“He Just Wants To Say Hi” – Why Walking Your Dog Off Leash Is Not Smart

August 7th, 2008 by Dan

A few weeks ago I was out walking Reef (leashed, as always) in the neighborhood, when a dog came booking down the block at full canine gallop. I heard the tags jingling behind me and turned to see the labbish mix, tongue hanging out, headed straight for us. The owner was waving frantically from more than 25 feet away and yelled “It’s OK! He’s friendly! He just wants to say hi!”. After the two greeted and the woman was able to hold her dog, I quickly turned and walked around the corner. Encounters like this are far too common and always get me thinking about all the logical reasons why it is *not* responsible dog ownership to have your dog off leash in any area other than those designated for that purpose (dog parks, some hiking trails, your own fenced in yard, specific off leash hours, etc).

Photo by lat454205 / Lisa

* Some people are afraid of dogs. While we as dog lovers may think this is absurd, to those with phobias it is extremely terrifying if a strange dog – even a friendly one – is heading towards them unrestrained.

* Individuals with babies, a toddler or a group of young children to supervise may be made nervous by an unleashed dog. They already have their hands full caring for the youngsters and then they have a strange dog to worry about.

Photo by thomasbrightbill

* Even the *most* well trained dog might encounter something he has never seen or heard before and dash across a busy street. An example being that my (leashed) dogs were just exposed to a man in full cowboy garb riding a horse down the street in the middle of Philadelphia. I have no doubt that if they were off leash that they would have made a break for it. Is it worth risking your dog’s life because you believe they will be reliable at all times?

* If your friendly off leash dog approaches an unfriendly or wary on leash dog and a fight breaks out – guess who is at fault? You. Because your dog was not appropriately restrained on a leash, you will be held responsible.

* Finally, if you have an off leash dog in an area that strictly states that dogs should be kept on leash at all times, understand that once enough people complain, the new rules will probably say “No Dogs Allowed”. If dog owners abuse the use of public spaces, the right to frequent them will eventually be taken away.

Photo by marymactavish

Please obey leash laws, use common courtesy and put yourself in the shoes of the other people around you, who don’t happen to be your dog’s biggest fans. If you’d like to practice off leash work with your dog, find appropriate locations where you can show off your dog’s skills safely. Everyone wants their dog to enjoy a taste of freedom, but there is a time and a place for off leash romping.

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