Walking a well-trained dog off-leash may seem natural and safe, but I hope that next time your pup has to go potty, you’ll grab that leash for your safety and for hers!
When I was around five months pregnant I was out for a run with my dog, Jenna. Jenna is a good girl, but she’s a little bit fearful. Going on runs with me is one of her favorite activities. When she sees me strapping on my shoes, she does a happy dance, then sits and waits at attention for her collar. We hit a trail in a local park that morning, and Jenna was happily running by my side when suddenly a friendly off-leash dog came bounding up to us to say hello. Jenna panicked and tried to run away, pulling the leash in front of me. I tripped on the leash and almost wiped out on the concrete. It was a mess.
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When it was all over, the owner walking the dog called his pup who obediently came, but at that point it was a little bit too late, right? I’d almost fallen, my poor nervous dog was scared, and his dog was probably startled by all of the activity too.
Unless youíre in an area thatís specifically off-leash – like a dog park – itís important to remember that the other people and dogs are not expecting to run into off-leash dogs. For some people that can be scary, and for some dogs that can seem threatening. If your dog is the only one in the equation or you’re at a dog park where all of the dogs have free reign, having her off-leash when you’re walking the dog is no problem.
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The scenario above illustrates a few reasons that a leash is a good idea when you’re walking the dog. The list below lays out some of the issues from that scene plus some additional reasons that you should leash your dog when you’re out on a walk.
1. You donít know me. Some people are scared of dogs, and some people are mean to dogs. I’ve seen off-leash dogs really scare people, and often the owner doesn’t notice. This makes sense, because you’re not scared of your dog. For someone who’s been bitten or isn’t around dogs often, a strange dog walking up to him or her can be frightening.
2. You donít know my dog. I completely believe that your dog is sweet and well-behaved, but what about my dog? Maybe my dog doesnít care for other dogs. Even if she does, having an off-leash dog approach while I’m walking the dog on-leash can be scary for my dog. If your off-leash dog approaches her and gets bitten, who is at fault?
3. You donít know where your dog is going to go. And by go, I mean go potty. Off-leash dogs tend to pee and poop where they please, and that can be just plain unneighborly. If you’re walking the dog on-leash, you can keep her from trampling flower beds and direct her to go where it’s more appropriate.
4. People arenít expecting to encounter your off-leash dog. Letting your dog off-leash in the park, for example, can be dangerous for cyclers and runners who arenít looking for dogs. They could trip or get knocked over, and your dog could get injured as well.
5. All dogs are unpredictable, even yours. Just like people, dogs have moods and emotions. Even the sweetest, kindest dog can get spooked or caught off guard or decide on a whim that they want to chase a cat. If your dog is off-leash when one of these things happens, she could run into the street or accidentally injure a stranger.
6. Wildlife is unpredictable. Your kind, curious dog may not know that sniffing a snake or trying to play with an opossum is a bad idea.
7. Plants are unpredictable. Can your dog spot poison ivy? Even in my intown neighborhood Iíve had to pull Jenna away from this dangerous plant while out walking the dog. Dogs can break out in blisters from poison ivy just like humans, and the oil on their coats can get onto your skin, too.
8. There are enticing things on the ground. Letís be honest: dogs will eat pretty much anything. Especially in urban areas, thereís a good chance they can encounter things that are dangerous for them to eat, and when you’re walking the dog off-leash, you may not be close enough to know whatís happening. Iím thinking here of litter. Are you sure your dog wonít go for a half-eaten chocolate bar or a baggie with white powder inside if youíre not there to correct her?
If you have a good, obedient pup, you may feel like a leash is optional when you’re out walking the dog, but there are some solid reasons to leash your dog for her safety, for yours, and for people around you.