3 Dumb Things that Dog Owners Do (That Make Us All Look Bad)

I am a dog person. I think most of you probably know that. I like dogs, a whole lot. I am into them. I can hang with them. That being said, I understand that not everyone else on the planet feels the same way. Dog owners who refuse to act with some basic courtesies grate on me as badly as parents who let their kids kick the back of my airplane seat. With the advent of spring, lots of people are venturing outside again with their pets- and this is a great thing, usually, but it also marks the high season of Bad Dog Owner Behavior.

There is some basic level of consideration that one should accord their fellow man for several reasons: one, it’s the right thing to do, and two, we have a responsibility to be good owners so people who are maybe not dog people will at least tolerate their presence a little better. We want more businesses and public areas to be dog-friendly, right? And as long as dog owners keep doing some of these things I’m about to list, it’s probably not going to happen.


1. Letting your dog go off-leash in a leash-required area.ย 

First of all, if the law requires a leash in a certain area, you should do it. I don’t care how good your dog is or how great their recall is, a person who doesn’t like dogs will see this and freak out. And then they will complain and try to get the area closed off to all dogs, and no one wants that.

In addition, your dog may be the sweetest dog on the planet, but you have no idea if the dog coming in the other direction is the same. If your dog is off-lead, you’ve lost the ability to safely control them in a potentially dangerous situation. I’m amazed at how many people I run into around my neighborhood- which does have a leash law- and not only is their dog off-lead, they’re not even carrying a leash on their person. That’s flat out dangerous if they run into trouble.


2. Not picking up after your dog.

I’ve heard every excuse in the book- I forgot my bags, I didn’t want to carry it all the way back to the trailhead, blah, blah, blah. And hey, even the best of us get caught off guard every once in a while and have to improvise. No matter the reason, it’s not OK to leave a pile of poop on the sidewalk. It’s the number one thing you hear non-dog owners complain about when it comes to dog owners, and it makes us all look bad.

I used to go to a dog park with Emmett and Mulan where the people there were complete Poop Police. The second a dog would start to hunch over, someone would yell “The Golden!” and the owner would be expected to trot over and scoop post-haste. I miss that park. It was the nicest dog park I’ve ever been to, now that I think about it. The one by my current house has no such diligent culture, and only the brave venture in from the periphery. Because no one likes poop, not even dog people.

This adorable dog was born with no front legs. As sweet and harmless as he is, someone, somewhere, would be terrified by him.

3. Forcing your dog on fearful people.

Brody and I recently hiked up the busiest trail in San Diego. It’s a conga line, basically, but it’s dog friendly, so we go when we can. About every fourth person reacts to Brody, and when they do, it usually goes something like this : pets him — coos over him — pets him — compliments him — screams. There’s always one or two screamers on the trail.

Now, I don’t feel too badly about it, because Brody is allowed there, and he’s on a short lead, and – this will amaze those of you who have met him at my house- he actually minds his own business when we’re hiking. So when someone sees him and squeals like he’s a charging mountain lion, we just pick up our pace and pass them as quickly as possible.

Sure, I’d love to stop and explain how he’s not aggressive, and he loves to give kisses, but that is pretty much the last thing in the universe a fearful person wants you to do. I always feel so terrible for those terrified little children who sit there paralyzed while a big pleasant dog tries to change their mind. Now mind you, I’m not talking about situations where a fearful adult or child is attempting contact. I’m talking about people who force their dog on someone who clearly doesn’t want it. Don’t be an unwanted ambassador. There are plenty of times when it is appropriate, and some when it is not.

I know I get a little hand-wavy on the topic, but these are not difficult things for people to do. It’s about courtesy. It’s about showing the world we, as dog owners, are considerate. It’s helping ensure we can continue to venture out in public with our pets and not find ourselves increasingly limited as to where we can go.

Am I the only one who goes crazy with this stuff? Or any big pet peeves I’m missing? (Non dog-people are welcome to chime in here too.)

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Musings, Picks of the Litter Tagged: , ,
  • Jessica Roberts

    The off-leash thing always gets me, and I have two dogs. We purposely walk our dogs early in the morning because our shar pei, Kaylee, is not dog-friendly (cats are a completely different story). There’s someone who walks their Australian shepherd at that time as well, off-leash, with no voice recall. The owner yells, from across the street as his dog races for us, “He’s friendly!” As I’m scooping up forty pounds of unhappy shar pei, I’m busy yelling back, “She’s not!” And then, every time, he yells at his dog, who is completely ignoring him, until the dog gets bored and wanders off.

    And our other dog, Cordy, was attacked twice on the same walk years ago by dogs who were loose in their unfenced yards.

    Leash your dog.

  • Sue W.

    I believe in all of this. It is next to impossible to convince others. Unfortunately, the people that believe will read this. Those that don’t, won’t. Everyone always thinks *they* are the exception.

    • Mcappy

      haha. agreed EVERYONE is special. I was totally shocked the other day. I was at a dog rehab facility. When we were leaving there was dog poop all over the parking lot behind my car. I was the last customer. It’s not hard to figure out who left before me. There are poop bag and scoopers by the door. These are dog people who are willing to pay for rehab and yet can’t be bothered to clean up after their dog! Grrrr

  • Well, I do #1 and I’ll admit to it. However, she stays close, we’ve built in a “stop” command (and a solid recall, but due to her staying close by rarely need that) and we always have the leash ready. When we see a dog far up ahead, we leash her up. We’ve made sure we’ve put in the training so that she is reliable off leash and we pay 100% attention to our surroundings (no mp3 players or cell phones for us!). She’s never run up to another dog or person because she’s not given the opportunity to.

    I see no problem with well-trained dogs being off leash (the leash for us is more for show) and there are many such dogs like that who go on walks around our ponds. We’re all especially careful to only let the dogs meet if the other person wants them to, otherwise we leash up, continue on and unleash when we’re passed them.

    • Can you come and talk to the people in my area? ๐Ÿ™‚ I wish they would do this.

      • Haha I’d love to! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I can look up the cost of plane tickets. J/K I do wish more people would do this because if they DID then more dogs would get off leash time. It wasn’t hard at all to train her to be reliable and to keep an eye out. I don’t find it difficult at all (I find it harder to deal with the leash!). A bit of training over a few months time and poof! reliable dog. And this was an adult dog who was a stray.

        • MV

          What is the big deal about having your dog on a leash? I just don’t get people like that. YOUR dog is safer onleash. YOUR dog could get hit by a car, attacked by another dog, lost etc. It’s a leash! Not a big hassle to train yourself to use.

        • We’re not walking by a road! When we walk in the neighborhoods on sidewalks we’re always leashed up. I’m talking about walking in areas that aren’t near roads, like fields or around our pond which is a nice trail where you can see far in the distance at all times (no major curves).

          I know the area. I know most of the dog walkers (many of which are very much like me). I know my dog. What’s the big deal about NOT having her on a leash? In other countries dogs go leash free almost all the time. It’s only in the USA where we want to regulate EVERY SINGLE THING that they must be leashed and not allowed to actually explore a bit.

        • K9diabetes

          I’m curious why you are so stubbornly determined to break the law?

          As I said earlier, you could set an example for all of those other folks who aren’t as courteous and careful as you are. They all use the same justifications… my dog needs more exercise, he hates the dog park, he’s friendly. Every person who feels they have the “right” to have their dog off leash makes life for dogs who are reactive or fearful (DINOS is an acronym for Dogs In Need Of Space)far more limited than how much putting a leash on your dog would limit you. We often use a 20 or 30 foot lead in large open spaces with our dog.

          There are dogs like yours who are very willing to stay close but there are many many dogs who have significant fear issues that training helps but cannot cure. Our dog, for example, who is a rescue who got no socialization when young and by nature also just isn’t the type to stick close.

          In the end, not liking the leash requirement is not an excuse for ignoring it. It’s not a lot to ask of people or their dogs. And it opens the world for dogs who otherwise couldn’t go out into public.

          Every person walking around with an off leash dog that’s causing problems gives the exact same excuses for why they do it as you do.

          I am personally asking all of those people to be courteous and obey leash laws.

          Dr. V’s whole post was about being a good representative of dog caretakers and setting an example for others.

        • Law abiding dog owner

          Totally agree. Michelle Osborne is an example of the reason this column was written. Selfish, bad, dumb dog owner.

        • Crysania

          I’d love to know how I’m selfish…or bad…or a dumb dog owner. I have a 6 1/2 year old dog who regularly sees the vet, is spayed, is kept healthy and fed well. She gets tons of exercise, is treated well, trained in agility and knows many commands, including the every important recall and stop commands. She’s never approached another dog without having the owner’s permission. She’s an awesome dog with an awesome life.

