An event last night prompted this.  Not a huge, catastrophic event.  Just something small and annoying that is happening more frequently.  Inara and I were out for a walk with some friends and their dogs.  We were getting ready for our final lap around the park when a woman with two German Shepherds unhooked their leashes and started throwing a ball for them.  Hardly a crisis, the dogs seemed very well-mannered and focused on their ball.  The problem was that this was in an on-leash only park.  Inara started barking because, though she’s come so very far, two large sprinting dogs is still too much for her.  So we had to cut our walk short.  As I dragged Inara back to my car, I called across the park to remind the woman that leashes are required.  I found out later from my walking buddies that after I left, she told them that apparently her dogs weren’t the issue – mine was the one acting aggressive.  Hence, this letter:

Dear “normal dog” owners,

As somebody who doesn’t own a reactive dog, I understand that you don’t get why your well-behaved dogs can’t be allowed to run free.  I mean, they’re not hurting anybody, right?  I’m not going to lie, I’m sometimes jealous of people like you who can let their dogs run and play off leash.  The problem isn’t that your dogs are running off leash.  The problem is that they are running off leash in an area designated as on-leash only.

For those of us with reactive dogs, these leash-required areas are sometimes the only place we can safely walk our dogs.  Neighborhoods can be scary because of off-leash dogs in yards.  Dog parks are obviously out of the question.  So a lovely park, in my neighborhood, that requires leashes on dogs?  Perfect!

But when you bring your off leash dogs into what is supposed to be my dog’s safe haven, even though they are well-behaved, it can push her past her threshold and set her training back.  We’ve worked very hard, and the fact that she can happily and calmly walk within a group of (leashed) dogs is still mind-blowingly awesome to me.  So it’s incredibly frustrating when I have to cut my walk with friends short because you are thoughtlessly letting your dogs run free and it’s getting my dog worked up beyond fixing, to the point that she looks like the bad guy in the situation.

I’m simply asking that you have some consideration for those of us who cannot utilize the many dog parks and open areas where dogs are SUPPOSED to run off leash.  Please let us keep our on-leash areas safe for our reactive, leash-required dogs.  Someday, if you have a reactive dog, you’ll understand.

Respectfully,

The owner of a “special needs” dog

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159 thoughts on “Dear “normal dog” owners…

  1. Many years ago we were at Yellowstone national park, we had a doberman at the time and she was leashed, However someone with a small dog that was not on a leash came and attacked our doberman on the leash and they screamed at us like we were in the wrong. My husband told them to retrive their dog or our dog would be off the leash in seconds. Just saying because someone has a big dog or little dog they can all be vicious and the smaller dogs have short dog syndrom just like some men I know

  2. As a neighbor in Westpark I wanted to share a few thoughts.

    First, the rule of the park is to use the leash so it doesn’t matter whose dog was the “problem.” Lakewood dog park is only 10 mins away, if someone wants to have their dogs off leash, it’s a great spot.

    Second, having the dog on leash is not only for the protection of other pets but residents and drivers in the park area. Little children are often scared of animals. Children should not be scared to enjoy the park due to off leash animals. Drivers should not have to worry that a dog may run out in front of their car while they are driving by the park. As someone who was attacked as a child, spending several days in a hospital, I am still terrified of Chows. I have three large dogs but still panic upon seeing the Chow breed. It would not be fair to me to visit the park and be terrified of a Chow running loose. Futhermore, in these days of concealed carry, you never know who may over react if a loose dog approaches.

    Third, having a dog on a leash provides safety to your pet. To ensure they are not injured by park visitors or passing cars. To protect them from running if a loud noise, firework, construction or small animal catches their attention or you off guard.

    My pets are my fur babies and I would never put them in a situation where they may be injured no matter how good they behave or how well they’ve been trained.

  3. Far too many people handle their bad behavior by foisting the blame on someone else. Destroying our world if you think about it. Comes from too much soft love, not enough holding all accountable. If you are going to unleash your dogs in a leashed area, you are the cause of any problems and that is true even if another bigger meaner dog kills your dog.

  4. Hopefully the off leash park is not too far away. To be honest, if you watch Cesar the Dog Whisperer you my benefit from watching what he does. In a situation like yours, it would be an opportunity just have your dog be in one spot while you correct her reacting to the dogs either my the leash or a touch to the side. It may even take 10 min for your dog to calm down from your corrections, but having her stay in one spot and bringing her to a calm state of mind will exhaust her more than a 4 mile walk and if you did that every opportunity then eventually she would learn the dogs running around her doesn’t mean she needs to be nervous. And I am an owner of a German Shepard and also a nervous dog. My German Shepard has no reaction on walks towards other dogs bc I’ve trained him to ignore them and my nervous dog is now learning it to. It’s been 6 months and she is coming along. She still reacts but instead of reacting at a level 10, she now reacts to a 6. Eventually she’ll have no reaction but unknown that will only come with more exposure to dogs barking at her on the walk. And I hope the best for your dog as well.

  5. If only irresponsible dog owners would take note…. Several times we have had problems with off leash dogs in on-leash only parks. And none of them were obedient. Two terriers were running at my dog (GSD), the owner was yelling that it’s OK they are friendly. I yelled “mine isn’t, which isn’t entirely true, but I can’t guarantee how he’s going to react to two yippy things racing at him. I was also hoping the owner would learn a lesson. The owner panicked, but no matter what he did the little dogs evaded capture from their owner and were determined to get to us…. Jerk. He’s there almost every day too and didn’t learn.

    The worse experience: I had the kids at a park at twilight, there was hardly anybody there, so I let my 8 year old take control of the GSD’s leash. Some guy pulled up and let three dogs out of the truck, off leash. All of a sudden the dogs spotted my GSD and they were after him for a fight. The guy didn’t even make a move to retrieve his dogs, my husband took the dog off my daughter. My GSD and his GSD going at each other, the pitbull was coming in and I was standing between the fighting two and the pit bull – yelling, he kept coming. I had to keep kick him to keep him away (owner just leaning against a wall calling). The offending dogs finally responded to their owners calls but he didn’t leave the park. I wanted to put my dog in the car, but jerk face had his leash-less dogs right at the car park. So we were stranded there until he decided to leave.

    Fuming just thinking about it.

  6. Hi Jersey! Thanks so much for reading my blog! I’m actually a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and no longer use corrections. Since moving away from Cesar-style training, my girl’s behavior has VASTLY improved. But thank you for your input!

  7. I applaud you for not only writing the letter, but your continued patience with your fur baby. My heart is owned by a beautiful German Shepherd that also is a VERY reactive and fearful gal. We have yet to make it to a public park but for her safety she is now trained to wear a muzzle while going on drives w/me. My #1 concern being if we were involved in an accident of any kind I don’t know if she would bite them or not so its to save my girls life from 1st. Responders. I just wanted you to know your not alone in your struggle & it makes no difference the breed. Hopefully you have a better experience today & this didn’t set your fur baby back to far

  8. I also walk my dogs in a park and find some other things not so thoughtful. There is a frisbee course around the park I use and those who are playing frisbee are not mindful of the fact that I am walking my dogs by a basket. They proceeded to throw frisbees in our direction. This caused one of my dogs to chase after it. She is okay with one but recently a group proceeded to all through one after the other right next to us. I had two dogs with me one went after the frisbees and the other went after the other dog as I was trying to correct her causing them to start to fight.

    Another issue is people who jog the path around the parks. You can be walking your dogs nicely and they come right up behind them and pass fast. Do they not understand that they are triggering a dogs prey drive by doing this? Same with bikes, skaters, etc. that do not give space to others walking their dogs around the area. Just be considerate and aware of those around you is all I’m asking.

  9. Is the problem really that the dogs were offleash, or that they were running and showing high arousal?

    People, including some of the commenters here, seem to equate “off leash” with “out of control.” I’ve been blessed with some dogs who were very controlled when off leash. The ONLY differences in the picture, from the point of view of another dog such as Inara, are: (1) they might be farther from me than a normal 6′ leash would permit, and (2) there is no actual leash.

    I am not talking about taking my dogs offleash and then throwing a ball. I can totally understand how that might be hard on another dog. But there are ways of being offleash that are NOT provocative.

    In most cases, keeping a dog onleash is a logical and easy to way to prevent this provocation to more reactive dogs (and I’ve had those, too). So it’s easy to translate this into thinking the problem is offleash dogs. But really, those are not the problem. It’s dogs who come up to your dogs, or attack your dogs, or run around with high arousal, and not ALL offleash dogs do these things.

    I personally favor leash laws that require a dog to be onleash OR under good verbal control, and for enforcing this. If I can’t stop my dog from approaching others then she should not be offleash. I agree. But that’s not all offleash dogs. Right?

  10. very well written! I have a “special needs” dog like yours who is getting better at walking on a leash and is usually fine with just me but gets super excited and happy to see other dogs.. If another dog was off leash my dog would go nuts wanting to play with them.. this doesn’t make my dog “vicious” or “mean” it just makes her a goofy, happy puppy… If an area says on leash only, please keep your dogs on a leash people!!

  11. If the law says the dogs should be on-leash, they should be on leash whether they’re behaved and listening or not. There are off-leash dog parks for this reason. I don’t know why people feel they can do whatever they want!!!!!!

    I have a reactive dog and I have had a number of dogs in my neighborhood run up to her. She was bitten by another dog when she was 10-weeks-old and her first reaction is fear. If a dog keeps coming at her, even if they are friendly, she sees it as an attack.

  12. Thank you for writing this. I learned something I hadn’t known until reading it. I have a dog that I let off leash at our neighborhood ball park. I live in the country so there are rarely other people with dogs there, so it’s not usually a problem but I had no idea this would be a problem for reactive dogs. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll keep him on the leash now whenever other dogs are in the park. He stays right with me and prances around, sniffing things around the edges of the ball park so it’s no problem hooking his leash on in just seconds.

  13. Thank you for writing this! Leash-only areas also are safe-havens for those of us humans who have had bad incidents with dogs. It blows my mind how people think it’s OK to just let their dog run around, because They think it’s a good dog… totally oblivious to how it affects others. Kudos to the effort and care you take with your pet and surroundings.

  14. I feel you.

    Too the person who says watch Cesar the Dog Whisperer. That is the worst person to watch ever. I have 3 rescue dogs not a single one has ever needed the abuse he dishes out to be well trained.

  15. To the person who watches Cesar Milan, unless you have been through his training, his show explicitly states “Do not try this at home or seek professional help.” Just like we can’t raise kids from watching reality television, don’t expect to train your dog by watching a television show. The law says, must have leash- then the person off leash is in violation of the law.

  16. Thanks so much for writing this! I have a reactive golden retriever (go figure). People just let their dogs off leash to run up to her (because, golden retriever), even when she’s on leash and I’m obviously trying to move her out of the situation. Then if she lashes out when the unleashed dog approaches her, people act like my dog and I are the devils. The reality is, I’m working very hard to keep all parties safe! Much love to you and you pup. And strength to you both as you continue your hard work. xoxo

  17. Very well said thank you. I have a very gentle and loving rescue dog. He was through a lot before he came into our home. While he is well behaved around other dogs, running larger off leash dog frighten him and cause him much anxiety and he also tends to get a bit aggressive in a protective way. He needs safe places. Rules are rules. If you drive on the wrong side of the road, just because you feel like it, it is not my fault if I hit you. Same with the rules in the park. If my dog gets aggressive and bites it is not his fault.

  18. I will echo Nickelsmum’s comments. Although the person that removed the leash from her, apparently well behaved dogs, was violating the rules, that person really wasn’t the source of the problem. A dog can show lots of drive and excitement while still on leash. A person can play games with leashed dogs, too. Would that person still be at fault if your reactive dog got into hysterics over the commotion? The only difference, really, would be distance. Just because the park is an on-leash only location, it does not, automatically, equate it to being a “quiet zone”. The person that played with unleashed, neutral, impeccably controlled dogs is not the villain. Perhaps, approaching this person, when all has quieted down, and illustrating your circumstances, would serve to smooth things over. Dog parks are not a favorable place, many times, because of the lack of control most people have over their dogs. This person, most likely, felt they had found a place they could exercise their well mannered, well controlled dogs, without the worry of being molested by unleashed, ill mannered, uncontrolled beasties.

