It’s the simplest “tool” for training dogs. It doesn’t require much instruction, has few moving parts, and is one of the most basic dog essentials. And yet, multiple times this week we’ve witnessed people not using it. People! Put a leash on your dog!
Sitting in the shop, watching the world go by, we see a woman and her pre-teen child walking down the sidewalk, pulling a wagon. With a cute, little, fluffy white dog in the wagon. The dog jumps out and races across the street – with cars coming in both directions. The woman is shrieking through her mask for the dog, who’s wearing a harness (good!) but no leash (bad). Fortunately, both were fine and the dog corralled in just a few minutes.
Then there’s the neighborhood guy around the shop who insists on walking his dog without a leash. We’ll admit that our shop is on a side street, in our suburb’s downtown. It’s not the busiest street around – but it is in a very urban area. Our town borders Chicago and has about 60,000 residents. It’s not the middle of nowhere. So this fellow thinks his dog will stay with him. He’s wrong. Whenever we’ve been outside, the dog comes running up to us to say “hi!” It’s a nice dog. He should put a leash on it.
What’s the attraction?
Frankly, we don’t understand the desire to walk a dog off leash. Maybe because we know our dogs, despite their obedience/rally/agility titles, would take off after any bunny stupid enough to cross our path. Or maybe it’s because we know that people drive crazy, even on residential streets. Maybe it’s because we’re control freaks. But we just don’t get it.
A few months ago there was a viral video featuring a man with his “pack” of German Shepherd Dogs walking around. They seemed to be on city streets and the dogs surrounded him and shadowed his every move. Not a leash in sight. Frankly, we found it creepy. None of the dogs looked happy. They all looked like they were slinking around, as if they’d been beaten. And yet we saw lots of comments exclaiming how “wonderfully” those dogs were behaving. We didn’t see it. We have a friend who has German Shepherd Dogs. Hers are marvelously well-trained, with titles in multiple dog sports, too. And her dogs walk joyously, tails waving, ears erect, eyes bright and interested. On leash.
A leash doesn’t replace training. Dogs still have to be taught to “walk nicely” with you. In fact, the “rule” for using a leash in Obedience and Rally competition is that it should form a “J” between the dog and person. There are deductions for “tight leash” handling.
We look at the leash as a security measure – for us and our dogs. No worries about where our dogs are or what they’re doing if we can’t see them. We can always find them. And when another dog comes charging up the path, no owner in sight, we can reel in our dogs, pick them up, and yell bloody murder until a responsible party shows up to take charge.
Hope will never forget the time when, as a young woman living single in the city, she was walking her dogs (Dragon, a Brussels Griffon and Daemon, a Boston Terrier) down a city street and a big mongrel came running up. She was trying to pick up both her dogs (Dragon was barking away, Daemon wanted to play) and yelling “Who owns this dog? Loose dog! Get your dog!” A guy sauntered around the corner and had the gall to say “don’t worry, he’s friendly!”
Really? Why does that matter? How do you know my dogs are “friendly?” And why does anyone believe that leash laws don’t apply to them?
It’s such a simple thing. Hook up your dog. If you’re alone, in an unpopulated or no-traffic area, take it off if you want to. But please, don’t make me worry about your dog running out in front of cars. Don’t make me worry about getting sued when my dog takes objection to your dog running up on us. If you love your dog, put a leash on it.