Keep your dog leashed: thoughts from one friendly pet owner to another

Guest post by Kristen Kidd
Keep your dog leashed: thoughts from one friendly pet owner to another
Photo by Kristen Kidd Photography

On New Years Day, my husband Dave and I have a tradition of going for a hike. Our favorite destination is the Gwynedd Preserve, a natural lands trust laced with broad paths weaving through vast fields, into deep woods and across dense meadows. We take our two dogs with us. Our first dog Hudson is tethered to my husband on a hands-free leash and our younger dog Nito is tethered to me.

The Preserve is heaven to us. It’s a best kept secret in our community. We often see other people with their dogs. Though the signs clearly say, “All dogs on leash,” they can’t help but release them. I get it.

There’s nothing like seeing your four-legged friend filled with joy as they bound freely through the field or trot proudly down the path. The pure bliss on their faces is enough to put any pet owner in their own state of bliss by proxy. However, this habit has been a pet peeve of mine for a while. On New Year’s Day my pet peeve erupted into a call to action.

We were at the farthest point of the preserve. There was no one else around. Then Dave calmly said to me, “Kristen there are dogs behind us.” I looked back to see two large dogs (75 to 100 lbs each) and one small dog, all together on the path watching us from behind. They weren’t on leash. No human was in sight with them.

There was reason to be aware, but no reason to be fully alarmed… until they started pursuing us. In a full run, the largest dog approached Dave and Hudson first. It mounted Hudson which triggered a fight. Nito howled and I stood back, completely disarmed. There was nothing I could do without escalating the situation further. Then the second largest dog came toward me and Nito. I yelled at the dog, “Go!” He got the message and turned in the opposite direction, but the largest dog was still scuffling with Hudson.

As pet owners, we believe our pets are the best pets on the face of the earth with the power to melt away anyone’s fears and trauma.

Then, I could see the owner yards away. He had no clue what was transpiring. I screamed for him to collect his dogs. He had his dogs back in his possession after a very long moment or two. He headed in the opposite direction. Somehow everyone walked away unscathed. I was livid. He put all of us in such a dangerous position. It was nothing short of a miracle that no dogs or humans were hurt in the altercation.

People, please keep your dogs on a leash in public when the rules say so. I know this is an extreme set of circumstance. I can hear you saying, “I would never be so far away. My dog is so nice. Everyone love my dog!” I’m sure, but still. Please keep your dog on a leash and hear me out. There are two main reasons to do what the public signs are telling you.

Reason number one: Your dog’s friendly greeting can be a trigger for many humans

In my previous life as a social worker, I assisted individuals with achieving their daily goals within their community. Sometimes this meant things like exercising via walks in the park. Many of the people I supported struggled on a daily basis with catastrophic anxieties, fears, and myriad of traumas. One such man walked multiple times a week in the local park and had a fear of dogs. Despite signs clearly stating “all dogs on leash,” well meaning park patrons would let their sweet pups run free and when they inevitably approached us with wagging tails, the pet owner would call out “He’s friendly.” Well, that’s great, but my friend here is terrified.

As pet owners, we believe our pets are the best pets on the face of the earth with the power to melt away anyone’s fears and trauma. Stop it. That’s our personal, individual truth about the love we have for our pets. That’s not everyone else’s truth. So, while it may not be relatable to envision someone who doesn’t absolutely love dogs, or more specifically your dogs, respect this possibility and keep your dog on a leash.

Reason number two: Your dog’s friendly greeting can be a trigger for many dogs

So, while it’s awesome that your dog is friendly and free roaming, not every dog can safely take part in your dog’s friendliness.

In my previous life as a snarky pet owner, I thought “How sad,” when I encountered a dog with behavioral issues of any kind. In my own mind, I had a solution for all of them that was ridiculously over simplified and lacked perspective. Then I adopted my problem puppy and with him came a dose of reality. Cue a montage of two years of behavioral therapy, intense training, medication, and monitoring. What has resulted from our perseverance is a well-adjusted and happy dog who requires extreme structure and two very humbled pet owners.

Like any living thing with anxieties, traumas, and fears, the end game wasn’t for him to be “cured.” Instead we grew to understand his struggles, mitigate and help him cope and sometimes overcome. We’ve worked endlessly to build security and trust. This is only one example of a billion variations of needs a pet may have.

