If you love him, leash him.
It's not you, it's me
You’ve worked hard on recalls, heels, staying close, and you’re feeling on top of the world, in that exclusive club of off-leash dog owners. You relish your hands free hikes and it feels like you and your dog have reached that next level of trust in each other. But this is not about you. This is about all of us. I’m really sorry to bust your off-leash bubble, but I’m sick of being attacked, charged at, and scared out of my mind to walk my own dog around the block. Sure, I get it, your dog would “never do that”. But let’s go over all the reason why you still NEED TO LEASH YOUR DOG.
Most areas have leash laws prohibiting dogs from roaming free to potentially disturb the peace. Even states without leash laws do have regulations at the local level, and for good reason. Besides the obvious of keeping your dog from running away, jumping on a passerby, soiling someone else’s property, trespassing, or sniffing/eating/stealing questionable substances, a leash attached to your dog signals to others in the community that you are a responsible owner and that your dog is under control. A dog found “at large”, AKA off leash, may be impounded. You may also find yourself charged with a misdemeanor. At the very least, getting caught without a leash could cost you a hefty fine. Save yourself the money, embarrassment, and criminal record, and leash your dog.
Not everyone wants to meet your dog.
There are small children, fearful adults, people with allergies, people with disabilities, other animals (both wild and pets), and the elderly that don’t like dogs careening into their business out here. Please respect our right to share the great outdoors. Even supposed “dog people” may not receive your off leash dog well— including me.
“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!”
I half hear this phrase every time as a massive fur blur locks in on me for a head on collision. I don’t care if you tell me you have the sweetest dog in the world hurtling himself full speed at me. Your words simply tell me you have no control over your dog and he is now my problem. An unknown animal charging straight for me is a threat. My dog and I have been attacked by off-leash neighborhood dogs more times than I can count. They come flying from any direction— out from their own front doors, barreling around blind corners, and most terrifyingly, from behind. I’ve had to throw myself over my own dog to shield him from attack on several occasions. I’ve kicked “friendly” dogs in the face to defend my dog - A SERVICE DOG. Imagine doing this with a spinal disability, because I have to! My working service dog deserves to be able to do his job safely and uninterrupted by you and your off-leash dog. I now carry control spray so that my service dog and I are not defenseless against rogue animals and their hapless handlers. Many people carry weapons just for these types of scenarios. An armed person fearing for their own safety as your “friendly” dog rushes them will rightfully take action in self defense. For the safety of everyone in this situation, please, please, leash your dog.
It's just not worth the risk
Even the dog that’s received the utmost training and proofing is never 100% reliable in every single moment of every single day. All it takes is one time. One sudden spook, a darting rabbit, a banging noise, or one swerving car can trigger a reaction that causes your seemingly carefree off-leash walk to go terribly wrong. The leash is an important safety net that protects you and your dog from unpredictable situations as well as prevent them from happening in the first place. People and dogs make mistakes. Leashing your dog means being prepared for those mistakes. There are plenty of irresponsible owners and handlers, and you don’t have to be one of them.
This is not to say you shouldn’t train your dog for off-leash scenarios! Please do prepare your dog by teaching him appropriate behaviors. Leashes aren’t perfect— they break, become tangled, and even slip off. Off-leash training includes useful and practical skills for your dog to have in his toolbox for those unpredictable situations. Strong recalls, heeling, focus, and directional cues are excellent preventive measures that keep your dog safe! There are appropriate places to practice these skills that don’t involve risking the safety and comfort of those around you, like your own fenced in yard, an ex-pen, enclosed dog parks, indoor spaces, and of course, I recommend using a long lead as emergency back up!
So, if you only do one thing today, with your off-leash dog, please let it be attaching a leash.