Leashes: Choose one & use one

Last week I took Rufus to City Park for a training stroll. It was a gorgeous Sunday so of course much of Denver showed up as well. This was ideal. I wanted Rufus to have distractions around him so that he could learn that as long as he stays next to me, he’s fine. He wore his dapper blue Freedom Harness while I armed myself with a treat bag. Off we went.

We encountered different people, dogs, cyclists, geese, the whole park she-bang. Everything went well with a little bit of curiosity from Rufus but mostly well-behaved loose-leash walking. This was the best reaction I could hope for and it had me doing internal cart wheels.

Of course there had to be the dude with the dog without a leash. I did not speak to him personally but I assume his reasons are one of these:

  1. “My dog is very well-behaved”
  2.  “My dog prefers running without a leash”
  3. “Your dog is the problem, not mine”
  4. “I’m a complete douche-bag”

I’m going with #4 on the list.

Busy parks have loads of people who may or may not like dogs. They also have loads of dogs who may or may not like other dogs. The last thing any of us want is for my dog to get scared when an unleashed dog runs up to him making him feel trapped, generating more anxiety.

Leash anxiety is real. Sophie usually does not care about other dogs when she is off leash but boy-oh-boy she gets super agitated when she sees one while on-leash. Rufus doesn’t even know what he feels. He usually wants to play when he meets a new dog, but his size and his fear of others might provoke an unwanted reaction in the other dog. And holy moly, the doodle-bug is crazy strong. He generally behaves well on leash but I cannot promise that he won’t pull me over if he gets super riled up by another pup who comes bounding over. I have been lifting weights lately and I weigh about forty pounds more than he does, but that’s no guarantee against a sneak charge. The last thing I want is any sort of dog-on-dog conflict against an untethered pooch.

This is not as simple as “learn to control your dog,” the phrase of choice among the no-leash crowd. My dog, like many others, is a rescue, and I had nothing to do with his initial imprint stage. He has some fears that are not going away with basic clicker training. We are working on getting him more relaxed but much of that depends on a community that can follow the rules.

Every time we saw an unleashed dog, I stayed back and petted Rufus. I would give him a treat and tell him everything was fine. Generally I would walk to another part of the path and let the others go by while telling Rufus to stay next to me.  I did not swear loudly, which I consider a victory considering how goddamn stressful it was.

I should say that most people proved they were fantastic dog-owners and kept their dogs on leash. But all it takes is that one dog…

I’ve encountered this issue in my neighborhood as well, which baffles me. People do yard work and let their dogs roam off leash while cars drive around. I’ve picked up more than a few dogs in my car and taken them back to their homes. Last year, Sophie was taken for a walk by my ex, who was dog-sitting, and was attacked by two little dogs running out of their front door, even though Sophie was across the street from them. One friend’s poor dog was attacked twice when she took her out for a walk. I posted about this on my neighborhood FB page and mixed reaction. Some people responded with a “Good point, I’ll keep my dog in the back yard,” while a few responded with a variation on “Don’t tell me how to take care of my dog! I’ll do what makes her happy!” I’d like to report that one of those people in the latter group was a middle school principal who went on a very long rant. (Awesome screening job, DPS)

People get weird about their dogs, almost as weird as they do about their kids. Co-dependency and over-identification of motives can lead to some screwed up situations. While the kid-thing is, in my opinion, decidedly weirder, all I want right now is to be able to walk my dogs and stay safe. Do leash laws need to be stricter? In my opinion, absolutely.

Leashes. Choose one. Use one.

15 Replies to “Leashes: Choose one & use one”

  1. People need to realise they are not living on an island in the autonomous ‘State of Me and Mine’ and that my, myself and I have laws and rules to abide by. Dogs wandering into our garden get rocks thrown at them for the simple reason Dash Kitten was killed by unrestrained dogs. so I have no compunction about throwing thing that are heavy.

    Anyone not taking care of their dog risks getting into serious trouble – if it’s not cats like my Dash, it’s going to be a small over friendly youngster who has not been told dogs need a bit of space and respect. Good dog owners train their dogs (and pick up their poop after them). These animals can walk on, or even off, a lead and stay close to their pack leader (you) others are half baked No.4’s and don’t give a monkey’s until their poor dog is removed and destroyed.