So, while it’s awesome that your dog is friendly and free roaming, not every dog can safely take part in your dog’s friendliness. Unsolicited greetings from unleashed dogs to leashed dogs can easily trigger fights when one doesn’t understand the history of the dog they’re greeting. The unleashed dog may not have technically started an altercation (made the first growl or lunge) the pet owner of the dog that’s off leash can still be at fault. For your dog’s well being and the well being of all dogs, it’s important to keep your dogs leashed. Some dog owners are working hard to create a safe environment for their anxious dogs to enjoy the world around them fearlessly.

Listen, if you’re on private property, or public property that indicates that your dog can be off leash, have at it. If you want to liberate your pups please do so in a safe place like a large, fenced-in back yard or a (theoretically safe) dog park. Otherwise, if the signs say “dogs on leash,” please help us all stay safe and keep your beautiful, friendly dog on a leash.

This post originally appeared here.

Comments on Keep your dog leashed: thoughts from one friendly pet owner to another

  1. Shout it from the rooftops!!!

    Your dog might be friendly. My dog is not. My dog wants to eat your dog. If your dog comes up to my dog leashed or unleashed, my dog will attack. Then your friendly dog will react in self defense. It’s nature. If your dog is unleashed, there is nothing that can be done to break up the fight other than a human jumping in the middle which puts us at risk. If I’m walking my dog alone, I’m powerless because I pull my dog away with her leash and your unleashed dog follows, the fight continues.

    You mentioned humans being triggered but I also want to point out humans with disabilities. My friend has CP and has very shaky balance. If a dog runs up to her and knocks her down in a friendly greeting, it’s bad news.

    Get a long retractable leash if you want to give your dog some freedom on hikes. But please keep them leashes!


      It’s great that your dog is friendly but mine aren’t! Especially not when approached unexpectedly while they’re on a leash (which puts them at a disadvantage).

      Plus, I don’t care how well trained you think your dogs are… if you are ANYWHERE near a road, put your damn dog on a leash. Every dog is susceptible to slip-ups and a squirrel or cat or another dog on the other side of the road might just be the thing that gets them hit by a car.

  2. I am *NOT* a dog friendly owner. I carry bear mace for dogs that run up to mine without any sort of visible owner or restraint. This is for MY dog’s protection as well as my own.

    I truly wish we had a completely different culture around our dogs. Keep them on leash, don’t let them meet other dogs on leash, keep them restrained when meeting people. THIS ISN’T HARD but people fail at doing this.

    • Oohhh. Mace. I never thought of this and it’s now on my shopping list.
      I am also not a friendly dog owner. When the jerk with the dog off leash yells “He’s friendly!” my reply is “I’M NOT! Get your dog on a leash NOW!”
      My dog is small-ish and is very timid around larger dogs. I have previously had two different dogs that were attacked by dogs that were off leash, leaving me with injured animals and huge vet bills. I have zero tolerance for a dog off leash, or for the owner who tries to convince me their dog is under their control and will come when called. Because they never ever do.
      Letting a dog off leash is ignorant, selfish and disrespectful.
      Mace. This is an excellent idea.

      • I’m so glad I’m not the only “not dog friendly” dog owner. I have always felt like an asshole, but after seeing the fear in my dogs eyes when approached repeatedly by leashed dogs, we have NEVER gone back to the park. The LEASHED park, I might add. That’s not fair that I don’t get to use the park now because some idiot thinks their dogs wants are greater than my dogs needs.

        • My priority is to the safety of my dog and myself. Damn anyone else who thinks they have a right to let their dog off leash.

          Where I live, there’s a couple who enjoys bullying everyone in the neighborhood…literally everyone. They have threatened more than once to let their dog aggressive Corso off leash so she can kill my Doberman. I do not mess around with my dog’s safety…if I hurt their dog in defense of mine, it’s their fault.

          I feel zero guilt over protecting me and mine, and I certainly don’t feel like an asshole for it. You shouldn’t, either.

    • Ugh this makes me so sad- it’s not the dog’s fault, it’s their owners, but of course the dogs are the ones who have to suffer as usual (I totally get it though – you have to protect your own pup and yourself.) I absolutely loathe anyone who puts their dog in a situation to get hurt by being an irresponsible jackass.

  3. If your dog is trained properly you don’t need a leash. My collie wouldn’t leave my side unless given the command to do so, she was so well trained I could literally just place the end of the leash on her back and it wouldn’t fall off. Unfortunately most dogs aren’t trained properly. I don’t see why a properly trained dog shouldn’t have the freedom to run if she returns when recalled. A high energy dog needs to run.

