Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 12, 2016

"Dogs On Leash" Means Dogs On Leash

Posted at 08:52AM - Comments: (24)

You will never find a more ardent lover of off-leash dog walking than me. But I’m lucky: I have access to thousands of acres of “wildlife area” near where I live. It’s not quite a state park, but state-managed land where certain types of hunting are allowed in various seasons. Dogs can be off leash there much of the year, except for a short period in spring, to allow the many species of ground-nesting birds to lay their eggs and raise their young. When that happens, I either leash up my dogs, or go elsewhere. As much as I love walking my dogs off leash, and as well-mannered as they are, with near-perfect recalls, I’m not ever going to be one of the many people I see who walk their off-leash dogs past the signs that appear there every spring saying, “Dogs must be on leash from March 15 to June 30 for the nesting season.” I appreciate and respect my access to that land the REST of the year; I don’t want to risk losing access to it EVER.

"Seriously?" Yes, seriously.

Recently I had an opportunity to explore a new hiking area a couple hours from where I live. I took along a friend who is accustomed to going out with me and my dogs in our local off-leash areas. She was surprised when I snapped on my dogs leashes, and waited for her to do the same on this new trail. So surprised, in fact, that she asked me, “Seriously?” “Serious as a heart attack,” I said. Who would walk onto a trail marked like the one in the photo without leashing up?

I’ve read a lot of posts and essays from people whose dogs are reactive about how far their dogs’ training can be set back by one out-of-control off-leash dog running up to them – even those so-called “friendly” off-leash dogs. I would be MORTIFIED if my off-leash dog caused someone else’s training to go awry, or if my dog caused a horse to spook, a fragile hiker to fall, or a bicyclist to take a tumble. That’s why, on multi-use trails, even with my super-well-behaved Otto, he wears a leash. With these near-perfect dogs, it can be tempting to “poach” a trail, but the sudden appearance of a mountain bike or trotting horse reminds us that there are other people out here, too, and the only way we can share the trails nicely is by cooperating a bit. Even if it takes a little edge off the fun.

Have you ever “poached” trails with your well-behaved dog off leash? Would you do it again?

Comments (24)

I just returned from a trip to Ecuador. There are loose dogs there all over the place; many pets though I assume some strays: dogs of all sizes and lineages similar to what you would see in any US dog park. nobody cared. I was not aware of any incidents either involving people or dog vs dog. where we stayed there were two lab mixes who were friendly to eveyone and knew not to enter the guest cabins. Not saying we can do this here but it gives one a perspective.

Posted by: Richard Lind | January 29, 2016 12:42 PM    Report this comment

This is slightly off-topic, but is there a prevailing practice for entering a dog park? Leash or no leash?? We are establishing our small rural park, and some owners are allowing their often large, exuberant, out-of-control dogs to exit their cars off-leash and enter the gates like gangbusters. We recognize this as being disruptive, and potentially hazardous. We want to keep the fun and enthusiasm, don't want to become bound up in rules, so I'd like to know what's done elsewhere. Seems common sense doesn't always come into play!

Posted by: Gaines'Partner | January 16, 2016 9:18 AM    Report this comment

Make sure that you have a leash that your dog cannot escape from. The Sat after Thanksgiving this year, my husband was taking our dog for a walk. It was by our house at Lake Tahoe which backs up to national forest. The dog heard or saw something, slipped from his leash and was gone. We searched for a week, other friends searched for a week. We posted flyers, worked with the local shelters and vets. Nothing.

On New Years Eve, five weeks after the dog went missing, I got a phone call from a man who had been snowmobiling and spotted a small mass of fur in a hole. Magically, although worn because or running through bush, etc, he was able to get my phone # from the tags. It was my dog. 4 snow storms, freezing temps later, he had survived. He was found 25 miles from the house in the middle of nowhere.

I was in LA at the time and couldn't drive back until the next day. I drove 11 hours straight to get to the emergency vet hospital in Truckee, CA. Other than losing 8 lbs, and a few sores on his tummy, he was ok. No frostbite, organs all ok, just skinny and hungry.

Two weeks later, his labs are perfect, he is alert, playing with his fur brother, taking walks and eating like crazy.

PLEASE make sure you have a leash that is safe and won't allow a dog to work his way out.

My story has a wonderful ending, but it could have been very different.

Posted by: Di | January 14, 2016 3:37 PM    Report this comment

On one occasion, I had one of my dogs off leash in a vacation home neighborhood. It is a quiet area and most people let their dogs off leash. My dog spotted another dog and ran up to play. The dog looked to be a hybrid husky wolf mix. He played well for a few seconds then attacked my dog, biting him on his back, turning him over and then going for this throat. I was able to get the dog off by kicking as hard as I could. $400 in vet bills and a traumatized dog have taught me that no place is safe for off leash.

Posted by: Di | January 14, 2016 3:23 PM    Report this comment

This makes me even more grateful that I don't live in a city. I live in a rural area where dogs are required to be on leash during certain times of year. This is backed by a law allowing anyone to shoot a dog they see running deer. The rest of the year, you are responsible for your dogs actions. There are coyotes around, too, so most dogs stay close to home.

Obviously (to me, at least), I keep my dogs leashed when required, whenever I take them into town or to a posted Nature Center. As far as I'm concerned, that is a) good citizenship, b) good manners, and c) good training.

Posted by: peppersmum | January 14, 2016 12:19 PM    Report this comment

I never allow my dogs off-leash when an area is posted for on-leash only. I also never take my dogs -- even on-leash -- to any area that is posted "no dogs." But almost every time I go to an area that requires leashes or prohibits dogs, I see at least one person flouting the rules. I wish they would realize that the rules exist for a reason, even if the reason isn't readily apparent to them, and that by breaking the rules, they make it more likely that dogs will be barred completely from ever more areas.

Posted by: DeborahBee | January 13, 2016 5:40 PM    Report this comment

I'm 70 years and weigh under 100 lbs. I am very fearful of walking my dog in my area because my leased dog was attacked by a loose dog with no owner in sight.

I was walking my 15 pound poodle on a road near my house when I noticed my dog kept looking back. I turned around and right behind us was a pit bull who silently came up behind us. His sight was on my dog and I was so scared I grabbed my dog and held him in my arms and screamed my head off but no one heard me as it is a rural area with not much traffic on the road.

The pit bull kept jumping up on me to get to my dog and at one point knocked me down in a ditch. I don't know how I managed but I was able to get up and still have my dog in my arms. After several minutes which seemed like eternity someone came along in a truck and helped fend off the pit bull. My dog ended up with several bites on his legs. We were lucky.

So now I am terrified and won't walk that road again. As a consequence I won't even go out walking without another person with me. This kind of situations and worse happen over and over again but people insist on letting there dos loose without much regard for others.

Posted by: Skyland | January 13, 2016 4:15 PM    Report this comment

I obey the leash laws 99% of the time. When I do not it is because of this: We travel and camp in our motorhome. I have two small dogs that are not high energy and they can be kept on leash okay, except in off leash areas like a doggie park. The third dog is a border collie, young (we adopted him). He needs about 1 hour a day hard play. I can't do that on a leash. I take him to a remote area (like woods or lake away from everyone and play soccer with him. I cannot run, so that option is out, but I can play soccer (using my golf club to hit the ball). After 1/2 hour he is ready to quit until the late afternoon. I keep his leash around my neck and leash him as soon as I see human or canine. They are normally about 2 blocks away when I see them. I stop, leash, and wait until they leave. I know it is not the best, but the dog would go crazy if I did not give him this daily exercise.

Regarding shock collars, I don't approve normally, but I feel that sometimes this is necessary to get a dog in line that otherwise might be put down because they are not controllable.

Posted by: Patriciag | January 12, 2016 10:58 PM    Report this comment

Part II: But if I do it right, you will never see me. I am not by nature a rule-breaker - I really hate doing it. I am not in-your-face, not senseless about it - I avoid high-traffic times and places - busy trails are pointless anyway, and walking at night has its rewards. A successful hike is one where we see no other humans. I carry a leash and use it when someone else's comfort requires it (or rarely, when my dog's safety requires it). On new trails (there's always "the sign,") I leash until I can determine a local "user" culture. . I am not suggesting this is right for every dog or human. I choose my companions with a size/weight that not only allows me to control them physically (if ever necessary), but also permits me to carry her out if need be. I was blessed with a veritable doggie ambassador, which made this all possible. I now have a new dog who will likely require more constraint. None of this is perfect. I have on occasion encountered "problem dogs" & witless owners, so I do understand the complaints, but on the list of annoyances, it's pretty low. I certainly encounter other users who are bigger nuisances and hazards (and stretch the regulations), but I have to tolerate them. I would much rather have designated trails - I want to avoid some of you as much as some of you want to avoid me - but (nearly) all the trails have been "expropriated."

Posted by: jes | January 12, 2016 8:37 PM    Report this comment

Have I ever "poached" a trail? Interesting word choice. Tangential book recommendation: "Crimes Against Nature" by Karl Jacoby. Before reading this book, I believed poachers were villains. After reading it - you understand how poachers are created when society expropriates (and commodifies) an essential resource.

The answer - yes, and yes. Despite extensive travels, I have NEVER found a designated off-leash hiking trail. I completely agree that if leashes were required for 3 months in exchange for 9 months of off-leash hiking, it would be worth the compromise to maintain such a rare commodity. However, I don't have that option. Unregulated trails have pretty much disappeared, the omnipresent "leash" signs appear even in remote areas. Given the reality of choosing between no off-leash hiking or breaking the rules - I have and am going to continue to break the rules.

Posted by: jes | January 12, 2016 8:36 PM    Report this comment

The years passed, I am now 70. Once or twice a year, when walking my dog at the dog park, I get knocked off my feet by an off leash dog jumping on me--the worst is when the dog jumps from behind. No broken bones yet, but it is scary. The owner/walker always says, ""Don't worry, my dog is friendly".

Posted by: susan in sf | January 12, 2016 7:40 PM    Report this comment

My neighbors (more than one) who won't leash their dogs don't even CARRY a leash when walking in the neighborhood. Or put a collar on their dogs. & after many suggestions to do so by me, as I explain we have been attacked many times, they simply accuse me of having out of control dogs...

I'm tired of being the bad guy & my dogs having a reputation of being dangerous because they do not want to play with every dog that comes along.

Shame on my neighbors for putting their dogs in danger - could get hit by a car, attacked by another dog, etc.

& lots of people do not want to be around dogs. I've seen many people out walking who shy away from any contact with dogs, even on leash. They too have a right to walk unmolested by our pets.

I just want to walk my dogs in peace...

Posted by: Scamp's mom | January 12, 2016 5:50 PM    Report this comment

My fear level gets in high gear when I see an unleashed dog nearby. I've tried unsuccessfully to control this which started at a dog park when several dogs surrounded my mini schnauzer and started to attack her. The owners of the unleashed dog will always say the dog is friendly with a look at me that says...why are you in such a panic!

Posted by: AbbeyWoo | January 12, 2016 5:06 PM    Report this comment

Like many others who have commented, I live in a city whose leash laws are routinely disobeyed and it both worries and angers me. Yesterday I nearly fell on an icy sidewalk as my two on-leash dogs reacted to an off-leash dog racing towards us that I didn't see until it was too late (the dog was white and we were in the midst of a snowstorm). The only "good" thing was that we were separated by a fence (they were in a public park clearly marked as requiring dogs on leash; we were on the sidewalk outside the park.) And this morning I had to pick up my puppy as an aggressively barking off-leash dog came racing across the street towards us, it's owner a good half-block behind. Yesterday's owner (who was walking with the leash draped around his neck) acted like I didn't exist when I asked him to leash his dog and pointed out that I could have been seriously hurt. This morning's owner (who had a flexi in her hand) gave me a half-hearted apology, attributing her dog's aggressiveness to "an allergy flare up" (I was too stunned to ask.) Frankly, I refuse to take my dogs anywhere that permits unleashed dogs. It is simply too risky. I am not willing to take the chance - - be it in a dog park or on a dog-friendly hiking trail - - that my dog won't return to me and/or won't get attacked by another critter or even a human who feels threatened.

Posted by: ChicagoDogMom | January 12, 2016 4:45 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for this post. I have been waiting for this issue to be addressed publicly for a long time. For increasingly so, I found times and times again that no matter where I walk my dog, I see some senseless and disrespect dog owners walking their dogsoff leash when they are supposed to be on leash. No matter where I go, be that a park, a trail, or just on city side roads, I can find people letting their dogs go off leash where there are signs saying that "dogs must be kept on leash". My dog is still a puppy, he will be very excited when he sees a off leash dog. he is 73lbs and I'm a petit women. When he pulls it is very difficult for me to hold on to the leash. To my annoyance whenever an off leash dog approaches my dog, I will request the owner to put the dog back on leash, but they will not necessarily comply. Their ignorant answer is always that" my dog is friendly" or "he is okay". Everytime I have to explain that it is not about your dog, but about the reactions of the other dog that was aroused rendering he/she be so excited that it is difficult to control. So to everyone out there who thinks it is ok to walk their dogs off leash where they are not supposed to, Please be considerate, and put your dogs on leash. Or go to a dog park if you would like your dog to have more "fun".

