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A Well Behaved Dog Does Not Make You Exempt From Leash Laws - Bones and Fishes

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.


  1. Cheryl Smyth

    Great article. I’m probably the worst one for wanting to have my dog off leash. But I do so with a lot of respect. I only do it when no one is around or far enough away and when I can see far enough for anyone approaching. And I always have the leash ready to attach. My Tessi is well trained to mind her own business, though she is super friendly and it’s been a challenge to train her not to run up to others because I know not all dogs are. (As someone who used to be scared of dogs and am still nervous around aggressive ones, and has dealt with Tessi being seriously attacked by one, I don’t like unknown dogs running up to us.) People like you describe make it so difficult for others. I just can’t believe how inconsiderate they are. http://www.cstravelsandpics.ca

    1. Cheryl Smyth

      …and yes, because mine’s a hunter, I have to be aware of that factor, too.

    2. Ryan Jordan (Post author)

      Thank you! I totally get that dogs will be off leash at times. It’s good for them to get to run, and not everyone has a fenced yard. But there’s a time and a place for it. It sounds like you understand that, though. My story took place on a high traffic trail, with many leash law signs posted around the parking lot and all trail heads. A place where that law really should be obeyed. Or at the very least, she should have done something about her dog when she saw how scared my dog was.

      1. Cheryl Smyth

        Exactly – I so agree with you.

  2. Christina Berry

    Ugh, I feel your pain, Ryan.

    I hate when people say, “don’t worry, he’s friendly!” because, you know, what if my dog isn’t?? She is, but if she wasn’t and she responded in a negative way, all the blame would be on her when, in fact, she wasn’t the one who started it. If it’s a public place where other people and dogs will be, I feel a leash is an absolute must. If you want your dog to run free, fence your yard and let him do it there.

    1. Ryan Jordan (Post author)

      Exactly! I pick places based on leash laws, because I know what my dog needs. Sometimes people blame the person obeying the law with reasoning like “well if your dog is reactive, you shouldn’t have it in public”. If someone wants to let their dog off leash in an area designated for it, that’s great. I won’t be walking Bentley there!

  3. Melf

    I am so sorry this happened to you and Bentley. I have two fearful dogs of my own and can totally relate. It makes me mad when people do this. I cannot even believe she left without a clue.
    My dogs are comfortable with other dogs, but afraid of people. You have no idea how many times I have had to tell someone off because they fiemly believed that “all dogs loved them.” Um yeah, not my dogs moron.
    I wish you could have handed her your blogpost as they turned away.

    1. Ryan Jordan (Post author)

      Oh I thought of a hundred things to say after she was gone! I still hope she stumbles across this post someday. That’s probably pretty unlikely, but maybe it’ll make someone else stop and think before breaking a leash law.

      It’s amazing to me how many complete strangers believe they know your dog better than you do. I’ve seen that a lot too, but it’s usually related to people bringing their dogs up to Bentley.

  4. Victoria

    i dont know bout that . My reverse brindle boxer. doesnt chase. doesnt run uo to other dogs and never runs off. . unless i tell him too. always walk by my side .

    1. Ryan Jordan (Post author)

      Hm. Maybe I should have worded it “a friendly dog” instead of a “well behaved dog”. Your dog wouldn’t bother me, or my fearful dog. Sounds like you’ve done a great job training him!


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