For the last two weeks I’ve been on vacation. We have a lovely rental house deep in the Wisconsin woods. There are no visible neighbors, no big roads and no fenced yard. This is the fourth summer that our lab, Tucker, has spent here, but the first for our recently adopted dog, Hobo. Tucker has previously proven himself to be a rock star when it comes to being off leash, but I wasn’t so sure about Hobo.
When we first arrived, we put Hobo on leash every time he went outside; however, as we started to feel more confident in him, we began to allow him to go on short potty trips without the leash. As the week went on, he seemed to be pretty reliable about coming when called and was given more freedom to hang around outside with us while off leash. However after a few days, I started to see a few concerning signs. He was starting to ignore my calls occasionally, and he wasn’t stopping to check in on my whereabouts like Tucker does when he gets out ahead of me. Finally one evening, Hobo decided that he would rather stay out and explore than go inside when I was ready and off he went.
He got to the road (completely deserted, luckily) and headed off to see what smells there were to smell. He may be little, but his short legs can move pretty fast, and he got probably a quarter mile up the road before I could catch up to him. By the time I closed in on him, my happy voice was replaced by lots of grumbling and cursing (did I mention I have tendonitis in my ankle and so I was actually limping along behind him?), and as I reached down to scoop him up, he dodged out of reach.
He stopped and looked at me. I knew what I had to do. I took a deep breath, plastered a smile on my face, told him what a good boy he was and asked for a “touch.” He trotted over, touched my hand and I picked him up. As we walked back down the road, I continued to tell him he was a good dog and give him love. Believe me, this was an act. I was completely furious at him, and also at myself for seeing the signs that he wasn’t reliable off leash and ignoring them. At that moment though, if I had made it scary or punishing for him to finally come back to me, I would just be setting myself up for a longer chase and more difficult capture next time.
My takeaways from Hobo’s big adventure: