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Why Even “Good” Dogs Need to Obey Leash Laws

Posted on: July 23rd, 2012 by

A dog with pet health insurance sits in a camping chair, wearing a leash.

I recently had a nerve-wracking experience while camping with my dog and infant son. One afternoon as we walked through the campground, I noticed two large dogs running toward us: ears alert, eyes focused on us.There were no people nearby and the closest campsite was about 100 yards away.

Working in the pet insurance industry, I understand the importance of ensuring my dog always wears her leash, but despite her barking and my commands for the other dogs to “get outta here!” the dogs continued to come at us. With my baby in a front carrier, I couldn’t help but worry I was about to watch a gruesome dog fight happen.

Just before all heck broke loose, the dogs’ owners came running. It took them a few minutes because no one had noticed the dogs had left their campsite until they heard me yelling. The dogs wouldn’t obey a single command until the owners had them by their collars.

A recent survey on the Pets Best Insurance Facebook page revealed 27% of dog owners don’t always follow leash laws – and that includes the nearly 4% who think their dogs never need to be on leashes. Here are the top 3 reasons why leash laws should be followed 100% of the time:

1. Unpredictable Situations
The best-behaved dogs can react unpredictably in new situations, especially if they’re scared. Even if you’re alone on the trail/river/lake, others can show up and change the scene in an instant. Children, vehicles, animals, and even bad weather can cause a dog to forget what “come” means.

2. Hidden Hazards
When you’re hiking and no one else is around, it may be especially difficult to obey leash laws. But often these laws are in place to protect your dog’s life. While having pet insurance plans may help in the event of an accident or illness, sudden cliffs, loose rocks, animal traps, natural hot springs, deep snow, toxic plants and wild animals are all potentially very dangerous to dogs. Keeping your dog on a leash ensures you’ll always know where he’s headed, and you can help him in an emergency.

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3. Vulnerable On-Leash Dogs
It’s common for on-leash dogs to feel vulnerable when approached by off-leash dogs. They sense that the other dogs are free to do as they please, while they’re tethered to their human. The result can be fearful or protective behavior, which may set off a “fight or flight” instinct in your dog.

If your dog chooses “fight”, you could end up in hot water. Legally, you’d be held responsible for injuries to humans and pets and damage to property. You could also face citations from local law enforcement, not to mention the awful feeling knowing your pet caused harm that could have been prevented.

But my dog hates being on a leash!
If your dog really needs to run free, take her to an off-leash dog park. This helps ensure she only comes into contact with other friendly dogs who can handle themselves on their own.

If your pup loves to swim, try a 20-foot cotton web training lead. It’s long enough to let your dog feel like he has some freedom, and gives him the ability to go off-trail or swim to fetch that stick over and over.

How do you feel about leash laws? Let us know in the comments.

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2 Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Great piece! I think your #3 point is one most people casually overlook, thinking “MY dog is friendly, it’s not my problem if your dog isn’t” but a dog standing its ground between a potential attacker and the leashed dog’s owner is doing exactly what dogs are supposed to do in that situation. Just another example of someone’s short-sighted thinking leading to a potentially devastating situation (injured/kill dogs, tens of thousands in medical bills, etc.).

  2. Miss M says:

    I got nipped by a dog years ago only to be told by the owner, “He NEVER does that.” Dogs are extremely unpredictable and you just never know. Our boy behaves so well on a leash that it’s almost become a point of pride for him to do his commands and follow close by on it. Off leash dogs – anything could happen, and it could lead to something devastating for all. Ya gotta keep ‘em close by.

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