  19. Arrogance seems to be running things when it comes human nature. It really puts a bad image on those who are able to take their dogs off leash and successfully recall them with out issue and of course follow leash rules. I’ve seen numerous occasions of dogs off leash running free and not responding to their owners and it’s a disaster waiting to happen. My two border collies haven’t been great with other dogs in the last few months. She will with out warning nip another dog, and have cut their visits to the dog park out because of fights they’ve gotten in to. However their recall is fantastic and if I have an opportunity to bring them to an open space area with no people or otmoher dogs I will bring them and let them run off leash. When I call them they come immediately, even if they happen to notice another dog in the distance. But once people start walking their dogs or just come to walk through or hang out with their families, back on the Leash they go. Off leash is a major responsibility. And it’s a shame that people are being so careless about it.

  20. Thank you for posting this! There are times when I think the world is filled with people who have no consideration for others, feel they don’t need to follow the rules that benefit/prevent harm to everyone else and their pets.

  21. I also have a reactive dog. I don’t take him places where dogs are allowed off leash, or even where there are many dogs on leash. Yes he also reacts to dogs that are on leash, but at least I don’t have to worry that they are going to run up to him, or thwart my efforts to go behind a car to prevent direct staring or counter-condition him with treats. People who say their dogs are fine off-leash and are not a problem clearly don’t understand the issues off leash dogs present. Just follow the regulations please.

  22. Ok, to those saying on-leash can be waived for dogs who listen well: NO IT CAN’T!! You don’t have the right to assume you can predict how my dog will react when he sees another off-leash (it won’t be pretty). Also, you have the ability to go to the off-leash park – WE DO NOT because my dog will lose his mind. It’s not his fault he was abandoned, and so he guards his resources, and most of all his “pack.” UGH you are the reason this letter was written! End rant.

  23. Jersey, the Cesar fan… keeping a dog in one place as you continually punish…yes, punish… will cause the dog to shut down, which to the un-knowing, looks like the dog is “behaving”, and “being good”. For those who use punishment, for it to work, it should only need to happen once, not ten minutes of prodding and jabbing until the dog “surrenders”.
    There’s a better way. Teaching the dog the coping skills to handle these issues. Teaching them to control THEMSELVES. They cannot help how they react, it’s emotional. Would you like it if you were suddenly faced with spiders, and were deathly afraid of them, to be whacked until you showed you didn’t care?? Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.

  24. Ugh, this happened to us many years ago. We specifically picked a ‘leash required’ trail hike. This was for a couple of reasons: 1. I like to have ALL dogs in control and 2. It was a hike with a river and the water was dangerously fast, there were signs saying it was dangerous for dogs. Well we were hiking along and when we got to the end of the trail there was a lady with her two dogs off leash playing in the river with her little kid. I didn’t approach but yelled down to her that we would be up the trail a bit and that my dogs weren’t particularly great with strange dogs and that she should leash her dogs She waved like she understood.

    We went down the trail a bit and were hanging around off to the side letting the dogs sniff around (on leash of course) and her two dogs come barreling up the trail, off leash and BLAMMO, dog fight. She had a small child with her so it was left to me to break up this fight between two 80lb+ dogs. I broke my wrist in the melee but got the dog apart (Big B won that particular fight, the obese black lab was out of his league) and the lady just took off with her dogs (still not leashed). I had to hike three miles to my car with two dogs, scraped up knees and face and a broken wrist.

    The rules are for EVERYONE.

  25. I actually had tears in my eyes reading your letter. You took the words right out of my mouth! I am happy Fur-Momma to a “special needs” Dobie-Chow cross who not only came with leash reactivity, zero social skills with other dogs but also an anxious need to protect the one person (family) who hasnt abandoned him in any way. We have worked EVERY day for the last 9 months to get him to where he isnt terrified to walk the streets with us, where we can pass another dog on the other side of the road without a massive explosion (got him down to a whine now lol), where he can actively PLAY with other dogs in a controlled setting and yet we still have dog owners who are completely clueless as to why he gets in a snot when another dog on one of them extendable leash (or off leash) starts with the Napolean complex or starts barking at him..They look at him like he is a maniac and that I have three heads. But its their dog they arent in control of or arent watching how their dog is communicating through their body language. But you know something… I have learned to shake it off brush it off and keep on going because my boy needs me. And I know with time, we will get where we need to be. Hang in there but know you arent alone!

  26. Rules are made to be followed. Rules are for a reason many of which are outlined in the article and comments. If this woman doesn’t LIKE the rules, she should contact whoever is in charge of making the rules and petition them to change them. Sheesh.

  27. The point that some seem to miss is that you (Inara’s mom) were trying to have an enjoyable, relaxed walk with your friends and their dogs. You hadn’t set out wanting to have a training session and certainly hadn’t wanted to cut your walk short.

  28. nickelsmum – for my dog it is being off leash that it the problem, not what the dog is doing. He long ago learned that leashes control dogs. If they have a leash on and someone is holding it, it doesn’t matter what they are doing they are not a threat. I go to ON LEASH parks for that reason. People and dogs are smart enough to know when a leash is on. They choose to go where dogs must be on leash. So, if you go there, keep the leash on your dog.

  29. Why wouldn’t you just muzzle the ‘reactive’ dog? That’s what we used to do with ours. Problem solved.

  30. To Inara’s owner…hats off and paws up! We work with a lot of reactive dogs and their owners and they, too, have come across those “well behaved, off leash dogs”. I want to share your letter to them so they know they are not alone

  31. Tamaresque – a muzzle prevents a dog from biting. I’ve never seen a muzzle stop another dog from attacking. It does not help a dog relax. It does not allow the dog to enjoy a pleasant walk without fear of attack.

    I feel so sorry for your dog. You completely failed to deal with the real problem so badly you don’t even understand it as a problem. You are completely insensitive to the fear and anxiety the dog experiences. Like it doesn’t matter to you.

    No one, not dog and not human, should have to lock themselves away to feel safe. They look at the rules of conduct at a particular location. They decide that if those rules of conduct are respected that they can feel safe. People who ignore the rules of conduct are in the wrong. Simple.

  32. Good post . . ..I’ll bring up another problem with people who let even their well-behaved dogs off leash in a designated on leash park . . .. it encourages others to believe that “Oh other people are doing it, so the rules must be lenient here . . . I’ll let my dog off leash too”

    And unfortunately, it’s often people with the not so well-trained dogs that the quickest to jump in and break the rules.. . .. They can become “secret” o.k. off leash areas pretty quickly . . . .there are a few such spots in one of our large city parks, even nicknamed “Dog Hill” and in spite of repeated ticketing by Animal Control people still let their dogs off leash there.

    And don’t even get me started on the people who let their dogs off leash in our urban, traffic busy neighborhood . . which 9 out of 10 times do not have any recall whatsoever . . .. . it’s fun when those run right up to your reactive dog.

  33. I totally understand this person for I have a very well mannered Border Collie that can go anywhere off leash. I also have a Doberman that is well mannered on leash but the same case here that if someone’s dog was running loose around her she would be on guard. So people just need to think responsibly. This is coming from the one with the best of both worlds!!

  34. AMEN!!! Thank you for this well-written insight into what it’s like to have a reactive dog.

    (As an aside, sadly, if this woman with the two off-leash, well-behaved dogs ever got a dog that turned out to be reactive, my guess is she wouldn’t be willing to keep it and it would end up at a shelter. I hope that I’m wrong, but it’s just a gut feeling.)

  35. Reblogged this on The DIY Bistro and commented:
    As the owners of a “special needs” dog AND a “normal dog,” I can totally understand what you mean. My reactive dog can set my non-reactive dog off and we have a mess on our hands. Rules are rules for everyone’s benefit.

  36. Wonderfully put. I have a “special needs” dog to and it kills me when people judge him because he is reactive. He can’t help this behavior because he previous owners who ditched him in a field never taught him how to behave. They never took the time to socialize him, heck they didn’t even take the time to love him. He is a super sweet dog and I love him to pieces. He’s slowly but surely learning how to behave with other fourleggers but it is a long process. I just wish more people would take the time to understand instead of passing judgment.

  37. Months after I adopted my Husky/German Shepherd mix, I brought him to Valley Forge with my family. He was well mannered on the leash but I knew he wasn’t the best with other dogs he didn’t know. I’d worked with him and he no longer reacted to other dogs walking nearby on a leash (as long as their owners didn’t let their dogs run right up to his face). We sat on a bench while my brothers were inside a little shop and this goofy looking golden retriever comes running straight for my dog, off leash, with his family 10 or so feet behind him. My dog started reacting and the owner of the other dog? They were screaming at me to control my LEASHED dog. At the time we were probably only about 15 feet away from a sigh (one of many in the park) that said dogs were required to be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.

    I wish more people understood exactly what it’s like to have a reactive dog.

  38. I think the comments really express the reality of the situations: it’s hard to meet the needs of all dogs. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes surely we can all see that a rules for an 13 year old pug might not be as necessary as the rules for a 9 month Dobi. So those that say rules are rules.. well I don’t think they have a dog and they definitely don’t have a dog like I have. The funny thing is I suspect there might be a reason the woman with two large German Shepherds is not at a dog park. It might even be that she has issues with her ‘NORMAL’ dogs as well (e.g., sharing toys). I have a reactive/aggressive dog and he can’t go to the dog park but I also know that leash walks on the street do little to tire him out. He often finds more garbage at every corner. Then what? Sometimes I break rules because I do what’s best to meet his needs. Sometimes we walk through ravines and I drop a long line. I’ve worked on so many skills with him to help deal with situations – even when offleash dogs charge at us. I sympathize with anyone that has a reactive dog it is is so much work and really hard. But I also have a hard time telling everyone that you need to a) be in a dog park or b) be on leash everywhere. What if your dog loves the ball but can’t be near other dogs. Then what? At the end of the day, this woman was probably just doing was you are doing: trying to meet the needs of her difficult dogs.

  39. We live in a society of people who think they are exceptional. The rules are for everyone except them.

  40. While I agree that there are dogs that are wonderful off leash, I think some of the people are missing the point. If you are at a location that specifically states that dogs must be on a leash, then keep them on a leash. It is as simple as that. If you feel your dog is so well trained that you do not need a leash,then go to areas that do not require the. Intentionallt disregarding the law should never be an option.

  41. Boo f-in hoo! Don’t tell me how to handle my pupdogs, and I won’t tell you how to handle yours. As long as you aren’t abusing them. ..

  42. I have exactly the same issue. I set up my blog to challenge the misconceptions here in the uk.
    I have a Staffordshire Bull terrier rescue who is also doing better but still textile so this i relate to!

    https://staffieroom.wordpress.com/

    My small fb page is to challenge with fact all the lies courted by the media

    Facebook.com/staffieroom

    I’ll be sharing this there if that’s ok?

    Pls feel free to share your posts and insights too. I love finding like minded pet parents!

  43. I too have a reactive dog. We got him as a rescue when he was two and had been in 4 different shelters and several different homes. It took us two years and a trainer to get him at a reasonable level. He still is a very reactive dog and very protective. He is funny,smart,sweet and good with our other dog. He is pretty well trained but is a reactive dog. He does fine unless an unleashed dog runs up to him–barking or not. He will take any size dog on and he is a med. size dog. We take him for a walk everyday in our neighborhood–on leash–several times we have had off leash dogs run up to him and attack him from behind. I have had several heated discussions to the owners about this. 1–their is a leash law 2–I am older and could get injured 3–my dog could get hurt 4–your dog could get hurt and lastly, if you are not going to take proper care of your pet or child , then do not have them. Rule of thumb is do no harm.
    On another note, I do not like off leash dogs to run up to me—large or small makes no difference. I am not afraid of dogs and have not been bitten but I have a healthy respect for them. If a human you did not know came running up to you and got in your personal space, how would you feel?? Kids also should be taught that to never approach a dog they do not know.
    Last but not least, do not tell me your dog is friendly and it is okay. No, it is not okay—my dog is reactive and your dog has no manners and is off leash and not under your control.

  44. All of my dogs have been trained to respond to hand signals and verbal commands, and are safe off leash. However, if I go to a “leash only” location like our wonderful quarry, then the dog is leashed. I don’t own the quarry, so if I go there with a dog, it stays on the leash. It’s that simple.There are many reasons why my well behaved dog may still cause harm when off leash at a leash only location, as many of you have explained in your comments.
    We must be considerate and civil. That means obey the rules, even if you don’t understand their purpose. The quarry has rules, and is a shared space. Nobody has the right to ignore the property owners rules. If something sufficiently bad happens due to unleashed dogs, we may all loose the privilege of taking any dogs to the quarry.

