“Off Lead Play Calms My Puppy”. Really?


To all the puppy/dog owners who think they need an off lead play group, or lots of visits to the off lead park to keep their dog happy, this message is for you!

But, off lead play settles my puppy. It calms him down!

Really? Does it? If that’s true, ask yourself how well behaved your puppy is. Does he listen to you, settle in the house and behave calmly around strange dogs and people?

Dogs that are over stimulated in class by the sight of a few other dogs generally have had lots of off lead play. They find it impossible to focus on their owner or calm down in the presence of other dogs.

Dogs that are in “raspberry cordial zone” cannot learn! Calm dogs learn.

Teaching your dog to be calm will allow you to train your dog. A qualified reward-based trainer can help you.

Clients call and tell me .....

  • He’s crazy
  • She won't come back
  • He jumps on people all the time
  • We cant walk him coz he pulls on the lead
  • We cant have her inside because she runs around & wrecks the place
  • He's barking! The neighbours have complained & we’ll have to get rid of him if you can’t fix it!
  • Other dogs hate the way he jumps on them – it ends in fights
  • He just wont ever settle down!

How did this happen? That cute little pup you loved and took to the park to socialize and play is now growing up and the fun’s over.

Everyone told you to head to the off lead park or beach & socialize your pup with all the other dogs. It was such fun watching them play. But what was your puppy learning? What were you learning about raising a puppy?

Socialising Puppies

Oh boy, do most people get this wrong. Socialising is not all about playing. Socialising your puppy well means they learn to be comfortable with any sound, sight, smell, person, experience the world can throw at them. And, it's about learning social skills. It's not all about unsupervised play.

Sure, it’s fun to watch dogs playing. We love it and it’s a great time waster. But, play should be monitored carefully as your new puppy may be learning a lot of things that could become a problem for you.

What could go wrong?

  • Dog pulls you on walk to the off lead park. You let dog off to play at the off lead park. Dog learns that pulling gets play and keeps pulling!
  • Dog learns that when they see another dog they get play. Dog becomes frustrated & pulls & barks when on lead & cannot get to other dog
  • Strangers give food to pup at park. Pup learns to annoy people for food.
  • Strangers pat puppy jumping up. Puppy learns to jump on people.
  • Puppy is scared by dog at the park. Puppy learns to be scared of dogs.
  • Puppy plays rough with other dogs at the park. Some dogs don’t like rough play and puppy gets growled at or worse!

Training Starts Now!

Paying a lot of money for a dog is no guarantee it will behave well! Puppies can start class at 8 weeks!

You might own a car, but do you service it? Just a few hours of lessons from a qualified professional can make such a difference. It might be too late for this dog, but just give it some thought next time! Please.

Billions of dogs are euthanized every year

Because they don’t behave!

6 Responses

  1. Pity some people seem to think their dogs are not a threat to smaller dogs while off the lead. I have a very timid chihuahua, she loves to be off the lead on the beach to run like crazy on her own, but so many times we run across other, bigger dogs who feel the can intimidate my chihuahua. The owners think it's so funny that their big dog is intimidating. It's their ego trip, nothing more! They don't apologise or call,their dog to heel. These people will often say, "oh, but he/she wouldn't hurt a fly". Really?! I always have my girl on a harness/lead so that I can whisk her up in my arms at any threat or she would've been mince meat several times or otherwise under the wheels of a car. Responsible ownership of a dog is a rare thing!
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      We couldn't agree more! Sadly many owners of larger dogs that walk them on lead have the same problem. Some people with small dogs think it's funny when their dog rushes and barks at larger dogs. This puts smaller dogs at risk and allows them to practice behaviour that could get them hurt. If everyone respected each others space and just popped their dog on a lead until they passed each other, the world would be a happier place. Keep safe!
  2. Er, yes, actually. One of my dogs DID need the off leash dog park as a pup. Yes, he was well-behaved, both at the park and at home. He came when called, he was an angel on leash, he did not nuisance bark or jump on people, and he was typically very appropriate with other dogs. In fact, he is now an excellent stooge dog to help with dogs that over-react around other dogs and are wildly inappropriate. He is a social genius when he puts his mind to it. However, as an adolescent, he would grow restless and mouthy at home after a few days in spite of daily exercise. We would take him to the dog park, he would play with the other dogs and get it all out of his system, and then he would be sweet at home again. We found we needed to go at least twice a week to keep the boisterous human play away, and for a while he was going daily, and also going to dog daycare (which he loved). Our other two dogs are not dog park dogs. They do not need those interactions. As a behaviourist, I certainly do see many problem behaviours related to off leash dog park use. In my opinion, the problem is not the dog parks per se. It's how people use them. I am in favour of educating dog owners on two things to battle this: 1) How to tell if your dog is a dog park dog; and 2) Good dog park etiquette and how to make dog parks work for you.
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Thanks for your input - all good points! Yes, there are some dogs who will benefit from safe interactions in an off lead park. Educating owners in appropriate play and teaching them to read what is going on at the park are vital to successful interactions for young pups.
  3. Liz
    I totally agree with your comment about offlead play. I took my pup to puppy socialisation group at the vet. All that happened was totally uncontrolled play. I am now left with a nine month old dog that is an embarrassment to walk as he just wants to jump up on and play with any dog he sees . I have taken him to behaviour training but that was not with any other dogs. I plan to take him to group obedience training when it starts next month. I already feel we probably won't be very welcome as he will be so excited an uncontrollable.
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Sorry to hear that Liz. Sadly, anyone can call themselves a dog trainer in an unregulated industry. The consequences of poorly run classes can be long lasting and it is far better to prevent problems than try to resolve them. I hope you find a trainer to assist you. If you are in Australia, the Pet Professional Guild Aust website or Delta Institute website will assist you with trainers. All the best!