    • Thing is, there are leash laws for a reason. The laws apply to everyone. If your high energy dog needs to run, might I suggest finding a sport in which your dog might excel? Or going places where there aren’t leash laws?

    • …and technically, if you pack your main parachute properly, you don’t NEED an emergency chute. Still, what skydiver doesn’t pack one?

      Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of it as a “leash” and instead, as a “safety harness.”

    • But I have no way of knowing whether your dog is properly trained or not. If I see a dog who isn’t on a leash, for my safety and that of any dogs/children with me, I must assume that dog is a threat. Anyone who has a fear of dogs must assume that your dog is a threat. Now you’ve made other people go out of their way to avoid you in a public area because you don’t want to follow the rules.

    • That’s what dog parks are for. Let ’em run free until their hearts content. You bring them to a place with a leash law, I expect it to be followed, or you can expect some words from me.

    • The problem with this sentiment is that everyone thinks their dog is well-trained. Go to an off-leash park if you’d like to unleash your dog. Otherwise, keep the leash on, please.

    • Anyone who reads the original post, and responds with something that effectively begins with, “But MY dog would NEVER…” has missed the point completely and needs to reread the original post (slowly and carefully this time). You are *precisely* the target of the article.

    • Oh, give me a break. Collies are working dogs that require a job to do. If you have a dog you are failing to care for properly, that is on you. You don’t get to flout the law just because you’re not meeting her needs in terms of stimulation and expending energy.

  4. As an additional caveat to this, be wary when allowing leashed dogs to meet, even if the other owner says their dog is friendly. I spent Christmas night in the vet hospital because he was attacked (while both were on leash) by a “friendly dog”.

    I was walking my dog around one of our normal routes. My dog is the most chill dog I know and has always been a bit timid and has never shown any signs of aggression. I generally leave it up to him if he wants to meet another dog and have in the past trusted other owner’s assessments of their own dog. We came upon an older lady walking a dog also on leash. Both dogs seemed like they wanted to meet and the other owner said her dog was friendly so we let them approach each other; both leashes were loose. They were sniffing each other’s butts when all of a sudden the other dog turned around and chomped down on my dog’s throat. My dog froze and started squealing and the other dog wouldn’t let go. I, in hindsight rather dumbly, tried to pry the other dog’s mouth open and after able 30-45 seconds he did. My dog started freaking out and barking and we got distance from each other. After a quick look at my pup, l didn’t see any blood or anything beyond a bit of bruising so we walked home and I didn’t get the other owner’s name or contact info. He seemed relatively ok on the way home: sniffing, tail up and no signs of pain. When I got home, I looked closer and found a puncture wound. Thank goodness my dog is as big as he is and has been so much extra skin around his neck otherwise his injuries would have been a hell of a lot worse and maybe fatal. Noting major was hit. He got stitches, a drain and some bruising but has healed up well.

  5. 100% this.

    When my daughter was five she was bite several times by a pair of dogs. They were both “well behaved and friendly”. One was even a trained therapy dog. One dog growled and snapped at the other and a quick fight broke out. It lasted 60 seconds. My 5 year old just happened to be standing between them (she was not what provoked the dogs snap). The dogs were fine. The owners were fine. My 5 year old spent a week in the hospital, had 2 surgeries, and will have several prominent scars on her cheeks and forehead for the the rest of her life. So keep your dogs on leash unless you are somewhere dogs are supposed to be off leash. Your dog could be a well oil machine of breeding and training but if their is a leash requirement they need to be on a leash. Other dogs who are not so well trained may be around and someone else will pay the consequences.

  6. My husband is a runner and has twice been bitten by off-leash dogs. I have scooped my small daughter up to protect her from out of control dogs as the owners chase far behind yelling “he’s friendly!” My shy, reactive dog is always leashed, but it is very difficult to help him develop a calm attitude when he is regularly approached by dogs who are free to go wherever they want.

  7. It’s insane that people allow their dogs off leash, ever. My dog is extremely territorial, and we’ve only been able to have people at our home this year. Never before. It’s taken 8 years. I have him because the people who had him before were badly abusive to him. He’s still skittish around people who act weird. If he’s alone or at the kennel we trust, he is okay with other large, quiet dogs. If I’m around, forget it. Keep your dogs leashed and always ask their owners before approaching.

