I finally have a moment to write out this topic that’s been bugging me for a while. Some time back, I was shown a picture in a newspaper or something of a person walking their 7 German shepherds around in a city off leash. They’re wonderfully trained, obedient, and behaved.
I’m pro-animal with a particular love of dogs as pets and desire my dog to accompany me EVERYWHERE. So you might expect me to enjoy walking around a city with these well-trained, loose dogs following close behind their owners’ heels?
I’m not impressed. When I am out in the middle of nowhere, in the woods, in the mountains, in a field, on a working ranch, at a dog park, etc., I am great with dogs off leash. I had a horse I used to let run free and wild in a giant old hay field (she wouldn’t go far because I kept my dominant mare on a lead line). I’m great with loose animals and they’re beautiful to watch and it’s lovely to see, etc.
But in a city, or wherever there is heavy foot traffic (let alone heavy vehicular traffic), I appreciate dogs on a leash. Even the top-notch, obedient, never-leave-their-owner’s-side dogs. Why? There are a couple of reasons.
- Respect for others.
- I believe it is disrespectful of other people. There are many people who have a fear of dogs. It is not fair to force those around you to walk past a loose dog on a narrow sidewalk. I have had people scared to pass me and my little, cute-n-fluffy dog even when he was friendly and on a leash at my side. Until you have seen people with a fear of dogs, you really cannot imagine what it is like. To you, it may be obvious that your dog is no threat, but not everyone will feel that way as you pass by them.
- Let’s get personal for a minute. My ex was scared of dogs. He had PTSD from getting attacked many times by his parents’ dogs as a child. He has scars all over his arms from them. When he passes by a dog – any dog – he has a full-body reaction. You cannot imagine the amount of adrenaline and other things that get triggered. Stress levels go way up. That means a higher likelihood of him taking it out on hopefully inanimate objects later, too. It takes a LONG time to calm the whole body back down. Certain breeds trigger the reaction more strongly than other breeds, but they all did it. A loose dog was an incredible stress, even when it is far in the distance.
- Respect for others. This time for their property. How many times have I looked over and seen that loose dog fall slightly behind their owner, poop on someone’s lawn, and then catch back up and the owner has no clue that they need to go back and clean up after their dog. That’s not cool.
- Safety for the dog. I don’t care how well-trained your dog is. What if your dog is stung by a bee and jumps just one foot off the sidewalk? Now your dog could be hit by a car and you have no way of pulling him back to safety.
- Safety for the dog. Sometimes it is not your dog, but a dog you are passing, that is the perpetrator of an attack. My own dog is guilty of this. If a loose dog runs up to him on leash, he is going to try to fight.
Please take your dog’s safety and everybody else’s safety and comfort into mind when deciding whether or not to leash up your dog for your urban walk. Please save your off-leash ventures for the less trafficked areas.