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About Your Off Leash Dog

I love your dog.

I love all dogs: big dogs, little dogs, goofy dogs, barky dogs, snuggly dogs, working dogs, good dogs, "bad" dogs, and soulful senior dogs. And as the human caretaker of a beloved rescue dog, I know the joy of watching your pup frolic freely. But when you walk your dog off leash in the city, it no longer is just about your dog.

I'm out with my dog and my clients' dogs in Los Angeles every day, and more and more I'm noticing people walking their dogs off leash on crowded streets, and even bringing them into stores unrestrained. A man in the neighborhood where I regularly work walks his two large-breed dogs off leash. I watch as these dogs run far ahead of him, surprising other people out with their dogs, running across busy neighborhood streets after squirrels, running past busy driveways, and traipsing across lawns. This particular man seems to have no control over his dogs; they don't listen and they have very little recall. I watch as dog walkers freeze in fear or quickly turn and lead their charges In the other direction, I watch as gardeners bite their tongues as the dogs trample through their garden, then curse the man quietly as he passes. I've seen the dogs race across the street unattended, causing drivers to slam on the brakes, and I've seen them whisk past elderly folks out for a stroll, catching them off guard and sometimes off balance.

When confronted by neighbors, the man's excuse is they are young and friendly -- what could they possibly do? I know you might be thinking this is an extreme case and your dog who walks right by your side off leash is the most well-mannered pupper in town. I believe you. But even the most well-behaved dogs can get spooked or tempted by their curious nature. Dogs are animals with natural instincts, and sometimes those instincts can lead to trouble.

Here are the top reasons to keep your dog on a leash, even when your pup is the best boy or girl in town.

  • The biggest danger of walking your dog off leash is the lack of control. Imagine your pup spotting a squirrel, or getting spooked by a loud noise or unexpected event, and taking off. Without a leash, you have no way to quickly intervene and keep your dog out of harm's way.

  • Curiosity isn't just for cats, and your dog can easily get into something they shouldn't. Whether it's munching on something mysterious in the bushes or sticking its nose into something smelly or sharp, off-leash dogs can get themselves into all sorts of trouble.

  • Not every dog out there is social. My dog is a sweetie, but that doesn't mean he always wants to say hi. Many people may be walking a dog that gets overwhelmed when approached by a new dog, or they may not have the best leash skills. They may be nervous, shy, in training, or just plain not interested. A surprise meet-and-greet can turn a peaceful stroll into a chaotic nightmare. We humans don't run up and greet every person we see on the street, and for the most part we get to create space and choose who we meet on walks and when.

  • It doesn't just spook the other canines. Having an off-leash dog bound toward you uninvited can be incredibly scary to other humans. Some people may have had a bad experience with dogs, be scared of dogs, be allergic, be mobility-challenged or vulnerable to falling, or just plain trying to get a peaceful walk in after a busy day without being jumped on.

  • In many areas, keeping your dog leashed is not only a matter of safety, It's also the law. Local leash laws exist to protect both dog owners and the general public. By keeping your furry friend on a leash, you're being considerate of others and ensuring everyone can enjoy their day.

Learning to love the leash

Now that we've discussed the dangers, let's shift gears and look at why leash love can be a win-win for you and your pup.

  • Physical control: A leash gives you the power to prevent your pup from chasing after that squirrel, nosediving into a puddle, or bolting across the street. Think of it as a safety harness for your adventurous explorer.

  • Training opportunities: Leashed walks provide vital training moments, allowing you to reinforce cues, improve recall, and establish boundaries.

  • Bonding time: When your pup's on a leash, they have no choice but to be with you and check in with you. Use this time to strengthen your relationship, showering them with treats and praise. Allow them to sniff and explore while being mindful not to stick their nose into something they shouldn't.

There is a time and place for letting your pup blow off that extra steam.

  • Designated off-leash hikes in the local trails are a great place to let both you and your pup blow off that extra energy and commune with nature. Still be mindful that your pup has a solid recall, pick up after your pup, and be mindful that you're squarely staying in off-leash areas. Check out these local dog-friendly hikes in Los Angeles.

  • Dog parks : While dog parks aren't for every dog (some dogs, get stressed, fearful, or rowdy), they can be a great place to let your pup romp and socialize with other dogs. If your local dog park gets too hectic, check out Dog PPL, a members-only social club for dogs and their people. Every dog gets temperament-tested before joining and they have trained "rufferees" on duty to help keep everyone safe.

  • Don't have a yard? Try Sniffspot, a sort of Air Bnb for dogs with locations all over the US. Local dog lovers rent out their yards for you and your pup to have a private and safe place to play and train.

  • Dog sports help your pup work off that energy by engaging their body and their mind with canine nose work or agility classes. These classes can not only help your dog blow off steam and build confidence, they are great for improving the communication and bond you have with your pet.

  • Consider using a long line when walking. It's like a compromise between off-leash freedom and on-leash safety. A long leash gives your pup some slack to explore, but still keeps them within your reach if things get dicey. It's important to be mindful of your surroundings while your dog is on a long line. *

  • And if the above reasons are not enough to encourage you to keep your pup on leash in an urban neighborhood, as of 2023, the average claim for a dog-related injury --including bites and/or damages sustained when dogs knock down children, cyclists, and the elderly -- lands between $50,000 and $75,000.

Ultimately, the key is finding a balance that lets your pupper have fun while minimizing the risks. After all, we want our furry friends to enjoy the great outdoors without putting them or anyone else in harm's way.

*A long line is not the same as a retractable leash which can hold a host of dangers in urban settings as well.


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