    • Sadly dogs who have been abused or who are not good at socialising with other dogs are far too common (and you’re doing a wonderful thing giving a loving home to such a dog), but they are not the majority. It’s insane to think it’s insane that dogs are allowed off the lead, “ever”! The article wasn’t about never letting dogs off the lead, only about keeping them on the lead when there’s a sign telling you to do so. Your dog may not be able to go off the lead, ever, but that doesn’t apply to every other dog, ever.

  8. I am always always prepared to scoop my 40 lb dog up if some asshole lets their dog come running up to mine because she is a mean girl and will growl and snap if she sees another dog (she came from the street, idk why she’s like this). But I’ll be damned if people don’t act like I’m the jerk in that situation. I don’t care how well trained a dog is, it’s still a dog with impulses.

    • I have a leash trained cat. For whatever reason, she hates dogs with a passion. I pick her up when dogs approach because she will always instigate a fight. I lost track of the number of times I’ve said, “I’m sure your dog is awesome, but my cat is a jerk. I’m going to stay away.”

  9. THIS. 100% this. I was a full-time animal control officer for 8 years, and I lost count of how many times an owner told me that their dog is perfectly trained with voice commands and doesn’t need to be on a leash. Then their dog is attacked by another dog that it approaches. Or gets frightened by a loud noise and runs off. Or sees a squirrel and reverts back to their natural instinct to chase….into traffic. Or knocks over an old lady out walking.

    Seriously, leash laws exist for a reason. Unless you’re in a secluded area where you 100% know you’re not going to encounter another person, keep your “well trained” dog on a leash.

    • While I understand where you are coming from, I would encourage you not to encourage people to ever have their dogs off leash, even in a “100% secluded area”. This could easily lead to some slippery slope sort of thinking. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in parks and had a dog run up to me with the owner ineffectually trying to corral them while sheepishly saying something along the lines of “I thought we had the park to ourselves.”

      • I’m not sure exactly why this is a problem – assuming the dog didn’t jump up, growl, snarl, bite, steal your sandwich etc. I get that if someone has a phobia it would be terrifying to have a dog run up to you and I’m not trying to dismiss that. But the majority of people do not have a phobia (a phobia isn’t the same as not liking) and even those who do know they may encounter dogs in public spaces, just as an arachnophobe may encounter a harmless but terrifying spider at any moment.

        If someone believes they are alone on a park, why shouldn’t they let their dog off the lead? If someone who didn’t like children walked into a field and unexpectedly had a child run up to them, that person would have to deal with it without blaming the parent for letting their child run loose. Having said child try to hug you, put their sticky hands on you, rub their snotty nose on you or shout at you isn’t acceptable and the parent shouldn’t allow that behaviour, just as dogs shouldn’t run up to people and slobber on them; but simply existing in the same space and running over to investigate a new person isn’t a crime.

        • Because you have no idea whether or not someone has a life threatening allergy to dogs. Or balance issues. A “friendly dog” put me in the hospital by knocking into me while I was recovering from knee surgery.

          And people blame parents for their children’s behavior ALL THE TIME, so that’s a bit of a suspect argument. And I am much more likely to get bitten by a stressed out dog than a stressed out kid.

          Where I am it’s the law to keep your dog on a leash unless it is specifically posted as a leash free area. It is reasonable to expect dog owners to follow the law.

          • Sorry, maybe “blame the parent” wasn’t quite the right word, perhaps “take issue with” would have been better – as in, you can’t expect children not to run around in a park just because you don’t like it. But you can take issue with them running up to you and knocking into you, just like with dogs, and clearly if a dog ran into you (whether you have balance issues or recent surgery or not) it’s not acceptable. I was never saying it was OK for dogs to jump up on random people, just that it’s not necessarily bad if they’re running around loose in a field or park and happen to run near another person. Bad behaviour is a separate issue.

            I also wouldn’t know if someone has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts, and I’d still eat peanuts in public unless I knew of a reason not to (obviously without putting them on other people, but some are so allergic that even the smell can cause a reaction which I wouldn’t know about unless they told me. I’ve been on a plane where they said no peanuts could be consumed on the flight as someone had a severe allergy, so of course no one ate peanuts – but that doesn’t mean no one would usually eat peanuts).

