Giving your dog more freedom can help you in the long run, and here’s why

Chocolate Labrador in a wheat field
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While our pups love spending time with us and being close by, many dogs love freedom, too – as anyone who’s seen their dog get the zoomies outside after going off-leash will attest to!

It’s easy to think that we shouldn’t give our dogs too much freedom; that if we do, they might not want to relinquish it when we need them to come back to us and go back on one of the best dog leashes, for example. 

However, it turns out that giving your dog more freedom can actually help you, and make life easier. Jasmine Kelem – a professional pet and service dog trainer and the head trainer at Golden Mal Dog Training – has explained why this is the case in a recent Instagram post.

“Dogs that take advantage of freedom are dogs that have none,” Kelem explains in her video. “Dogs that want to stay are dogs that are allowed to go. Your dog will never want to come back if you never let them leave.”

Kelem explains that when her front door opens or she accidentally drops her dog’s leash, she doesn’t do anything. This is because her dog doesn’t do anything either – freedom isn’t treated as a novelty. 

“Freedom cannot be safely given if the dog sees it as a novelty,” she explains, “Or as something to take advantage of and ‘make the most of.’ Similarly, your dog cannot see the ending of freedom as something to avoid, or a punishment, or something that you do ‘to’ them, so to speak.”

Her own dogs spend a lot of time off-leash when it’s safe, and, in her own words, “it is so important to me that they have a healthy relationship with freedom and structure.

“No amount of forced recalls with an e-collar or bribery with treats and cookies will ever make up for a dog that sees freedom as a scarcity and structure as a punishment.”

This doesn’t mean that your dog is off-leash all the time when you’re out of the house – it’s not always possible, either for safety reasons, your dog’s recall not being quite there yet, or simply just because of the laws in place in the area. Here are three reasons why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable (and what you can do about it) for more information.

But, freedom off-leash time is still important. It makes sense – if you never let a child watch TV, for example, it stands to reason that they’d watch it constantly if they were home alone. Whereas, if you let them have screen time in moderation, they’d be less likely to view it as a novelty. It’s the same sort of logic here. 

If you’re unhappy with your dog’s behavior when they’re off-leash, however, you might find this article useful: My dog embarrassed me with her terrible off-leash behavior — here’s how I fixed it.

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.