Wilson and Jimmy are pretty good at off-leash walks. They listen well and like to keep me in their eyesight. I always keep an eye out for joggers, bikers, other dog walkers, etc. to be sure no one is bothered. Leashes go on and off many times throughout our walks. Despite living in a heavily populated area, there are plenty of safe trails that allow for a bit of freedom. Off-leash walks are great because we all get more exercise. I get to walk at a steady, fast pace, not needing to pause at all those smells the boys investigate. And the boys get to sprint much more often, either catching back up to me after a long sniff-fest, or chasing squirrels and bunnies. I don't mind them chasing squirrels or bunnies as these critters either head up the nearest tree, ending the game, or in the case of a bunny, go to ground where the dogs can't seem to reach. But encountering some of the other wildlife is not so good, like the deer, who will run and run, leading a dog on much too long of a chase and much too far from me! When I see or smell (yes, even with my inferior human nose, I can smell nearby deer!) deer, the leashes stay on. There's just no point tempting fate even though I can *usually* call them off of a deer. The absolute worst encounter is with a red fox. Wilson and Jimmy go over the top nuts when they spot a fox! I don't know what it is, be it an intruding canine, or some instinctive competition over prey, whatever it is, the boys take chase! Fortunately, this is a very rare occurrence. Not seeing a fox, but the chase itself. The boys do themselves a big disservice. When they are sniffing along and scent a fox, there is an immediate change in their body language. Their tails go up, they trot very stiff-legged and fast, and there is lots and lots of urgent circling back on their tracks to read the scent. Squirrels, bunnies and even the deer don't elicit this behavior, just the fox. I call it "Doing the Foxtrot", and just the second I see that dance, the leashes are snapped on ASAP! On our walk this morning they started the behavior, I leashed them right up, and within a few yards saw the fox watching us from a grassy field. Hopefully, the boys never put two and two together, and stop alerting me with their dance! They are smart, but I don't think they are that smart!
On a side note, I am pretty convinced the fox likes a good chase. I will often see a fox, and he will run off ahead of us and be gone. We will round the bend of the trail, and there he'll be, sitting in the middle of the trail, waiting for us. He shoots off again, and will soon be seen paralleling us through the woods. He will even bark as he runs! So much for being stealth!