            Obviously if it’s the law you’d expect a dog to be on the lead. I’m not clear on the laws/customs in America; is it a default that dogs must always be on a lead unless specifically stated otherwise? Because where I live it’s the other way around (dogs can be off the lead unless otherwise stated, but must always be “under control” which means on a lead most of the time anyway if in a city, by a road etc). So if I was walking a dog in a secluded area it would be expected for the dog to be off the lead barring special circumstances (signs saying to keep dogs on the lead, or the specific dog not being trustworthy off the lead), while from your perspective maybe even in that situation the law would say the dog had to be on a lead and that’s what you would rightly expect. Sorry for the long reply/explanation!

          • The general dog culture in Europe is completely different from American dog culture. On this side of the pond, training is often seen as optional by those who fail to understand basic dog husbandry. These are the same people who anthropomorphize their dogs and ignore basic breed traits, directly harming the dog’s ability to cope with the world in the process.

          • Ah I think we may be coming at this from different angles – most parks I know of don’t have laws about dogs being on a lead, only “under control”, so I apologise if I misunderstood. Also the original poster above said “secluded area” not “park”, which to me says somewhere out in the countryside away from everyone. Would it still be the law for dogs to be on leads there? It wouldn’t be the case where I’m from, but maybe even with all the wilderness America has dogs still aren’t allowed off the lead in it? Sorry if I’m confused on this!

          • It depends on what the OP considers “secluded” – secluded, but in a populated area? Leash. Secluded and in the middle of nowhere? Know your dog.

            Most of the folks here, I think, live in populated areas. We should look at it in that way…and in that case, absolutely keep the beasts leashed unless they’re involved in a sport or hunting (and even then, know your dog and the area…though those dogs tend to be MUCH more trained than your average Joe and his shelter dog).

  10. Yes! Leash your dogs! My cat was plucked off of the exterior window sill of our house by a huge dog. He lost all his claws in the fight for his life, and had to go to the emergency vet. I’m sure the dog was wonderful to it’s owners, but it came into our space and nearly killed our pet because it was off leash.

    • This is so huge! My partner is also severely allergic to dogs. People don’t think. I don’t care how friendly your dog is, it could still kill people without trying.

  11. Yes. Thank you. I have scars on my arm from the time when I was walking my (leashed) dog down the road and my neighbor’s German Shepherd ran into the road to attack us. That was nearly five years ago but I still panic when I see an unleashed dog.

  12. I HATE dogs. Always have, probably always will. I get that some people like them. I do not. When random dogs approach me, I’m scared of getting bitten or attacked. I don’t give a shit if your dog is “friendly” or “well trained”, I don’t want it in my personal space. If your dog is on a leash, it won’t try to run up and jump on me (which is terrifying).

    My best friend was walking his (small) dog and got mauled by a large dog that was off-leash. He had to go to the hospital to get treated (luckily they were finally able to find the rabies tag so he didn’t have to also get preventative rabies treatment, which can involve a vaccine in every open wound) and his little dog barely survived after emergency surgery. He has severe PTSD, scars, and chronic pain as a result.

    Keep your goddamn dogs on leashes when you’re not in a dog park/off leash area/your own fenced yard. Full stop.

    • I, too, dislike and fear dogs, and I wish dog-lovers would stop shaming non-dog people. I’d ask any dog owner to consider the following:

      – Dogs can do a lot of damage with their sharp teeth, and if they are larger, large bodies. Whenever I encounter one on the street, I have a split second to decide whether to let it get anywhere near me. I never know whether a dog is well-behaved or about to snap. I breathe a sigh of relief when your well-trained dog ignores me, because this is not the norm.

      – Many, many dogs are aggressive and strain on their to attack passers by. They force others walkers off the sidewalk. This is threatening behavior (on the part of the dog) and controlling behavior (the owner). It says the dog walker’s right to inhabit the space is more important my safety.

      – How is aggressive barking different from aggressive shouting or cat-calling? A barking dog, straining at its leash to attack, is VERY CLEARLY making a threat. It’s unwanted attention, but we’re expected to ignore it because it’s “natural dog behavior.” Your dog might not, but many dogs (including my neighbor’s) try to scare me and threaten to attack me, even though I am paying no attention to them, for such behavior as: 1) Walking in my yard 2) Getting groceries out of my car and 3) Standing on the porch in my back yard. This is very stressful and upsetting.

      – Other dogs are not aggressive but are very invasive. I do not want a strange animal in my personal space, much less sticking its unwelcome nose into my private places. Many owners seem to think this is “cute.” You chose to be a dog owner, but I NEVER consented to this. Please control your animal.

