As a pet owner, it’s easy to see the appeal of letting a well-behaved dog run free in the park, on the hiking trails or down a favourite jogging path. I can say this from experience, though–leashing your dogs is one of the simplest public services you can perform. Even so-called “good” dogs occasionally end up in situations where they don’t heed their owner’s calls — and that can lead to disaster.
Here are three reasons why leashing your dog is of the utmost importance:
It’s particularly tempting to let your dog run loose on secluded hiking trails or in the woods. Leash laws exist in these areas for a very specific reason: to protect your dog’s life. There are a multitude of dangers facing your pup in the wilderness, including:
- Animal bait and traps
- Poisonous plants
- Holes, ravines and cliffs
- Loose rocks and snow
- Wild animals such as cougars, bears, coyotes, wolves and skunks
By keeping your dog on a leash and by your side, you’ll always know where she’s going and can help her if there’s an emergency.
As I said, even well-behaved dogs can react impulsively if they’re excited or scared. It takes only an instant for your dog to become distracted by other animals, people, sudden loud noises and even statues. If your unleashed dog runs into a road, it could be hit by a car and seriously injured – or worse – killed.
Furthermore, people have the right to walk in public spaces without being confronted by loose dogs. Some people aren’t physically able to withstand being jumped on by a rambunctious dog. Children, the elderly and the disabled could all be seriously injured by a fall. Moreover, no matter how friendly your pooch is, there are people who are afraid of dogs and they may harm your dog if they feel threatened.
It’s normal for on-leash dogs to feel restricted and therefore vulnerable when approached by off-leash dogs. This fear can easily transform into aggression, and you might end up with a dog fight on your hands. If your dog is the one off-leash, you can be held legally responsible for injuries to animals and humans, as well as damage to property. If both dogs are on a leash, it is much easier to avoid conflict.
Leashes aren’t just for parks, hiking trails and the wilderness. They’re also important in neighborhoods. Besides the sheer number of children at play, there are also situations where you may encounter other dogs. Some dogs may be at large, some behind physical barriers, and yet others behind wireless fences – it’s your responsibility to protect your dog from them and vice-versa.
Leash laws are for all dog owners, not just irresponsible ones. No one can truly predict how their dog will react when greeting others. No matter how well-trained, circumstances might arise that trigger fear or aggression in your dog. Help avert disaster by keeping your dog on a leash. Your community will thank you for it.
Ron Rutherford is a leash-law abiding, poop bag toting, dog park loving parent to two great dogs, Bosco and Sam. When he’s not hiking the trails of the Boise foothills with his pups, he’s busy rooting around in his backyard vegetable garden.