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  • Cher Wood

The freedom reflex

Updated: Aug 23, 2018

Why do dogs run away?

If you would have asked me this two years ago, maybe even less then a year ago. My answer would have been super simple and I probably would have placed most of the blame on the owners. The lack of training and leadership was basically all I could have said to answer this question. That being said, those are certainly valuable reasons as well, however they don’t really address whats actually going on with the dog both mentally and physically. I think saying a lack of leadership and obedience puts too much emphasis on “ basic” training, which really isn’t the only thing that matters.

Here is why…

If we only look at dogs as beings waiting to be trained in order to understand what is right and what is wrong, we will run into some problems. All the dogs we see running away and going missing, I assure, most of them have a decent level of obedience and some structure in their lives. That is why we cannot blame a lack of training as the only reason for runaway dogs.

Proofs in the Puppies

Anyone who has every owned a puppy, from a young age, will have noticed one thing. The need to not be left behind! From the time they can walk, they will follow you around. If you have a young puppy at home, test the theory. Take your little puppy outside and completely ignore them. Turn and walk away while they aren’t paying attention and do not look back. BOOM! Your puppy will come running as the need to follow and not be left behind is ingrained into them!

The reason that seems to phase away very quickly, isn’t because of lack of obedience training. It is the way we communicate with them and the way we interact with them. But that itself is a whole other article

What is the Freedom Reflex?

Monika Lisak and I came up with this term last year during one of our many conversations. We were talking about why so many dogs run away and why most people can’t allow their dogs to be off leash just anywhere. Then Monika said two words to me, that for some reason, completely made all the thoughts in my head come together. It’s a Freedom Reflex.

The Freedom Reflex is basically what we see in dogs who find opportunity to run and explore. For example, if you leave your front door open, the Freedom Reflex takes over and the dog just needs to run!

Fulfillment is basically the only word I use now when I talk to clients about why their dogs run away from them.

Are your dogs needs being fulfilled?

YES! This matters, so much more then any leadership or obedience skills you teach your dog. You being “the boss” simply isn’t enough when it comes to the Freedom Reflex taking over.

Dogs NEED to explore environments, in fact it is super healthy for them to do so. They need to be able to run off leash and explore new environments. Allowing this, is in fact fulfilling a need, you are fulfilling the dogs desires to smell, explore and run.

We go to the dog park everyday and Fido still runs away at the cottage?

This is something that comes up a lot in conversation with clients. They are confused as to why they can go to the dog park, without issues, but cannot seem to have off leash reliability anywhere else. This SHOULD confuse you, you should be scratching your head on this one. My answer to you is this “ You have created predictability, not recall.” That is not such a bad thing, because it means you can create predictability in other areas with your recall as well. We are SO predictable with our behaviours and dogs know it. Again this is a whole other topic.

You are giving yourself away

At the end of the day, as much as we want to believe fulfilling the Freedom Reflex will solve your issues, it probably won’t. It is to late to rely simple on fulfillment to ensure off leash reliability. The reality is, you cannot have off leash reliability strictly using the fulfillment methods. Most of us are giving ourselves away!!