Surely you won’t recognize yourself in these, but maybe you can use this article to educate your neighbor or friend who could use a little help.
Many dog owners don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong or even that there are unspoken rules in the dog community. This article aims to fix that by exposing the things that drive most of us dog people batty. Let’s just rip the Band-Aid® off quickly and get right to the mistakes.
Using a Flexi-leash
Unless you’re in an empty area at least the size of a football field, use a 6’ leash on your dog! The most flagrant offense is often seen at close-in spaces like a veterinary office or a downtown area. Your dog doesn’t ever need to be more than 6’ away from you in public. When I take the service dog in-training out with me, he’s usually on a 3’ leash. I don’t want him more than 3’ away from me. If he’s within 3’, I can reinforce him for acceptable behavior and I can prevent him from engaging in inappropriate behavior. More is not better. More than six feet of leash is not a good thing. Having your dog on a Flexi gives him too much access to other dogs and to people. The farther your dog is from you, harder it is for you to watch what he’s getting into, who he’s visiting, and what behavior he’s exhibiting. Flexi leashes are dangerous to you, the dog, and other people (and dogs) in public. According to a 2009 Consumer Reports article, over 16,564 people were injured in 2007. Injuries included amputation, blindness, burns, and cuts. Dogs have been killed while on a Flexi because they were able to dart into traffic even while their owner was safely on the sidewalk.
The Poop Fairy does not exist! If your dog poops anywhere other than on your property, pick it up! Period. There isn’t really any way to defend the act of leaving your dog’s poop behind. You don’t have to buy expensive poop bags, just recycle the plastic sleeve in which your newspaper is delivered. These plastic sleeves are better than commercial poop bags in my opinion – and they’re free! Plus you’re recycling that plastic for a second use. Dog poop isn’t just dirty and stinky. No one wants it on the bottom of their shoe (or on their dog’s paws). In addition to the smell factor, there’s a gross factor: dog poop carries germs. Lots of germs. According to a report from Greenville County, SC, dog poop has 23 million E. coli bacteria per gram. An average dog generates 276 pounds of waste each year. That’s a lot E. coli created each year by a single dog. When you don’t scoop your dog’s poop, that E. coli lives for several years. The poop may wash away, but bacteria remains on the ground and can make dogs and children sick. And when un-scooped dog poop is washed away, it ends up in storm drains or enters waterways directly.
Leashes are important. In many communities, leashes are required equipment when out with your dog. Unless your dog has 100% recall (and none do), your dog is not only a danger to others, but is in danger. Hit by car. More than 1,000,000 dogs are hit by cars every year. A million dogs a year. If your dog is not on a leash while out in public, he’s in danger of being hit by a car.
More than 10,000,000 pets are lost every year. A dog on a leash (with you at the other end) simply cannot get lost. This isn’t hard: keep your dog on a leash no matter what.
Many people are scared of dogs. They were bitten in the past or they have never been exposed to dogs, or they think dogs are dangerous. Whatever the reason, some people don’t want to meet your dog, no matter how friendly he is.
Reactive and aggressive dogs.
Not every dog is as friendly as yours. If your dog is off-leash and encounters an aggressive dog that is leashed (good, responsible owner!), your dog could be seriously injured or even killed. Don’t set your dog up for that kind of trauma – keep your dog leashed! For those of us with reactive dogs, having an off-leash dog run up on us is dangerous as well as infuriating. Having been subjected to the standard “It’s ok, he’s friendly” shout across the field as someone’s dog is barreling toward me and my reactive dog, I can tell you with certainty that those words are not soothing. The look of panic and terror when I yell back “Yeah, but my dog’s not!” never fails to surprise me. Protect your dog – keep him leashed!
Chasing livestock and wildlife.
Off-leash dogs can wreak havoc on local wildlife by chasing them, destroying habitats, killing livestock, etc. In some communities, it’s legal (and frequently practiced) to shoot any dog harassing livestock. Do you really want to let your dog get into that kind of trouble just to “run free” for a few minutes? The “fun” isn’t worth the risk to your dog’s life. Hopefully, you can use this article to help educate others. Take several copies to your local veterinary office and leave them lying around for others to read. Stick the article in your neighbors’ mailboxes so everyone knows just how icky dog poop is when it’s left behind. And leave a few copies on the windshield of cars at the local dog park to help them understand that letting their dog off-leash anywhere but the dog park is like flirting with disaster.
What mistakes do you see dog owners make? Leave a comment and let us know!