Why We Should All “Get Leashed”

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

If you have a dog, you have likely experienced this scenario. You are walking your dog, on leash, and all of a sudden an off-leash dog comes straight towards you. You have nowhere to go. “If there is someone around, they are likely saying ‘My dog is friendly’ or perhaps nothing at all. What if the dog on leash is reactive or is training and wouldn’t appreciate a strange dog bombarding them? It’s an all too common occurrence, and it shouldn’t be happening at all. Are you guilty of the “lazy leash syndrome”?


Why leashes matter…

1. Leash laws keep communities safe

They protect people and dogs. Traffic accidents, triggers that may spook dogs into traffic, dogs that wander off and get lost, people that are afraid of dogs, children that may get knocked over, dog fights, dog bites, yards that are the pride and joy of homeowners …. You get the picture.


2. Off leash dogs in undesignated areas create reactive dogs

Dogs that are leashed and are approached by unknown dogs or people are at a disadvantage right off the bat. They have nowhere to go. How vulnerable would you feel? If rushed enough times by strange dogs, this can easily cause reactivity.


"Reactive" means that a dog overreacts to a stimulus, whether it’s other dogs, people, sounds or objects. It could be due to fear or it could be due to an overexcited dog; the reasons vary. There are many reactive dogs out there (or I would be on the unemployment line) and co-existing with dogs means respecting their space as well as their guardians. If you choose to let your dog off leash in undesignated areas, you are putting them at risk, not to mention your own dog who may get injured as a result.


3. Off leash dogs often lack impulse control

Impulse control is the ability to control ones’ impulses.

It’s very common that I am seeing clients who gave up on loose leash training early on, which taught their dog that they have few boundaries. They have learned that pulling got them what they wanted; to be off-leash and doing whatever they please. They likely are rushing towards other dogs and people they shouldn’t be. This can translate to bad behaviour in the home as well. Jumping up will get them attention, barking will get them treats, etc. There is great benefit in very little time, will teach your dog boundaries and the ability to control impulses.


These are three great reasons to ensure your dog remains on leash unless in designated off-leash areas. Keep communities safe and our canine friends comfortable and happy.

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Positively Expert: Renée Erdman

Renée Erdman is a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer and behaviour consultant focusing on the emotional needs and welfare of dogs and their guardians. She resides in North Vancouver, BC Canada where she runs Bravo Dog (www.bravdog.ca), her pride and joy.

  • Leila

    My dog knows when not to approach other people/dogs/kids off leash, she respects all other peoples'/dogs' boundaries without them having to give her warning and has perfect, calm manners. All it takes is a simple recall or distraction i.e. with toys and she always comes straight back and listens when told something first time. She needs an off-leash romp due to being a high energy breed and loves to play with us (her owners) more than anything else. She is better behaved than my other dog who cannot be trusted off leash himself, therefore he does not EVER go off-leash. Simply put, until your dog knows the recall 100% of the time and isn't "bothering" others by running, barging, jumping, chasing, respecting others' space regardless of person or animal and is kept under control at all times, keep it on a leash until it can be trusted 🙂

  • greycrittermom

    I so wish others understood reactivity. I have a stray that adopted us. She is afraid of her own shadow. I weigh 100#, she weighs 60#. Get her stirred up on her leash & I am going for a ride. We have some neighbors that love to walk. Fine. Just don't come over the hill whistling & letting your dogs do as they please!

  • Denise L. Gray

    Even using a leash in the house is a good idea when training.

  • Mel and Jack

    All good and well and congratulations on being a responsible dog owner, but.....I don't know your dog apart from any other and if my reactive dog and I am out walking and you come towards us without a lead how am I to know your dog this well? I do not have an inbuilt trust meter and do not know if your dog is under proper control or not and this causes us concern and anxiety. Please keep your dog on a leach.

  • Deborah Lewis-Smith

    We walk on a 2-foot leather leash with a prong collar and a pocketful of treats. My dog weighs 95-100 lbs. I weigh 115-120. There is a large public park that posts leash ordinance AND has two lovely dog parks designated for large and small dogs. We are not a dog park duo given that my girl can be reactive and has a high prey drive. On occasion I wonder if she is reacting to me when I see unleashed dogs approaching. I will take the offending parties to task.

  • skilpaddes

    Thank you. I live in a tiny house, so I take my cats for walks for their health. Off-leash dogs are my biggest fear because most are not good with cats. The cats and I usually walk safely on our block, but we can't enjoy any parks.

  • C Thompson

    I agree with Mel and Jack's comment... it's nice that you have trained your dog and know your dog is trustworthy... the problem is that my dog and I DON'T know your dog. When your dog approaches us off-leash, my dog and I remember the time when an unfriendly dog tried to attack us. I am so fed up with people who walk around with a leash that is NOT attached to a dog, it seems like EGO on the person's part... and it's rude and inconsiderate.