      – Even worse, some dog owners are proud when their dogs rip other animals to shreds. I have known several of these people. They will often say, “That’s just what dogs do.” Remind me again why I shouldn’t fear your unknown, unleashed dog?

      Please leash your dog unless you are in a leash-free space, and in public, please give other public-space-users plenty of space to avoid your “friendly” dog. And please, PLEASE allow me to consent – OR NOT – to sharing space with this unwelcome, frightening animal. You chose “dog.” That is your choice. Please let me choose “No thanks.”

      • I think you’re assigning a lot of human motivation and emotion to an animal who is operating mostly out of instinct. It’s fine to not like dogs and avoid them, and it’s 1000% fine to expect owners to have control over their dogs and keep them on leashes in public spaces. But yes, you might have to walk around a dog on the sidewalk just like I might have to walk around someone’s baby carriage or sticky-handed kid. You may have to ask if someone has a dog before coming to their house (where their dog will obviously want to sniff and interact – it’s HIS house, remember, not yours) – just like I have to ask about cats because I’m allergic. I would hate if my dog ripped an animal to shreds, but it’s no more a sign of a dangerous creature than a cat catching a mouse or you eating a burger. Barking isn’t always aggressive behavior, either – most people INCLUDING dog owners are terrible at interpreting dog communication. Often it’s an alert- “Someone’s here! Look alive! Get ready!” … my dogs bark when I come home, when friends come visit, doesn’t matter.

        It’s fine to not like dogs, and I’m sorry that dog owners have been disrespectful of your preference, but I think there’s a lot of unwarranted ire in your post towards a population of animals that is, ultimately, WAY less likely to hurt or kill you than a fellow human.

        • Actually, in all of these instances, the issue is the owner.

          The owner has not trained their dog to be a good canine citizen or safe, respectful neighbor (especially in the case of the owner who is PROUD that their animal is dangerous). Instead, the owner is using the dog’s instincts as an EXCUSE for their irresponsibility, and blaming anyone who objects for not consenting to tolerate it.

          What you do on your private property is your choice, and I have a choice to visit and consent to sharing space with your animal, or not. If the dog interferes with me on MY private property, sorry, but the owner is being a bad neighbor.

          However, as long as these kinds of owners are out there, there is a chance that a random stranger’s dog – especially an uncontrolled dog – could be very dangerous.

          So I stand by my statement that dog owners chose “dog,” and they should respect the rest of us enough to let us enthusiastically choose “dog” or say “no thanks.” Consent.

  13. Our dog is 100% trained, and is absolutely wonderful off leash. He loves being able to roam free. Most of the time he minds his own business, and doesn’t generally even engage with other dogs or other people. We got him as a stray and have worked hard over the last 8 years to make sure he’s “friendly” around other dogs and young children.

    That being said, we ALWAYS respect leash laws in public places. This is for his safety, and to respect other people. If we choose to take him on a hike (and boy does he LOVE hikes!) we choose the specific off-leash trails in our area.

    I do think there is some balance of knowing and trusting your dog, because we very occasionally let him off in extremely remote places where we know there won’t be any other people. He is the kind of dog who doesn’t leave our side (not even to chase a squirrel.) But even so, as soon as we catch glimpse of another person, he goes on a leash. Obviously, this is always risky, but it’s our right as dog owners to assess that, and most of the time we err on the side of leashing him.

    I will say that this works in the other direction too! If your dog is not “friendly” or trained, or needs space from other dogs, or is not spayed or neutered, please DO NOT take them to an off leash trail! We have had some altercations with dogs that “didn’t like to be approached” by other dogs. Uh, NO, this is a designated off leash trail, and our dog is behaving by the rules here.

    The same goes to our home. We have a dog, so if you have severe dog allergies, or a legitimate phobia of dogs, we will politely suggest that you don’t come over.

    • So much this! There are times when it is appropriate for a dog to run free, and times when it’s appropriate to be on the lead. I don’t much like kids and wouldn’t want them running up to me and hugging me, no matter how “cute and harmless” everyone else thinks it is, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think kids should ever be able to run free! Same with dogs.

      As you say, know your dog and assess the situation. In fact, assessing the situation is something everyone does repeatedly – it’s how we live life without encasing ourselves in bubble-wrap or robotically following set rules regardless of whether they’re appropriate!

      • I really do feel like it’s not an all or nothing answer. It’s about knowing your dog, gauging the situation, respecting others, and erring on the side of caution. And taking FULL responsibility for your dog’s behavior as an extension of your own character. We all have the right to exist in public spaces. We create rules and norms that help us all coexist.

