Even if your dog is friendly and well-behaved off leash, letting them approach a dog who is on leash, can be a recipe for disaster. And while you may be aware of what to do, what about when the other owner does not?
Why You Need to Control an Off-Leash Dog
Many dogs do not appreciate a dog bounding up to them. It’s rude, scary and may be dangerous to both dogs. You have no idea why the dog is on leash. The dog could be sick, injured, old and cranky like my great Grandma Dot or just not ready to socialize. Your dog could be hurt by rushing a sick, injured or older dog. On-leash dogs feel defensive and might snap or worse, bite. These dogs are not necessarily mean but, like me, don’t want a dog in their face.
As a professional with years of experience behind me, I am here to tell you that you should not let your dog bound up to one leashed dog or ten leashed dogs.
Who likes a close talker? Usually you get spit on you and if it’s a Bulldog bounding up, you risk getting snot on your face, too. We have all been in situations where someone runs up to you, within inches of your face. We end up leaning backwards, almost to the point of falling over. It is impossible to focus on the conversations because all you can think of is “my God are they going to kiss me?” or “you need a breath mint.” You step back, they step forward…you know the kind.
As humans we cannot bite them (although I have been tempted), but for a dog who cannot lean back or politely say, excuse me, the response may be a bit more instinctive. The dog doesn’t know what the off-leash dog is doing there and while on leash, he may not feel like he can get away.
The On Leash Perspective
I encounter these off-leash vs on-leash situations on a weekly basis. I once witnessed an off-leash dog charge an on-leash dog in training for behavioral issues, which unfortunately resulted in an ear puncture to the off-leash dog. I have seen a dog walker with 15 dogs charge up to four leashed dogs and as a result a fight broke out. The dog walker acted as if it was not her problem as the other dog walker struggled to keep her four leashed dogs protected, calm and from fighting because they felt defensive. I have also seen a dog owner let her dog rush a pack of leashed dogs and then accost the poor dog walker who was pulled to the ground, saying her dog was in the right. It’s not right, but it happens.
Advice for the On Leash Dog Owners
My first piece of advice is when an off-leash dog is approaching, hunker down and brace for impact. You can carry a squirt bottle to spray the rushing dog. This will startle them into stopping unless it’s a Lab, in which case it becomes a fun game of catching the water, but at least the focus is off your dog. When the owner of the unleashed dog starts yelling at you, you might as well give him a good squirt in the face, too. It might startle both owner and dog back into reality of their rude behavior. Another thing you can do to protect your dog, is to step between your dog and the oncoming dog. Stand boldly with your hand out and shout “STOP!” Again, this works for an oncoming owner yelling at you.
Advice for Off Leash Dog Owners
The safest thing to do for your dog is to ask politely “is your dog friendly?” Many times, the answer will be yes and your dog can approach. Once in a while, though, you may come across a sick, injured or not ready to socialize dog who should not be approached. For the safety of your dog, as well as the leashed dog, you should leash your dog until you have safely passed them. Most on-leash dog owners will let you know ahead of time if their dog is unfriendly or not able to socialize but it is always good to be cautious and ask.
My local humane society offers a trail manners class and discusses inappropriate canine greetings – fast, running approach and sometimes body slamming, fly-bys or a stiff, straight approach with a stare. If your dog does this type of thing then for goodness sake leash them when approaching a dog on leash.
Of course, it always gives me a good laugh when I see dog owners who think that when the leash is connected to the collar but dragging behind the dog while he runs across the park, he’s still technically “on-leash.” There are also dog owners who scorn the leashed dogs and their owners.
My friend admitted he was one of those who looked down on people with leashed dogs. He said he would give those evil leash sadists nasty looks and deliver biting comments, admitting his dog would not jump, but hump them. He thought he was ruining his dog’s experience, since he now had to put his dog on a leash. He wanted his dog to have complete freedom as he felt he did not get it in his childhood. He now has his PhD in psychology and has worked out his childhood issues of being denied freedom of choice. When his dog became older and deaf, he became one of those walk on-leash only owners.
What Everyone Needs to Know
The Yellow Dog Project is a global movement for parents of dogs that need space. Placing a yellow ribbon on the leash protects your dog from other owners letting their dogs bound up to them. This is a fabulous idea, but in today’s age of technology and self importance, you may also need a sign that says “GET OFF YOUR CELL PHONE, MY DOG IS WEARING A YELLOW RIBBON AND THAT MEANS TO NOT LET YOUR DOG COME UP TO HIM!” You might even want to have the sign done in neon lights that flash.
Being considerate of all dogs whether leashed or not leashed is important for everyone on the trails and the safety of your off leash dog as well as the leashed dog.
- The Man Who Wanted to Save the Crab
- Buddy and the Dead Rat
- How to Choose a Dog Walker
- Hazards of Being a Dog Walker