A month ago, I would have said yes, as long as they are well trained. Now, my answer is no. Westies can’t be 100% trusted off leash, which is something I read everywhere before getting a Westie, but I thought my Westie will be different 🙂
Sami is very well trained, he is now over one year and a half and he responds very well to commands. We have two commands for “come”, which he obeys 9 times out of 10. But even so, once in a blue moon, his “westietude” takes over and he ignores the calls.
Here is how we realized that. Lately, we’ve been walking Sami off leash more often. We started to trust him and whenever we go to the beach, or we take our daily walks in the big wooded area near our house, we let him walk free.
However, there were two incidents which made us question whether we can trust him 100% (which is something every Westie parent should ask themselves). Twice in the past month he ran away and didn’t respond to my call, so I had to run after him and we even got to a point where he disappeared in the woods. Each time I had to wait for a good few minutes until he reappeared (happy to see me btw, not a care in the world!) and the second time I swore he’s never going to be off leash again.
Now, the wooded area where we go is very safe, isolated from cars and we meet very few people (sometimes, none at all). So thankfully, the risk of something bad happening is fairly small, but there is always that scary thought that Sami will get lost and I won’t be able to find him anymore.
Same goes for when we go to the beach. We usually go to a large beach, that is almost empty (we go during the week and avoid peak summer season), so we let him run free and enjoy himself. But he sometimes runs after birds or he sees a dog far away and he’ll run and ignore us, the people screaming our lungs off for him to get back 🙂 The sound of the waves also covers our voices after a certain point, so I was always stressed because of that.
The solution we found?
Using a really long leash whenever we walk him in open spaces such as big park, woods or on the beach! We had tried this before, but we had a pretty thick and heavy leash which was uncomfortable on both ends, since it was for larger dogs. But recently, we found a suitable leash for Westies (and any small dog, really). It’s super light, thin and 10 meters long, which means he can do his zoomies with no problem! While we were on the beach, we even let it loose on the ground, which gave Sami more space to run but gave us peace of mind because we could always run behind him and grab the leash if it was necessary. It was perfect and it made our day at the beach even happier. Just watch our video!
We are very happy with this leash and recommend it as a solution for when you want to give your puppy some freedom, but still be in control. As long as there aren’t any people around (which right now, with the social distancing we’re enforcing, shouldn’t be too difficult), this leash is good to go.
Because no matter how well trained, there’s always a chance a Westie will get distracted by something and bolt! It can be a squirrel, a bird, a smell…
One of the times Sami ran away, I suspect he identified the smell of a dog in heat and ran to find her. In cases such as this, there is no way to keep him from running, no matter how well trained he is.
The other time, he ran after an animal in the woods, we couldn’t tell if it was a cat, a squirrel or a mongoose (yeah! we have those here).