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How Do You Deal With Off-Leash Dogs in Your Area?

Every time I walk my dog on a leash in my neighborhood, we're chased by off-leash dogs.

Heather Marcoux  |  Sep 22nd 2014


The other day I asked a friend, “Is it just me, or are there like a million off-leash dogs around here all of a sudden?”

Turns out I am not imagining it. I guess I just never noticed how many people in my neighborhood walk their dogs off-leash until I became a dog owner myself. Now that I am caring for GhostBuster, the sight of a loose dog on the sidewalk sets off alarm bells in my head. Most dogs around here are nice, but it’s the few that aren’t who worry me. Some of the dogs in my neighborhood present a danger of dogs fights, attacks, or bites.

One of GhostBuster’s first encounters with an off-leash dog in our neighborhood happened shortly after my lovable Lab mix joined our household. GhostBuster and I were enjoying a walk with my sister and her two small breed seniors, Sophie the Bichon mix and Carlos the old-man Shih Tzu cross.

Just walking along, minding our own business...

Just walking along, minding our own business…

The five of us were strolling along when suddenly a medium sized off-leash dog came around the corner we were approaching. It ran at us aggressively; my sister and I had no time to do anything but tighten our grip on our leashes. As the dog charged toward us and nipped at GhostBuster’s face, a woman on a bicycle came racing towards us, calling her dog and apologizing.

“Sorry, I just had him off-leash in the school field,” she explained.

I wasn’t really sure why she would have her dog off-leash at an unfenced elementary school park, but since no harm was done to any of the dogs I didn’t make a big deal about it. Little did I know that this would be the first of many similar situations.

Every single day we run into off-leash dogs in my neighborhood. I would say that for every four leashed dogs we encounter, we find a fifth running along without a leash beside his or her human. A fraction of these dogs are so well behaved that they stay with their owners no matter what, but the majority of these dogs probably shouldn’t be off-leash. I say that because when these dogs end up interacting with my dog, it is not always positive — and sometimes these pups even cross the street to do it.

GhostBuster only goes off-leash in fenced areas. He doesn't understand traffic.

GhostBuster only goes off-leash in fenced areas. He doesn’t understand traffic.

As soon as some of these off-leash dogs see us, they run toward GhostBuster. Sometimes this just results in a little sniff circle before everyone carries on with their separate walks, but other times I end up with a stranger’s dog following me and Buster for a half block while their owner unsuccessfully tries to call them back. That’s the part I just don’t get — if your dog doesn’t have perfect recall, then why are you walking him off-leash on a residential street?

There’s one dog in my neighborhood who is such a nuisance that I try to avoid walking by his house altogether. This dog is beautiful and sweet, but he is never on-leash, and he really should be — for his own safety.

The first time I met this dog, I was walking with GhostBuster when the dog (I’ll call him Spot) appeared out of nowhere and started following us. Spot followed us all the way home, and when I turned over his tag in order to call his people he bolted, running away before I was finished punching the number into my phone.

The next time I saw him I was driving home and he was lying in the middle of the street, beside a parked truck I later learned belonged to his people. I had to swerve to miss the dog, who seemed to be very unconcerned about napping in the roadway.

The third time I met Spot I was walking up the street with Buster when this dog suddenly left his front yard, where he had been hanging out with his owner. He attempted to follow Buster and I, and his owner chased after us, calling Spot back. Since then this scenario has been repeated many times.

On one of those occasions Spot came out of nowhere and started chasing after and playing with GhostBuster while we were trying to walk. Spot’s owner then came out of his house and started chasing and calling after his dog. I told GhostBuster to sit so that the guy could catch up to us, and the guy actually said, “F–king GhostBuster,” as if it were my dog’s fault that his dog continually leaves his yard to chase us.

Dude - my dog is on leash. Sorry we had the audacity to walk down the street.

Dude – my dog is on leash. Sorry we had the audacity to walk down the street.

That day I decided to change up my walking route so that we wouldn’t have to go by that dog’s house anymore. I soon realized that my attempts to avoid this dog were totally futile, as the owner does outdoor work in various places around the neighborhood and takes Spot with him, off-leash, wherever he goes. If I see Spot before he sees us I will turn around and take a different route, but sometimes he sees us first. He’ll leave his owners side and even cross the road to get to us.

As I’m writing this, I am watching another dog walk past my kitchen window. He’s off-leash and meters away from the accompanying human. I don’t understand why so many of my neighbors are so leash adverse. All I know is that I have a responsibility to keep my GhostBuster safe, a task that becomes a little more difficult when other dogs are running at large.

Do you take your dog on off-leash walks in your neighborhood? Or are they always on-leash? How do you avoid dogs running at large? Tell us your stories in the comments!

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About the author:  Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +.