Since that article ran in June, three dogs who have graduated from my Growly Dog class have been attacked by off-leash dogs. My clients work hard to calm their dog’s anxiety when they see other dogs (which often stems from being attacked the very first time by a rude, off-leash dog!). We help these over-anxious dogs learn to trust their handler, and we rebuild their faith that they can walk safely in their own neighborhood. We make significant progress in keeping these dogs calm and focused on their owners instead of hyper-vigilantly scanning for dangers . . . such as an off-leash dog. In some of these cases, the unleashed dog owner was held responsible and now must pay fines in addition to medical bills; one of my clients ended up having an $8,000 hand surgery after breaking up a dog fight. I have enough stories like that to fill up a very long, pathetic book.
In a critical situation, don’t try to reason with the unreasonable human who allowed their dog to come into your dog’s space. By allowing their dog to be unleashed where leashes are required, that owner has by default demonstrated a lack of concern for his own dog and yours. You may feel like screaming obscenities for their lack of care, but that wastes both emotion and time. It can also ramp the dogs up even more.
Even though your puppy may be learning to walk on a leash very nicely, you’re likely to run into some issues as he gets older, goes new places, and experiences new distractions. You’ll want to teach him loose-leash walking, because it’s much more pleasant for you both, and also then he can pass his Canine Good Citizen test. Here are a few tips on what to do if you’re having trouble with leash training, courtesy of the AKC GoodDog! Helpline.

The most “liked” column I have written for Dogster was about why it is critical to observe leash laws. Nearly 20,000 of you clicked that button. The article struck a nerve because owners who flout these laws exist from coast to coast. Some of them angrily responded to my article, insisting they had every right to have an off-leash dog who runs amuck and molests (“he just wants to say hi!”) other dogs and humans. Many more of you wrote to tell me about the severe physical and psychological damage your dog has suffered because of a run-in with an off-leash dog.

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