I’ve lived in a lot of cities during my lifetime. And I’ve seen lots of dogs during that time, too. Cute dogs and ugly dogs. Big dogs and absolutely tiny dogs that probably would qualify as mice. Puppies and more mature canines.
I’ve also seen dogs that behave amazingly well, following every word from their human. And dogs that could have used a few more hours (days or weeks) of training. Some of these dogs have been very, very sweet (see the pic of my old-man rescue dog, Barney, above) but some have been angry, nippy and downright evil. (Years ago, I was bit by a Chow Chow during a run, so now I can’t look at one without getting nervous. It didn’t break any skin, but I don’t want to outrun another dog like that.)
Which makes me wonder why people think it’s OK to keep their dogs off-leash. In previous homes, I’ve seen only a few people who allow their dogs to walk free of a leash — usually very early in the morning when there are few people around, or on a trail where there’s little chance the dog could bolt into traffic.
But here in D.C. — a busy, thriving, crowded city — every day I see someone out walking with their dog off-leash. And these aren’t necessarily the good dogs that know to stay within an arm’s length of their human because they’ve been trained to do so; these are all kinds of dogs — Labs, terriers, Labradoodles, mutts. Big and small. And they’re off-leash at different times of the day.
Here’s the thing: As in most cities, it’s illegal to take your dog off-leash. There’s no telling what an off-leash dog of any variety could do to a human OR another dog while off-leash. That unpredictability is why we have laws like the D.C. regulations (see 900.2 and 900.3 below).
The other cold, cold day, we were walking Barney on his leash, as we do two or three times a day depending on our schedules. And because Barney is a rescue, he isn’t perfect on the leash; he zigs and zags, he runs and he likes to lunge at pesky squirrels. But generally he’s a good boy. We were heading back home when a woman with her terrier-mix dog approached heading in the opposite direction. He/she was off-leash. Her dog took one look at Barney, snarled and lunged at him.
We extricated him quickly so the only injury was to his pride (I think), but why was this dog not on a leash? Just because she’s done it that way for years? Has she never encountered other dogs? Has this happened before? This meeting could have ended so much more badly, so we counted ourselves lucky that everyone got home unscathed.
I understand the romance behind walking with your dog off-leash: Humans give their dog a sense of freedom; they show the world how GOOD, how obedient their doggo is.
But the rest of the world wants you to put a leash on your beloved pet for its own safety, and for ours.