There is something about leashes that I have always hated. Tying an animal up just seems unnatural and cruel to me. I love knowing that my animals have the freedom and the choice to be with me or not and that they choose to stay by my side. I love to embrace the natural instincts of each breed, and the characteristics of their individual personalities that have been allowed to blossom. Seeing them run free and happy makes my heart smile.
Long ago I decided that when I got my first dog as an adult I would not leash or crate him. Before I got a dog I read many books and researched like crazy how to raise a good pup. Well, after 6 books I didn’t care for, I found a 7th one that said “don’t leash your dog until he has bonded with you.” It said that this can take months or more, but I didn’t care. I was excited, because this was the philosophy I was looking for, and it was finally time to go get a dog.
Boss the Labrador
Boss came into my life after someone I new was kidnapped and murdered. I had always had a dog growing up but didn’t have time for one in college and suddenly life felt unsafe living alone without one. I was unable to sleep, and I knew I needed another, more alert set of ears to get me through the night.
I didn’t put him on a leash for a good two years unless we were hunting. I was always pushing that envelope. Leash laws are strict in the city but I didn’t care. I knew if he wanted to be with me he wouldn’t go anywhere. So I took him everywhere all the time and we became inseparable. All I ever had to do was call his name. He would turn, smile and run right to me.
He is a Labrador retriever, and came from a long line of good hunters. He was a natural duck/pheasant hunter and was rarely on a leash in the country while we were hunting. I remember thinking this was where he seemed the happiest. He had room to roam but would never run away. I always new I wanted him to end up somewhere with lots of room like that.
Once Jason and I started dating, Boss began going to work with him on the farm. J would drive out to the field, get in a tractor and go around and around all day. Boss would just lay in the back of or under the pickup. Jason couldn’t believe how well trained he was. He never chased the wild life walking by or bothered any cars. Boss just sat patiently waiting for him to finish. This made me happy to know they were both out enjoying the wide open spaces together.
Clyde the Bloodhound
Clyde came into our life 2 years ago. Boss was getting older and was diagnosed with anxiety shortly after some of our major life changing events. He couldn’t be home alone anymore without panicking. The vet recommended drugs, and as someone who likes to live more natural I started searching for other options. Eventually we thought we’d kick around the idea of another dog.
While in the cities we headed for the humane society and met Clyde in the very last stall. He had been there for 5 months, and was in other shelters for a year before that. He was huge, missing most of his teeth, had two bad back hips and had already had multiple surgeries trying to fix them. They estimated him to be around 5.3 years of age. Both Jason and I thought he was a terrible idea. He looked like $$$$, but something told both of us that he needed to come home with us. And so he did.
We brought him to meet Boss and they instantly got along great. I was shocked! But I still sat on the edge of my seat waiting for a fight to erupt in the backseat as we drove back to the farm from the twin cities. Once we got home we didn’t know what to do with him. All the research we had done said that bloodhounds were stubborn and like to follow their noses. That was about it. We didn’t know if we should leash him or not. We didn’t want him to pick up a scent and never come back. J was all for tying him up and of course I was against it but I didn’t know what to think. Eventually we just let him out of the truck and he has never wondered off yet! He sticks close to home, and never wants to leave us. He is calm, sleeps most of the day, and rarely gets up unless he wants to eat. He has the best “hound dog bay” when he gets excited and could care less if you step on him. Clyde is honestly one of the best decisions Jason and I have ever made together.
Sherman the Mut
What were we thinking! Talk about daily regret of a decision! Just kidding, but some days it starts to feel a bit like that. Sherman has only been in our lives for about 8 months. His mom, Sadie, is Jason’s parent’s Saint Bernard. His father is a cattle dog from up the road. Both of his parents are crazy high energy dogs! When Jason saw how cute the litter was he started begging me to keep one. 😳 I wasn’t all about it at first. I mean, we had just gotten Clyde not long ago and Boss was finally starting to settle down. Both our other dogs were considered seniors at this point. I didn’t know how the intense energy of a new puppy was going to fit in our dynamic.
Well we kept the biggest one, the bully of the bunch. J named him Sherman (like the tank). It fits him perfectly after all, he bulldozes EVErYTHiNG. I clicker trained him and of course he is still learning. He is a lot to deal with, but growing up in the country couldn’t be a better place for a big young pup like Sherman. He is always happy, running and playing and of course never on a leash.
Clyde has been like an uncle to him. They cuddle together when it’s cold or time to sleep, drink their water out of the same bowl at the same time and Sherman has no trouble taking Clyde’s bones away… something even I can’t get away from him most of the time.
Sadie the Saint Bernard
Once Sadie had her pups the decision was made to have her fixed. Since then she has calmed down quite a bit. She has always been lovely, but now she is just a bit less hyper. Sadie is no doubt the farm’s guardian. She spends the night pacing around the yard keeping mischievous animals away. Boss was here most of the time when she was a pup growing up and the two bonded keeping her tied to the farm without a leash. She has had a few country expeditions in her days, and maybe led our dogs a stray once in a great while, but for the most part she is an equal part of our pack like the rest.
Walks in the Morning and at Night
Each morning and afternoon I step outside to see this picture as seen above. Clyde, Boss and Sherman waiting to go up the road for their 2 mile walk. Once we start heading down the drive Sadie comes to join us.
Each pup has their own set of instincts that show up when we walk. Clyde follows his nose, naturally. He is a bloodhound! When he gets on a sent his nose goes to the ground, his ears start to drag and his skin covers his eyes. He must be out in front of us at all times, like WAY out in front. Once he knows we are going on a walk he takes off leading the way just like a working bloodhound would. He still listens though and turns around when we change directions. Once he does he pushes his gears into full speed so he can pass us and be back out in front.
Boss is a circle-er. As a good pheasant dog it has been ingrained in his genes to head out in front and circle back to his owner. Boss does this on repeat with every walk we take. He walks about 20 yards ahead and then comes all the way back to me. It’s funny to watch, and I don’t think he realizes that he walks at least twice as far as everyone else.
Sherman has a herding instinct that becomes very apparent on our daily trecks. He is always somewhere in the middle. You can see that he wants everyone together, and gets worried as Boss and Clyde run out ahead of everyone. He is at his happiest when everyone is in the same spot, which is maybe only for a moment as we turn the corner and Clyde comes racing past us just as Boss circles back.
Sadie is a companion walker. She never leaves my side. Some days she is almost stuck to my hip which I don’t always enjoy because she is usually filthy. I don’t know much about Saint Bernards and their k9 impulses but I can see this feels the most natural to her.
I have taken the dogs for walks on leashes in the cities for many years. Besides Sadie, all are properly leash trained and listen well… ok maybe not Sherman quite yet. But I am proud that I can walk many big dogs at one time in the urban areas and never have a problem. I enjoy our walks through neighborhoods as we meet other dogs and their owners here and there. But I don’t enjoy the traffic, the smell of exhaust as cars drive by, or the fear that someone might hit us because they are texting and don’t see us walking.
I’d rather be out walking in the fresh air with my arms free. Sure there is the fear of big trucks or tractors driving by once in a while, or the occasional animal that you don’t want to meet. But there is something I much prefer about the freedom of a life without a leash.