  45. I’m amazed at the number of people commenting that their dogs are great off leash and respond when called. That’s great…..but that is also the problem. If you are at an ON-LEASH location, you need to keep them on leash. If you want them to be able to run off leash, then go to such a place. You and your dogs ARE NOT the exception to the rule.

    My dog is not a reactive dog. But we do follow the rules, no matter whether or not they apply to us.

    The rule says all dogs must be on leash..Not all dogs must be on leash unless they respond when called.

  46. This should be required reading for all dog owners. Several years ago I took a dog rescued after Hurricane Katrina for his first outing after being treated for heartworm. He was a 75 pound lab/pit mix. We stopped for cheeseburgers then went to take a walk in a park. Leashes required. I kept him close not being sure how he would do and knowing he had issues with smaller dogs. A woman – granted with her dog on a leash but a retractable one let all the way out – let her little dog come running straight at us. I ended up with my dog behind my knees as we couldn’t get away fast enough. As I held his collar and felt him growl, I nicely asked the woman to pull her dog back. “but she loves other dogs”. I asked again. After the third request, I got blunt with her…. “he doesn’t like little dogs – if he get ahold of yours, he will do some serious damage. he is a rescue dog and if there is an incident, his life is forfeit. I am doing everything to keep him and your dog safe. you need to back off”. Her response – “well you don’t need to be rude”. argh…

  47. My dogs are both reactive. Probably because they want to innocently play but still reactive. I was at some paths near my house where it is clearly marked that all dogs need to be leashed. A guy was there with his daughters and 2 small dogs. They were unleashed and ran over to mine who was leashed and i ended up almost falling over. I pointed out that it was a leash required area by law. He rolled his eyes. Later he came by and both his dogs were on leashes -just dragging them. No one was holding them. “Happy now?” He said snidely. Ugh. I was livid. I had to cut our walk down. Jerk.

  48. A very well written and thoughtful letter. I hope it gets read by the right person. Although, in my experience some people are not as well behaved as their canine counterparts.

  49. I 100% get you. We have someone a block away who got a “purebred” German Shepherd dog. And he believed the first lesson to be taught a puppy is: walk by my side, leashless. I say he’s brainless. I have a puppy-mill survivor. He is dog-selective. I make sure he is on a short leash, by my side, when a new situation arises since I know the “regulars”. Many stop for a “cookie” from me. I know my dog, having been attacked in the high-kill shelter he was thrown in after being dumped from the PM, cannot, under any situation, have a dog “pounce” on him. Young, old, large, small or puppy, he will snap. While he has only ever giving a warning snarl, and an “air snap”, putting me and my dog in this stressful situation was horrid. We have a leash law, but also a useless animal control officer as well. The best I got was he “crossed the street” to help me get by. Why don’t people get it? We knowingly take on a dog with problems to give him a shot at happiness. Is it to much for people to follow laws, regulations and, most of all, common courtesy?

  50. Wow, I am one of those people who has two well behaved dogs who do not require a leash and I have to say after reading your letter you have really changed my perspective. I will keep my dogs on leashes now. Thank you for such a pleasant respectful note to us. I feel really selfish and intend to be a respectful owner from now on.

  51. The problem I’ve had is that people often over-estimate how well behaved their dog is. In my experienced the extremely disciplined off the leash dogs are the minority. I’m spending hundred of dollars and countless hours on reactivity training and so it’s really frustrating when I go to the park and right away someone’s dog runs up to mine. Once my dog reaches that level of agitation, we’re done. We might as well go home because nothing will be accomplished in that session.

  52. THANK YOU! I also have a reactive dog, who has also come a long way with training. We are able to now walk on leash calmly in the vicinity of other dogs. This is result of a dog attack at a local dog park 😦
    She does so wonderful with me when she is on a leash. But we have to be ever vigilant for off leash dogs, as her fear quickly escalates when dogs are running crazy. We are sure to steer clear of clearly off leash places. But no matter where you go there is always someone.
    Know that you are not alone!
    From the mom of “special needs” dog!!

  53. I knew nothing of the “reactive dog” world until we adopted such a dog. It wasn’t known when we adopted him, so we were really in the dark. But we’ve been taking classes that help greatly.

    So prior to adopting this dog, I am not sure that I would have been as compassionate and respectful of the situation facing such dogs and their owners. I figured the responsibility was on them, not on me. I now know otherwise. I completely get it.

    Any of you with reactive dogs heard of the Yellow Dog Project? It is an international movement bringing awareness to dogs that need extra space. The dogs wear a yellow ribbon on the collar or leash, making it obvious to others. Like the red ribbon on the tail movement for horses needing extra space. Google the Yelllow Dog Project and support their efforts!

  54. This blog popped up on my Facebook feed, as I follow The Yellow Dog Project. I too have a reactive dog – a golden retriever. His history is complicated, but he tipped over into serious fear-based aggression while being boarded by a dog sitter. We never got the real story from her, but we suspect he was repetetively attacked by another dog she was also caring for – we returned from a trip to a dog with huge scabs on his neck and a total change in social behaviour. We’ve spent years (and many dollars) on trainers, vets, and medications. He is now controllable, but we are sadly resigned to the reality he will never be ‘normal’ again. He is able to make friends and tolerate being around new dogs, but the introductions have to be very carefully controlled.

    We never take him to dog parks, which create massive anxiety for him with dogs running, wrestling, barking etc. We do walk him on public trails where there are on leash regulations. Almost daily I find myself dealing with at least one dog owner who has decided that his or her dog does not need to be leashed. I would guesstimate that at least 90% of these owners do not have total recall, and a mind boggling number of them don’t even have a leash with them. So it plays out like this…I see a dog running down the trail at us, sometimes a long way ahead of the owner. I stop, calmly ask my dog to sit (off to the side), and call out to the owner that we are in training and are not meeting dogs today (this wording was suggested to me by a very respected dog trainer). I then ask the owner to call their dog. Most often the response I get is “oh no problems, my dog is friendly”. To which I reply (as I am inserting myself between my now agitated dog and the incoming one) “my dog is afraid of strange dogs, please call your dog”. By now the owner starts registering that my dog is not happy and that I am literally fending off their inquisitive, and occasionally, aggressive dog. As I said over 90% are not able to recall their dog, and have to physically come and grab their dog by the collar to get them to move along.

    So, to those of you who think you don’t need to follow the rules (and in our area the leash requirement is actually a bylaw and so fines are imposed if caught), I would ask you to think seriously about the choice you are making. You are creating unneccessarily stressful situations for other dogs and their owners who are dealing with either social or physical impairments. There is also a possibility that your unleashed dog will create trauma for an individual who has been attacked by or had another kind of negative experience with a dog at some point in their life. These kinds of people would never go to a dog park, but they should be able to feel safe in parks and on trails where leash laws are posted.

    Having a dog is a privilege, not a right. Unless you live in a very remote area where your dog does not interface with other dogs and humans, you have a social responsibility to follow laws and rules that are in place to protect your dog, other dogs, and people from negative experiences.

  55. I love this. I have 2 Rottweilers, one is the happiest most well adjusted boy I’ve ever seen. My girl on the other hand is a very reactive dog. She was a rescue at about the age of 5 yrs old. She was extremely malnourished at about 55lbs with her average weight 90 lbs major fungal infection of the skin & was very obviously just an outside guard dog. She reacts horribly to lose dogs (I’ve trained and trained, but there’s a few things I could just never break her of). In my town people tend to let there dogs run lose everywhere & as a result I’ve had to turn walking her later at night, which as she’s 10 now is getting more and more uneasy for me to do at 5 ft and 100 lbs wet lol maybe this will open people’s eyes to other side of the tracks per dog parents

  56. My leashed dog was bitten by a dog who was off leash. The dog was very well trained and had never been aggressive towards other animals before. Thankfully my dog had only minor injuries and both dogs were up to date on immunizations. You never know how a dog will react in new situations.

  57. I completely agree with the author of this article and found it very valid. Not even just for reactive dogs, but for very hyper “jealous” dogs if you will, as well. I have two Siberian Huskies that absolutely can’t be trusted off leash. Only when it’s an actual designated and secure leash free dog park do we allow them to run wild. When I try walking mine on a leash, where it is required, it’s hard to keep their attention with free running dogs. They see them running around, chasing balls and other toys etc. and become almost impossible to keep attentive and calm. At that point it’s just easier to pack up and leave, which I absolutely shouldn’t have to do when I’m following the rules.

  58. Thank you for posting this! I too have a reactive furbaby (Rottweiler) and have run into this issue before only to look like the bad guy. I hope you and your furbaby have more successful walks in the future!

  59. Dog Parks Have No Rules !

    I have 2 rescue dogs I don’t know the breeds, but I’m sure they have some Terrier in them.( A mom and son from Mexico) I have owned them for about 6 yrs and walk them every day for about a hour and sometimes twice a day. I began socializing right away.We met other dog owners and started meeting everyday at the sports field for socializing, ball throwing and dog play!!! All different breeds and ages. This is not a off leash area just a huge fenced in field. But now after 6yrs. the city has started to enforce the bylaw.

    I have taken them a few time to the dog parks in our area. They both got kennel cough, we lost balls, and they are both not interested in play.

    One afternoon my husband and I entered the dog park he throw the ball a Doberman ran after it my dog dropped the ball , and the Doberman ran off with it. That’s when the owner of the Doberman said “well you will never get it away from him now” 30 minutes later the owner says how much does this ball means to you? (Meaning maybe we should just leave without our ball and NO exercise for our dog. Who is now going home for the rest of the day locked up!)
    At another dog park in the area with a river I would throw the ball into the water and other dogs would either beat him to it or grab it from him when coming out of the water and pop his chuck it ball. The beach area is big with trees and grass we would always move around many times to different area without dogs. Until the worse happened I throw the ball into the river and when my dog had the ball in his mouth a Pit Bull climbed onto his back and he went under. The panic he felt for being held under water stopped him from swimming for about a 1 year.

    So what is the answer be respectful to others around you! I leash my dogs when ever a person,child, or other dogs comes near! If that was me with the 2 German Shepherds. I would have heard your dog and leashed mine. Then asked you is the exercising of my dogs causing your dog to panic. And then I would have walked mine until you leave. We need to realize lots of dogs are high energy and need to burn that off. Even Cesar Millan says exercise your dog before bringing it to the dog park. Because all that built up energy can bring on aggressive behavior. Which I saw with the group that would meet at the park. The dogs that were locked up all day are way more aggressive then the ones that had stay at home parents. So what do I do now since the bylaw officer came down to the park. We walk on leash only and no more ball.

    Dog need to socialize and been trained to be friendly with other dogs, we can’t walk around dragging our none socialized dogs barking and growling throw the streets. The sidewalks are not wide enough to keep dogs on leashes apart even on leashes !
    Yes ! I had aggressive dogs growing up it wasn’t fun and that is why I really put in the time with these 2 coming from Mexico to socialize them.

  60. Wow, it’s amazing to see so many people in the same boat as me. I have a staffordshire bull terrier who was attacked as a puppy by a lhasa apso of all things (and yes, people laugh about that) but it means that he has met every dog with fear and a “bark now before it gets me” attitude. We have worked so hard with him, found what works for him – carrying a toy – it chills him and relaxes him and now, we can walk past other dogs without him getting scared and reacting – he still sometimes gets scared but will now either hide behind me or the nearest car (and peep out from behind it to see if the other dog has gone, bless him)

    We don’t take him to parks as I expect to find off leash dogs there and I don’t want to set his rehabilitation back by some random dog running at him to say hello and freaking him out.

    We have a nice on road walk near us but I’m so heartily sick of people who don’t have their dogs on leashes – it’s not a busy road, but cars come down it like they were at NASCAR. When we see an off leash dog miles away from its owner and heading our way and showing just a bit too much interest in coming to say hello (on the opposite side of this road I might add), we’ll call to the owner to please take a hold of their dog – mostly we get told how friendly their dog is, sometimes we get ignored and other times we get snapped at that if their dog didn’t do as it was told, it wouldn’t be off leash (as it comes running across the road towards us) and the latest is that their dog isn’t used to being on the leash and pulls. I had cause one day to try and lob my 30kg stafford over somebody’s garden wall to protect him from a small dog that came running at him snarling, whilst the owner stood at their front door smoking a cigarette.

