Saturday, August 30, 2014

About Freedom, Trust And Responsibility: A "Pilot Study"

"If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was."

This is by no means a recipe of what you should do with your dog(s). It is by no means advice either. It is what we decided for our dogs. It's been working for us (and them) so far, even though there is an inherent risk with it.


Freedom, trust and responsibility. To what degree can these apply to life with dogs?

The safest place for a dog is right by their owner's hip. That is a fact.

If it was up to me, I would, indeed, have Cookie glued to my hip at all times, or have her safely tucked away in some kind of protective bubble.

What kind of life would that be for her?

With Jasmine we never had to worry. She had an invisible leash in her mind and would never go past a certain distance from us, no matter what the situation. JD likes to stick close as well, though he would go chase after something quite a ways.

And then there is Cookie. Sweet and loving, but let's face it, half wild in her heart. She grew up on her own. She's used to being on her own. And she's used to roam every time she managed to get free from her lead line.


Her prey drive is strong.

We now live on land that is large and there are no fences anywhere. If would cost a fortune to fence the entire property. There were no fences at the horse farm either, other than those for the horses.

The last thing we want for Cookie is to end up on a lead line once again.

We had a decision to make. Either keep her tied up or let her be free taking on the risks that brings.

We've been working hard on establishing a strong bond. We've been training her. And we decided to give her the freedom she never had.

The rest is up to her.

She'd have to learn that with freedom comes responsibility. Can a dog wrap their mind around that concept? Many people can't.


Not counting the weekends spent at the farm, Cookie's had her freedom for three weeks now.

And we still have two dogs!

Cookie chooses to be with us. Risks aside, it feels good to know that it is her choice to be here. Because if it wasn't, she could have been long gone. We have an answer to the question, "would she be with us if she had the choice not to be?"

She's also making some good decisions and listening quite well.

Yes, every now and then she'll take off into the bush after something. Her prey drive IS very strong. But, clearly, she always comes back and you can see she is happy to do so.

The place where we live is relatively safe.

There is one gravel road going through here. There is the odd car or motorcycle; you could probably count them if you wanted it, that's how few there are.

The dogs are not allowed on the road.

We reinforce that rule the best we can. The road isn't all that interesting anyway.

The rest is bush in all directions. Yes, bad things can happen in the bush also. But it's either that or being tied up. We decided that Cookie spent enough of her life being tied up. And we hope we won't live to regret our decision.

But Cookie is showing good sense.

We have a proof. We still have two dogs.

She loves our daily routines. In the morning we get up and go for a walk, followed by breakfast. Then we have some coffee, play a bit of training games and go to work in the bush. Cookie can either help or run around, chasing after whatever catches her fancy. She usually manages both.


When we return I have to get on the computer to get some paying work done. Whenever possible, I leave the office door open so the dogs can come in and out as they please. Cookie does really well hanging around until the next walk or whatever we might be doing.

The rest of the day is a variety of things depending on what needs to be done and the weather. Cookie likes to hunt after mice either around the trailer or in the near by field.

The day is concluded with more walks and dinner. Oh, yeah, and there is lunch somewhere in between.

Choice has been taken away from the dogs.

The choice of when and where to go, the choice where and with whom to be, the choice of what and how long to sniff, the choice of what and when to eat ...

What happens when they get some of it back? 

This is how farm dogs used to live in the past. Our circumstance aren't all that different from those back then.

So far so good. 

More importantly, we believe that this is the best choice we could have made for Cookie. Hopefully we're right.

Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat 
Observation Skills Of Dogs  
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It  
Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks 
What Constitutes The Perfect Dog?
Are Dog Training Classes Really For The Dogs?  
Look Where You Want To Go: Finding My Reactive Dog Training Zen Zone? 
Dog Training And Emotions 
Dog Training And Emotions: Postscript
Dogs Love Sentences In Question Form?
Not All Dog Trainers Were Created Equal Either 
A Thought On Separation Anxiety
Happy One-Year Adoptoversary, Cookie! 

12 comments

  1. Cookie is one lucky dog to have found a person who understands her. Whatever the future holds for her, you've given her freedom and with it, her version of joy. I think you made a good decision.

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    1. Thank you, Dee. I sure hope it's a good decision too. So far it looks like it :-)

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  2. It's great that you have a lot of land and room for the dogs to explore and not a lot of road traffic. My dog is happiest when she's off-leash somewhere wide open, but she always stays pretty close. Keep strengthening the bond and hopefully Cookie will want to stay closer while still being able to have fun checking out the world around her. It really is fun watching a dog enjoy being a dog :)

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    1. Cookie certainly enjoys all that space - critters included! She does like to be close. Unless there is something she must chase. She is mostly doing quite awesome with recalls. Provided her brain is turned on LOL

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  3. I have been learning to cope with Huxley's desire to keep his distance from me too but it is more difficult with a city dog. Huxley's pack/herd guarding instinct causes him to want a farther off view of our goings on. This is fine in our garden but anywhere else we go, on-leash or off, it is inconvenient and even dangerous. I am still working on understanding what he likes best about being close to me (and it isn't treats) and playing up on those things as much as possible. Like you, I need him to choose to be closer. I want him to see his job as being near.

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    1. Yes, in a city this is a problem as the risks are exponentially higher.

      Cookie does like being close with everybody. So that part is good. She does have the need to explore and chase stuff too, though. Here she has the opportunity to do that relatively safe.

      She just caught another mouse this morning :-)

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  4. I love this philosophy, mostly. We had a backyard rabbit that lived loose and free, and came to the back door for carrots. An opossum got him, but he was miserable in a cage, so he lived happily in the yard for a couple of years prior to the opossum. It was a tough decision, but the right one for him. With my chickens, they faced the same danger, free-ranging. Hawks swooped down and ate them. We compromised and built a large yard for them, allowing them to range when we're outside. I think, like knowing your own dogs, we have to know our creatures.

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    1. Believe me, I'd much rather have Cookie glued to my hip at all times. That would make me happy. But would it make her happy? No. And isn't it always about quality of life? So as much as I might not really like it, we made this decision for her.

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  5. Mr. N has a lot of prey drive too but he is also very velcro. I hide from him occasionally and that helps in reminding him to always keep an eye on where I am and not wander off too far!

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    1. We play hide and seek too. And when Cookie does not know where everybody is, she gets very upset. It is quite hard, though, to make it so she doesn't know where everybody is. While we might not know where the heck SHE is, she definitely knows where we are at all times.

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  6. I clicked back to your original post about Cookie. I guess you decided not to change her name after all? :) Freedom is a good thing. The other day I was wondering what it would be like, let's say after an apocalypse, if Leo and I were living out in the wild somewhere... would he stay with me? I'm pretty sure he would!

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    1. Hi Kari,

      yes, we decided to keep the name. Because as we got to know her, it turns out she really is a cookie :-)

      Freedom is a great thing used wisely. So far she's been using it very wisely and responsibly. She's a very good girl.

      I'm sure Leo would stay with you too!

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