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Many pet parents dream of a world where they can let their dog run free without a leash, especially those who don’t live in homes with big backyards. Dogs need to stretch their legs and get regular exercise, and wouldn’t it be nice to let them run off their excess energy to their heart’s content without worrying about leashes?
For some, living out this fantasy is as easy as visiting the local dog park. However, for one reason or another, not all dogs have that option. Though it may be tempting to unleash your dog on walking trails and in public parks (that are not off-leash), there are several reasons why it’s best to obey the rules.
The risks of letting your dog off-leash include:
Negatively impacting other dogs
Some pet parents with fearful or aggressive dogs are working diligently on their leash skills in public places to build their dog’s confidence and reduce leash reactivity. When a leashed dog sees your off-leash pup happily running free, or even approaching them, it can cause fear, anxiety, or aggression in the other dog, potentially setting back their training progress. Additionally, this leads to much frustration for the pet parent trying their best to follow the rules and make progress.
Even if your dog is not aggressive, there is no guarantee that all other dogs out on leashed walks are friendly. If your friendly dog approaches another dog, it could lead to a dog fight and preventable injuries.
Getting hit by car
As dog parents, we would all love our dogs to be so well-trained that they stop on a dime with a voice command. Some dogs are extremely obedient, but most dogs (including mine and yours) are not 100% reliable when it comes to voice commands, especially when they set their sights on something interesting.
If your off-leash dog sees another dog, a small animal, or just decides to wander and explore, his curiosity could take him into the street – and dogs won’t remember to look both ways – where he could get hit by a car.
Scaring or harming other people
Not everyone loves dogs the way you do, and some people are fearful of all dogs, even if the dog appears to be friendly. It’s always safest to assume that other people do not want to interact with your dog unless they explicitly ask or approach your pup.
An off-leash dog that loves attention from people may approach any stranger he sees, which poses risks ranging from a minor nuisance up to invoking serious fears of animals. In the worst case, some dogs may not be aware of their energy and strength and could accidentally knock down or injure someone if they jump on them.
Your dog eating something toxic
Being off-leash gives your dog the freedom to get far away from you, which means you won’t be able to see everything he does. His nose may lead him to some tempting “snacks” such as poisonous plants, rat poison, dead animals, or trash that could cause serious illness or an intestinal blockage. A leash gives you the control to prevent your dog from eating potentially dangerous items.
When your dog runs off, there is also the possibility that he empties his bowels in an inappropriate place, or somewhere that you can’t see, resulting in accidentally being “that dog owner” who didn’t pick up after their dog. Keeping your pup on a leash allows you to be aware of everything that’s going on during your walk and act promptly.
Letting your dog off-leash in a public park not designated as an off-leash dog park is against the law in most cities and can lead to a fine for breaking that law.
The bottom line: play it safe, obey the rules, and be respectful of others using these public spaces by keeping your dog on a leash and only allowing him off in designated off-leash dog parks.