Like any energetic young dog, our 2 year old lab Teva loves nothing more than to run around free and explore her surroundings. Although she is quite submissive by her very nature, she does not hesitate to approach any other dog she sees when given the opportunity. It's safe to say she reaches a level of pure enjoyment anytime she gets to partake in a friendly interaction. Whether it's with another canine, a human, or any other affable creature, the evidence of her jubilation is readily apparent through her vigorous tail wagging and full body wiggling. Fortunately for us, Teva is extremely friendly and well socialized. This is quite obviously not the case with every pet however.
The part of the world that we live in is filled with a wide selection of dog friendly parks and destinations. Some of these parks have designated off-leash areas where well socialized dogs are encouraged to run around and play, free of their shackles. At some other spots you will find signs stating that dogs must be kept on leash at all times. As a dog owner with a well behaved and reasonably well trained pooch, it seems almost punitive to your poor fur baby to keep them bound to their harness and leash while strolling through a beautiful nature trail or across a vast sandy beach. It would appear this feeling of restricting a pets freedom is too much for many pet owners to bear, and oftentimes the 'Dogs Must Be On Leash At All Times' rule is blatantly ignored. As much of a bummer as it is for those of us with friendly pups to abide by this rule; it can be downright dangerous not to.
First of all there's the question of common courtesy. Some of the people enjoying an area deemed as on-leash for dogs may not be interested in having an up-close-and-personal encounter with a random pooch. Most times this rule-breaking scenario would probably be nothing more than a minor inconvenience for the bystander in question, but it's still not very considerate. The real danger here comes into play when a responsible pet owner who may be looking to improve their poorly socialized animals behavior by taking them out in public and keeping them on-leash is approached by an excited and curious canine who gets a little too close for comfort. This could very likely result in a negative and violent encounter. Meanwhile, the non-leashed dog's owner is likely too far away to help mitigate the situation in a timely manner. In addition to the potential injury and trauma experienced by both dogs in this scenario, there is likely to be ill feelings between the humans involved. Even though it seems quite obvious that the person with the well behaved animal that was running around free in an on-leash park is 100% at fault, it may not be so apparent at the time if their animal is the only one that received injuries during a confrontation.
Anytime we are visiting an on-leash dog park, Anna and I always do our best to follow the rules in order to keep Teva safe, and to act respectfully towards the other patrons of the park. The only time we may deviate slightly from the letter of the rule is when we visit one of the many on-leash parks that are also attached to a body of water. In these instances, especially on hot days, we want to make sure Teva can get some good swimming in and it’s rather tricky (and probably dangerous) to keep your dog on leash while they are swimming. In this situation, we only take her to spots where there are no other people or dogs around, and we make sure to keep a close eye on her. Lucky for us it’s very easy to capture her attention with a stick if she ever manages to veer out of arms reach upon her return to shore.
If you have any thoughts, experiences, or questions on this topic we would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below!