        But I do feel like there are people that won’t understand why I ever own a dog or how much joy I get from acting wild with him in a big open field. I’m glad more dog parks and off leash trails are starting to pop up. That seems to be the best compromise.

        • Indeed, there’s no way you can apply a blanket rule to all dogs or all situations. I walk a lot of dogs, and walking them on the lead is no substitute to letting them run free.

          A human’s gait and a dog’s are very different. It’s not fair to restrict dogs to being on a lead constantly and expect them to go at the human’s pace; they don’t get the appropriate exercise, and as someone who walks faster-than-average for a human I know how strangely tiring it can be to be forced to walk at a slow human’s pace. On the other hand, there are certain situations when dogs must be on a lead, and situations where some dogs can be trusted off a lead and not others. It seems like too many people think that all dogs should be on leads all the time regardless of circumstance, rather than what’s appropriate for the individual dog (unless there are specifically signs requiring dogs to be on a lead for whatever reason).

          Maybe it’s an American thing, like always keeping cats indoors no matter what – in the UK dogs are allowed off the lead unless stated otherwise, but must be kept under control (a bit like how there’s no legal age limit for leaving a child alone but they must always be safe). It baffles me to hear that in America there are dog parks where dogs aren’t allowed off the lead – WTF?! That defeats the whole purpose! You can walk your dog on a lead anywhere; a dog park implies it’s for dogs to run around in! Or maybe I misunderstand…

          • A *dog* park is an off leash park, where people without dogs don’t go. They’re usually fenced and clearly marked, and in some areas they don’t permit people in unless they’re paying members.

          • (Also, the vast majority of parks in the US are NOT dog parks. To my knowledge, no national or state park permits off-leash dogs.)

          • lilbit01, thanks for clearing up that dogs don’t have to be on a lead in dog parks – I got the impression they do from some of the comments so I clearly misunderstood.

            Although the original post was about keeping your dog on the lead if there are signs/rules telling you to do so, I feel like some think a dog should never be off the lead in public ever. I’ve never seen a “dog park” ie just for dogs, and I don’t know how common they are. I’m used to parks that are for everyone including dogs, usually with a separately-fenced play area for children where dogs aren’t allowed. (I’m thinking of a park as a big green space in a city, maybe like New York’s Central Park but not as big? Rather than a national park, as in a designated area of countryside/wilderness. Some might require dogs to be on leads, but that’s down to the individual park rather than a default for all of them.)

          • Dog parks are fairly common in cities and areas with higher population. I live in a city and there are 4 within a 20 minute drive of my house.

            Again, this is the difference between American dog culture and European dog culture. We as a population often excuse lack of training by claiming dogs are previously abused. It’s a bogus excuse and stems from lack of education and lack of willingness to work on training.

  14. Also, in many areas (like here in Colorado), leash laws are there to protect wildlife from your dog and vice versa. There are mountain lions in my backyard park, and you wouldn’t believe how many dogs are attacked by moose who feel threatened. I let my dog chase prairie dogs when I first moved here, and then I learned that prairie dogs carry the black plague. So, besides all the other wonderful points above, there may be reasons above and beyond for leashing your dogs in a given park or trail.

    • This is actually a really good point that folks often forget. Many parks and public green spaces have leash laws to keep dogs out of sensitive areas to protect wildlife and sensitive plants. Our neighborhood park is currently in the process of a major revitalization effort, including invasive removal and establishing native plants. One of the problems with getting the native plants established is the park is popular with area dog owners who are used to letting dogs run off leash and the dogs are disturbing the fresh plantings before they have a chance to really establish. Which kills the native plants and allows the invasive plants to move back in. This then requires expensive repeated replanting. Another local park and wildlife area had to close off a section of the park to visitors because off leash dogs were regularly disturbing the native ground nesting bees.

    • Yes, this is another valid reason for keeping a dog on the lead, and a difficult one as it may not be immediately obvious. In this situation I think it would help immensely if there were signs clearly stating why dogs have to be on a lead or at least under close control (nearby cows or sheep are another good reason), as otherwise it can seem an arbitrary rule, or people think it only applies when other humans or dogs are nearby. Knowing a reason for a rule usually leads to more people obeying said rule.

