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The truth is: If it is the law and you allow your dog off leash, you are breaking a law. In a civilized society, members do not simply pick and choose which laws apply to them. I repeat this mantra: It does not matter that you perceive your dog to “be friendly” or that “he loves other dogs.” It does not matter because the dog you have no voice control over is hurling himself into the faces of dogs who very well may NOT be friendly to other dogs. Your dog galloping right up to a leashed dog is rude canine behavior, even if you are running behind your dog screaming: “Don’t worry! He’s friendly!!” You endanger your own dog and all those you allow him to terrorize or bother.
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.
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.
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