Today May and I went for a quick, local hike. We had the entire place to ourselves for almost the entire walk — though she was smelling something very interesting in the woods (I like to believe it’s a cougar). As we got back to the park entrance I saw what I dread most while out walking: an off-leash dog.
For some reason people don’t seem to think the signs posted at the entrances of public parks apply to them. “Dogs must be leashed” is pretty straight forward, I think. As I’ve said before, when I’m out with Maybelle on a hike I often bring a very long (25 ft) leash or I just drop her normal leash. This gives me control over her even when she, say, smells a cougar and wants to take off on its trail or we spy an unleashed dog coming up the trail. It also allows me to obey the laws of the land while still letting May enjoy herself.
Today it was a large Golden Retriever that came up to us. Its owner was way behind it, and because we were passing on a trail my only option was to step off the trail, wait, and hope for the best. Now there are a few problems here. Some dogs tend to feel trapped on a leash–a dog who generally loves other dogs can behave completely differently when confronted while on leash by a free-roaming dog. (Think about how dog parks are set up. There’s a reason you let your dog off its leash before you enter.) I am also trying to work on training May to not get so darn excited every time she sees a new dog. If she pulls and gets excited, I don’t generally allow her to greet the other dog. This all goes out the window when a dog comes running up to us. In fact, it makes things much worse because she gets so overly excited and it sets us way back. (Thanks a lot.)
More importantly, you put your dog at risk by letting it be off-leash in inappropriate places — especially if you don’t have enough control over the dog to call it back when you see a strange dog. You have no idea what that other dog is like. I can’t tell you how many dogs (small dogs, especially) are seriously injured because their owners let them run around under the assumption that every dog is as friendly as theirs.
So the n ext time you’re out on a walk and thinking that sign doesn’t apply to you, think about how your decision not to leash your dog effects others.