How many times have you been walking your dog on leash and been accosted by another off leash dog with an irresponsible owner screaming behind them as they charge toward you, “my dog is friendly”? Well, what if mine is not? Then as the strange dog charges you and your dog your dog acts aggressively because of the perceived threat and ends up looking like the bad one when it was simply doing what it’s supposed to do!

This scenario happened recently on the VCU campus. A responsible owner was walking her dog on leash when an irresponsible owner allowed their unleashed pit bull type dog to charge the other dog…invading his space and being totally inappropriate. The dog reacted to the other dogs rude behavior and everyone around once again makes a judgment that the pit bull type dog is a “bad dog” when in all reality he is not, this was the owners fault for allowing his dog to be off leash, ignoring the law and the rights of others to safely walk their dogs!

I for one am sick and tired of this scenario! That is reason that almost all localities have a leash law! We expect our dogs to tolerate things that we would never tolerate, and I would never tolerate a stranger rushing up into my face on the street whether he was friendly or not!

So, here are the top 5 reasons to keep your dog on leash at all times

  1. It’s the law. At the risk of stating what should be obvious, if there’s a law in your town that your dog must be leashed (and under your control, not one or the other), put the leash on the dog. So what if you think the chances are slim that you will meet anyone? Does that mean you have the right to break the law, just because no one is looking?
  2. When your dog is under your control – meaning you have him on a leash – he’s less likely to get into something he’s not supposed to. Off leash and romping unfettered through the nature park, he may eat something he’s not supposed to, step in a beehive, fall into a hole, drink from a polluted puddle of standing water, eat a dead animal. There’s often glass, stray food, or other remnants of late night parties off the path that could be dangerous for Fido. And what happens if he’s roaming free and encounters a wild animal, like a skunk? For your dog’s sake, keep him with you and under your control.
  3. Just because your dog is friendly does not mean every dog is friendly. The woods, on a mid-week afternoon may be the perfect place to exercise a dog, which may not like other dogs. Not all dogs do well in puppy playgroups or on pack walks, and that does not make them bad dogs. Some of them just need to walk alone.
  4. Not everyone you meet on the trail is physically able to withstand a dog jumping on him or her, even a nice dog. What if a large dog had charged at a family with children? There could have been a dog bite, scratches, or even injury from the dog knocking down a child. How about someone elderly? I can not tell you the number of older people I see out walking in the parks. Be respectful of all of the people that share the park(s) with you.
  5. People have the right to walk in a public without being confronted by loose dogs. In contrast, dog owners do not have the right to let their dogs run loose. There are dog parks locally where dogs can play off leash and there are any number of facilities that have doggie playgroups. Just because there are dozens of acres of nature trails available does not mean you get to break the law and let your dog run loose.

Being a responsible dog owner is more than just feeding Fido a grain-free diet or buying the latest, trendy toys or debating the merits of positive training methods. If you can not own a dog and also obey the law, maybe you should get a hamster. Changing the public’s perception about Pit Bull Type Dogs, means being a good citizen and being an ambassador for these maligned breeds, when the public sees incident that could have been avoided it only strengthens their argument. Being a responsible dog owner no matter what breed is what changes the public’s perception.