The friendly Golden retriever got away from her owner and cavorted around the neighborhood.
She flitted from house to house like a child looking for a playmate on a fine, warm afternoon.
The Golden spied a dog! On a leash! With a person!
She sped over to the pair and was met with a load roar, then felt excruciating pain as the dog on the leash grabbed her shoulder and wouldn’t let go. Her screaming brought the kids outside from their iPad caves. The dog’s owner heard his dog screaming and came barreling around the corner not knowing what he’d find.
The owner of the dog on the leash was in shock. Where had this dog come from?!
After the dust — and emotions — settled, the Golden had a few puncture wounds, a bruised shoulder, and a newfound fear of large white dogs, but would live to see another day.
The entire scene: injured off-leash dog, startled on-leash dog, infuriated dog owners, and terrified children was completely preventable.
The most common desire I hear from my clients is that their dog be able to “run free.” I’m not sure where this idea came from or why it persists in being the #1 thing my clients want for their dog, but I’m here to give you three (really good) reasons to keep your dog on leash.
Reason #1 to keep your dog on leash: It’s the law in most places.
If your dog is allowed off-leash, there’s usually a clause that mandates your dog be under your voice control at all times. That means your dog not only knows how to, but actually will come to you when you call. No matter what. Even if there’s another dog playing in the stream. Or a rabbit running through the brush. Or a kid on the playground.
If your dog has anything less than 100% recall, keep him on-leash.
Reason #2 to keep your dog on leash: You don’t know if the other dogs are friendly.
Like the dog in my example above, not every dog is friendly, and not every dog wants your dog to come say hi, even if you yell “It’s ok, he’s really friendly!” Actually, especially if you’re yelling to me that your dog is friendly. What if my dog isn’t friendly? What are your options? I’m thinking your best option is to use your cell phone to find the closest emergency vet because it’s fairly likely that you’ll be needing it if your dog runs up to a not-so-friendly dog (whose owner is responsibly walking the dog on-leash).
Reason #3 to keep your dog on leash: To prevent your dog from running off and getting lost.
A rabbit scent. An elusive white tailed deer crashing blindly through the woods away from your dog. A gunshot. A surprise thunderstorm. All of these things — and so many more — are fairly likely to happen if you’re out with your off-leash dog. If your dog is a normal dog, he’s going to find some of these things irresistible and some of these things terrifying. Either way, your dog is likely to head away from you. And if you’re not in a fenced yard, your dog might just keep running until he’s exhausted.
It’s a lot harder for your dog to get lost or injured if he’s on leash. Buy a long cotton lead rope (I have one that’s 30′ in the picture above) if you’d like to give your dog some wandering room out in a big field. He can run, but he can’t get away. Good for you, good for the dog. That’s a solution everyone can live with. In more ways than one.