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When you have built a strong relationship with your pet and proofed their behaviors so much that they are finally reliable off leash… it's one of the best feelings in the world! Watching your pet frolic across a field, exploring in the woods together, or even just chilling in your yard together reaches a whole new level of enjoyment when you don't have to rely on the leash anymore.
You may have the sweetest, most social, and extremely well-behaved pet in the world.
But guess what?
You should still leash your well-trained pets and keep them at your side when you encounter others on your adventures.
In fact, you may even be legally required to keep them leashed the entire time! Most cities, towns, parks, and recreation areas require that dogs are leashed at all times. In fact, they likely even have a limit on how long your leash can be! That's right – even if your pet is on long line or retractable leash, you may still be breaking the law 😳 How do you avoid a leash law snafu?
Know before you go!
If you're visiting a National or State Park, check their website or call the office! Heading to a local or county park? Check with your local Parks and Rec department! If you need to figure out your local leash laws, try searching "Your City Name" + Municipal Code and then head to the Animal section to find your leash laws!
Whether leashes are legally required or not, leashing when you are near other people or animals is always a good idea.
If you're getting close enough to someone to wave or nod (like this friendly Midwestern girl always does!), it's time to leash your pet – ideally, before you even get that close.
Yes, even if you have the friendliest pet in the world.
Yes, even if your pet would never leave your side.
Yes, even if other people have told you that you have the most awesome pet ever.
Any time you're getting close to another person or animal, leash your pet.
We leash our pets out of respect for those around us.
We leash our pets in case we encounter those people that don't like pets or are even afraid of pets.
We leash our pets because the vast majority of pets are NOT entirely social.
We leash our pets for safety.
As responsible pet owners, it's important to remember that our presence impacts those around us, whether or not we physically interact with them. If you come across someone that is uncomfortable around pets, they will likely be even more uncomfortable if they see your pet is unleashed. Clipping that leash on your pet can give them peace of mind much more quickly than you trying to shout towards them about how well-behaved your pet is!
And we don't want to just think about the other people around us, we also want to be considerate towards the pets we may encounter on our adventures. While there certainly are many social pets out there that get along well with almost any other pet, there are almost certainly more pets in the world that are not that social. Pet sociability generally follows the shape of a bell curve:
Few pets are truly social, happily greeting and interacting with almost any pet. It may seem like there are a TON of this type of pet because we see them everywhere! Their owners can calmly and confidently bring them just about anywhere. Most puppies and kittens fall into this category, but they will likely move along to a different place on the bell curve as they age. Even these social pets' adventures can be jeopardized by an irresponsible pet owner that doesn't leash their less social pet.
Many pets are tolerant of other pets. They likely do well during on-leash adventures because they are able to remain calm around other pets. They are likely able to communicate effectively with other pets, but don't necessarily seek out play with every pet they meet. There are some other pets that they do enjoy playing with though! These pets are also often seen out and about, but may actually prefer to spend less time around other pets since they are simply tolerating the interactions, not enjoying them. Tolerant pets likely would not enjoy an off leash pet running towards them, even if they may be able to communicate clearly to avoid an altercation... a fight between pets is more likely if both pets are amped up.
Many pets are selective when it comes to socializing with other pets. This is totally normal! They may live with a few other pets or regularly interact with a few other pets and do very well playing with them, but they likely also are less tolerant in general. They probably prefer a certain play style or give out corrections more regularly than tolerant pets. Selective pets generally need guidance from their handlers for a successful pet to pet interaction. A huge portion of the pet population is pet selective. So guess what? The responsible thing to do is to leash up around other pets, just in case! Thanks to irresponsible pet owners, we don't see as many selective pets out and about because they don't necessarily react well when off leash dogs run up to them. Responsible owners of selective pets have to be extra careful in public areas since so many owners are not careful.
Very few pets are truly aggressive towards all other pets, but you certainly don't want your pet to meet an off-leash, aggressive pet! Aggressive pets may get along with one or two other pets, but will likely show inappropriate behaviors even around those one or two other pets when they are amped up. In a safe, controlled environment they can still lead good lives, but their owners will need to provide a high level of structure and management at all times.
As you can see, the vast majority of pets likely will not enjoy off leash pets approaching them. In fact, another pet being off leash in their vicinity may limit their enjoyment and will almost certainly make their handlers at least a little uncomfortable! Leashing your pet can help to keep not only your pet safe, but can also help to keep all other pets in your vicinity safe and comfortable as well! In short, just because our pets are well-trained and reliable enough to enjoy off leash adventures with us does not mean they actually should! If the laws require leashes, our pets should be leashed. Even if it's legal for our well-trained pets to be off leash, it's still kind, compassionate, and courteous to leash your pet whenever you are around others!
What else do you think a responsible pet owner should keep in mind? Have you ever had a bad experience with an irresponsible pet owner? Tell us your thoughts and experiences in the comments!