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When I take my dog on walks, sometimes there will be loud noises that scare her (e.g. thunder, construction, large vehicles driving by). When this happens her flight response kicks in and she wants to take off running. She's securely on leash and won't get away, but I often will just start running with her. I usually try to jog with her anyway, and it's more often that I'm going too fast for her than the opposite, so I don't mind running for a little while when she gets scared like this.

She also likes to run, more often when she's off-leash at the dog park or the beach, so it's not something she only does when she's scared. I partially hope that by running with her when she's scared she might forget she's scared and just be happy running.

I'm wondering, is it okay to let her run when she's scared? Would it be better to not move and try to calm her down? On the one hand, I think it might be good to let her get out that energy to help calm her down some. On the other hand, I could see the argument that it encourages the fear response and might make her more likely to run away at loud noises in the future. I'm not worried about owner/pet dominance and her being in control of the pace - we only go as fast as I want, and I don't always let her run when she wants.

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Yes, but keep a limit on the length of the leash.

Most leashes are retractable and adjustable. You can give her a bit of space to move around and run, but keep her from running into traffic or smashing into a person by mistake.

Dogs love to run and this urge should not be suppressed. That said, take some time to be concerned about the dogs safety while allowing your dog an outlet for fear.

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  • Yes, clearly I'm not going to just let my dog run into the street. – David K Aug 8 '17 at 17:20
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I know I'm late to the party but I don't feel that the answer made is satisfying so I'll add my thoughts here.

While I do understand the concept of you running with the dog I'm with your second thoughts. That is: Running with your dog will most likely make her run away more easily in scary situations. That's for one a routine that you are actively enforcing. Also it doesn't give the dog the chance to overcome the fears because you always (if it is always) run away when something scary happens. With my dog (who was very scared of all kinds of objects when I got her) I always approached the situation with her. That meant for us to approach the objects together, giving her the space she needed, me touching the object and inviting/motivating her to come with me and check it out. We'd just stay as long as it took her to sniff the object and calm down. While it's hard to see the fear in the dog and keep going it definitely worked out for us seeing as she was never scared of the same object again. Of course this is much harder to do with noises. I'd say you either keep walking at the same pace and direction or, if the dog gets really out of control, take a moment and stop until the dog calms down. No comment, anger or fear from your side while you stop. If the dog does calm down, pet or treat as you like and proceed with the walk.

Another thing I want to point out is that by letting your dog make the choice to run off and tagging along you are putting your dog in control of the situation and making yourself a follower. In this scenario it's not so much a "dominance issue" but it could lead to your dog being even more insecure and protective because "I notice dangers before my owner does" and "my owner cannot protect me from dangers". By running along your dog will think that you too recognize the noise as danger but won't take action until the dog does.

Obviously all of this depends on the character of your dog and the relationship you share. Generally I'd say trust your gut with this and do what you think is a good solution for both of you. As I said I see the point of running with the dog and I don't want to say it's wrong. But I do see more issues with that approach than the one I have tried to lay out.

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