        • Cawright

          “In the end, not liking the leash requirement is not an excuse for ignoring it.”

          EXACTLY! What if everyone said, “Well, there is no one around, so I don’t have to stop at the red light.” Or, “Since there is no one else on the road, it won’t bother anyone if I drive 100mph. The speed limit is only there for people who aren’t skilled drivers and don’t know how to slow down when they see traffic.” There is no difference between that and saying that I do not have to abide by the leash law because I’m not bothering anyone.

        • Law abiding dog owner

          You’re incredibly selfish. I don’t care how strong you think your dog’s recall is. What if someone set off a firecracker? What if there was a car accident down the street, or a big bang of other origin? Follow the leash law. My dog was once attacked by an off leash dog and I don’t really relish walking my dog on leash and seeing your dog off leash, worrying about what could happen.

        • You wouldn’t even see my dog being on OR off leash. From the distance away that I put her on, I can’t tell if the other dog is on a leash or not. And my dog hasn’t even noticed the other dog. By the time you could even make out more than “oh there’s a dog” my dog would be on leash. It’s not selfish to allow her a bit of freedom when no one is around and then hook her up as soon as I see someone. I frequently go around the entire pond we walk around and don’t see another human being OR dog.

          And seriously…a firecracker just being set off in the middle of the day? A car accident would be too far away as we’re not near a road. Something rare could happen and she could bolt while I’m holding the leash too, yank me off my feet, and she’d be gone with leash attached. Anything COULD happen.

        • Anabelle11

          I’ve gotta agree with Michelle. It sounds like she is in a familiar place when her dog is off leash. Only when we are in our neighborhood park, do we let our dog off-leash where there is technically a leash rule. We do put on his leash when people/dogs approach – but there aren’t many and we know most of them. Our dog gets much more exercise off-leash as we walk (we play fetch on the trail). He doesn’t spook and won’t approach strangers (people or dogs).
          His leash is always on if we are in a strange place, by the street or in a busier park.

        • This is exactly it, though I don’t always leash her up on hiking trails that aren’t well-traveled (always carry it with me and hook her up if I DO see someone, but many of the trails we choose are ones people don’t tend to go to so it’s very rare to see anyone at all on them). But by the street or in a park that’s very busy, she gets leashed. Around our pond, which when it’s really busy usually only has a few people walking around it and most of the dogs we know, it’s no big deal. I let her run around and sniff things, call her to me if I need to, we play tug and fetch (hard playing fetch on a 6 foot leash!), and we stop, chill out and I take a million photos of her.

          I think people think I’m walking right up to these other dog owners and either keeping her off leash while we walk by (which I could do, but don’t) or I’m hooking her up when they’re like 5 feet away. Neither is true.

        • Misty Fowler

          When your dog goes to the pound because of your irresponsibility, it will be quite traumatic to her. I hope that she doesn’t have to go through that.

        • Anonymous

          Why would my dog go to the pound? I can’t even see how that would happen.

        • Shearaha1

          If the whole issue is your handling of the leash then why not get a hands free leash? I have a very nice walking belt that the leash just snaps on to. I walk my reactive Rottweiler on it and have not had any issues. It takes loose hands and tangled leads out of the picture while maintaining leash laws.

    • K9diabetes

      The difficult for someone like me with your dogs being off-leash is that I have no way of knowing how much control you actually have over your dog. And I’d say at least 99% of the people walking their dogs off-leash have little to no control over their dogs. So we have to assume for our reactive dog’s safety and your dogs’ safety that you don’t have control of yours either. Most of those people truly believe they do and quickly discover how wrong they are. I don’t want to be the one who teaches them that lesson.

      So on the topic of courtesy, it would be courteous of you to follow the leash laws even though your dog doesn’t need a leash…. our dog’s ability to leave the house and have some kind of a life depends on it.

      Leash laws make a reasonable life and decent exercise possible for DINOS (dogs in need of space). You could set a great example for the folks who don’t actually have control of their dogs and make it possible for us to go to ten times more places with our dog than we can now by modeling responsible dog ownership.

      We are constantly finding ourselves surrounded by off leash dogs everywhere else but the dog park and it’s very frustrating….

      • You wouldn’t get near my dog with her being off leash to be honest. When I see someone coming from a long distance away (long enough that I can’t tell if they’re on leashes or not usually), I leash her up. By the time you could tell if she was on or off leash, she’s on.

      • sherry

        OMG…I so agree!

