I’ll explain this this by means of a story:
We were up north at my family’s cottage for the Christmas holidays when Bailey, my Golden Retriever, was just a year old. Back then, we had two dogs: Bailey and Betsy, a seasoned Shepherd Mix. One cold but bright and snowy day, we ventured to the Ocqueoc State Park trails for a walk and a romp in the wonderful northern Michigan snow.
Both dogs were off leash and having a grand time running ahead of us and back, never venturing far – our voice commands kept them close. We had fun exploring the frozen waterfalls and river, and walked down the ungroomed cross-country ski trails until we became tired and cold.
Our walk back towards the parking area started uneventfully, until a cross-country skier loomed up behind us and rushed past – never saying a word; not “excuse me”, “coming through”, nothing. To my Golden puppy, he was an ALIEN! She saw him coming and turned and ran down the trail ahead of him. Both dog and skier were quickly out of sight, with us yelling for Bailey after them. The skier NEVER stopped! We ran through the 4-6″ of snow as fast as we could, hoping to find Bailey off in the woods.
We came to a fork in the trail and one of us went one way, one the other, both calling Bailey’s name constantly. Betsy chose to stay with the person I was with, and they made it back to the parking lot before me. Breathless, she asked the people there if they had seen a dog run through. They said they had, and that she had continued OUT of the lot! Quickly she got into the truck and drove in the direction she thought Bailey had taken.
As luck would have it, she found fresh tracks in the snow on the road and followed them to where they turned down another road. This road led directly to the main highway! Turning down the road, she finally caught sight of her, STILL RUNNING. She quickly drove closer and called out of the truck after her. Bailey turned her head and kept running. Stopping the truck, she sent Betsy off after her, and that is what got Bailey to stop, look and come back to her.
I am telling you this story so you can learn from my experience. There are several morals to this story:
- If your dog is not leashed, you have NO control.
- No matter how trained you feel your dog is, when an unfamiliar situation occurs training leaves and instinct takes over.
- Not all people have sense or manners concerning dogs. (If I were the skier, I would have stopped!)
The lesson is simple – always keep your dog on a leash, unless you are in a completely secure, safe environment. If you have trouble handling your dog on a leash, read our leash training guide.
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