Dog Etiquette: Leashes
Recently, we posted on Facebook that we were out walking our dogs and experienced two small, off-leash dogs aggressively running to our much larger, leashed dogs. My dogs were both on-leash and controlled, but I was still annoyed.
After posting my experience, I received a lot of responses – some of which were a bit negative due to the fact that one of my dogs looks like a pit bull (apparently I shouldn’t be walking him?).
Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if my dogs are pit bulls or chihuahuas or golden retrievers. In fact, I could have been walking alone, or riding a horse, or walking my cat.
The fact of the matter is: dogs of any size should never run up on another person or animal without being invited to do so.
It’s a common courtesy that could save your dog’s life. Here are just a few reasons why…
It’s the Law
Leash law is in place because people haven’t effectively controlled their dogs. We can’t have our dogs out running amok in neighborhoods. It’s not good for our dogs, for wildlife, for neighbors, or for safety reasons. Even if you’re in a state or federal park, you still need to keep your dog on a leash. You know why? Because it’s the law.
If something had happened during yesterday’s experience, and the small dogs that approached had been bitten or even threatened by one of my dogs, I can almost promise you that my leashed dogs would have received the blame.
It wouldn’t matter if the smaller dog attacked or threatened them first, or if my pets felt they were protecting me, or for any other reason. This is just one reason why I don’t want dogs (or anyone else) approaching my pets without my permission.
Another reason: people can hurt your dog if they consider it a threat. A “perceived threat” may range from an approach to an attack, but in the end, your dog is dead or injured, “intent” doesn’t matter. Keeping your pet on a leash eliminates the reason to hurt your pet because humans no longer have an excuse of feeling threatened. Don’t give a stranger the power over your pet’s life.
If you’re not sure about the leash laws in your state, click here.
Leash aggression occurs when leashed pets meet unleashed (or other leashed) pets.
Think about it. Your dogs are forced to approach head-on, which forces eye contact with one another, and that can be determined as a threat in “doggy language”. They begin to sense tension from their owners who are holding the leash and who often begin saying things like “No!” or “Be nice” before the dogs even meet.
This merely confirms to the dog that there is a potentially threatening situation underway and they may begin to act aggressive before even officially meeting another animal.
A controlled meet is the best way to go and that should be at the agreement of each owner, under the best possible circumstances.
Cynophobia: Fear of Dogs
Millions of people suffer from Cynophobia (fear of dogs).
According to Dr. Timothy O. Rentz of the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders at the University of Texas, animal phobias are among the most common of the specific phobias and 36% of patients who seek treatment report being afraid of dogs or cats.
That means there are a lot of people in the world who could be completely terrified of your pet.
Their reaction could be anything from running away (which, of course, means your pet may chase them once their prey drive is activated), to hurting or injuring your pet by kicking or hitting them. Certainly, having an unleashed dog rush someone on a walk could cause a serious problem for someone who doesn’t need another problem.
I have a friend who was out riding his horse when two off-leash border collies that belonged to his neighbors threatened his horse. He was thrown, the dogs went after the fleeing horse, and both the horse and rider nearly died.
This is a tragedy that should have been avoided.
I know another friend who was jogging and was attacked by a neighbor’s dog who was allowed to roam outside. The dog saw her jogging, chased her, she panicked and the dog attacked. It was really that simple.
The end result was months in physical therapy and lifelong nerve damage in her hand.
Beyond that, there are plenty of animals out there who may not get along with your dogs. There are wild animals, (like coyotes or eagles or hawks) who could easily snatch up your little dog for a snack, cars racing by on the street, and garbage on the ground that dishonorable people will intentionally dispose of for the sole purpose of killing a pet.
My dogs are perfectly nice dogs. They get along with everyone. They aren’t fearful, aggressive, spooky, threatening, or dangerous. They heal nicely and rarely pull me down the road on walks. They know how to behave if approached by kids or other pets, and they have never shown an ounce of aggression.
But, here’s the thing: They are still dogs.
I know, I treat them like they are my kids; but at any moment, for any reason, something could set them off. It may never happen, but I don’t want you or your kids or your pets in the way if, for example, they had a seizure or got stung by a bee.
Just like humans, they could ‘go off” for any reason and I want to make sure everyone is safe. That’s my choice as a responsible dog owner.
(My “ferocious” dog)
Service Dogs and Training
Many responsible owners are now training their pets in everything from canine good citizenship to nose-work to service dogs. You have no idea what type of activity my dogs and I are engaged in or what type of training we may be working on.
Please don’t ever assume that its okay for your dog to disrupt a critical training session or the work of a service dog.
We have a responsibility to our pets, to our neighbors, to ourselves. We also have a legal obligation to keep our pets controlled at all times – on leash or off. Do not let your dog be a victim to the law because you didn’t have the courtesy to keep them under control and they, or another person or animal, considered them a threat.
Not every dog we meet is friendly. Not every dog on a leash is under control. That’s why you should ALWAYS ask before approaching, or allowing your dog to approach, another animal or human. It’s a dangerous world for dogs who are running around without supervision. Please think these threats through before letting your dog go off-leash.
Remember – it doesn’t have anything to do with the size, breed or temperament of your dog. It has to do with protecting yourself and your pets from others.
Who Has the Right of Way?
There are no real “rules” associated with walking your dogs (other than the leash law). But, there are several common courtesies (what we like to refer to as “pet etiquette“) that should be put into practice.
One of these is giving the right of way to the dog who is under the least amount of control or the person who is walking more than one dog. It’s the same thing as driving on one-way dirt back roads – cars yield to whoever is going uphill. It’s not written out, it’s just common courtesy.
If you see an owner struggling with their pets, don’t feed the situation by walking your dog next to them. They may be working out kinks in their training, they may just not know better. But, you do. Be the adult and move to the other side of the road.
We’re all animal lovers. Let’s respect one another and make sure all animals are safe.