That is the question, so what is the answer? Some of you may not be fond of my opinion, however, I think it necessary to go through the process of my conclusion on this.
I will start off by saying it IS NOT your right to have your dog off leash, especially in an urban setting. IT IS your right, as a citizen in a municipality, to walk, bike, roller blade, skip, jog, do the worm or what ever you like down the sidewalks, bike paths or roads without the fear of an off leash dog running up to you.
There are leash bylaws in most (if not all) municipalities, and they are not just in place to hinder rights, upset you, create a go-fund-me page over or encroach upon your freedoms. Leash laws are set in place for the safety of both your dog and the safety of other people, the safety of wildlife and the safety of drivers period. Leash laws are in place to keep animals under control, and no matter what the vast majority tells you, dogs are not humans, they are considered animals. No human has yet to bore a dog, and until then, dogs are dogs, dogs are animals. Dogs are, in fact, predatory creatures (of course that have been domesticated), not unlike coyotes, wolves, werewolves, etc. Dogs, no matter how cute, how fluffy, how lovable or if their name is Peaches, Linda or Baby Cuteness Sunshine, have predatory tendencies, chase drives, prey drives, play drives that can create issues when allowed to run amuck.
Anywho, I digress. Reason number one to keep your dog on leash in public spaces is, of course, for the safety of your pet. No dog is trained to 100%. I don’t care what other trainers will tell you, whether they train with treats, long lines, e-collars, or anything else, there is no such thing as 100% in dog training. In saying that, no matter how well trained the average dog is, many owners do not put in the required time to get a dog that is fully off leash reliable and has a bomb proof recall. That said, no matter how you’ve trained, there is always that chance of the dog blowing you off when that highly tempting distraction makes its way across your dogs path. This is called a competing motivation. And sometimes that competing motivations value is much higher than any treat, reward or toy. And sometimes that competing motivations value is stronger than any consequence or punishment for running off might be.
Reason number two to keep your dog on leash is, not everyone is fond of, likes dogs or enjoys dogs jumping on them, gooing on them, humping them etc. There are actually people who are terrified of dogs. And though some fears are unfounded, there are fears that are based in the history that the person has had with dogs … and typically it’s not a friendly sunshine, roses and unicorns up your butthole history. These people deserve to go for a promenade without worrying about random friendly or unfriendly dogs running up to them. This is especially true if children or elderly are involved. I’m not afraid of dogs (likely I’d be in the wrong business if I was), nor is my child, however, if your off leash dog runs up to my kid with no regard for recall or safety and you have that glazed look over your eyes, telling me in that sweet sing song voice, “it’s ok, he’s friendly”, I won’t hesitate to drop a flying elbow or a karate kid crane kick on your offending beast if it means keeping him away from my kiddo or other kiddos in the vicinity, and I will likely give you some choice words that do not include “love”, “friendship” or “warm heart feelings”. And for the love of God, don’t unleash your dog and think it’s ok to wander by or through a school yard during recess. I’ve seen this happen too many times, if you can even believe it, and the ignorance of certain people blows my mind to the moon and back.
Reason number three to keep your dog on leash is to protect all the little woodland critters. Yes, that’s right. As I mentioned before, dogs are predatory animals, so as you stroll with Fluffy, Fee-Fee or Foo-Foo through the wood lot in town, keep in mind those deep, long standing, shih-tzu instincts can kick in at any moment, and your dog might just end up catching you dinner in the form of fresh squirrel legs if you can not call him or her off wildlife with a resounding “COME!!!”.
Reason number four to keep your dog on leash is to protect other dogs. Not all dogs, just like not all humans, enjoy to be in close quarters with strange dogs. In fact, it’s actually natural for many of them to feel this way. Just as you wouldn’t want some large, sweaty stranger running up to you, sniffing your armpits, jumping on your head and hugging you in the middle of the street, some dogs would rather not have the horrific intrusion of their personal space with butthole diving and everything else involved in rude, overzealous greetings of those dogs who are apparently friendly, but have no flipping clue how to socialize or recall properly. There are also those who are trying to work through issues with their own dogs, whether the dogs are nervous, aggressive, over excited or anxious, it is absolutely unfair for your haphazard, unleashed, and clearly deaf dog to be running up to these people and their dogs, as you are setting them back many steps in their training progress and I can tell you, they do not appreciate it.
I suppose I could go on and on with more numbered reasons, but I think you get my point. You may think, “hey lady, you’re super anal, pull that stick out of your ass”, and you know what? I don’t give a flying falafel what you think. I’m cool with you playing ball off in a field and pausing for a moment to make sure your dog doesn’t run off when people or other dogs go by. I’m cool if you have a bomb proof recall and your dog is not interested in socializing with the world around it. I’m cool if you’re in the woods, alone, and a tree falls, and I don’t hear you. But if your dog isn’t trained with a bomb proof recall, or an unwavering heel, or you are not in the middle of the woods far, far away, or you are not willing to haul ass to grab your dog and apologize profusely, begging for forgiveness, then you deserve to be called a fuzzy sock sucker for allowing your dog to harass others who are just trying to enjoy the day. And just to be clear, I’m not addressing this to people who’s dog accidentally got away from them, and they did everything in their power (and speed) to get them back. Accidents happen. I am addressing this to the ignorant who think it’s their earthling, humanistic, God given right for Fido to run free. It very clearly is not. So be a dear, if your dog happens to be off leash, make sure to clip that leash back on for the sake of others when they pass you or if you are in a busy pubic area. Try using common sense, I hear that it can really help, though it does seem to be in low supply – might be some left in aisle six at Dollarama.