My Take on Leash Laws

Leash laws are generally a fact of life in the US. There are few public places outside of designated dog-parks that allow for dogs to roam free. Most dogs spend their lives on leash unless they have a private backyard or have access to the few public places that do not have leash laws (though many “off-leash” areas have laws that say either a leash OR verbal control).

I wish there were more places where dogs could run free that weren’t just dog-parks or private access but the fact remains there are leash laws in the US and they exist for a reason. Leash laws are there to keep people/dogs safe from loose dogs, to prevent harassment of wildlife, to help make sure handlers pick up after Fido, and to protect property from roaming dogs.

There is nothing more frustrating than finding an on-leash area for a nice walk only to have it ruined by an unruly off-leash dog. Now I personally do not have an issue if I see a dog off-leash who is completely under control–I don’t love it because I become a bit more vigilant making sure the dog stays where he/she is supposed to but I’m not going to freak out about it. Unfortunately the vast majority of off-leash dogs I encounter in on-leash places are not of the well-behaved variety (though fortunately we haven’t run across any truly aggressive off-leash dogs).

I had Shayne and Rio on a leashed walk at a park whose leash law says dogs must be on a leash at all times but may be off-leash if training (I have used this training clause frequently at this park to practice disc and rally-o). We rounded a bend and see a handler with his dog about 150 yards away running around a field/brush area while the handler casually watched. I crossed the road to add more distance between me and the off-leash dog and just hoped we could get by without issue. I thought we’d gotten away but I hear the handler yell, “Mine’s friendly!” and I turn around to find a young lab barreling towards us at 20ft and closing in on Shayne, Rio and myself. Great. Fantastic. I let Rio act as a buffer and let him greet the incoming dog because he is friendly. But no, Mr. Lab decided to blow right past Rio and into Shayne’s face. She held it together for all of 3 seconds before snarking at this young dog and getting into a scuffle. I’m struggling to regain control of Shayne, keep control of Rio, and trying to get the young dog out of my space while the owner LEISURELY walks himself over to me. No apology, no acknowledgement, just tried to get his dog and walk away. I told him that there was a leash law in this park and that since he clearly had no control over his dog, he ought to abide by it. The owner was so clueless that I actually saw the dog still off-leash when I came around the others side of the field–this time the dog was rushing up to another dog and not my two again.

This dog was extremely lucky that he just tangoed with Shayne. She is all talk and doesn’t actually use her teeth to hurt other dogs. That young lab pup could have found himself in a fight with a dog who really meant to hurt him. How happy do you think the handler would have been if his dog had actually gotten injured (it was in no way ‘polite’ when it approached Shayne–he ran up like a train)–I bet he would have been really upset but it would have been all his fault. These clueless handlers really just don’t get that while their dog is friendly that not every dog in the world is friendly (especially if their dog is totally rude).

I really wish dog owners would simply be more considerate of others. I can’t quite explain how frustrating it is to be working through a dog’s reactivity issues only to have it totally sabotaged by an out of control off-leash dog giving my reactive dog a reason to be reactive. I very intentionally seek out on-leash walks or adventures because I don’t want to encounter off-leash dogs when working on leash reactivity. Just because YOUR dog is friendly doesn’t mean that every other dog he/she might rush up to will tolerate his/her rude greeting.

What if the dog your dog just ran up to was a service animal and bombarded him/her? That dog is often a critical safety measure for the handler. Your recklessness could endanger the safety and well being of another person–even if your dog is friendly. Maybe the dog your dog rushed up on was a senior dog that is a little bit arthritic or otherwise not feeling its best–your dog could seriously hurt the elderly dog.

I get peoples’ need/desire to let their dog off-leash to be free and have fun but there has got to be a mutual respect for other dog handlers and people. IF your dog is reliable off leash and you are going to break the law, the least you could do is make sure you have excellent control of your dog and preemptively leash your dog when people/dogs are within view. If your dogs are not reliable off-leash they have no business being off-leash in a populated area (other than designated dog parks). Although your dog can get injured by your poor decision, I’m equally concerned about the damage your friendly dog can do to the dogs/handlers it rushes.

I guess I just wish handlers would consider OTHERS before making choices. Though, I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir with this one.

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  1. **applause** you pretty much summed up everything I feel about this topic too. HUGE peeve of mine too, especially because my Luna can be a “B'” about obnoxious rude dogs… At least you had a split second warning, but one day that dog is going to get himself in a mess of trouble as you stated. There are some counties here that allow you to take an off leash test and if you pass you actually get to have a tag that states you are actually allowed to have your dog off leash in leashed area. I wish more counties encouraged things like this, so that those with in control dogs didn’t have to look over their shoulder as much (well except for out of control dogs).
    Keep up the good work, all we can do is hope that things change one day

  2. This is such a big issue, everywhere. Thanks for stating it so well and I hope someone reads it and learns a little…. it’ll help us all out.

  3. Ah yes, the classic MDIF. Because I know what it’s like to be on both sides – the one with the reactive on-leash dog, and the one with the unrecallable off-leash space invader – I have completely sympathy. But reactive dogs need spaces in which to walk as well and they shouldn’t have to worry about incoming dogs who are disobeying the law. It sucks for those without off-leash parks and without fenced yards (been there…) but at the same time, leash laws keep everyone safe. Unfortunately, we just can’t trust people to be considerate of others on their own.

    If only, eh?

  4. I try to carry something, even if I have no intention of using it, just the presence of a horse crop or a stick makes people think twice.

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