    • Michelle, it’s great that your dog is well-trained, but a dog is a dog is a dog. An animal, with free will and a fight/flight reflex. At any point something could scare her, and she could bolt away out of fear, and you have no handle on her to prevent that.

      • At any point she could bolt unexpectedly and yank the leash out of my hand. A leash is not a 100% guarantee about anything AND I know my dog and her training. She’s not a bolter and she’s not scared of anything. And she stops immediately, even the time a deer crashed out in front of us and she wanted to give chase.

    • Kali’s person

      If you’re in an on-lead area and you’re disregarding that, you’re in the wrong. I don’t care how well trained she is. It doesn’t do a bit of harm to the dog to be on a leash, so unless you are in an area that allows off-lead dogs, just don’t do it.

      • Thanks for your suggestion, but nope. I’m careful about it and make sure she’s leashed up if anyone is coming up ahead (and by “up ahead” i mean several hundred feet, as soon as I see them in the distance when I have no idea if their dog is even leashed up). The laws are only in place because so many people DON’T put in the training so rather than requiring training, they simply clamp down on dog owners. In other countries where dogs are off leash more often, there aren’t nearly so many problem dogs. But here in the States, well, we like to regulate everything.

        The fact is there are NO off leash areas where I live. Except the dog park. And I hate the dog park and my dog doesn’t like the dog park. So I’m not going to force her into a boring life at the end of a 6-foot leash when a small amount of freedom bothers no one.

        • Misty Fowler

          If there’s a law, and you’re disobeying it, you’ve given the rest of us dog owners a bad name, and possibly making things worse for all of us in regards to future laws, and people’s attitudes towards us.

        • Anonymous

          Sorry but no. I’m not giving anyone a bad name. If I’m at a park where few, if any, people are, I keep my dog under voice control (which I find better than a leash…the worst incidents we’ve had with people are dogs who are on leash and reactive and get away from their owners dragging the leash across the ground toward us). I keep a leash if I need it (and walk her on leash in the neighborhoods where we’re more likely to see people). I clean up after my dog always. I carry extra poop bags and give them to other people who I see NOT picking up after their dogs. I show people what a well-trained dog can be like and I’ve inspired other people to take up more training with their dog.

          I’d say I’m a pretty damned good influence in my little neighborhood.

    • Cawright

      I get the temptation to walk your “offleash reliable” dog without a leash where there aren’t many others around. I too have an “offleash reliable” dog that does not wander from my side even when there are other dogs around, stops immediately and freezes when I call his name, even mid-bolt when he’s spooked by something (yes, this has happened before more than once… he’s rather timid by nature), and is friendly with other dogs when allowed to meet them. So I get it. It’s nice to not have to hold a leash when you’re walking. And in my case I could even argue that there is really no point to the leash since my dog outweighs me by quite a bit and if he wasn’t under my control and actually wanted go somewhere, the leash isn’t going to be able to hold him back anyway. BUT, a law is a law. What would happen if everyone thinks they are an exception? Why bother even having a law then? Walk your dog offleash where there isn’t a leash law. Put a leash on for looks when there is one.

      I’ve been on the other side of the fence too. I had a very dog-reactive dog and it freaked me out to no end to see an offleash dog when I was walking him, even if it’s half a block or even a long block away. Yes, I scan that far away. You learn to do that if your dog is reactive to other dogs. Dogs are fast. Most offleash dogs are actually not at all reliable, so even though there are ones (the rare ones) that ARE reliable, people would just have to assume that any offleash dog they see is NOT under the full control of their owner, because they’d be right the majority of the time. I’ve had the misfortune of having offleash dogs come up to my dog-reactive dog and me and end up in a scuffle, multiple times. I carry a spray with me when I walk my dogs now. So even though I get that your dog doesn’t need a leash to behave and stay with you (mine doesn’t either), please be considerate enough to not to add to the stress of someone walking a dog-reactive dog. By the time they see you with your offleash dog, their blood pressure and heart rate is already up, and the mere sight of your offleash dog has already ruined their leisurely walk. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re still a distance away. They’ve probably already made a U-turn and walked back the way they came. I know I had to do exactly that countless times before because people didn’t keep their dogs on a leash.

      People with dog-reactive dogs will never take their dogs to a place where there isn’t a leash law. They rely on the leash law to keep their dogs safe, and to keep their sanity while walking their dogs. Please don’t make things more difficult for them. There are plenty of places where it is lawful to have your dog offleash. Abide by the law where there is a leash law. It’s there for a reason.

