I understand that everyone is a bit stir crazy right now and as the weather warms up, more and more people will be outdoors. While many dog parks are reopening with social distancing guidelines in place for the humans there, that really is the only place other than your own property that your dogs should be off leash. Every county here in the San Francisco Bay Area has leash laws; dogs must be on leash when out in public unless in a designated off leash area. Period. There aren't exceptions for "my dog likes everyone," or "my dog always come when I call," or "Gee whiz. He really needs to stretch his legs." Leashed means leashed. And as much as I hate retractable leashes, those are at least a bit better than no leash at all.
We all need to be good neighbors. Leashing your dog is not just the right thing to do, it is the neighborly thing to do. There are people afraid of dogs in your neighborhood for whom an off leash dog approaching them is terrifying. Many of my clients have dogs who are aggressive and defensive around other dogs; they have every right to walk their dogs on leash and expect that their neighbors will do the same. Social distancing guidelines of remaining 6 feet or more away from others has been the silver lining for many of my clients with aggressive dogs. They've had to worry less about being approached on walks. Until they encounter one of these off leash dogs.
Interestingly enough, one of my clients with an aggressive dog was able to redirect her dog as we've worked on this quite a bit. When that off leash dog, however, kept lunging at her dog barking, and the other owner couldn't recall the dog, lo and behold a fight broke out. My client was forced to drop her dog's leash. Finally, the other owner came over and they were then able to separate the dogs. The kicker? The other owner was furious that his dog had gotten hurt in the scuffle. Excuse me?! Your dog would not have gotten hurt had you had the dog on leash like you were supposed to. And now my client's dog's training has been severely set back because he has resumed his hyper-vigilance and protective stance. Frustrating all around.
If you are having trouble with off leash dogs in your neighborhood too, there are a few things you can do. You can let Animal Control know. They will schedule drive bys where they will cite people whose dogs are off leash. You can carry an air horn with you. When that off leash dog approaches, blast the air horn right at them. It will certainly stop them in their tracks and let the other owner know they need to collect their dog promptly. You can carry treats with you and throw the treats right at the off leash approaching dog. Hopefully, he'll be so stunned by the treats raining down that he'll stop to snack allowing you and your leashed companion to safely move away. I know you shouldn't have to do any of these things when you aren't the one disregarding the rules. However, I also know that people are people and there will still be those dog owners who consider their desires and wishes as more important than those of others in their community. Selfish disregard for others isn't something new, for sure. I just know that I, for one, had hoped that one of the things this pandemic would do was make us more conscientious with one another, resulting in more kindness and awareness of the needs of others and the spirit of community.
As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.
Westley out on a leashed walk and wearing his cooling jacket to beat the heat!