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  • Writer's pictureTeaching Tails

Off Lead Dogs

Cockapoo in the Mourne Mountains
Chester enjoying the Mourne Mountains
Time for a rant!!
On Chester's walks we encounter many off-lead dogs. Now I want to start by saying 90 percent of these dogs are perfectly suitable to be off lead.
What do I mean by this?
  • Well, you have the busy dogs, the ones that have their noses to the ground and all they want to do is run and hunt these dogs have no interest in anyone else.

  • Next, we have the passive dogs the ones who are out for a walk with their person they see you, they see your dog and they just don't care.

  • You have the ones who are under control vocally by their owners. They have been recalled close until you pass by.

  • Then we have savvy well-balanced dogs who communicate beautifully with others. They see you, calmly approach communicating with your dog the whole time. They just know when it is appropriate to approach and when to walk on by.

These dogs and owners are fab and I have zero issues with them being off-lead.

So whats my problem?
Its the 10% that are not suitable to be off-lead.

Here is what they look like:

  • They are a playing field away from their owner. They are excitedly jumping on you and your dog. You can hear the owner repeatedly calling but you never see them moving.

  • The Wanderer - You find yourself dealing with this dog with absolutely no idea where the owner is until they appear unconcerned about 3 minutes later.

  • We have the dogs that walk towards you with an owner repeating "STAY STAY, HERE, WITH ME, YOU STAY HEREEEE" as their dog bolds off, straight up to you and your on-lead dog.

  • The sprinter, these dogs run straight for you with their owner behind shouting "ITS OK, THEY'RE FRIENDLY" Do they think for one second that they other dogs isn't how much danger are you willing to let your over excited, friendly pup get into?

  • The social butterfly - They just want to say HELLO!! Problem is the owners walks on and their dog is still saying HELLO to every dog in a 50 metre radius.

  • I have experienced one constantly trying to give me their ball to throw but constantly growling at Chester so he doesn't touch his precious ball. Owner shouting "HE JUST WANTS YOU TO THROW HIS BALL" Yeah and my dog would just like me to walk him without being told off by your ball-obsessed cutie.

  • oh, and I have been followed by a HUMPER! This has to be one of my favourite ones yet. Wait for it............... The owner shouted (I'm still laughing at this one), "ITS OK HE'S NEUTURED!" Like WHAAAT?! I replied "Chesters a boy and I am pretty certain he is gonna tell him off! To which the owner replied "WELL, THAT WILL TEACH HIM, IT HAPPENS ALL TIME!" Well, now....... Obviously, he isn't learning. Also it really isn't my dog's place to teach your dog how to behave its YOURS!


Lets have a look at some of the reasons why some dogs may be kept on lead during walks.

  • FEARFUL DOGS - Dogs who struggle to be around other dogs or people are more likely to be kept on a lead for the safety of others. These dogs and owners really struggle with off-lead dogs that are out of control. Many of these owners are working really hard to help their dogs feel more confident around their triggers and constantly being approached by off-lead dogs can continuously set their training back. Now I have heard the argument that if they have a reactive dog they should not walk them in places other dogs will be. My point is always that these dogs are on lead to ensure you and your dog are safe could you not offer the same courtesy to these owners?

  • SICKNESS OR RECOVERY - A dog may be on a lead as they have a physical injury. They could be getting older and have some mobility issues. They could be on a rehabilitation program following surgery.

  • OWNER CONFIDENCE - Some people own dogs but are still fearful of others. They may have had a bad experience in the past with dog interaction which means they now worry when approached by an out-of-control dog.

  • IN TRAINING - Dogs wearing long lines or lead may be in training. Owners training recall, building focus out and about to the over-friendly dogs.

  • Owners Prerogative - having a dog off lead means being alert in your environment making sure your dog stays safe. Some days owners may just want to aimlessly walk without thinking.

In an ideal world.
People would just be respectful of others...... so lets talk about laws instead.

Lead laws are pretty simple. Whilst it isn't necessary for dogs to be leashed at all times they must be kept on lead in designated pedestrian areas and around livestock. The councils also have by-laws to inform the public when leashing is required which can be seen in many public parks.

You are personally responsible for how your dog behaves in public and should always take measures to ensure the safety of people, children, and other dogs. The law states "It is an offence to allow a dog to attack or cause serious injury to a person or livestock, or to behave in such a way that makes a person worried that it might attack them"

So please note that your dog does not have to make physical contact with a person. That person just has to feel threatened by your dog. If this person makes a complaint it would be enough for a control order to be placed on your dog. This would require your dog to wear a short lead and muzzle for life when in public places.

I know that Chester has come such a long way with strangers but I am not 100% convinced to allow him to be off-lead in designated areas. I would never put him in a position to get it wrong plus my fellow humans and their safety is priority. I am also lucky that with maturity and training, he is pretty good with dogs and communicates really well during interactions. Issues arise for me when people can't recall their dog because now they need to come close to us to get their dog back.

Let me just be clear I have no issue with dogs off lead if they mind their own business, get busy or have a reliable recall. I completely love seeing dogs get the opportunity to be a dog. The ones I have an issue with really are a minority where I walk. My fear is that the few will ruin it for all. So please if you have a dog who doesn't recall, get them on a lead and spend time teaching them to come back when called. Keep them safe and respect other people's need to enjoy walks with their dog.

Disclaimer the percentages above are purely hypothetical incase anyone requests official data.

Thanks for reading.

Cathy & Chester

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