A Well Behaved Dog Does Not Make You Exempt From Leash Laws
This last weekend, we went for a hike at Deception Pass. It’s a beautiful trail, and easy enough to be relaxing instead of strenuous. That is, until we ran into Her. You’ve probably met Her (or Him) before. Maybe you ARE that person. If you have an anxious or excitable dog, however, you expect these people with dread: the people who think leash laws don’t apply to them. They often have friendly dogs who won’t generally start a fight on purpose, but that’s the source of the problem. So let me say it:
A well behaved dog does not make you exempt from leash laws.
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Leashes exist for several purposes:
1. They help you maintain control of your dog.
2. They prevent your dog from chasing wildlife/damaging ecosystems.
3. They prevent your dog from running away and getting lost.
4. They prevent your dog from bothering other hikers.
5. They prevent your dog from invading the space of a fearful dog.
See number 5? That one is just as important as all the rest. Actually, it’s MORE important than some of those other items.
We hiked to the end of the trail, that opens into a clearing on a hill with a view of Deception Pass to the left and open water to the right. A group of people was already there with a Husky on leash, and a Golden Retriever off leash. The Golden saw us and ran toward us. In Bentley’s mind, he was being charged by a monster approximately 10 times his size. He lost it. While he threw a fit alternating between barking and trying to run away, the owner of the uncontrolled Golden called out “its ok, he’s friendly!” and turned her attention back to the view, leaving her dog to do whatever it pleased while my dog continued to lose his mind.
Not ok. NOT AT ALL OK. Anyone with half a brain and the tiniest bit of dog sense could see that Bentley was terrified, and her dog was the source of his fear.
I managed to pick up Bentley and calm him down while the woman and her group of people wandered past, dog still unleashed, without the slightest effort to control him. No one even told him to come.
Leash laws are in place because idiots like this don’t have any common courtesy and the sense to keep their dogs out of trouble. If Bentley was larger, or aggressive, this could have easily turned into a fight.
A fearful dog is not a bad dog. Bentley’s fear stems from nearly 2 years of no socialization before I got him. And let’s be real, if a stranger 10 times your size came running up and got in your face, you’d freak out too.
Fearful dogs shouldn’t be kept away from activities like hiking just so you and your dog can break the law. The only way a fearful dog will recover is by working with him and socializing him. With the work that I’ve put into Bentley, he handled all the other leashed dogs with only mild nervousness. He was ready for other law-abiding leashed dogs. If the other dog had been on a leash, Bentley would not have freaked out. The dog would have stayed at a controlled distance and/or approached at a moderated speed, which would not have triggered his fear. Notice how the Husky was only mentioned once? He was on a leash. He didn’t charge us and get in my dog’s face. He wasn’t a problem. Bentley ignored him.
By ignoring the leash laws and allowing her dog to run wild, she undid hours of work I spent trying to get my dog over his fears.
If you want to let your dog off leash, go somewhere that allows it. It doesn’t matter how “friendly” your dog is, a well behaved dog does not make you exempt from leash laws.