    Road Traffic Law states that all dogs should be on a leash on the public highway – so why do so many people think they are above this?

  61. I completely understand your frustration, but I have one of my own. I have a reactive dog who is reliable off leash, does pretty well meeting dogs one on one, but does not do well in group settings with dogs he doesn’t know. So the dog park is out for us. And I have a small backyard, too small for my large dog to run and exercise effectively. So exercising my dog can be quite a challenge, unless I drive out of town to an off leash hiking area. I am not excusing the German Shepherd owners but I do understand them. What is the owner of a large breed, active, well-trained but reactive dog to do when there are no other off-leash options besides dog parks?

  62. i find your argument valid, and love that your dog is finally gaining on-leash progress. But the situation you described above also seemed like a good opportunity for YOUR dog to have a learning experience. Off-leash dogs in designated areas or not are going to be something you encounter, no matter how hard you try. We are human and not all of us choose to abide by the rules. And agreeing with many of the above, the energy level of those dogs were high, which may have caused a stronger impact.
    The best way for you to take action upon this sort of matter is to either train your own dog better or find a truly secret place where you know for a fact you wont encounter other dogs. I have had experience with both reactive and nonreactive dogs, my pittxlab mix had issues with every dog she came across, it may have taken quite awhile for her to get past another dog without growling but we got there eventually. Sometimes we had to walk her out in the chapparel off the beaten path though.
    My labxgolden on the other hand comes everywhere, sometimes with leash others without but he listens to me, comes when he is called.
    I’m sorry you had to cut your walk short with a bad experience. Maybe next time just communicate with her, let her know the situation with your dog ask her to take them to another area or leash them while you go around one last time, or even ask for her help such as walking her dogs past your dog for training purposes. We are all so human and quick to get up
    set and we forget to communicate with eachother. I hope your experience in the future can be better.

    I have trained many dogs and worked with all sorts of breeds my experience is vast.

  63. Linda I’m going to be blunt and just say it. You could take your dog for runs. On leash around your neighbourhood or at a park. If running isn’t your thing, I hate to say it but that should have been something you take into consideration when picking out your furry friend. Unless you have a big yard where you can play fetch with your dog then it’s important to adopt a dog whose energy level is similar to your own. Big dogs need active owners. But people in leash only parks shouldn’t suffer for other owners mistakes.

  64. I must admit I am a person that takes my dogs off leash in a human park, for two reasons: I live in a very small town and my dogs don’t do well with many dogs in a dog park. But that being said I have rules I live by, we walk down to the park on leash, they don’t get off leash until we confirm no one is around (it’s somehow rarely used) and they get to sniff around the ball fields. If we see anyone there or if someone shows up, my dogs get called, treated and leashed, they are also leashed to go home.

    This might not be the ideal, but it by no means is an everyday event (hell with the one dog 14 1/2 years old, it’s hard to find a good day he won’t tire out too quickly). This park is also off a main road and past homes (only by a fenced graveyard), I won’t be letting my dogs off leash anywhere I thought they might be hurt or get anyone afraid. Using common sense is something many people don’t do anymore.

  65. Even if a dog is not reactive, it can be traumatized if assaulted by an uncontrolled dog. I was out in our local state park some years back doing tracking training with a young dog. She was on a thirty-foot line and totally focused on the track she was following when a woman pulled up to the field and just opened the car door and let her lab mix leap out. The dog immediately sighted my Merci and came galloping toward her. As I ran toward her, I yelled, “Call your dog!” and the idiot yelled back, “Don’t worry, she’s friendly!” Merci, who weighed 30 pounds, was startled and confused when the 60-some pound lab mix barreled into her and rolled her over. Fortunately I was able to grab the other dog’s collar and restrain her before she pounced on Merci again. My dog could have been badly injured or seriously spooked by this woman’s thoughtlessness. As it was, she was definitely shaken and a little sore afterward.
    If people want to exercise their dogs offlead, they need to do it in an enclosed area where this is pemitted. That dog could have seriously injured a smaller dog, found itself in a battle with a more aggressive or insecure dog, or even just taken off after one of the numerous deer which live in this park. This owner was at least apologetic, as she’d heard Merci’s cry of pain, but some of the people mentioned in other posts here apparently believe they are entitled to ignore the rules and the well-being of other dogs.

  66. I don’t think people with normal dogs realize what it’s like to have a reactive dog. Mine is super sensitive and if I take him to a leash only park I expect there to be leashed dogs. Well behaved off leash dogs are a problem. Why? I will tell you why. When you have an 80 pound reactive GSD and you see a trigger, you yourself tense up to some degree as well. In a perfect world, as a trainer/handler of a reactive dog, you would stay perfectly calm but that is hard to do.

    So while those particular off leash rule breaking dogs are indeed not doing anything, you are still hyper vigilant, which triggers your dog. We count on the fact that dogs are supposed to be leashed. My dog is so handicapped it breaks my heart. He generally has to stay home most of the time as I can’t control his environment enough to make much progress on his desensitization.

  67. I too have a “special needs” furbaby. She is a very good on leash after a lot of working with her. She was severely abused as a pup and is terrified of all dogs, people, children, cats, the dark, any kind of change, you name it she is terrified of it. And she is more than half blind in her left eye, come up suddenly on that side freaks her out. But she is very reactive, in on leash places, she will bark at other dogs if they get too close, off leash dogs in the same place will send her into a fit. She has yellow ribbons EVERYWHERE on her collar, her leash, around my wrist, just letting people know that while my baby isn’t aggressive, she will more than likely bite out of fear, whether it be another dog, or a person reaching for her. We were in a park (on leash) not too long ago when a man and woman pulled up, let their dog run loose and it made a beeline to my Annie, I calmly asked them to stop their dog as Annie would react more than likely aggressively if the dog got too close, the man actually yelled back at me that dogs needed to “fight” it out to socialize. This dog was bigger than Annie, not by much but enough to make me nervous. I kept complete control of Annie but she “puffed” up and I knew if this dog got closer, either she or that dog was going to end up hurt. I had to take Annie out of the park before anything serious happened, but all I could think is how this man didn’t seem to care that he was putting not only his dog, but all other dogs at risk by having that kind of attitude that dogs needed to “fight it out” to socialize them.

  68. Kate,

    I doubt Linda selected a reactive dog on purpose. I certainly did not. I did not fully realize that my dog was reactive until he was 5 or 6 months old. Even then I was thinking, “Is this puppy stuff?” Something just seemed off.

    So the normal GSD for me, would have suited perfectly. But the one I ended up with isn’t exactly what I had in mind. He requires excessive environmental control and planning for almost every aspect of his life. Sorry baby boy! Love you anyway!

  69. I think someone mentioned how there is a difference between off leash and aroused and off leash and under control. The problem with that is that it becomes confusing to the other average dog owners. No one is gonna go to the dog park and see Fido in an off leash heel and think that is okay because the dog in “under control” and “not aroused”, so I better not let my Rover off leash to play fetch. Its as simple as off leash or on leash, that 6 ft line is black and white, that dog owner is breaking the rules I will too, no one is thinking about arousal or play or traffic or kids. I’ve definitely been confused, not realizing a park was on or off leash because of the myriad of other average dog owners. Yes, I am far more lenient in immediate opinion, when I am out and someone has their dog(s) off leash, but its 100% under control, not aroused, and has a fail safe recall. But, I am an above average dog owner, I can tell the difference because I went through it, someone who hasn’t went through anything with a dog reactive dog, will simply think, their dog is off, I’ll take mine off. Then it all naturally escalates to someone’s, highly aroused, ball obsessed german shepards running, focused, but adrenalized in whats supposed to be an on leash and safe space for all of the public. Its not just about reactive dogs, rules exist for the enjoyment and safety of public spaces for all of the public.

  70. Had similar confrontation at off-leash dog park. I have a Cattle Dog who loves to chase anything that moves. Especially bicycles, golf carts and Razor scooters. Although there are many signs posted about no bicycles in this fantastically large open off leash dog park, this family chose to let there 2 young children play on their scooters. I asked them politely if they could stop moving until we went by and was not able to tell them why before both parents unleashed a tirade of basically they can do whatever they want and there are no signs about bicycles, they have been coming there for years! I pointed out the sign about 10 feet in front of them with a picture of a bicycle with a line through it. They continued to argue with me right up until the point my dog came within 6 inches go biting either the back wheel of the scooter or their daughters leg. My dog does wear an e-collar for his safety and when he wears it, he is totally under voice control so when I told him to leave it, he backed off without any correction needed from me. The father looked at me like he was going to say something and I just kept walking. Praising my dog for listening. As I was loading up back at the car I saw each parent carrying a scooter. My dog taught them a better lesson than I could have ever verbalized.

  71. Bonnie – I totally agree with you on the running people and bikes. I’ve been at OFF-LEASH dog parks and there are stupid-ass people riding bikes through the park! Not a good outcome when my dog is a cattledog.

  72. One of the problems that really isn’t mentioned much here is that many dog owners really don’t train their dogs much, and also have a very limited knowledge of “dog etiquette” and dog-park etiquette. Even dog owners with a lot of experience may not have a clue about “reactive ” dogs, and how difficult their exercise opportunities can be. I sure didn’t, and I’ve had three 16 yr-old dogs in 42 years. But they were all sweet, goofy, fun and obedient animals, and I rarely had any problem with them, (other than aggressive dogs running up to them.) I recently adopted an 11 year-old Siberian mix who is highly reactive, and my whole world has changed. I would never in my life thought I’d be the one saying,” I’m sorry, my dog is not friendly, please call your dog”. And we have had every one of the problems mentioned here. What people who really don’t train their dogs much don’t understand is, just like a kid, every negative experience they have with an aggressive dog reinforces their fear, and their reactiveness. It’s hard to spend so much loving time and energy to help your dog learn to be safe, happy and comfortable when out walking, and then have some jerk wreck it all in 5 minutes. A lot of this particular problem could be avoided if people would really train their dogs, and educate themselves, as well as follow the on-leash/off-leash rules. It’s been great to read people’s comments stating they never knew, and they would be more careful from now on. THANKS!!! Wish every one could have that attitude of cooperation and understanding!!

  73. While I agree that dogs should be kept on leash in a leash only area, where does that leave the well behaved off leash dogs? I see lots of people suggest dog parks but that is where the rude and ill trained dogs go with many shouts of ,”it’s okay, he’s friendly”. A dog charging up to a strange dog is not friendly is not friendly, he’s RUDE. I consider my dogs well behaved but they will defend themselves against rude dogs when so assaulted.

  74. Very welcome post. This has plagued me for the past four years, since coming back from overseas with my INDog, who spent the first two years of his life on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Such relief to see it articulated (modestly, respectfully) by someone else. For his protection, my dog really has to be leashed at all times when we’re in ANY kind of public space. I always carry a cane (good thing I’m old enough for this to seem reasonable) which I sometimes have to use to create distance between my leashed dog and an off-leash that is rushing at us. The experience of being rushed at by an off-leash dog, of practically any size, generally regresses not only my beautiful “primitive” but also me. (Having to cut short a pleasant walk and having to drag an innocent, reacting dog back to the car = bad, very bad language. . .)

  75. If your dog has this emotional problem, unleashed or not, you should take him professional help and stop whinning.

  76. The problem w off-leash parks & dog parks for the well-behaved & trained dogs is not only the uncontrolled dogs, but rather the owners w no idea of their dog’s issues, pay no attention to their dogs & have no regard for others in the area. That puts those well-trained dogs at risk in those off-leash areas. So, while I understand your frustration, reactivity issues, BAT training & thresholds, I hope you can understand too. Well-behaved/trained dogs need their safety & exercise too. While I may have my dogs off-leash, I am vigilantly alert for any other arrivals & immediately call, leash & treat when anyone else arrives & respect their needs for leashed dogs. I can only do the best I can for my dogs & hope not to interfere w others attempting to do the same. Thank you.

