Top Five Reasons Your Dog Should be on a Leash

Top Five Reasons Your Dog Should be on a Leash

Professional dog trainer, Nancy Tucker, based in Sherbrooke , Québec, explains more:

In the past week while out walking in the Eastern Townships with my dog Chili, we experienced three unpleasant encounters with other dogs that were off-leash.  Two of those encounters involved the same dog and resulted in Chili being attacked and bitten around her face.

Chili is always on-leash when we leave our property.  She is wary of other dogs and when she sees one, she gets pretty wound up.  When I first adopted Chili from the shelter and before she received some training, her default greeting style consisted of barking and lunging at other dogs.  She wanted to scare them off, and most of the time, this worked quite well.  Now, after working intensively on the issue, she’s able to greet another dog more calmly, provided the meeting is well-orchestrated and controlled by the handlers.  She even enjoys playing with other dogs now and then.  But if she is surprised by one, she reverts to her usual defensive behaviour:  Bark and lunge, ask questions later.  (Yes, this is defensive behaviour.  Chili’s dog-aggression is triggered by fear.)

This is why it’s crucial that I have Chili under my control at all times when we’re out in public.  She has never shown any aggression towards people and in fact is very friendly, but I would never risk being unprepared for a dog-dog encounter by letting her roam off-leash in a public place.

While I understand why people love to unleash their dogs on wooded paths or in parks, and while I agree that dogs fundamentally need the freedom to run and explore as often as possible, here is a quick guide to why your dog should always be on leash when out in open public places (and not at a dog park, where dogs should most definitely NEVER be on leash):

1.  Hey, it’s the law.  Running into trouble while your dog is off-leash can not only be a potentially dangerous situation, it can also turn into a nasty legal one.  If your dog is off-leash in public and does something that evokes a complaint, like knocking down a child with an enthusiastic “hello”, you’ve pretty much already lost any legal arguments before they’ve even begun.

2.  It can save your dog’s life.  Any number of things can distract your dog and prompt him to suddenly bolt.  In town, he might run into the street and get run over.  There are dangers in the woods, too.  I personally know of two incidents involving illegal hunting traps where both resulted in the death of the dog (one in Gatineau, and one in Sherbrooke).  Your dog might suddenly find himself literally on thin ice, or he might chase something that can pose a real danger to him, like a wild animal that doesn’t appreciate being chased.

3.  Not everyone loves dogs.  Some people are downright scared of them.  It doesn’t matter if your dog is a six pound fluff-ball who loooooves people.  To someone who would prefer to keep their distance from dogs in general, having one charging up to them to “say hi” can not only be unpleasant, but possibly very distressing.

4.  Not every dog wants to play with other dogs.  Just like people, many dogs are fearful of other dogs.  In most cases, this is a socialization issue that stems from the lack of positive exposure to other dogs during puppyhood, or perhaps a past negative experience with another dog is to blame.  Or a dog may be elderly, or injured, or simply not feeling well and isn’t into socializing with other dogs.  He may just be a quiet dog who prefers the company of his human and really wishes other dogs would just back off.  Hey, it happens in the human world too:  Some people like to kick up their heels with lots of friends, while others prefer a nice quiet afternoon in solitude with a book.  Also, your dog may appear friendly and playful to you, but in doggie terms, he may actually be rude.  He might be “that dog”, the one that is just a little too direct or interacts too roughly.  Encounters with these dogs almost always end up in some sort of scuffle.

5.  Poop.  Endless supplies of random poop, deposited wherever Fido sees fit.  Since he’s not on leash, he’ll prefer to wander off to find that perfect spot and it will very likely be on someone else’s property. Not cool.

So unless you can be absolutely certain that your dog has the most reliable recall, that he’ll drop everything and come running to you the instant you call him (and this is a skill that needs to be trained, practiced, and proofed over and over again), it’s best to walk him on a leash.  If you can’t count on your dog’s recall, then taking him off-leash is really setting him up for failure, and that’s just not fair to anyone, especially not to your dog.

In another post, I’ll discuss equipment you can use for walking safely with your dog; the good and the bad, and how to use it to maximize you and your dog’s outdoor experience.

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About the author:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANancy Tucker is a dog trainer and behaviour consultant based in Sherbrooke, Quebec.  Born in Drummondville and raised in the Eastern Townships, she is one of only two trainers in the province to have obtained CPDT-KA certification (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed).   Nancy does private in-home training and behaviour modification, and gives seminars and workshops throughout Quebec and the U.S. in both French and English.  She is a professional member of the APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) and a charter member of the Pet Professional Guild, an association promoting force-free training methods.  She shares her home with her husband Tom, teen stepson Matthew, and a spunky red-headed hound mix named Chili.

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