  • Mick Gorman

    I walk one of my dogs off leash all the time, around the streets and in parks. My dog was bred by a friend as a working sheep dog and trained for a year to a very high standard, to the point where he and the other 8 dogs in the pack moved as one with virtually whispered instructions. With this in mind I would hope people understand that he may be an exception rather than the rule? I am not trying to promote myself as some kind of "dog whisperer" (I hate that title)!!!
    My dog has NEVER approached a person, dog, cat or anything in 9 years. My dog is totally focused on me and only me, he was tested by our local dog warden 8 years ago and he couldn't get him to move an inch even after throwing his toy in the road. I was given his approval to walk my dog off leash on the grounds of "reasonable adjustment" as I am disabled. I foster and rescue nervous and formerly abused and neglected dogs so I know about how they can react if approached by an off leash dog but if a responsible person has a "bomb proof" dog that will not approach your nervous dogs then what's the problem? It's not about ego, sometimes people just want their dogs to enjoy an active life where they are able to run and play like a DOG. I must point out I am in the UK where it is almost universally accepted that dogs can be off leash in most public parks, the key proviso is that they should be under control.
    I have a nervous (of people) rescue dog who would be the type to run up to other dogs and may frighten them because of his high energy, he has 30 minutes ball chasing and recall practice in a remote part of the park before going on leash for the rest of the walk. Common sense and respect for other peoples right to use the outdoors is all that is needed. I have suffered from the "it's ok he's friendly" type of loose dog and I know it is frustrating but then I think because no harm was done at least the dog is getting exercised and not left in a back yard somewhere.

  • rockinrollin

    Deborah try wearing a prong collar. They are cruel and should only be used by professionals in extreme cases. My heart breaks for any dog that has to wear one. If someone can't control their dog without one should seek help from a trained professional that trains with positive methods. Please stop imposing that cruel collar on your precious pup.

  • Chazzle

    I take my cues from the other walkers, my dog is lead aggressive so where possible I like to keep him off the lead when he is normally a happy playful well behaved boy, however if we see someone else and their dog is on the lead, I will immediately put him on the lead too and I will normally stop because of his aggression and let them pass before continuing. The same for if he is on the lead and I see dogs ahead off the lead and the owners making no attempt to put them on, then I will let him off, because I know with him off he will be submissive, whereas with him on the lead and loose dogs about he will try and attack. It annoys me though when people do not put their dogs on a lead when they can clearly see that yours is! (I'm in the UK where there are no laws, but some places to have rules due to livestock and wildlife, but mostly dogs are allowed of lead everywhere)

  • EllenSlater

    No dog, no matter how well trained is completely "bomb proof". My dog has been on the receiving end of unwanted attention from too many "bomb proof" dogs to count. It's not fair to those of us with dogs who need space to use "my dog is the exception" as justification for putting other dogs and owners in an uncomfortable situation.

  • CrazyAbyLady

    Ummmm, he said that "My dog has NEVER approached a person, dog, cat or anything in 9 years. My dog is totally focused on me and only me . . .". His dog IS the exception . . . his dog is bomb proof if everything said is true. I believe him. I am in the US in Oregon and I saw a man in downtown Portland walking his wolf hybrid off leash. his dog walked beside him as if on leash, he would sit at his side at every corner, or when the owner stopped to talk to someone he would sit with no cue and no verbal command. Even the Portland Mounted Police Patrol were dismounting to see this phenomenon and speak with the man and of course pet the beautiful animal. The term "bomb proof" is a real term in the equine community. It is used for a horse that spooks at nothing and it is a true description of a horse's temperament. You did not encounter "bomb proof" dogs, so please don't refer to them as that, and if their owners considered them bomb proof, they were sadly mistaken. Bomb proofing a dog takes a ton or patience and hundreds of hours of training, and because the owners get bored, and tired of the arduous task, they give up. So here is where I say, it is not the dog's fault, it is always the owners fault.

  • CrazyAbyLady

    I have a dog and a cat. My cat is indoors and has plenty of room to play. You can bet the people with dogs that see you walking a cat are probably thinking "Oh just great! What is THAT doing out here?" , like it is only a dogs world outside. Kudos to you for training you cat to walk on a leash. I tried . . . a little, with my cat but I was one of those that gave up.

  • Lesley Dipple

    My trainer has a brilliant response to the it's ok my dog is friendly owner, she walks up to them and puts her arms around them saying " it's ok I'm only being friendly ". We do live in rural England through, it might not go down so well elsewhere.

  • Michael Dogman

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