Let’s review the purpose of a dog leash, shall we? A leash is a device used to tether a dog to its human supervisor. Why do we tether the dogs to their humans? Well, so that the dog will not run across the yard or down the street in pursuit of another animal or human, and so that the dog won’t play on the yellow line and get hit by a car. Oh, and it’s a city ordinance. Did I forget anything? Nope, I think that about covers it.
Yesterday, for the 328th time in the 4 years I have lived in this apartment community, I had to scoop-and-run with my small dog while being chased by an unleashed dog. Owner looking on, this 60-pound mutt rushed silently but swiftly toward us, eyes wide, tail straight up like an antenna, while said owner did nothing. Her other dog, the smaller one that was oblivious to us as it peed, was leashed. I don’t really get the thinking behind leaving any dog unleashed in a target-rich environment; such behavior seems to beg for problems. Need we even explore the thinking behind leashing the small, singularly focused dog while leaving the larger, aggressive one free? Clearly this person wasn’t thinking.
When this happens and I ask them to please get their dog away from me and mine, these dog owners respond in a variety of ways. Almost without exception, their response is devoid of any understanding of my concern or, if the dog is barking or showing teeth, my panic. Almost always, they say, “s/he won’t bite”, as if they can predict what their dog will do, the same way they predicted that it would listen to them when they tell it to return to them. Epic fail. I think there are a few things of which these dog owners are not aware that they should be.
I offer these three simple tips for those dog owners who think leashes are optional:
- Your dog is not human, it is a dog. Yes, you love them and you took them into your home and you call them your “fur babies”, yet the reality is that dogs do not possess the higher reasoning ability of humans. They run on instinct, genetically-driven behavior that has a lot to do with survival and food. Even though they have evolved as humans have kept them as pets, they cannot reason. Some of them appear to try, tilting their adorable heads back and forth as we talk to them. Still, they simply cannot understand. They have to be on a leash because, when presented with something that their tiny minds perceive as either enticing or threatening, they will run on instinct and, well, run. And perhaps growl, snarl, circle, herd, or otherwise express their dominance toward their target. People find this behavior by dogs scary, and rightfully so.
- Leash laws apply to EVERY DOG. Yes, there are parks where you can go to take your dog off its leash and let it run. Those parks have fences to keep the dogs in. Here in our apartment complex, we do not have fences which is why we need leashes. I don’t take my dogs to dog parks because they are too little to play with the big dogs. Despite it being “dog-friendly” (which is a term that refers to the conditions of leasing and not a statutory requirement for all residents), not everyone who lives here likes dogs or wants to pet them or step in their feces when out walking (that’s another blog post). Even those of us who do like dogs and own them ourselves have not agreed to like all dogs, only our own. The leash isn’t for your convenience; it is for the convenience and safety of everyone else, just in case your precious fur baby behaves unpredictably. Instead of your neighbor running from you, yelling at you to get hold of your dog, a leash allows you to say good morning and admire each other’s pooches while making your way past each other to continue your respective walks uneventfully. You could say that leashes promote neighborhood harmony, which is why the city voted to make it an ordinance that leashes are required.
- It is rude, inconsiderate, and potentially dangerous to fail to leash your dog. Once again, the leash is not for your convenience, but for that of your neighbors. We realize that what is most convenient for you is to open the door and let the dog run. People who own their own homes and have fenced yards have the luxury of doing just that. The rest of us who live in multi-family dwellings, or who don’t have fences, have an obligation to consider our neighbors. Most folks immediately understand why it would be inconsiderate to blare loud music in the middle of the night while living in an apartment complex. Leashing one’s dog is in that same category. It’s a kindness shown to your neighbors that keeps you from eventually getting so many complaints against you with the landlord that your lease is terminated.
It’s downright scary to be suddenly rushed by a dog you don’t know. When it happens to me, my heart gets to pumping so fast I think I’m going to have a heart attack. I start thinking about how I will choose between protecting myself and protecting my dogs, and which dog I will rescue if I can’t rescue them both. Crazy, right? Well, you may think so. If you do think this fear is crazy, it’s because you haven’t experienced it yourself. If I am alone, I don’t worry as much, because I can control my response to your dog and likely escape without incident. But when I have my two tiny dogs with me who are prone to yapping in self-defense, I am extremely fearful because I don’t know how your dog will respond to being barked at by mine. This is why I scoop them up and try to get away. Your failure to respond to my multiple requests to get hold of your dog and get it away from me is at once terrifying and angering. Do I seem crazy to you? Well, yeah. Why don’t you just leash your dog and then no crazy. Problem solved.
I have a neighbor who has a chocolate Labrador that lays down and wags its tail whenever people or dogs approach, in a submissive gesture. Despite this, the dog’s owner keeps it on a tether. Why? Because it is the law and because he cannot predict when the dog might not simply lay down. Because, you know, it’s a dog. Do you get it yet, people?
Let me put this in even simpler terms. Just assume no one wants to pet your dog. Those who do will approach you. Next, assume that when another person sees a dog rushing over to them, it will evoke fear. Finally, assume that when your dog rushes over to another dog, it will not go well. If you operate from this perspective, you will be thought to be a nice neighbor. How about that!?!
Put your dog on a leash.