolled environment and/or has aggressive tendencies, i.e. attacking other dogs (and possibly small children), do you really want to risk a lawsuit and/or possible euthanasia for just the few minutes of letting the dog play on the beach, or the playground or the park?

Keeping your dog on leash is the safest route for everyone, and there are training leads available, 30 or 50 feet long, to use if you want to give the dog the feeling of being off leash. The long lead is an excellent tool for teaching the come command. Training your dog to come to you consistently, and without hesitation, is probably the most difficult thing for them to learn. It takes a lot of time and effort, but consider the alternatives. Save yourself the risks, go out there and get to work.2-15-2007_5-50-18_PM_sized

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