This is a subject that hits close to home. I have two dogs who need their personal space. They don’t dislike other dogs, but park and sidewalk greetings need to be managed. They can sometimes be reactive on leash, but we’ve worked on this a lot with positive reinforcement training and the results are amazing. Walks are now much less stressful and far more enjoyable. However, as the dog population in Toronto rises, so does the number of off-leash dogs in areas where they’re not supposed to be, like sidewalks and on-leash parks. These also happen to be the areas where I need to walk my dogs, since they’re not “dog park” candidates. When we encounter off-leash dogs running up to us, it’s impossible for me to work with my dogs to manage the situation. The result is a lost opportunity for positive reinforcement and a setback in our training. Training that requires distance.

Off-leash dog owners usually defend themselves, or try to appease parents and other dog owners by loudly declaring “It’s OK, he’s friendly.” Bluntly: WE DON’T CARE. IT’S NOT OK. What the off-leash owners need to consider is that many of us have dogs that are not comfortable around strange, new dogs. They may be fearful, anxious or elderly and it’s up to us to protect them and find ways to reduce stress.

We have every right to walk our dogs on-leash in parks and on sidewalks without having to be on guard for approaching off-leash dogs. But when other owners take this right away from us, they are negatively affecting the lives of our dogs. Dogs who are sweet, loveable and deserving of a stress-free walk. Worse, they make all dog owners look bad.

I know professional dog trainers, whose dogs have perfect recall, who would not take the chances I see many Torontonians taking every day. Like the guy in the windstorm last week walking his Weimaraner off-leash down Queen Street - does he know for certain that if a sandwich board blows over and hits his dog, that he won’t bolt towards home?  Or the woman who walks her pit bull off-leash at the top of Trinity Bellwoods Park - are you kidding me? She has an obligation to protect her dog from the ridiculous BSL laws in Ontario. I could go on and on.

After too many negative experiences with his own two rescue beagles, the owner of When Hounds Fly has started a campaign: Please Leash Me. Oh my dog! is a proud supporter and I hope you will be too. Go here to download and print the poster. Display it somewhere, share it on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Read this page to gain a fuller understanding of why this is so important. Click here to view a list of campaign supporters and to add your own pet related business/organization.

Bottom line, letting your dog off-leash where you shouldn’t isn’t OK. It’s selfish.

Please Leash Me

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