I know from experience how tempting it can be to walk your well behaved dog off leash in a designated ‘On leash’ area. I get it, you’ve trained your dog super hard and want to showcase how smart they are but I’ve got news for you, not only are you breaking a law and can be fined, you’re completely missing the point of why your obedient dog should still be leashed.
Here are 5 reasons you should still be leashing your dog:
- Unforeseen loud noises or animals. You may have trained the ‘heel’ common to high heavens which is wonderful! However, sometimes snakes, squirrels or even random bangs or fireworks can pop up during a walk which you may not have trained for. Even obedient dogs can be startled and go into flight mode at the sound of a fire cracker.
- Protected Habitat. Lots of areas that are designated ‘on leash’ have wildlife areas to protect. Have you ever seen a healthy tree out front of an apartment building? Likely not because it’s constantly getting peed on by dogs. Rehabbing a forest takes time and means no dogs (or humans!) should be stomping around and doing their business everywhere.
- Reactivity. This is the biggest reason in my opinion and my biggest pet peeve. It’s wonderful that your dog is a social butterfly but you have to respect the fact that not all dogs (just like people) want to meet. Dogs are very similar to people in the fact that some are shy, introverted, prefer to be around their friends and not meet strangers. Heck I’m one of those people, I hate small talk! Some dogs are also working on their self esteem and need space on walks thus are considered ‘reactive’. It is EXTREMELY detrimental for a loose dog to run up to a reactive dog who is still on leash. The outcome could be disastrous, even deadly because a reactive dog needs SPACE to feel SAFE. When a reactive dog is on their leash, they can’t control the amount of space they can get (FLIGHT) in order to feel safe so they are only left with one thing (FIGHT). So you screaming ‘don’t worry, my dog is friendly’ means nothing to the owner of that dog, if anything it means something bad is about to happen since it signals that your dog is likely going to miss all the cues the reactive dog is giving and still come say hello. Reactive meetings can happen to ANY DOG, any size and of any breed but unfortunately a bigger dog will almost always be ‘the bad guy’ in an altercation of this type which is very unfair when all they were asking for and needing was space. Think about it, If you kept telling someone to leave you alone and they didn’t listen and they kept harassing you, wouldn’t you punch them in the face? Same deal. People with reactive dogs find solace in ‘on leash’ dog areas because they can generally guarantee that they’ll be able to control the environment, thus keep their reactive dog feeling safe and under threshold.
- Accidentally signaling other owners. Now I’m sure you’re thinking ‘well my dog never goes up to other dogs and I have perfect voice control because I’m an excellent trainer! Again, this is great news and I’m glad you’re an excellent trainer but you have to remember that we’re all human and tend to default to following eachother’s lead. When I used to be a bartender, I would HATE IT when someone would order a Cesar because I knew the second I would make one and it would be on display at the event I was tending to, that it would trigger others to be like ‘oh yea!! I want that too!’. This happens in ‘on leash’ dog areas as well. Sometimes signage isn’t clearly displayed everywhere so owners will generally follow suit as to what they already see. If they see you and your perfectly obedient, voice controlled dog ‘off leash’, that could signal to them, ‘oh great, I’ll let Rover off too!’. However, maybe Rover isn’t as well behaved as your dog and runs straight towards someone else with a reactive dog.
- Riling dogs up. My dog just had surgery so it’s important to keep her calm so she doesn’t rip her stitches. Even though she’s a very mellow dog, she can still get riled up from an off leash dog running around getting ‘zoomies’. I’m a firm believer that other dogs can tell and understand that other dogs are off leash and this can cause confusion and frustration on the dogs part since they just want to run off and join in the fun. Not to mention even just to a regular citizen it can be unnerving having an off leash dog running around not knowing if they’re accidentally going to bowl me over! Or worse, maybe someone is afraid of dogs!
All in all, please understand that it’s great that you have great control of your dog but there’s no reason to show it off at the detriment of others or the habitat. Even super amazing dog trainers won’t walk their dogs off leash in designated ‘on leash’ areas because they understand the detriment it can have on others so please know that when I see you walking your dog off leash In an undesignated area, I’m not impressed by your training skills and that it’s actually quite the opposite, it showcases to me that you’re an amateur.
p.s obviously if nobody is around and won’t be for awhile, it’s not the HUGEST deal to let your dog off leash but out of respect you should be leashing your dog the second you see someone else.