A question we get a lot here at When Hounds Fly is “when can I start walking my dog off leash?” It seems like it’s a goal for a lot of people – almost like a sign their dog is well trained, to be able to walk around the city without a leash on. The answer we always give them? Never.
We know they mean well, and they’re eager about training their dogs, and training them well, and we love seeing that effort. But – for those of us living in Toronto (and all city folk) – never is the right answer.
Why is it so important to keep your dog on leash? Let’s break it down.
What are the potential downsides to having your dog on a leash?
None. Zip. Zilch. Your dog could care less; at least, assuming you’ve trained them to walk well on a leash.
What are the reasons to always have a leash on your dog?
- Safety. You could have the best trained dog in the world, but you just never know. What if your wonderful, smart dog just one time takes off after a squirrel or a cat and gets hit by a car? Would you ever forgive yourself? What if a car backfires and scares your dog, and your dog runs away? It only takes one time, and no dog is perfect.
- In respect of other dogs. One of the most common reasons we see clients for private lessons is because their dogs are leash reactive; ie. fearful, anxious, or aggressive towards other dogs while they are on leash. One of the biggest complaints these clients have is that people let their off-leash dogs run up to their on-leash dogs, saying, “don’t worry, my dog is friendly!” But the fact is, yours may be – but theirs isn’t. Theirs is scared or aggressive. And yours is at worst going to get injured (going back to the first point, safety) – potentially then developing their own fear or reactivity – or at best, will remain safe but set that reactive dog’s training that they’ve been working so hard on back.
- In respect of other people. You love dogs. That’s great; we do too. But not everyone does. Some people are scared of dogs, or have allergies, or have religious/cultural beliefs that mean that they don’t want to interact with your dog. Letting your off leash dog charge up to them is incredibly insensitive.
Leaving leashes off in non-designated areas is just plain selfish. It might make you feel good and proud of how good your dog is, but your dog doesn’t care, and it is ultimately detrimental to everyone around you. Want our city to be more dog friendly? Be a good neighbour with your dog, and keep leashes on unless in off leash areas!