Do you sometimes tie your dog up outside a store? Even just for a second? I've done it—and here is why It's never a good idea.
A month or so after I adopted my dog Chance we came back from an evening walk and I decided to stop at the corner store, literally around the corner from my apartment. I tied him up right in plain view of the door so I could keep an eye on him. More importantly, he could keep an eye on me. At the time, if he couldn't see me he would panic. I then went to grab a drink from the cooler and when I got to the counter to pay, I glanced over at the door. Chance was gone. He was out of my sight for less than a minute.
In a panicked horror I threw my beverage down and ran out the door asking the guy standing there just casually talking on his phone if he had seen him. He just shrugged. I ran around the corner and I spotted him standing wide eyed, frozen with fear, in the middle of a very busy street after dark with cars coming towards him. I wanted to scream, "Chance!" But I knew If I panicked, Chance would panic. He is a super sensitive guy and when he was a pup he would get easily stressed and confused. I calmly called to him and once I got him to the grass we both collapsed and I held him tight.
We got lucky. I will never know how Chance got loose. Did the casual phone guy untie him? Did he panic because he couldn't see me for a split second and then get confused? Maybe I hadn't tied the leash securely? At the time it did seem as if he was heading home to the apartment, but maybe that's wishful thinking on my part. Even so, any number of things could have happened to him in that short distance.
Sadly, there are countless stories similar to mine, many with not-so-happy endings. I have heard stories of dogs big and small, young and old, being stolen while tied up outside of a store, even in the fanciest of neighborhoods. The AKC estimates that nearly two million dogs are stolen each year, and right now dog theft is on the rise since the demand for dogs has increased during the pandemic. Even worse, people steal dogs not just for companionship or to make a profit but for breeding and to use as bait for fighting dogs.
I have seen dogs tied securely to parking meters, but standing in the street, a prime target for an inattentive driver. I have seen dogs get tangled in their own leashes while tied up as they try to move around in anticipation of their owners return and I have seen dogs left defenseless and scared against the approach of a well-meaning toddler or strange dog. When dogs feel trapped or scared, the likelihood of aggressive behavior and dog bites increases. In some places it is just plain illegal to leave your dog tied up unattended.
Luckily, here in California at least, many stores now allow you to bring your dog in with you. While this has its own set of controversies, aside from leaving your dog at home when you shop, it is the safest choice for you and your pup.
If you really can't plan ahead and you find yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to tether your dog, if even for a split second, make sure the lead is securely tied and not in a position to get tangled; that they cannot slip out of their collar; that they are always within eyesight; and that they are away from the street and from any potential danger. And then, whatever you're doing, be quick.