  77. So…let’s say those Shepherds were on long lines and the owners were still playing fetch with them….would their be as much outcry since your dog would still react the same way? It hurts to have a reactive dog, but this is just full blown jealousy turned to hate…and then you shouted at people who were not harming anyone. That’s just sad behavior on your part. Seems the dog is feeding quite a bit off of your energy too.

    Stop blaming others. Your dog is the reactive one. Their dogs didn’t run up to you. They didn’t bother you. They behaved as though they were on leashes. They weren’t the problem. Stop pouring so much hate onto others.

  78. It’s common curtesy to have a dog on a leash when in public places, plain and simple. Furthermore “normal” does not represent any sense of rectitude, balanced seems more appropriate. It all comes down to a seemingly endangered human trait, compassion for others.

  79. I agree completely! I have 2 large breed dogs…a pit bull terrier and a weimaraner…both are normally calm but other dogs not on leashes have been a problem. Walking my babies one day in my neighborhood an small lil dog came running at us from its yard, my dogs sat perfectly while I knelt beside them. Both were well behaved and calm while this dog barked and nipped at my dogs legs. When the lil dog did actually bite my weimaraner, my weimaraner couldn’t take any more and started mauling the dogs neck. The lil dog wasn’t hurt thankfully but the saddest part was that it caused me to be on the ground trying to pull my 100 lb dog out of this persons dogs neck and my dog got out of his harness as a result of all the struggling with him. At that point the man living there pulled in vehicle and IMMEDIATELY thought it was MY dogs that were the aggressive ones😕 As I walked away with my babies I could hear the women that stood in the yard the whole time (not even attempting to retrieve her dog during the whole thing)…she explained to him that it was THEIR dog that started it but as a walked the neighbors were staring at my dogs like they were the problem. It was sooo frustrating, If I follow the rules so should you no matter how “good” you think your dog is.

  80. Hmmm… I’m not sure where I fall on this issue.

    Generally speaking I think dogs need more freedom and not more leashes so to mandate leashes to protect certain dogs makes the lives of all dogs less free.

    That being said, as a trainer I have sympathy for people who are working with reactive dogs. And if I am ever off-leashing my dogs I immediately call them to me and leash them whenever dogs or people are anywhere nearby.

    Generally speaking, as our world gets more litigious and people don’t let their dogs make mistakes, I am seeing more and more unsocialized, reactive dogs. People go to dog parks sometimes, but that is mostly rambunctious nonsense amongst dogs with poor social skills.

    I think everywhere in the US pretty much has leash laws now and it’s making our dogs terribly socialized and terrible on leash.

    I went to Venice, Italy a year or so ago and was amazed that almost all the dogs there walked off leash through the streets and the ones who were on leash were perfectly calm and relaxed. Sometimes it was hard to tell strays apart from dogs who were just sitting down the street while their owners were getting Gelato.

    The more we try to rein in these dogs the less socialized they are becoming.

    My ultimate dream for America is to have it be a place where dogs can have freedom and coexist in our lives rather than be confined to “off leash areas” like dog barks where crazy dogs get wild. Strict leash laws don’t seem to be having the effect of better socialized dogs.

    I guess it’s just a question of whether we should restrict the lives of ten dogs who can handle themselves to help the 1 who is still working on some things.

    We Americans Don’t have an accepted dog etiquette that helps us navigate these social situations. There are leash laws, but those are mostly the safe route that guarantee a lifetime of managing behavior rather can socializing dogs.

    How long have you been training your dog to get over the leash reactivity?

  81. Some of these comments are making me really angry.
    Imagine a puppy, not even a pit, imagine a nice fluffy labrador pup. He’s bought by people who fight dogs. He gets used as bait a good few times but survives the attavks and then is rescued by a nice person with a good heart but not a lot of money. That dog is terrified of dogs. Who can blame them? Now imagine a dog comes running at this labrador who’s been rescued by someone who loves and adores it but can’t afford professional help and this dig because of his past goes crazy cos all he remembers is dogs running at him to kill him
    So he reacts to protect himself and his loving parent.
    You ppl putting comments like we’ll you’re reactive dog isnt our problem, get pro help, all the selfish head in arse responses… do you really think a dog with this past or its poor loving owner deserves your judgement? You all basically say not my problem. I disagree. Tolerance and responsibility to other dog owners is absolutely vital in dog ownership. Otherwise you’re just acting like spoilt kids wanting their own way and to hell with everyone else.
    Would you prefer this labrador not be rescued cos let’s be honest rich ppl may not be available or desire to rescue this dog so should this dog be killed so you can all have your nice easy lives with your supposed well behaved dogs?
    Are you people aware you’re awful selfish people?
    I look forward to hearing any replies to his comment because this comment is my life exactly. Except it’s a Staffordshire terrier rescue I have.
    Shame on all of you.

  82. Dogs whose owners ignore the rules make rules become more draconian and restrictive for everyone. In our area (SF peninsula) parks allowing dogs usually specify that they should be on a 6 ft. leash and owners should clean up after their dogs. A few allow dogs under voice command off-leash. Many don’t allow dogs on the trails at all. I feel that more trails would be open to people walking with their dogs if people could be trusted to obey the rules. In these days of limited funding for parks, there aren’t enough park staff to go around ticketing violators and cleaning up after bad owners. It becomes easier to simply bar dogs, making enforcement more clear-cut and reducing it to throwing out a few rule breakers.

    It isn’t just reactive dogs that are protected by leash rules, it is also people who are fearful of dogs, small children and disabled people who can’t fend off large or aggressive dogs, and well behaved dogs that might be injured by large ill-behaved dogs.

  83. What people don’t realize is we are losing off leash open areas. Every park in my area is leashed dogs only!!! All 7 parks. We have 2 off leash dog parks, and one is so small that a retractable leash almost reaches all four sides of the park.

  84. I continue to be flummoxed by the number of commenters who defend breaking the law and having their dogs off leash in designated on leash dog parks and trails. It is your wilful decisions to flout the law that is forcing the authorities to create more and more restrictions on all dog owners. Here in British Columbia, dogs are no longer permitted (even on leash) in some provincial parks where there are some great hikes.

    Banning dogs from playing fields (community, school etc) makes perfect sense. Even if you pick up after your dog (and many people don’t), there is still fecal matter on the turf, which creates a health risk for the folks who play sports there.

    If you feel that your dog needs more exercise than a brisk half hour walk on a leash (which is much healthier for you than standing around and ball chucking), then start jogging, or train your dog to run (on leash!) beside your bicycle.

    For what it is worth, ball chucking is frowned upon by many vets and trainers. The sudden stops, starts and jumps in the air to catch a ball are apparently very hard on your dog’s joints, tendons, etc. Our vet says he sees a lot of injuries from dogs that chase chucked balls. Ball chasing also revs up the prey instinct, and level of chemical excitement in a dog, which can be a recipe for aggression.

  85. I’ve been guilty of thinking the way the GSD owner did about all on-leash dogs in the past (pit bull or otherwise). I’m sorry. Your letter changed my thinking and I won’t make the same assumptions going forward. I was ignorant, thoughtless, and wrong. Thank you for taking the time to blog about your experience and I hope your visits to the park continue without further incident. If possible, I suggest you post your letter in the park for others to read and consider (on a sign similar to those who would post for a “lost dog”). You stated the case perfectly.

  86. If only there were options for off-leash woods. Unfortunately, having a dog that can get by off-leash in most situations doesn’t mean that dog parks (basically the only place dogs are allowed to be off-leash outside of your own yard, if you’re lucky enough to have a fenced one) are still an option. I have a dog that gets into fights when there is a group of idling dogs in a fenced in area. However, off-leash through the woods, he’s great, and has excellent recall. It’s never going to be 100% (because he has his own brain that’s capable of making his own decisions), and knowing what it’s like to have reactive dogs (there was a point when he couldn’t be off-leash around other dogs, anywhere, period; in addition to his brother, who is both people and dog reactive), I don’t put anyone else who might have a fearful, leashed dog in danger.

    It’s really unfortunate though that we live in such a dog-unfriendly society. It would be wonderful to have both leashed and off-leash/good control options that do not include dog parks.

    People really don’t understand that dogs are mostly bred to *work* with humans. Very few dogs would be satisfied by a “brisk half hour walk on a leash” even if it was accompanied by several ball tosses in the backyard. Lucky you if you have some fat Basset hound with ball drive and a large yard to accommodate ball tosses.

    And people wonder why behavior problems and obesity are so rampant? Quality and appropriate exercise can’t cure all, but it makes most behavior problems a lot better. I have a young shepherd who should be herding sheep on a farm all day. But too bad for him, he’s a pet. My yard is small and not fenced, which hardly matters since nearly all dogs are bored by their yards (it hardly changes!) and my dog has zero drive to chase anything that doesn’t have fur and a heartbeat. I keep his mind occupied with agility and flyball (yes, mind, not body) and lots of stupid trick training. Trainers told me that would be enough stimulation for him. Sounds like it, doesn’t it? Well, they were wrong. Without 1-2 hours off leash in the woods daily on top of that, he drives me and himself crazy – chewing, bouncing, whining, barking, and being way more reactive. But with that exercise though, behavior modification works like a dream and he’s way more focused in his sports. I’m lucky enough to have access to woods where dogs are allowed to be off leash if under control, but for that one spot there are several more leashed only options and I’d love to be able to expand his off leash repertoire without stepping on anyone’s toes (especially since our off-leash woods is a big hunting spot for several months of the year).

  87. Similarly, jogging or biking on leash is also not adequate for dogs and often harmful. There is hardly any mental stimulation involved. Dogs are not meant to go in a straight line at one pace with their nose in the air. They start, stop, slow down, speed up, follow this scent, follow that scent, etc. and zigzag all over the place. And jogging or biking on a leash, on concrete, especially = repetitive strain injury.

  88. Liz – run or bike with your dog on leash. You have unfortunately apparently chosen a breed that requires a large amount of exercise to stay sane – that is not society’s problem. The fact that your dog has had aggression issues at all, and by your account ‘is never going to be 100% recallable’ would make you negligent in allowing him off leash anywhere where there is a chance he could encounter other dogs (fearful or not, on leash or not), people fearful of dogs etc.

  89. Our vet would say that jogging or biking are both good options – not on pavement though. Not sure where you get the harmful from, other than someone over-running dog, running an injured dog etc. Dogs do receive mental stimulation when on leash – they are working in a partnership with their owner and remain attentive and tuned in. Dogs running wild in the bush is a nice idea, but not unless you live in the backwoods where you won’t encounter others.

  90. Swimming also excellent exercise, if you are lucky enough to live somewhere that has a dog beach.

  91. We took my first dog to on-leash quiet empty areas because that’s what worked. he was a mini aussie and needed the space of the big dog park but would get squashed by the big dogs playing too roughly.

    We usually went to a children’s park that was never used during school hours. It had a big field in the back. if someone else entered the park, I’d heel, leash, and ask permission to be there with him. We were breaking a rule, but we tried to do it as politely as possible as he loved to run and the average yard isn’t big enough for a nice sprint to catch the ball

    He was also trained to walk off-leash first. I prefer it that way. When went for walks around the neighborhood (small enclosed culdesac of about 20 houses) he had to heel and walk politely next to me and I always had the leash with me just in case, which i would put on if another leashed dog/eager child approached. i used it as a training method.

  92. Thank you for the insight. I’m guilty of letting my “normal dog” off leash in an on leash only area–I’m sorry! It does look okay at face value if the dog is well behaved, but I’m glad you’ve shown me the other side of it.

  93. I have had dogs off leash run at my donkey, disaster waiting to happen. People have wrong ideas like “I didn’t know mules were afraid of dogs!” Really, dogs on a leash where it is required is much safer. I also have a reactive dog, fully understand.

  94. I have 2 dogs small and medium size dogs. When I first got these rescues dogs from mexico, I walked them everyday through our neighborhood on leash, until so many aggressive reactive dogs spoiled it. Just last week we were walking on our local trail 2 way lined trail, and a lady with a group of people was watching us approach, as we moved to one side to pass the group the dog lunges and snaps at us. The lady says “oh he sometimes doesn’t like other dogs”. My dog jumped and dropped his tail and tried to flee .I’m tried of these aggressive reactive dogs jumping at my friendly well balanced dog. (that I have worked very hard at exercising for 2 hours everyday lots socializing every day with about 20 other dogs friends we have meet).We move off the side walk into traffic or gardens for you and sometimes no thank you or nod.
    As for the vet suggesting biking I hurt all four of his paws riding for a 30 min and my vet said biking is not for all dogs. Jogging I have a back injury and as for the pool which is not available maybe the reactive dogs would benefit from swimming.