      • How am I making it difficult for anyone? I see someone coming from a long distance away, I hook her up. We get nowhere near any other dog off leash. I hook her up immediately when I see them, even though usually they’re such a distance away that I can’t tell if THEIR dog is on a leash, which probably means they can’t tell if my dog is on one anyway (especially considering some retractable have such a thin cord these days that sometimes I’ve thought dogs were off leash when they weren’t).

        I’ve never seen someone make a U-turn upon seeing us.

        • Cawright

          I live in a neighborhood where there are many dogs. We generally see at least 3 or more people with their dogs on a walk. I can see whether or not a dog is on a leash walking next to its owner 300 feet away. If it’s not put on a leash at least 200 ft from us, I turn around and walk the other way. Many times the owner of the other dog has not even seen us. That is the whole point. If the dog is not under control and not on a leash, by the time it sees us, it is too late to avoid contact if it wants to approach. A retractable leash that’s let out as far as it can go so that the dog can almost cross the street is no better than not having a leash at all. One of our previous neighbor’s dog was run over by a car while on a retractable leash.

  • Kristie

    You’ve covered my big ones, although my #4 would be people with ankle-biters who don’t expect them to have any manners just because they’re so little.

    And I guess this would go with human ankle-biters, too.

    Having said that, one thing to keep in mind: seat kicking on an airplane isn’t entirely the kid’s fault. When legs dangle like that for an extended period of time, kicking and other movement are physiologically compelled to keep blood circulation moving. Some seat kicking is also the kid’s attempt to put his/her feet on the seatback in order to have a place to rest those feet. Airlines need to remind people to have their kids sit criss-cross, and a well-placed backpack during flight can work wonders. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Anonymous

      Actually parents need to remind their kids to not kick the back seats, sit cross legged or get up a move a little bit during a long flight. It’s common courtesy not to annoy the passengers around you. It’s not the airline’s duty to make sure every kid is being courteous. It’s the parents’ responsibility.

    • Dizzy

      The seat-kicking mightn’t be the child’s fault but it’s certainly the parents’ fault.

  • Miranda

    Sometimes I think we are the only ones in our subdivision who follow the leash law. And we are in city limits, it is a LAW. When we walk our two dogs, we inevitably have to stop so someone else can reign in their loose dog. And I love it when their dog runs up to our two pit bulls, who are ALWAYS on leash and we get asked “Will they bite?” as their dog is running at us full speed, growling, barking, etc…

    • this is exactly how is it where i live. the people here just open their front doors and let their dogs run out to the grass area. i just had to ask a neighbor for the 3rd time today to please keep her off-leash dogs away from mine and politely explained that my pitty is scared of other dogs (as if him crouching into a tiny ball while her dog was sniffing him wasn’t evidence enough). she seriously looked at me like i was a crazy person. how dare i ask her to give us personal space! *sigh*

  • Lmhbryant

    I was an ardent cat person for years. Then I became an empty nester and decided that a dog was the answer for me…and boy was it ever the answer! I am a total dog lover at this point. I used to be the person who was afraid of a dog off a leash (I’m still weary), the first person to complain about stray piles and I have been known to EEK! when I see a dog who is very large. I also have a pet peeve about a dog who won’t mind and anyone who would strike a dog in anger for anything. I would not dream of leaving the house without a few bags, or a leash I won’t let go of or take off. Thanks to Pawcurious, PBS and some reading, I have learned enough about how to relate to dogs to have a well behaved dog without yelling, hitting or grief. I try to be the kind of dog owner I used to wish everyone else was. Converts really do sing the loudest in church.

  • Kristin

    YES to all of that. Especially the poop. We pick up our dog’s poo and I cannot stand dog owners who think the law doesn’t apply to them. We have always picked up after our dog because we don’t want him sniffing or stepping in other dogs’ messes. However, we recently moved to an area where it’s the law with a $100 fine and yet, there’s more rogue poop here than where we previously lived. It’s like a dog poop mine field! Ugh.

