To leash or not to leash, it’s a big question. How should our dogs live their lives? Constantly attached to us boring old humans on a six foot leash, or running free the way that nature intended?
I am a huge advocate for off leash time. I think it is vital to our dogs’ physical and mental well-being to get time to run loose and be dogs. It is also massively enjoyable for me, as I share life with my dogs, to watch them experience this. It’s not only vital for them, it’s vital for my well being also.
So when people ask me if they should let their dog play off leash, my answer is always yes. Any dog, of
any breed, can learn to safely operate off leash. It just comes down to training and trust in your relationship with your dog. However, this doesn’t mean that I condone wandering into the woods and just taking the leash off and hoping for the best. There is always a layer of faith and trust when working on off leash skills, but there should also always be a few layers of training to go along with it.
It also doesn’t mean just go anywhere and take the leash off. The bottom line is that having your dog off leash is not a right, as much as it is important. It is a privilege that we earn by respecting the laws, and those who live around us and do not want to come into contact with our dogs. If you are in an on leash area, your dog should be on a leash.
“Why? Why should I have to keep my dog leashed when they want to run, and they are friendly? They won’t hurt anyone!”
There are a few good answers to this question.
It’s the law. Plain and simple. It doesn’t actually matter past that, but I have more answers for you too.
Not every person likes dogs. In fact some people are afraid of dogs, or allergic to them. Those people should still be able to enjoy parks without being accosted by a friendly dog.
Not every dog likes dogs. Some dogs just want to go for a walk on leash and a sniff and do not want to play with or greet other dogs. Those dogs should still be able to go out and about in the world without having to fend off overly eager dogs.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how friendly your dog is, not everyone wants to be friends with them and that’s okay.
So what are your options?
Go to a designated off leash area that your dog can enjoy. There are tons of them in Austin!
If none of the off leash areas that you can find strike your fancy, take your dog out on a long line. This still gives them the freedom of more than six feet of leash, but you are able to keep them under control, keep everyone safe, and reel them in if you need to.
Borrow a backyard! See if a friend with a nice backyard is willing to let your pup come over and explore, or check out a great new service called Sniffspot. It gives you the opportunity to rent backyards for your dog to check out.
There are also a few private dog parks in Austin that you can rent to let your pup play by themselves, or with trusted friends.
There are a lot of popular spots in Austin where leash laws are flouted by the majority of people who use the space, and it has become a semi-accepted practice. They are fun, beautiful places to explore,
and who doesn't want to take their dog? However, it can be extremely frustrating to be the only person in this situation who’s dog is on leash. Both for the person, and for the dog. In these situations it does become very tempting to let your dog off leash, especially since it can cause bigger problems for our dogs to be the only ones on leash. So what do we do when we find ourselves in this situation? I feel we have two options; let your dog off leash to join in, or leave the area.
I tend to exercise both options, depending on where I am and the dogs I have. If I am not expecting the concentration of off leash dogs to be so high I tend to leave, but there are certain places that I expect to see a lot of off leash dogs and in those places I am prepared to let my dogs off.
I want to be careful and firm in saying that I do not endorse or encourage anyone to go to a designated on leash area and let their dog off leash. At all. However, I also refuse to stop enjoying certain areas due to others. So if I am put in the situation of letting my dogs off leash in those types of areas, there are certain rules that I follow.
I keep my dogs within sight. If I am in a designated off leash space, my dogs will often wander out of sight, but in these situations I keep them close.
If I see another person I call my dogs back and have them sit stay on the side of the trail. If the person seems uncertain or uncomfortable about my dogs, I will leash them.
If I see an on leash dog approaching I call my dogs back and leash them. If a dog in that space is on leash, they deserve to pass unaccosted. (I also follow this rule if I am in a designated off leash space, I do my best to avoid my dogs interacting with on leash dogs).
If someone asks me to leash my dogs, I leash my dogs.
Rule 4 is the big one. No matter where I am, if someone asks me to leash my dogs I leash my dogs. Even if I am in a designated off leash space. In that instance I will leash my dogs, and then let that person know that this might not be the best place to be if they need the dogs around them to be leashed.
So, to leash or not to leash? Let your pups off leash! Let them be free and natural and be dogs. But make sure to do it in designated areas, and that you have done thorough and reliable training with your dog to maintain their skills without their leash attached. Respect those around you, and always leash your dog when asked, especially if you are not in a designated off leash space.
Not sure if your dog is reliable off leash, or how to get them there? Good news! We love working on off leash skills. Drop us a line and we can help you get set up with a training plan and headed towards fun and responsible hikes with your pup!