“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” The phrase I dread hearing. Last Fall, I went on a walk with my good friend and her pup. We headed to Humboldt Park, a large park in Chicago with trails and open fields. Her dog is one of my favorites and she is also extremely leash reactive towards other dogs. At one point, we spotted a dog off-leash well ahead of his oblivious owner who was too busy chatting on the phone to pay attention to her dog. The dog was getting very close to us to the point where my friend’s dog was getting visibly stressed. I intercepted the dog and grabbed onto its collar waiting for the owner to approach. I told the owner to leash her dog, it is the law, it’s not fair to my friend’s dog, and it’s unsafe. She disagreed telling me, “oh but my dog is friendly.” She and I got into a verbal… discussion… and she walked away with her dog in the other direction.
It was upsetting, frustrating, and also sad to see my friend and her dog trying to enjoy a beautiful day in the park only to have it ruined by irresponsible owners. Now that the weather is warming up (maybe, sort of, possibly), it’s only natural that people are out and about with their canine companions. As an owner of a dog that can be leash-reactive, it means being more aware of our surroundings and trying as best as possible to avoid unknown dogs.
Thankfully, the majority of dog owners in our area are responsible and we’ve had very few issues. The problem is there are still a few owners who think the law (yes law) doesn’t apply to them and their dog and let them roam off leash. Let me explain why this is not only irresponsible, but also puts dogs and their owners at risk for serious problems.
What the law says
First, let’s start with the facts. The fact is, you are required by law to leash your dog while in public spaces in Chicago. Chicago Municipal Code 7-12-030 states, “It shall be unlawful for any owner to allow his or her animal to cross outside the property line of its owner to any extent, including reaching through, over or under a fence, or to keep or allow his or her animal to be outdoors on an unfenced portion of the owner’s property, unless the animal is leashed and under the control of its owner or another responsible person.” Aka, leash your dog.
So, unless the dog is on your property, or in a dog-friendly area, it’s the law to leash your dog. If you break the law, it’s a fine of $300 in the city of Chicago. You know how many treats you can buy with money like that?!
The risk to other dogs
If you aren’t concerned about the law, have $300 to spare, and you’re not a total square like me, there are still plenty of reasons to keep your dog on a leash. If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you like and care about dogs. So why would you ever want to potentially hurt one? Dogs that are off leash running up to other dogs can be a disaster. I’ve heard too many stories and know it occurs far too often. Sure, your pup may be completely friendly and good with other dogs, but if your dog is off leash and runs into a dog that isn’t, chances are a dog is going to get hurt.
It doesn’t matter if an off-leash dog is friendly if the properly leashed dog is not. Dogs that are dog-aggressive or reactive towards other dogs will not take kindly to a dog rushing up into their space. The poor owner of the leashed-dog is now left to deal with and try to separate the two dogs while you try to catch up to your dog so far out of your control.
The worst part about all of this is that if an incident occurs, it’s not the unleashed dog that gets in trouble. Instead, it’s the one that is properly leashed, minding its own business that pays the price. A bite record, insurance premiums, and bills for the ER often accompany an unpleasant meeting experience. You’ve now just given a strike to a dog that many not have any left because of your own carelessness. You’ve caused the owner emotional pain and distress when they were following all the rules. Don’t be that person. Don’t be the reason a dog doing all things right has to be euthanized.
The risk to your own dog
If for whatever reason you don’t care about someone else’s pain and suffering, just think of your own dog. Can you imagine putting your dog through that trauma? Your dog could end up attacked, bitten, or worse. It’s a horrible thing for any animal to have to experience. Even if the physical scars heal, your dog may show behavioral effects for years to come. My own dog was attacked by a small, white poodle mix and to this day is fearful of them.
And just for funsies, can we also talk about the fact that we live in one of the busiest cities in the world?! Even if you don’t come across another dog, the risk of another type of accident is ten-fold when not leashed. Whether it’s darting into traffic, running off chasing squirrels, or eating something toxic, leashing your dog allows you to be close and in control of your dog should anything happen.
I understand not everyone lives in a big city and some of this isn’t applicable to everyone. There are going to be exceptions to every post I write. But, for the most part, I cannot stress enough how important it is to leash your dog while on a walk. If you want your dog to be able to wander a bit more, try a longer leash (please do not even think about a retractable one!) Keep your dog on leash in order to keep your dog, people, and other dogs safe!
All of these pups have been adopted, but Heartland has SO many amazing dogs. Check out all their adoptable pups here. Psst: there’s a dog named Christine…