Posted by: Goldensmom | January 12, 2016 3:25 PM    Report this comment

I have a 70lb. FEMALE lab that wears a shock collar, once we one-time trained her, she has no problem with it, she knows where she can go and not go. We live in the woods next to a State Park, she would leave and stay gone all night, our not knowing where she was, the park had the right to shoot her if she went on the property, she could have been killed by hunters, ran over by cars, we felt the collar was the safest way to go. She is walked on a lease when we walk her out of the yard, the collar is taken off. I see no problem with them.

Posted by: menmine | January 12, 2016 2:24 PM    Report this comment

I have a 3 year old GSD who is dog reactive. I live in an urban area where the city code mandates that dogs must be leashed. It infuriates me when people walk their dogs off leash and the dog doesn't listen to any commands and runs across the street to charge my dog. Not only can the dog get killed by a car but it is a very stressful situation for me and my dog. I've been working with a trainer to alleviate his reaction to other dogs and when an event like this happens we are back to square one.

Posted by: otis | January 12, 2016 1:13 PM    Report this comment

I one time did some off-leash training in a school yard when school was out for a break. We were inside a fence, so no other dogs or people were around. I had a dog who tried to aggressively protect me from other dogs (although only when HE was on-leash), so I was already aware of the potential damage that could be done. My thought is that if it is a leash-only area, I am protecting my dogs and myself by adhering to the rules, and possible protecting someone else's dog from fear or from a correction that may not be positive if my dog goes up to say hi.

Posted by: tinydcr | January 12, 2016 12:32 PM    Report this comment

I used to ignore leash laws all the time when I was young, with my "friendly" lab who used to come right up to you and say a hearty "hello!"...yikes!! I think the universe has a wicked sense of humor, because now I'm the mom of a very reactive guy who would completely freak out if that happened to him. And yes, off-leash dogs approaching us can definitely set us back in our desensitization training. So THANK YOU so much for this thoughtful post!

Posted by: Jack's mom | January 12, 2016 10:51 AM    Report this comment

Agree 100%! Have had many issues with the clueless dog owners who, because I have small dogs (Welsh Terriers), think they can let their dogs get right into their faces. Not a good idea because they can be reactive around new dogs and might defend themselves and me against , what they consider, a threat.
On leash means ON LEASH, no ifs ands or buts.
Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: luvs terriers | January 12, 2016 10:22 AM    Report this comment

I live very close to an off-leash park. I can't take my reactive GSD to the park. I take responsibility and have consideration for owners/dogs who don't want to get close to us. I must rely on other dog owners to respond in kind, follow the rules and keep their dogs leashed outside of that park. There has been a steady increase of people strolling down lanes and green spaces with their dogs on the loose, usually pooping without the owners bothering to see where they are -- where, by law, dogs are supposed to be leashed. Despite their assurance that "my dog doesn't bite," or "Don't worry, my dog comes back when I call!," a loose dog bolting over to my leashed dog puts all our good work and training back to square one. I went so far as to have an article placed in our community newspaper, asking that people obey the rules and keep to the off-leash park without letting their dogs roam. No luck. So I must walk my dog at dawn to avoid others. Not fair!

Posted by: LoveGSDs | January 12, 2016 10:05 AM    Report this comment

No, I haven't & I wouldn't. Those areas are a privilege for us & I take them as a gift & would not abuse it. I get irritated at those who go right past signs like they are an exception to the rule...so blatant!

Posted by: joanne.c | January 12, 2016 9:52 AM    Report this comment

This topic is very near and dear to me. It drives me absolutely CRAZY when I see off leash dogs. I live in a city and you are supposed to keep your dogs leashed at all times. I cannot tell you how many times my little Yorkie and I have been charged by off leash dogs. And the stupid owner always says, oh my dog is FRIEEENNNDDLLY. Well, I don't care how friendly you think your dog is. My dog is 7 lbs. and she thinks that she can protect me, so how friendly is your dog going to be when a 7 lb. Yorkie is going all Tasmanian Devil in their face? Not to mention the fact that after something like this happens, she becomes more and more dog aggressive.

Please people, leash your dogs if that is what you are supposed to do!!!

Posted by: Sportschick | January 12, 2016 9:48 AM    Report this comment

No, I haven't. But in two local areas that are "leash only" the dogs I see on leash are the exception. Most are the owners, but some are professional dog walkers with several dogs, not all well behaved.

Posted by: lynda | January 12, 2016 9:43 AM    Report this comment

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