Are Off-Leash Group Dog Walks Better Than Individual Leashed Walks?

While I have nothing against individual, leashed, neighbourhood walks or the new, individual, mobile dog runs, I personally don’t think either can compete with off-leash walks. Both serve their purposes in getting a dog exercised, but there are some key elements missing that only an off-leash park can provide.

As a lifelong owner of multiple dogs, I have more than 15 years of experience taking groups of dogs to the off-leash dog parks around Winnipeg. While I’ve never met a dog that didn’t gratefully take any kind of walk being offered to them, there’s a notable difference on a dog’s face when they are taken for an off-leash adventure.  If you take a look, chances are good you’re dog will be smiling. 

Leashed walks prevent running free, and there’s nothing quite like running without restraint, wind through your dog’s fur, fabulously new smells in the air and not a puppy care in the world. The next big deal to dogs on off-leash walks is the socialization with others canines. Maybe you felt the sting of isolation throughout the pandemic. Like humans, dogs are social creatures, and they thrive when they have access to different people, pets, and other dogs.  In fact, socialization is so important to the healthy development of dogs that if they are not socialized between 0-4 months, it could be too late.

Exploring, sniffing, meeting new dogs, running, chasing and playing with each other are just some of the activities that dogs engage in at the park together. And very few of these things are possible to do outside of the off-leash park. Dogs are animals and animals thrive in nature, so it’s no surprise that dogs love nothing more than putting their noses to the ground and smelling their way to new olfactory adventures.  Freedom of movement, autonomy, and a bit of independence can do wonders for a dog’s well-being, and even more for their confidence.  

Ever wonder why dogs act aggressively towards one another when they meet on leash? It’s likely because they’re frustrated that they are unable to participate in their customary greeting rituals. Being restricted from smelling one another’s rear end freely, checking out each other’s mood and temperament by reading body language and speaking ‘dog’ with verbal cues, forbids them from an often enjoyable and very necessary custom when meeting one another. At the off-leash park, dogs revel in the freedom to choose their own actions, while at the same time they love being part of a pack to follow and emulate. Dogs are fascinating, and to me, magnificent creatures.

I will always consider myself beyond lucky that I get to witness dogs at their happiest, running free with their canine companions, feeling independent, anxiety-free, and grateful to be at the off-leash park, just being a dog. 

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