  15. I agree 100% with all of this. Leashes all the time, and keep it loose if your dog is that well trained. My dog is weary of strangers and weary but interested in other dogs but that interest exhibits itself with barking and fur hackles and a high emotional state which I’m afraid could turn aggressive if left unchecked. She wants to get near, but she’ll skitter away randomly, and the dance continues. The result of this behaviour is always keep her on a leash and always be ready to scoop her up if a non-leashed dog comes near, or even a leashed dog if there’s not enough room for me to pass without them interacting — and we don’t go to off leash dog parks for her safety and the others. (And they come with their own host of problems.) I don’t walk her as much as I should, but our yard is well used and the neighbor dog gets a running partner when they sprint the fence line with each other.

  16. All of this! I live in a neighborhood that consists entirely of condos, not a backyard in sight and SO MANY people walk their dogs off leash! My pibble is a rescue and is very dog reactive. A few months ago a cocker spaniel got away from her owner and came right for us. My 80 pound beefcake was fine but both the spaniel and I ended up in the hospital. Fortunately, under the laws in my state pets are considered private property so my boy wasn’t blamed; something I was very worried about given some peoples’ prejudice towards pit bulls. I don’t care how well-trained your dog is; if they’re triggered it’s going to be bad for everyone involved. Semi-related–in the ER I learned that if you ever have to break up a dog fight with your own hands the best thing to do is grab their back legs. It should throw them off balance enough that they let go of each other.

    • Your pit could be a purchased dog from an ethical, reputable breeder and you’d still face dog aggression issues. They’re just prone to it as part of the breed. And most people fail to understand this. It’s good you’re aware of your dog’s particular issues, though.

      (In your case, I’d learn how to use and make a point to carry a break stick at all times while walking your dog.)

      • Come on, don’t spread tired misinformation about the breed. MANY pitbulls live happily with other dogs. Meanwhile my pomeranian will fuck a bitch up if they come too close. Early socialization, training, and the dog’s individual personality all play a part.

        The big thing about pitbulls, and other large muscular dogs, is that if they DO get in a fight they are probably going to win it. Cocker spaniels are known for aggression issues too, but guess who got hurt.

        • Do you know the history of the breed? Do you know the drive that is bred into them? To deny their origins is to deny their basic makeup, and I’m sorry, but that’s foolish.

          From the UKC’s page on the American Pitbull Terrier (found here:, “Although some level of dog aggression is characteristic of this breed, handlers will be expected to comply with UKC policy regarding dog temperament at UKC events.” From their published Standard, “Because most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression and because of its powerful physique, the APBT requires an owner who will carefully socialize and obedience train the dog.”

          This is acknowledging the breed is prone to dog aggression. Will every purebred example exhibit dog aggression? No, they won’t…but ignoring the likelihood is foolhardy.

          Furthermore, most “pitbulls” are, in fact, bully breed mixes. They may be tempered by whatever else is in the mix. If the dog was found in rescue, it isn’t a purebred American Pitbull Terrier – it’s a mix, and should be called that.

          And don’t think I’m hating on the breed, or the mixes seen in shelters. I own another breed prone to dog aggression – the Doberman Pinscher – and am well aware of the risks if I were to bring a second bitch into my home.

        • All that being said, I absolutely agree – the larger dog in a fight will always win. The dog with the worst stigma will always be blamed. This is a risk we take when we bring home larger, “scary” dogs. Knowing the individual dog’s temperament and socializing the dog appropriately based on that temperament is key.

          • Not to make light of this dilemma and the very on point concern that the larger and more “scary” dog is likely to be blamed in the case of a conflict, but I have seen my large and gentle leashed dog attacked by a smaller unleashed dog (in this case the smaller dog ran out of his yard while we were walking by).

          • @Seraf73 – that isn’t surprising! MANY larger dogs end up the victim of a small, aggressive dog which has been permitted to act a fool without correction. I hope your dog was alright after that encounter.

            My only point was regardless of which dog was at fault, if the larger dog responds appropriately (with teeth), the larger dog almost always ends up blamed, usually by the owner of the smaller, aggressive beast.

  17. I am dog neutral at best, but I hate ignorant, inconsiderate dog owners (sadly, the vast majority of them). Nothing pisses me off like having “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” hollered at me, usually from half a mile back. “Friendly” dogs still lick, slobber, jump up, knock people down, get in the way, lean on you, try to force you to pet them, and shove their nose in your crotch (which is not as funny as so many of you seem to think it is). This is not ok and is not doing anything to make me like you or your dog any more.

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