Leash Etiquette: Off-Leash

This past weekend my husband and I were hiking at Panther Creek Trail in the North GA Mountains. It was so wonderful to get out into the wild with the dogs. So many new smells, sights, places to swim, trees to jump over … it was an adventure for all of us.

While we were walking we started to approach a man and his two dogs. The dogs took off running towards me and my dogs barking and growling.

“MY DOGS ARE NICE” the man yelled over his dogs. Let me tell you, as someone who is very familiar with dog body language and signaling… these dogs were NOT approaching us with kindness.

I tried to keep mine moving and calmly talk to them to distract them. They tried to be good and keep eye contact, although they became anxious (as they should be and as I was) for the two dogs who were aggressively approaching. Once the dogs got up on us the intensity of the dogs’ growling and barking increased and they were circling us. I tried to stay calm and keep my dogs moving. The man calmly walked up to his dogs (no rush) yelling at them to get back (which clearly was ineffective as the dogs continued their inappropriate and dangerous behavior).

I was very annoyed and glared at the man “Get your dogs on leash. There is a leash law”. For those of you who know me, you know I am not normally rude to people in public. Although, as a responsible dog owner and animal advocate, I know that there are many reasons that dos are required to be on leash. His complete disregard for the law coupled with the ignorance of his dogs’ aggression are the perfect combination for a disaster.

It is temping to let your dog run loose. But you don't know what is ahead.

So here are 5 reasons you should obey the leash laws:

  • It’s the law: In many places across the country, there are leash laws that require you to keep your dog on leash (sometimes a designated 4-6 foot leash) unless you are in a fenced yard or designated Dog Park. I know some trails are not busy, and what are the chances you come across another? But just because no one is watching, it does not give you the right to break the law.

  • Not all people like dogs! I know, how can this be true? They’re furry, friendly, and load of fun. But, some people are afraid of dogs! No matter how sweet your dog may be, some people do not want to say hello. What if the person feels threatened by your dog and causes him/her harm? What if they do something to frighten your dog and your dog accidentally causes them harm? Do you want your dog to be confiscated by animal control? Do you want your dog quarantined after a bite? Or deemed a dangerous dog by the court?

  • Not all people can handle a dog jumping to say hello, even a nice one. Some people have physical limitations: they are elderly, have back pain, unstable knees, they’re small children. Other people can more easily be harmed by a dog jumping up on them to say hello, even if your pup doesn’t mean to be rude by it. Protect your dog, don’t let them harm anyone.

  • Not all dogs like other dogs! Some dogs may react with fear or aggression when another dog approaches them. Most responsible dog owners know their dogs’ limits and will try to keep their dog away from yours, but others don’t know! This can be a dangerous situation not just for your dog, but also for all the people around! Your dog may be nice, but you cannot expect other dogs to all be friendly. This man thought his dogs were nice… yet every part of their bodies were telling me they were not. What if his dogs hurt me, or my dogs?

  • Being under control leads to safety. If your dog is romping around off-leash they are more likely to get into things they shouldn’t that can cause them danger. They can step on that beehive or wasp nests, get bit by a snake, eat a dead animal, fall into a hole, and more. For your dogs’ safety, its best to keep them under control and on-leash.

  • People have the right to walk in public without being confronted by your lose dog. In contrast, dog owners do not have a right to let their dogs off-leash whenever they choose. I know that everyone thinks their dog is the friendliest, most lovable dog in the world… so everyone should love their dog too. But let me tell you, as a dog lover and dog owner, I do not love your dog like you do. And I do not appreciate your dog running up to me and my dogs.

We are all out trying to have some fun with our dogs. So please do not ruin it for anyone else. If you love your dog, then be a responsible dog owner and keep your dog on leash.

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