  95. I agree that people should keep their dogs on-leash at on-leash parks – I also agree that a bad experience can set you back – but no dogs is “special needs” – they just need to be rehabilitated.

    If the dog in the picture is the “special needs” dog in the letter… then the problem isn’t the German Shepards OR the dog in the picture… the promise is the tension that the harness causes. But that may just be a random picture attached.

    All the stupid comments defending the original post are also foul. One of them justified prey drive… Dogs get put to sleep for having prey drive… you need to train it out of them or they will get in trouble. Do whatever it takes – it’s not abuse if it saves the dogs life.

  96. My two girls were VERY well trained and VERY gentle. I was walking them up some on leash trails and while no one was in range, I did let them off leash, but as soon as I anyone came into earshot, or I even suspected someone was coming near, I had my girls on leash. Besides the rules, it is common courtesy of any trail. You do not know how your dog’s will take to each other. Unfortunately, the other hiker got to the trailhead and just unleashed her two big dogs that started to bound up the hillside towards my girls. She was right next to the sign that stated it was a on leash trailhead when she did it! I know she saw it, she just didn’t care. She looked up at me and smiled like it didn’t matter. The woman yelled that the dogs are a little aggressive but she’s sure it’ll be ok.
    I prayed and gave the leashes some slack and tried to calm myself. If the dogs felt I was nervous and felt a tight leash, then they would think something was wrong.
    The dogs met up and hackled a little bit, I have more slack to the leash and told the girls they were good. Things calmed down and the other dogs moved on. The woman hiked up the trail oblivious to how close a dog fight was.
    Rules and common courtesy are there for a reason. I know my girls are gentle, but pushed too far, anything can happen.
    They won’t leave me more than 5 ft off leash unless I give them a “free” command. Even then, they keep a close eye on me. I did not use ceasar training. I believe in positive reinforcement. Even then, they seem to just like to hang around me.
    If a fight would have broke out thatday, it wouldn’t have been their fault, but it may have cost them their lives just the same.

  97. My dog is reactive too and loves smilez cuddlez and gigglez. He’s a small shaggy mix.

    The difference is my dog is a happy and nice reactive to his surroundings.

    Aggression is aggressive and you shouldn’t blame others for your dog instigating a fight because he/she is uncomfortable with the surroundings.

  98. Thank you SO much for this letter. We have a very loving and very sweet rescue pittie with whom we’ve tried many approaches to calm her dog anxiety. We actually believe her anxiety stemmed from a situation when she was 6 months old. We took her to a local park and two very large unleashed dogs ran at her (with the owner yelling about how friendly they were) as she hid behind our legs. She had been rescued at a younger age from an abusive situation, and we were making leaps and bounds- following every socialization suggestion, etc. Since that day, her anxiety has grown and although she’s never been particularly aggressive, she’s shown us that other dogs (she has 2 she grew up with that she loves) make her very anxious. I felt like such a failure mommy as though I didn’t try hard enough, but soon after found articles describing nurture vs. nature in dogs, and how some dogs have a genetic cue to not always trust other dogs (no matter how much socialization they have). This doesn’t mean that they’ll be aggressive, this just means that you need to be very cautious and proactive in protecting your pup. Her housemate is a 12 pound pup, and he has the run of the house;)

    We’ve taken steps to ensure that we only visit parks where we know no other dogs are around (we’re nature addicts and know of every remote location in our area). This way, we can protect our dog, *and* other dogs. I think some are missing the point that when you have a high anxiety dog, *especially* one in training, you take all the precautions to make sure other dogs are safe. It’s very unfair to blame the person who has gone out of their way to find a strictly “on lease” area just to have someone who doesn’t care for the rules to shout at you “they’re friendly” as they barrel toward your pup. What if it were a child who had recently been attacked by a dog? Would that be OK? The whole point is following the rules for everyone’s safety. There are plenty of places to take a pup off-leash.

    I commend anyone who has a high-anxiety dog. It’s not easy watching other dogs play off-leash somewhere knowing that you can’t take your dog there (because you’re responsible and wouldn’t want anyone to be nervous about your dog). But, it’s nice if you can find that one dog-free spot to let them roam and enjoy:)

  99. I recognize that I will be the minority here, but I ask that you consider another perspective. Many of you write about on-leash parks as if they are the rare gem that must be protected at all costs. Anything but that is the reality in the States. As a commenter earlier noted, most bylaws stipulate dogs should be on-leash unless explicitly signed otherwise. Off-leash dog parks are the rare gem. I’ve visited cities without a single designated off-leash area. This is ridiculous! If you have a troubled dog, I do have sympathy for you, but I cannot support chasing off folks who are trying to do the right thing and exercise their dog (i.e., not just walking them around the block). I think Linda above raises this point as well.

    I also have to agree with the earlier comment that if your dog has a history of biting other people or dogs, you should seriously consider muzzling your dog in any situation that they may try to bite. Even if someone else has a dog on-leash, they could pop around a corner and be within striking distance before you even have time to react, not to mention kids, bikers, etc., who may run. Muzzles may look scary, but they do not affect the dog.

    Consider parts of Europe, where many dogs wander around cities off-leash near their owners. This seems like the ideal scenario for dog lovers. If on-leash parks were a true rarity then I would support protecting them. But that is far from the case. And while I respect folks trying to train reactive dogs, I cannot support the attitude that everyone else has to bend in extremely inconvenient ways towards their needs. Would you go to Europe and demand that everyone put their dogs on leashes, too?

    To the comments about folks following laws just because they are there, I don’t think you really believe that. As if there aren’t terrible laws on the books based on misinformation, special interests, or a myriad of other bad reasons that you do not follow to the letter. There are clearly other models for dog ownership as in Europe, so our laws are not inherently good and thoughtful. Personally, I think they are a mess and based on lots of prejudice and myth. Consider me exercising my dog at the only reasonable place as civil disobedience. 🙂

    So here is my request. If a park is used by folks to exercise their dogs off-leash, even if technically on-leash, consider the fact that this may be their only good option and that they are loving their dog by letting them run free. As dog owners, we should support them as long as their dogs are reasonably well-behaved. If your dog really can’t handle that, please consider trying to find somewhere else so that we can peacefully coexist. Otherwise, you may be ruining a park that is many people’s only option.

  100. Dog to dog issue aside, people who are at a park that is marked as ‘leash only’ should not have to deal with off leash dogs. People have the right to enjoy the park within the rules of said park. Some people are afraid of dogs and they should have to be scared to utilize a park when they are following the rules. Rules are rules….they are there for everyone. Yes, even those with well trained dogs and think they are the exception to the rule.

  101. I think that most people understand that leash laws are the rules, but the argument is that having everywhere be an on-leash only area is detrimental to the overall well-being of dogs.

    Bsl laws are the rules some places, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are right and that we shouldn’t challenge them.

    America basically assumes all dogs are guilty of being out of control so solves it by legislating dogs never be anywhere without a leash. If you love your dog, your goal for that dog should be complete freedom, happiness and harmony. If that’s not realistic for your dog then you should do the best you can.

    However, we shouldn’t put every dog in a jail of sorts because some aren’t socialized.

  102. LOL how about working with your dog before she crosses threshold? Have her focus on you. After all, YOU’RE the one who gets to decide what is a threat and what isn’t. Not her.

    Which forms of communication do you use with her? I have a rescue who was a complete unsocialized nerve bag when I got him. Took a couple of years of training and practice but he is now completely obedient off leash, around people, dogs (on or off leash), prey critters, etc. People in hats, on bikes, or even walking in our direction used to cause him to flip out. Break focus. I use visual, verbal, motivators, and physical cues to communicate with my dog. Every day.

    Stop making other people responsible for your dog’s behavior, I don’t care where it is.

  103. After reading the article and comments I am left feeling annoyed by the utter selfishness most of you have towards your “reactive dog” situation.

    Get over other people breaking the rules or move off the grid. Stop expecting a hand out from society because you feel you’re doing good. Frankly when I see “reactive dogs” in my city I feel bad for them because there’s 24/7 stimulation (NYC) and think the owners are selfish for bringing them into the situation.

    I took my time picking out a dog that was a correct size and temperament for my living conditions. Of course it would be great to have a litter of rhodesian ridgebacks to fawn over and wrestle with, but I took into consideration the well being of the dog.

    Yes I’m probably in the minority on this thread, but not in society, so just stop whining and being jealous. Most of you put yourself in this situation anyways.

  104. Also with all those accolades and degrees, Inara does not seem special needs to me, just a brat.

  105. Sort of stunned by the comments here. I just thought people who didn’t leash their dogs were just careless and unthinking. Now I see you’re all a bunch of selfish fucking assholes. Good to know.

  106. Yes!! Thank you for this!!
    It is so frustrating to me when they say but my dogs friendly. That’s great but I’ve got an on-leash reactive dog who may not be when your off leash dog approaches.

  107. It’s funny that you don’t see the irony in calling people assholes for doing the exact same thing that you are doing – asking that they limit their dog’s happiness for the benefit of yours.

    If one side of that debate is a group of assholes, then the other side is as well.

    In reality, you have people who are both interested in maximizing the happiness of their dogs.

  108. You need to go look up irony in the dictionary. I’m not asking anyone to do anything. There are rules regarding dog ownership. That includes having them under control in public (which is why we have leash laws). If you think you are above the law because your precious little pooch is better than that, you are an asshole. My dog doesn’t like to get shots either. Maybe I’ll just disregard those laws about rabies. Wouldn’t want to affect my precious little one’s happiness, now would I? Besides, what dog doesn’t like going on a walk on a leash. If I touch the thing, the dogs go wild. I think you should spend less time anthropomorphizing your dog and more time thinking about other people’s feelings.

  109. OK, Now I get it. I followed your link. (you’re a dog trainer?-Mind blown). I guess leash laws get in the way of you scamming $360 out of people to train them to be “off leash”.

  110. No one is anthropomorphizing by saying a dog prefers to be off leash to on leash. That’s why 99 percent of dog owners can’t get their dogs to come back to them in the presence of distractions.

    And yes leash laws exist because people don’t have control of their dogs because they don’t know how to train their dog or they don’t want to do it. It’s an easy one size fits all policy that has greatly diminished the behavior of the common dog in America.

    And when I read this article a few days ago it wasn’t about off leash dogs being out of control. It was about a dog that was too reactive to be at a distance from dogs at liberty.

    Your shot example doesn’t make sense when talking about happiness because dogs that have rabies aren’t happy so like with this whole post, you are missing the big picture. That being said, many dog people have lots of criticisms about vaccinations for dogs and that is often discussed in appropriate forums.

    You want to lean on the laws and the rules, but what is being discussed by most commenters is whether or not the law is good and just, which isn’t being an asshole, it’s having an opinion.

    Again I’d like to point out the irony that you think I need a lesson in the definition of irony… at the same time you are calling me names for engaging in a discussion politely, you’re saying I need to think about people’s feelings. Maybe instead of calling people assholes, and attacking people for having thoughts, you should try to see the point of view of other sides.

    I clearly see there are two valid viewpoints here. I dedicate my life to helping reactive dogs and have rehabilitated countless dogs who couldn’t be around other dogs. Strangely, one of the most important steps to that is often giving them more freedom instead of taking away their flight response by tethering them on a leash. But I know the challenges of leash reactivity and I will do anything to help those people.

    What I’ve been saying is that dog culture here is not working. I’m open to solutions. Doing something like a cgc certification to get off leash privileges, heavy punishments for failure to control an off leash dog, etc… but leash laws are too restrictive and ensure that that dogs will spend all of their time behind walls, fences or tied to a leash. It’s just not the way to live. This is the land of the free.

    Again, I’m sorry that having a differing opinion turned me into an asshole, but I just think we as a community, country and dog people need to find a better way to help dogs than keeping them locked up. Count how many dogs are reactive the next time you are walking, the balance is way off. We are not making progress.

    Again, sorry if I offended you. That certainly was not my goal!

  111. @ Andrew Warner – your dog’s ‘happiness’ does not trump the greater good. Like I said above, owning a dog is a privilege, and a choice. Choose your dog carefully for the living situation you are bringing it into.

    Disregarding leash laws is not only illegal but incredibly selfish. It’s not just about other people’s reactive dogs, it’s about also people who don’t like or are afraid of dogs.

    People call their dogs their “fur babies” (mine is more a perma-toddler ;^) – but they are DOGS. Animals, not a lot different than bears. They have animal instincts that some of us try very hard to train out of them. Adult wolves, from which all dogs are descended, are not creatures that groove on meeting strange wolves, but they are animals that can form strong social bonds with their pack. They are highly defensive and territorial, using violence to fend off competition.

    As for irony, the real irony is that there are so many leash laws in place now because of irresponsible dog owners. The number of people I witness not picking up their dog’s crap, letting their dogs run loose in playgrounds and in on leash parks and trails, jump on people, charge other dogs (I can’t even count the number of times some little terrorist, er terrier has run at us barking its head off and the owner just giggles and says “oh you silly dog”. If my large breed dog did this, there would be hell to pay…

    Wise up dog owners.

  112. Again, I’m not advocating breaking leash laws. I’m more advocating for a different approach to leash laws. I want dogs to have the freedom to be off leash legally, owners who want to train them, and a common etiquette as to when to put a leash on.

    Leashes are good and courteous things and should be used about 100 percent of the time around unfamiliar dogs.

    When you say things like “the greater good” there is a lot of math that goes into calculating the greater good.

  113. I don’t think the greater good is an equation. It is the foundation of our society.

    There are still quite a few trail systems around Vancouver that have sections where dogs may be off leash. Not sure how long that will last though, as there appear to be a huge population of aggressive and poorly trained dogs around. I have no issue with off leash dog areas/trails for well-behaved dogs – it’s just that so few dogs are well behaved. Maybe some sort of certification process could be the answer – but can’t imagine how difficult that would be to enforce.

    Sadly, there were two very serious dog attacks in the city in the last few weeks – both the dogs that attacked were unleashed. Both dogs that were attacked (one of them died, the other may never recover) were on leash. One of the dogs had already been deemed as dangerous and the owner was ordered to muzzle and leash the dog at all times. Apparently he didn’t take that very seriously :^/

    I hope the owners of the unleashed, violent dogs get their asses sued to kingdom come (especially the guy whose dog was supposed to be muzzled and controlled at all times), and are prohibited from owning dogs in the future. Again, tough to enforce…

  114. I understand the need for leash parks and unleashed parks. I do not take my baby to open parks because he is a medical dog. I do however need him to stay alert to what he needs to and in public places so we go to leash parks. He cannot stay alert if people’s “best trained” fur babies run up to my fur baby distracting him from his job. It doesn’t matter if its a very well trained fur baby or an unruly one, fur babies on leashes are there for a reason. There are not any exceptions. It doesn’t matter if it is a medical fur baby or a reactive one if its a leash park put a leash on or take them to an unleashed park. I’m not going to “punish” MY fur baby because you can’t follow the rules.

  115. And again @ Andrew – you state re the original letter/blog “And when I read this article a few days ago it wasn’t about off leash dogs being out of control. It was about a dog that was too reactive to be at a distance from dogs at liberty.”

    Actually it was about off leash dogs in an on leash area. Some dog owners may not like the on leash requirement in some parks and trails (that’s pretty clear from this fiery debate), but it does not seem unreasonable that a dog owner, who knows she has a reactive but recovering dog, wants to go to an area that advertises dogs on leash only so that she knows she can control the greetings. I too have a reactive dog (sad story shared above about how he became that way), and on leash only areas are excellent opportunities for training and re-socializing, except when someone decides that they don’t need to abide by the rules and lets their dogs loose. The dogs in this case may have kept their distance, but in many cases, loose dogs are inquisitive and will approach a dog on leash, with the owner either unwilling or unable to call their dogs back when requested. This can undo months of positive training.

  116. @awooshadmin I don’t know how this became such a fiery debate!

    I agree with pretty much everything you said.

    I like the idea of places being as advertised.

  117. I believe the point a lot of you siding with the off leash owner are missing is the rules of the park clearly state the dogs MUST be ON LEASH. Everyone must follow the same rules, the fact that people feel the rules apply to others and not them are exactly what is wrong with our country. Well behaved or not the rules must be followed. Its pretty simple actually.

  118. @melissa I think you are right as well…

    My only addendum is that off-leash areas are too few and far apart and that people don’t have equal opportunity to off-leash.

  119. I honestly can’t believe the ignorance of many of the replies. On-leash means on-leash not off leash 2 feet from your side, not off-leash period. I mean the excuses of why their dog shouldn’t be subjected to the on-leash rule are irresponsible. Even the best trained, best behaved dog can lash out for any number of reasons hence on-leash rule! Not sure how much simpler it can get.

  120. Wow !!
    Why has no one addressed the aggressive reactive dog “on leash”. You all hide behind the leash law to have the right to walk in a park with other dogs and families with children. A leash doesn’t stop your dog from jumping, snapping or attacking. My dog was attacked by a reactive dog on leash!!! Small mix breed attacked by a Golden retriever passing each other on leashed on a path in the park !!
    I’m also from B.C. we NEED more off leash areas not 1 or 2 for each community and I live out side the city of Vancouver. I want to be able to socialize my dog and be able to put distance between me and your aggressive reactive MEAN dogs !
    Show me you care about the law and muzzle your reactive dog ! Because everyone of these aggressive reactive dog is an accident waiting to happen.

    I have owned many different dog breed in my life time, plus back in the late 70s my family breed Lhaso Apso for show. Talk about nasty tempered dogs

    ” Lhasa Apso dogs originating from Tibet and bred to alert the Tibetan monks of any intruders”
    So reactive behavior is in a Lhaso DNA
    I would go get a Lhaso Apso and expect everyone around me to watch out and stay away if I couldn’t train him to not be reactive. Muzzle!!

  121. I am NOT a professional dog trainer, ( I find nothing wrong with being one, I learned a lot from some of them!) My GENTLE, positively trained girls I spoke of earlier, 1 started out fearful, reactive, and became aggressive with one of my other dogs i was fostering. I did everything I knew. I called every trainer that would talk to me in a 75 Mile radius before I found a trainer that understood the breed, and would talk to me. They gave me about 10 minutes of their time on the phone to tell me about what THIS breed psychology worked, and gave me a couple tips. What a total change around!!! She became the most gentle best trained dog people had ever seen.
    When I walk my leashed dogs around the block, other loose dogs join in and walk with us! So I have to reverse the walk and then they all go to,their respective homes as we get there. They just love the happy freindly feeling!
    I have since got another dog from the pound that was almost put down for being so reactive and biting another dog. Once again, positive training ( not ceasar stuff) has brought her to be able to play at off leash so parks. People exclaim everyday how she just isn’t the same shy little dog they first saw.
    Dogs want to be free. They also want to be by our side. There are far too few off-leash dog parks, but I do respect the on-leash ones to a point. If no one is there, I will take my well trained dog off leash until someone shows up. Then I will leash them.
    Dogs CAN be rehabilitated, but I understand it takes time, patience, consistency, and work.
    As far as the greater good? I hate that excuse for ANYTHING. No person or government has any inkling of what greater good is. Everything Hitler did was legal at the time and his “medical research” was for the “greater good”. We have a lot of medical information from it, but there were much better and more humane ways to get it.

  122. Ah, it was only a matter of time before Godwin’s Law was invoked in this thread 😉

    The “Greater Good” implies (and I grabbed this from a quick internet search) – “The benefit of the public, of more people than oneself; that which is better and more correct.”.

    I think that is the perfect definition of what we are talking about here.

  123. And once again i stand by my original statement. NO person or government as an inkling of an idea of what the “greater good” is. it can be very subjective. Hitlers “greater good” was LEGAL at the time and MANY agreed with it at the time. Doesn’t mean it was ever right. I hate that term. You have to have a standard for what good is, to be able to have a “Greater good” and it cannot be subjective.

    what is “more correct” and by whose standard? Just because it is legal (or lawful), doesn’t make it right.

  124. It’s really not that complicated Jeanine. In the context of this debate (dogs on leash in leash-required areas vs wilful disobedience of that edict) – the greater good (which is just an expression – no need to get in a knot about semantics) is that all dogs be leashed in leash designated areas, for the benefit of all – other dog owners, and other people using these public spaces who don’t want to interact with dogs.

    Your Hitler argument seems pretty weak and has nothing to do with conscientious dog owners who understand the social necessity of leashing their dogs.

  125. And are you seriously suggesting that leash laws are not right? Seriously? Imagine dogs running rampant all over city streets, in public parks, in school grounds, on beaches. It would be chaos, and potentially dangerous for both dogs and humans, not to mention dog sh*t everywhere.

  126. I could make the argument much stronger, and just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply. I didn’t bother however, because this is not a forum on what the meaning of good is, or I would have gotten into the difference of subjective and objective, and the ridiculousness of relativity.

    I just had earlier stated how I hated the term, it’s not like i didn’t know how it is used in society. You decided to define it for me. that had nothing to do with dogs, either.

    SO unless someone here compels me to stop training my dogs in a positive training manner. I will continue to believe that all dogs can be rehabilitated with proper training, and continue to use off and on leash areas as I have mentioned in posts before. I don’t think I have been that disrespectful to on-leash areas. Yes, it is breaking the rule, but by using the term of the day, no one was there, and it was for the “greater good” of ALL that was there at the time!

  127. You are taking the example to the extreme.IF you had read my comments before, you would have seen how I take my dogs to through the areas.

  128. LOL! What’s the different dog pooh, garbage. People out here just throw the poop bags into the trees ! Wow people are breaking laws all over the place.
    When I was a kid Dogs did run free.

  129. Just to be clear, it is the term “greater good” that I was using the HItler anology to say that not ALL things are for the good of the public or for all, (even if they are, would that make them right?). I did not say that ALL Leash laws were not right. and by the way…….I pick up my dog poop, even in the woods.

  130. I own 4 dogs of various sizes. breeds and ages. I know my dogs. I know how they react and a pretty good idea of when they will react. Three of them are rescues with various abusive/neglected pasts, one is a puppy and I know both the parents and fur parents of each so I know their temperaments and training. That all said I keep them leashed when they are supposed to be and am careful when they are at the dog parks. You never know exactly how they are going to react with a new dog, a group of dogs, a new setting, whatever. You can’t read their minds and 100% guarantee what they are going to do.
    Until the laws are changed (if they are) then follow them…keep your dog(s) leashed when and where they are supposed to be leashed. Why do people have to make this more difficult then it is!!
    If you can’t seem to give them enough exercise with a walk/run/cycle on a leash and there are no off leash areas available then enroll them in sport/agility/nosework classes so that they get some socialization AND exercise! Most places/people are willing to help with socialization issues because they understand.
    Responsibility, civility, common sense, and common courtesy are not just words but something to live by!!

  131. I have three dogs, one is reactive to other dogs (stranger dogs we call them:))…you are so right…I will take him to a leashed area so he can enjoy some out of the house time, sniff stuff and generally get some fresh air. The scenario you described has happened more than one time. When it does, me (and my dog) are judged as not “well behaved”. What I can tell you is this, my pup used to lunge and growl at everything…and sometimes get so scared he was climbing on me to get away from the “threat”. Now he calmly walks with other dogs in the area, as long as they are his interpretation of a safe distance away and they do not try to run up to him. I consider this great progress, and we manage the rest : )

  132. Samantha, an occasional sport or agility class is not adequate exercise for most dogs. Not to mention they are often expensive, require significant travel, and may only be available once or twice a week. Most dogs need to be able to run freely, changing direction, playing chase, etc. Classes are great for exercising a dog’s mind, but they are not enough to really exercise them, especially not on a daily basis. Your proposed solution, in other words, is a false solution.

    If a community has no or few adequate off-leash areas, they are basically sticking up the middle finger at dog owners. You cannot expect people to follow unreasonable rules without any viable alternatives. I bet most of you who hide behind “it’s the rule” argument break much more important laws, such as texting while driving, rolling through stop signs, fudging your taxes, drinking and driving, not following building codes, etc. It’s a silly argument – follow an unjust rule just because (civil disobedience is as American as apple pie after all) – and betrays the fact that many of you don’t actually care about the well-being of all dogs, but rather only your dog. If you did care about all dogs, you would acknowledge that off-leash areas are far too few in many communities, and you would work to co-exist with the many dog owners whose only good option on a daily basis is to find an uncrowded area of a technically on-leash park to let their dogs run.

