There are very few places my dogs are allowed off leash: in my fenced backyard and at my parent's place on Lake Anna. That's just about it — two places. Call me a worry-wart. Call me a rule-follower. Call me whatever you want, but I'm not comfortable taking the chance that they'll take off after a deer, get lost, get hit by a car, or find an unfriendly dog and get into a fight. All of those possibilities have dire consequences — any one of those consequences could be the end of my dog. That's not a chance I'm willing to take, no matter how "liberating" it would be for my dog.
The picture on the left was taken when we went camping with the dogs. Notice the long leashes — both dogs are safely contained at our campsite on 30 foot cotton leashes. They can wander, but they can't go far. And they can't get into any serious trouble.
Some of my clients have fearful dogs, aggressive dogs, and unfriendly dogs. Some are unfriendly to people, while others are unfriendly toward other dogs (no matter how pleasant and friendly the other dog or other person is). I'm always shocked when they tell me they let their dog off-leash, knowing that their dog could cause damage to another person or dog, and knowing their dog doesn't have a good recall. That's asking for trouble.
The common thought that all these people have is a dangerous one: "We go to very remote areas of the park, trail, etc. where no one is." No one except every other person with a dog who either won't come when called or who isn't friendly to other people or other dogs. So now, not only are they doing something inherently dangerous to begin with, but they're increasing the chances that they're going to come upon another dog just like theirs – one who won't come when called, or worse, who will get into a fight with their dog.
It's just not worth it. What if your dog runs off? What if he starts a fight with another dog? Or is attacked by another dog? Or bites a person? Or gets hit by a car? Or gets quilled by a porcupine? (That really happened to a friend of mine who has great recall on his dogs, but he didn't see the porcupine until it was too late…).
So there really isn't a safe way to let your dog off leash unless you're in a fenced area. The consequences are simply too deadly. And it only takes one time for your dog to lose it's life. Just not worth it to me.
Denise Portis says
My assistance dog has a great long recall. Doesn’t matter, however, I never let her off leash on walks or hikes. I’m with you… why take that risk? She’s off leash in our back yard, house, and at the training center in Laurel.
We meet plenty of off leash dogs at Gambrill State Park. I just don’t understand owners who do that…
thisbliss (Lindsay) says
I won’t take the risk, either. And I also don’t really understand why other people do!
I used to have a Sheltie (Shea has gone on to the Bridge now) whose sire had every obedience title imaginable. He was walking off leash with his person, took off after a small furry that caught his attention, was hit by a car, and died. Every time I see a dog off leash, I think of him.
I wish more people understood that it’s just not worth the risk!
Erica Kahunanui says
Not to mention, it’s completely against dog-owner etiquette! A person’s off-leash dog may be the most perfect dog in the world…my monster Bizzle is not. All the hard training we do to help her overcome her dog-reactivity flies out the window when someone’s off-leash dog comes running up on her.
It’s rude and unfair and I wish people would be more considerate…
We have an added concern in our area. Coyotes. One of my friends takes her dogs on off-leash walks on a relatively remote trail that’s a few miles away from where I live. On one of their walks a few weeks ago, one of her dogs was attacked by two coyotes. Scary stuff.
Yeah ditto your post. Also, when you have a big dog as we do, you have to understand that some non-dog people, including children, are scared of dogs so that a big friendly dog running up to say hi can be absolutely terrifying for them. In some countries a dog jumping up excitedly at a person is considered a dog attack.
I think sometimes a loose dog charging up to another that’s on leash is considered potentially threatening to the dog on leash. You know, when they don’t do the stop, look, play bow, run up, stop thing that’s so cute.
Dorice Stancher says
I am a dog trainer who lost an obedience champion to cancer. I never let him off leash unless he was training in class, a dog park or a competition. It is just too dangerous and it can frighten people. It also encourages “macho” types to let their untrained and poorly socialized dogs to run free. Many adults and children are afraid of dogs and it isn’t fair to frighten them with an uninvited charge from a dog. Finally as part of the AKC Canine Good Citizen Pledge dogs should not run free on city streets.
Laurie Luck says
Denise: Thanks for your comment. I wish more people kept their dogs on leash. *Especially* the ones who don’t have a good recall or whose dogs aren’t particularly friendly! (Or are overly friendly – I’ve got a dog who is reactive to other dogs when she’s on leash [expecially if the other dog is off leash].) It’s more than a little frustrating! :0
Laurie Luck says
Lindsay: Thanks for your comment. I offer good-manners classes at veterinary hospitals. It always pains me when an emergency hit-by-car comes into the hospital. A leash could have prevented the pain and heartache. 🙁
Laurie Luck says
Dorice: you are so right! All of your points are good ones, and well taken! Thanks for the comment.
Kim and Buddy says
I agree, I have an adopted dog from Greece that took me two long months to finally bring to the UK and I will not let him off the lead in public places. Only recently I went to the local park and an owner with a large huskie dog (she seemed to have little control over) and he came bounding over to my dog who was on a lead and I picked him up in my arms until the dog went away (which seemed like ages), it is really irresponsible because like you say once something has happened it is too late.
Mariah Blum says
I understand your worries as a dog owner. I, too, am worried about my dogs when taking them out for a walk. But I see to it that they are comfortable and that I am using the right kind of leash on them.