It’s Not My Fault If Your Dog Isn’t On A Lead
I love my dogs and know for a FACT that they’re the best dogs in the whole wide world.
I also know that as a dog owner that loving my dogs means that I need to be responsible. Part of that responsibility is making sure that they are kept active and taken on daily walks. Another part of that responsibility is keeping them on a lead.
There’s two things that frustrate me greatly as a dog owner. The first is seeing dog owners who don’t pick up after their dog takes a bathroom trip (we live in a society, people!!!). The second is dog owners who are cavalier about taking their dogs out without a lead. You may believe that you have your dog under control, but you can never be 100 percent certain what your dog might do or what unexpected elements can come into play.
My own dogs are completely lovely, well-socialised dogs who generally play well with others, but every-so-often they encounter a dick dog or they see an exciting cat in the distance and start acting up. The only way that they can be effectively controlled is because I have them on a lead.
I’ll admit that the idea of fines also keep my dogs on the lead (in NSW, anyone who has a dog considered to not be under effective control are subject to fines of up to $1,100 -- or $11,000 "in the case of a restricted dog, dangerous or menacing dog").
I’m also not a strict control freak about this by any means. A balance needs to be struck between being a good citizen in the world and being able to enjoy the little things in life. Sometimes that means letting my guys off the lead at a quiet park every so often to throw around a frisbee or tennis ball. But, part of the responsibility there is to make sure that I’m actively engaged with them at all times (throwing the frisbee, chasing them around, etc) and not just standing around firing off unquestionably hilarious tweets on my phone while they’re left to their own devices.
I also keep their leads in my hands at all times so that I can immediately leap to action if there is an unexpected incident.
As adorable, funny, and loyal as dogs can be, there’s always the possibility of something going horribly wrong. I felt terrible yesterday reading about the incident in a Melbourne suburb which had three reportedly unleashed dogs encountering a reportedly leashed but not controlled dog. It ended with the mauling of a dachshund named Coco.
It seems like a lot of things went wrong that day. Without having more information, I don’t want to jump to conclusions as to exactly what happened in that park. The important thing I took away from hearing about this incident is the strong reminder that dogs can be unpredictable and things can go very badly.
Maybe the scariest moment in my own life was in facing down a large bulldog while out walking my dogs on a Saturday morning.
I was strolling alongside a nearby tree-lined creek when I heard vicious barking coming from across the water. Soon after, a woman approached me from a nearby footbridge and explained that she just saw a bulldog attack a golden retriever. “Be careful” she warned as she nervously scuttled away, white as a ghost.
I turned around and was horrified to see the bulldog walking over the bridge and straight toward me and my two dogs. If my dogs hadn't been on leads, their immediate reaction would have been to rush over to this menacing dog to say hello. This would probably have gone badly.
I kept my cool externally, but as this big beefy creature approached me, I was freaking out. What could I do to save my dogs? There was a nearby fence that I might be able to toss one of my dogs over. But that was unlikely. I threw my biggest dog over my shoulder and hoped that my little guy (also the smartest goddamn dog you ever will meet) would not be considered a threat to the bulldog.
Terrified, I watched as my gambit paid off and the bulldog walked straight past us and around a nearby corner. I heard the kindly lady shriek as I grabbed my dogs and hightailed it out of there, my own cowardice firmly on display.
(Of course, if I hadn't had my dogs with me, I would have made sure the woman was okay...)
If my dogs hadn’t been on their leads, I honestly don’t know what would have happened. That moment has stuck with me ever since. So has the absolute fear I felt imagining what might have happened to my dogs (or me) if I had tried to step in and stop an attack.
Being a dog owner is a rich, rewarding experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. But it does come with the responsibility to both protect and control your dog.
Failing to do so can end in violent heartbreak.