  133. Let me give you an alternative version of how this letter could have gone:

    “As somebody who doesn’t own a reactive dog, I understand that you don’t get why your well-behaved dogs can’t be allowed to run free. I mean, they’re not hurting anybody, right? Well, you are right, and good for you for getting your butt off the couch and exercising your dog. Over half of dogs in the US are obese, so you are a great example – if only more people would do what you are doing. But I have a reactive dog, so I have to handle things a little differently. Let me describe for you a typical situation I had yesterday.

    The other day I was walking my reactive dog through a nearby park. I adopted this dog from a line that was bred specifically to dog fight, so I knew from the start that it was going to be a lot of hard work and that I would have to be more careful than other dog owners. As I was walking through the park, I noticed a woman had a couple well-behaved German Shepherds with whom she was playing fetch off-leash. Now technically this park is on-leash, but I realize dog owners don’t have a lot of options and that I made the decision to adopt a problem dog. Whenever I face this sort of situation, knowing that Inara will often react to being on-leash while other dogs run free, I immediately turned around, and since Inara started to react in this situation, I made her sit, gave her a treat, and then I started to walk towards another area of the park where I almost never see off-leash dogs. Sometimes I just leave the park altogether and walk somewhere else.

    Now some people would say I have the right to be in this park and not have Inara upset by dogs playing off-leash since it is signed as an on-leash park. They would say I have the right to chastise this owner for letting her dogs off-leash and even call the park to complain. But the reality is that I have seen other dogs playing happily here in the past, and I realize that a lot of people and their dogs would be out of options if the park started cracking down on well-behaved off-leash dogs. I am a lover of all dogs, and I realize I made a choice to adopt a dog that could be aggressive, and I believe others shouldn’t be punished for that. Now if I see an owner letting a dog off-leash that is aggressive, or I see someone not picking up after their dog, or I see a dog on-leash snapping at other dogs without a muzzle, you better believe I will call them out. They are irresponsible dog owners!

    What I would really love to see in the US is a situation much more akin to Europe, where folks are much better educated on dogs, and dogs are allowed off-leash in many public places. Sure, we have a long ways to go to get there with better training and a more educated population (dog owners and non-owners alike), but that is my aspiration. Then again, breeds like mine are outlawed in many of those countries, so I think we’ll keep our family in the US for the time-being. It’s a bit more welcoming here.

    Be responsible, love all dogs, become part of the canine community!”

  134. I discovered a great strategy for getting people to leash their dogs around mine – i would yell ‘he has lice!’ and it worked every time.

  135. When Charlie came to us he was already reactive at 6 months old. He had been beaten, was undernourished, covered in cuts, scabs and scars and full of worms and lice. He is three now and we have worked so, so hard to get him to the point that we can take him out walking on leash without him wanting to attack everything and anything that passes him by. Charlie is the most gentle and loving of souls but he is scared of his own shadow and this comes out as aggression and anxiety – he will regularly awake from his sleep to attack his demons. We have worked with a trainer who understands his breed and we work on rewarding the behaviour we want. It is working. However, a year ago we were in the park and Charlie was on lead and muzzled when an off lead dog came bounding over and attacked – while the owner carried on texting at the far end of the field. Charlie had his ear bit through, he screamed – it was only when I told my husband to kick the dog away that the the owner became concerened and got her dog off Charlie. This experience set Charlie back months, you see we had bulit up his trust in us – we would protect him, he didn’t need to protect himself anymore – but, we didn’t, we let him down – and all because of the inconsiderateness of another dog owner. After the incident I went out of my way to tell her about Charlies life and how her dogs behaviour had now created more anxiety for Charlie and indeed for us. She was apologetic, she didn’t understand and she did put her dog back onto the leash. We have very few safe spaces we can walk Charlie, we often walk very, very early in the morning or very, very late at night just so he can have a walk that is not full of fear. We socialise him regularly and we have spoken to our neighbours who walk their dogs around by us – they are all understanding and when Charlie ‘lets rip’ we greet one another and pass on by. Charlie is the first reactive dog I have ever had in my life and it is so rewarding to see him making tiny steps forward in the right direction. We have another dog who is the most loving and other dog friendly dog you could ever hope for and she is teaching Charlie as well. All we want is understanding from other dog owners and respect for the rules that are in place when out and about – if we think we are in an off lead or on lead area then we can adapt and ensure our dogs are safe – so, people pleas help us to help Charlie and other dogs like him. Thanks for your understanding.

  136. Wow !
    What none of you reactive/aggressive dogs owners seem to understand is that active dogs (are often confused with – out of control, untrained or only exercised on the weekends kind of dogs) And these maybe some of the dogs you are running into.

    A normal active dog needs 7 days a week and twice a days walking and running, just to come home balanced. Responsible owners are always keeping their dogs under control while looking for the right opportunity to let their dog run. And if there is no opportunity then we walk 10 k. and try the park after dinner.

    We have NO off leash areas, because of aggressive reactive dogs!!!

    There are 23 dogs on my block alone and I only see 2 of them walked! 2 Lab, 3 German shepherds, 2 doodles, 2 Cairn terriers, Golden, 4 small mixed breeds and 3 Border Collie, 2 Dachshund, 2 large mix breeds, 2 Beagles and 1 Rottweiler. How do I know they are walked once in a while on a sunny day, or the barking and barking and barking!

    I also have a reactive dog when a aggressive dog snaps, will either bark or try to flee. I’m sorry but reactive/aggressive dogs are wrecking my efforts of walking or running for 3 hours everyday to keep my dog balanced !!!

    As a treat we took him to a off leash park in the next town and what a night mare. Dogs totally out of control and owners just standing around while their dogs are jumping on me and my dog.(just because I owner a dog – I don’t want your jumping on me). Not a single owner stopped their dog from being aggressive !! No ball throwing because my dog will never get a chance to run for it. My dog 5 years old and has no interested in this kind of aggressive play, so he sat at my side for 30 min. waiting to leave.

    I totally understand what your problems are, but you chose a dog with special needs. They need special treatment and not at the sacrifice of others
    dog trying to be a healthy normal well balanced dog.

    Okay throw “it’s the law” at me – The law of leashed dogs all the time anywhere and place, that we are all trying to follow. Is because of reactive/aggressive dogs. I want all potential vicious dogs no wear near my leashed dog or off leash. Because even muzzled they give off negative reactive energy! That can still cause a reaction, dogs communicate with body languages.

    My hope is for my dog to have a safe areas to walk free in the wind, to find a big muddy puddle to lay down in. To run through tall grass, with other friendly dogs. And most of all walk letting his nose guide him.

  137. I think this article is not fair.. My girl is perfect off leash but I only do it at the forest preserve where there are not many dogs out of respect for fearful dog owners. Yet when I’m at the park there were many times when I’m with my girl…she’s on a leash at a heel position completely ignoring the other dog and peoples reactive dogs were lounging at her ..barking…snarling. and trying to attack her. At this point I am doing nothing wrong and yet they are ruining MY FUN TIME at the park….instead of writing an article asking we ban reactive dogs or complaining..I just deal with it… its life… That lady has no reason to complain about well behaved dogs off leash but needs to focus on training her dog…

  138. It’s interesting how quickly some posters are condemning the woman with 2 well trained German Shepherds. You have a “gut feeling” that she is an awful person who would dump a reactive dog in the shelter? REALLY?

    Maybe she is a responsible woman who chose well bred dogs, spent a lot of time training them, and takes the time to give them adequate exercise by playing fetch with them in the park, keeping their focus and attention so skillfully that they don’t approach any other people or dogs. That’s MY “gut feeling.”

    Many areas have NO off leash parks for dogs. Many have only a small cage like enclosure where it would be impossible to toss a frisbee without running your dog into chainlink.

    I think a person who has trained her dogs as well as this woman has a reasonable right to exercise them off leash.

    Adopting a dog with aggression issues is a choice. There seems to be a sense of martyrdom in this discussion. You can’t make the whole world revolve around your decision to take on, say, an abused pitbull that has high reactivity around running creatures. What if there are young children playing and yelling in the park? Should they go home because your dog is upset? How about teens on skateboards? Joggers? Squirrels and chipmunks?

    I take my dog to the park to play frisbee. I try not to bother anybody. But if I am leaving you well alone, I don’t see why I should be shut down.

  139. I’m sorry you had this experience but understand completely. Mine is a Taiwan dog and reactive issues have escalated from 2 rounds of unfortunate dog “training” by force-based trainers (the last one recommended by our local vet). When walking past a green belt near our house, I saw a neighbor teen throwing the ball for his black lab, which never returns to him promptly. I politely asked him to hold onto him so we can get by, and this kid said, “I shouldn’t have to do that!” in a very condescending way. Ok, teen, first– you are a disrespectful idiot and second–there’s a leash law for everyone’s protection. So frustrating, and it set us back in training which is the most unfortunate thing. I’d love to have a drama-free walk, but have a dog with issues. Love him more than a peaceful walk, I guess.

  140. I have a Shepard/Husky mix boy named Pablo. 90% of the time I don’t have him on a leash at home because there is property that my neighbors and I walk our dogs on. I and a few of my neighbors have very well mannered dogs.They play and run around. I take Pablo to a park from time to time that require him to be on-leash. I would never think of taking him off his leash because that is the rule of the park. I can relate to the people that have reactive dogs that have to keep them on a leash because I use to have one. May he rest in peace. And yes when other dogs would run around he would get over excited and and was dangerous. Not that he would bite anyone but he would jump up on people and little kids could get hurt. He was 120 lbs. Parks have rules and even tho Pablo is a well mannered dog I as the smart one I have to abide by the rules.

  141. Thank you for writing this. I am an owner of a reactive pitbull myself. There is an amazing on leash park near our home and so many dog owners have their dogs running freely. I had to stop taking Sebastian to this park (literally heaven for him). Once another dog owner said to me, “it’s basically a dog park, so maybe you shouldn’t bring him here.” Hmm… Well the park clearly states it’s an on leash dog walking area. Articles like this will hopefully open up dog owners of all kinds. Thank you!

  142. So let me get this straight. Lot’s of dog owners enjoy this park. I’m going to hazard a guess that they have very few options for off-leash parks, since that is the case in many US cities. So instead of being lame dog owners giving their poor dog a short and insufficient walk around the block on-leash, these dog owners are doing their dogs right by allowing them to run off-leash and socialize. So what are you suggesting? That all of these people who are properly caring for their dogs should leash their dogs so that your dog isn’t stressed? Do they have other nearby realistic options to properly exercise their dogs? You can take your leashed dog just about anywhere. Please have empathy for dog owners who may have very limited options of where to run their dogs. Don’t hide behind a sign that is rooted in a system that does not allow for sufficient off-leash options for dogs. If you love dogs, all dogs, then you want the good dog owners to have a place to run their dogs. Work with them, not against them. Having a reactive dog is a lot of work. But don’t make everyone else worse off because of it.

  143. I think respecting rules works both ways. I’m blessed to have a senior rescue sheltie who never leaves my side. He is the most intelligent and well-mannered dog I have ever owned, including completely voice-reliable off leash. He is leashed when we are around town, in respect for the rules. However, at home, on *my* private property, he is not. He does not enjoy other dogs (and at 13, I’m not going to argue with him about this – he’s an only-dog guy). Yet all these owners allow their leashed dogs to “come up and say hi” even when I ask (and then *tell*) them not to approach my dog (on MY property). When other dogs are on the street, he is called to my side (and that is an actual heel, not a “wander where you like”) and seated until they pass. It’s the other owners who deliberately allow their dogs to come off the sidewalk and into my yard. Occasionally it’s a strong/big dog *dragging* the owner…how safe is that?! I totally appreciate the frustration of reactive-dog owners. However, I think the problem is a larger lack of respect in the dog community at large (kind of reflective of the problems in society, frankly). If it’s a leash area, dogs should be leashed. If it’s private property, DON’T LET YOUR DOG INVADE IT uninvited…reactive or not. Common courtesy would go a long way towards improving things for the dogs, reactive or not.

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