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  2. Spot on! I don’t know why people think it’s alright to let their dog off leash in places that are NOT off leash areas! I have heard it all from dog owners that let their dogs run off leash while mine are leashed. I pick and choose where I walk my dog so there is less chances of running into an off leash dog.

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  3. You’ve hit a big pet peeve of mine! It drives me crazy to see dogs off leash. It has nothing to do with the dogs. I’m sure they are extremely well behaved. But I have a timid, reactive dog. He is huge and his response will always be to scare the other dog away. Because he’s on leash that makes him a target to another dog off leash. Beau thinks he has to step up and protect himself and me. I am working with Beau on ignoring other dogs. He walks beautifully on leash but if another dog were to charge us Beau wouldn’t stand for it. I don’t want my dog (or myself) hurt because of someone else’s pride. We tend to forget that dogs are not children. They are instinct- driven and it only takes a split second for a bad reaction or interaction to occur. The bottom line is that if your dog is off leash you are not in complete control of the situation. And in most states, leashing your dog is required by law unless designated otherwise.

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  4. Hmmmmm…. I always keep my wee one on his leash when in public parks and in urban settings because DUH. But where I do have a “problem” is when hiking. At 3.5 pounds and only 8″ off the ground his way of dealing with jumps to get over big rocks, or to get over or more likely UNDER a big branch etc. has proved to us that the leash is actually dangerous in that specific setting. We have trained him to never leave the trail. We have trained him to stay between us. We do leash and step aside when another dog shows up (rare – we like remote trails). But I just wanted to put it out there that there can be times when … a leash is a problem.

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    1. He doesn’t sound like he’s a danger to other dogs on the trail! And I’m glad you can release him or scoop him up with other dogs approach. My girl Sophie is part pit bull, and I know that letting her off leash in an on-leash area would be incredibly selfish of me. As dedicated as I am to proving that Pitties are loving, I respect that letting her run up to anybody is not the best way to advocate for that. So on leash it is!

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  5. I go with number 4 as well. I get so annoyed when I see a dog off of a leash. I live in an urban area, and it’s just SO dangerous! It doesn’t matter how “well behaved” someone thinks their dog is – anything can happen in a split second.

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    1. Absolutely agree. I’d say a busy public park with no fenced in area and no control over the variables wouldn’t be the best off-leash area. But there are places where it can be done safely.

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  6. I’ve actually had a conversation with someone about how she is not a special snowflake who gets to keep her dog off-leash in on-leash areas. I admit I do let Mr. N off in school yards sometimes but I’ll leash him if I see another dog.

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  7. In our neighborhood, everyone keeps their dog on a leash or in a fenced-in area. There is a park near me where people can let their dogs off leash, but they always put them back on a leash before leaving the park.

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  8. Excellent post! People need to realize their dogs need to be controlled when in public and I don’t care how well trained the dog may be at home – when in public and something happens, a dog off leash can get into trouble in a hurry. I like dogs (even though I’m owned by cats) but not everyone wants a dog in their space and that should be respected.

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  9. I am so with you on leash, please! Those unleashed do not give any consideration to others who leash their dogs, who may or may not have anxieties. To me, it seems pure common sense. But then again, the lack of is why I agree with your in your choice of #4. I have a neighbor who lets her dogs walk our neighborhood leash free. I found one of her dogs in my garage one day! Thankfully, my Huskies were out in the backyard. She thought it was all okay – it’s not. And I like this neighbor! It’s a matter of respect. Great post! Pinning on my Bark About Pinterest board to share!

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  10. Hmm interesting post. As a previous cat owner, I had no idea dog owners dealt with such shenanigans, especially with people getting defensive about having their dog on a leash. Honestly, at the very least be concerned about your dogs safety and liability! You never know if something could spook your dog and he/she runs away out of fear or even get hit by a car because they were not leashed. Why don’t more people think about these things? Thanks for sharing this important post.

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