A couple weeks ago, my husband and a group of volunteers joined an employee from our parks department to take water samples from a creek in a nearby public park. John joined this group of volunteers last year, and twice a month, they visit parks to check the water quality and pick up trash along the way.
This particular day, while the team waded through the icy stream, a giant, bridle mixed dog dashed up to the group. John said the dog was friendly, and they all started looking around to find the lost owner.
They spotted the woman stretching on the other side of the bridge, her leash dangling in her hand.
The parks employee got the woman’s attention and let her know that the park required her dog to be on leash. So, could she please call and leash her dog?
The woman flipped off the parks employee.
A grown woman flipped off the person making sure the park was clean for her and her dog to enjoy.
Setting aside the sense of entitlement, and ignoring the grown-up temper tantrum, the key point here is this: The woman left without leashing her dog.
She knew the rule. Chose to ignore the rule. Was reminded of the rule. And still continued to break it.
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Why do leash laws matter?
Leash laws are NOT arbitrary. They matter. The reasons leash laws matter vary from park to park and city to city, but let’s take a look at three reasons why there are leash laws:
- Leashed dogs keep people and pets safe. Not all people like dogs. Not all dogs like other dogs. Most people don’t expect to be rushed by an off-leash dog. Most people who walk their reactive dogs in parks choose parks that are leashed so that off-leash dogs don’t rush up to them. Your off-leash dog ruins it for everyone. Your dog, friendly as you might think he or she is, could easily start a fight with another dog, knock a person over, or scare unsuspecting hikers. Read more: The problem with, “It’s OK! He’s friendly!”
- Leash laws protect wildlife. In parks, along trails, and across streams, wildlife can thrive–but not if dogs chase, harass, or kill them. And, it’s not just wild animals: Oftentimes, the plant life in public parks is carefully managed. Paths and cut trails protect and preserve plant life. Your off-leash dog can easily disturb the ecosystem, especially since most people we’ve seen with their dogs off leash don’t follow them into the woods to ensure they pick up their poop. Blech.
- A leashed dog is a safe(er) dog. If your dog is leashed, he won’t get hit by a car. If your dog is leashed, he’s less likely to be exposed to parvo or distemper. If your dog is leashed, he won’t eat gunk like feces or plants that could be toxic. If your dog is leashed, he’s less likely to get into a fight with another dog, knock down a person, or get lost. Keeping your dog on leash keeps your dog safe.
There are lots more reasons–including, of course, that it’s the law most places–but hopefully those three are compelling enough to convince a reluctant leasher to give up those errant ways. Leash your dog or visit an off-leash park.
Teach Your Dog to Walk on Leash
This is not a robust training post. If you need that, check out these posts from expert dog trainers:
I have one main tip that can help your dog walk better on leash, but it has nothing to do with training.
I’ve read in forums people saying that they prefer off-leash parks because their dog is bad on leash. OK. Maybe. I mean, I get going to an off-leash park if your dog is difficult to walk. I get it. And also:
If your dog is difficult to walk, you can teach him or her to walk well… you just need to define what “well” is for you.
For some dog owners, walking well means a dog who stays at your ankle. That’s not me. At all. And I don’t think it should be the case for all dogs, all the time. What fun is it to walk along a strip of pavement or a flat path without exploring what’s around you? I don’t mind if Cooper pulls a bit to direct me to something amazing he has to sniff.
A big part of successful leash walking has nothing to do with the leash. Instead, it has everything to do with meeting your dog’s needs. Those needs include exercise, of course, and also experiencing the world through his senses. So, let your dog get his wiggles and sniffs out AND get some exercise by including focused walking interspersed with exploring.
If you’ve never walked your dog on leash, it might take some getting-used-to. Bring treats and dole them out when your dog checks in with you. Lower your expectations for a “good” walk, and remember that walking together builds your bond. Your dog running off every which way is not a bonding experience!
Plus, again, it’s the law.
Whether that lady ultimately leashed her dog or not, the volunteers saw another dog walker out with two pups on a coupled line, and they gave her the heads-up about the off-leash dog up the trail. If they hadn’t been there, though, that walker would’ve been blindsided by the tantrum lady.
Don’t be that lady. Leash up your pup.
Leashes and Harnesses We Like
Your leash and harness choice depends a lot on the type of place you walk.
For hiking, I love the Kurgo backpack, which doubles as a harness and helps your dog carry some gear.
For basic walks, I love anything you can wash and that comes with metal hardware, like this or this one that donates leashes to dog rescue. For training, check out this long line! It’s now at the top of my wish list!
For nighttime or early morning walks, or for heavily-wooded areas, I rely on reflective neon. Coop currently uses this harness, but it doesn’t appear to be available in all sizes anymore? This one looks awesome, too.
Read more: What I wish you knew about my reactive dog and Running with a dog that pulls
Photos by Dominik Kempf and Jon Koop on Unsplash