  • Anonymous

    I’m right there with Jessica. Clyde is very reactive to dogs who run up to him when he’s on a leash. He can be dog friendly at times, but not all of the time, and definitely not to a dog who runs up to him like that. I get the same “she’s friendly” call from the person who lets their dog run all over the place, and I yell back the same “but he’s not!” And yes, there have been a few scuffles, but no broken skin yet. And it scares me so when it’s a small dog running up because Clyde is a BIG dog and can do major damage in no time. I admit, I can’t control him in that situation, which is why we are always very aware of our surroundings. He won’t take off after a dog when we walk, but I feel so sorry for him when one runs up to us barking and growling because it’s not his fault, and he shouldn’t have to face that situation. We have a big vacant lot at the end of our block, and a neighbor who always said he had excellent recall with his dog (another lab) was out playing frisbee with his dog in the lot when Clyde and I walked up the street. His dog saw Clyde and charged over to us. The owner tried his recall several times, and it didn’t work. The two 85-pound dogs fought, and it scared me to death. Luckily, no one was hurt, but I almost had a heart attack.

    If every owner was like Michelle, aware of their surroundings, I wouldn’t mind the off-leash dogs. And I don’t mind a dog running up to me at all when I don’t have my dog with me. I love dogs! But my last two labs have not liked other dogs who run up to them, so it’s put me on high alert for that.

  • I will first say I agree with everything you have said here. These three kindnesses will go a long way to improving the PR for dogs everywhere. It’s so simple and yet so many people seem to think they are above the rules.

    That said, I still struggle not to laugh when someone screams the instant they see a dog. This has happened to me several times. We’re just walking along, minding our own business, and then we’ll turn a corner and a person who is much more than five feet away, will start freaking out. Usually my dog wasn’t even looking at the person. Maybe the reason I find it so humourous is because my dog is reactive. Yet when she actually barks and lunges, most people don’t say anything. It’s when she is behaving perfectly that people freak out. It’s hard not to giggle a little.

  • Anonymous

    I still want a shirt for when I’m walking Cookie that says “She doesn’t bite but owner will.” Cookie is dog-aggressive when she’s on a leash and the other dog isn’t. And there is one guy that runs with his dog and it’s off leash. The dog isn’t conditioned to be a runner, in fact he stops constantly to mark and sometimes runs in the very busy street.

    Big oak leaves come in super handy when you don’t have a bag. Have done that before in emergency situations! LOL!

    • Koa, surprisingly, was a little growly the other day. It was specifically directed to an off-leash dog who approached her when she and Brody were on a double lead.

      • Anonymous

        I sometimes think it’s because Cookie feels threatened and “leashed” that she can’t defend us or herself if a dog comes towards her. I was always worried about her at a dog park but if she’s off leash, she’s perfectly fine. We tested it with the other Rottiegirl next door who is the same age and just as ornery. If she’s off leash and Cookie is on leash, Cookie becomes very aggressive. But if both are off leash (in the backyards), everything is fine.

        • That’s exactly it. A LOT of dogs have leash reactivity because it prevents them from acting properly (inhibits body language a bit) and they don’t have the choice anymore between fight and flight, so end up choosing “fight” to get other dogs away.

        • Edenbird

          Michelle – how does a leash inhibit body language? If you have trained your dog to walk on a leash politely, they should be able to exhibit any body language they choose. Sure – if you have to have your dog on a short leash, holding its head up, (incorrect way to handle a leashed dog) you are not allowing your dog control of head position, but I don’t see what else the leash inhibits as far as body language goes. Could you elaborate?

        • Edenbird

          Cookie probably just needs more training then. Your dog should be looking to you to decide what to do. Most dogs are worse on the leash. Some because they cannot run if needs be, so they get prepared for fight. Some because they are defending the small bit of territory they have (i.e. the area the leash allows them). If your dog is looking to you for guidance, not deciding for itself, it should be fine on or off leash. And it is more often than not possible to retrain / recondition your dog – it just takes time and patience.

        • Anonymous

          The thing is I rescued Cookie when she was (vet guessed) at around 5 years old after extreme neglect and abuse so I’m okay with her being leash aggressive since she’s come a long way with me in the last seven years. I’ve worked with her for a long time and the fact that she’s sociable and as loving as she is, I’m willing to deal with that quirk. She spent a long time defending herself again humans and the other four dogs she lived with. I have a feeling she was possible pinned down or held back when she was abused so she is automatically condition to believed that she’s about to be hurt and can’t defend herself.

    • Dreamscribbler

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who has done the oak-leaves! I feel terrible when I do, but my poopbags got left in my other backpack!

  • Cathey

    All great stuff, Dr. V – all true. Like most of the other posters mentioned, the ones who are the worst offenders either think they have a perfect dog that will NEVER break – trust me, they ALL do, or they miss the whole point. Just because your dog is off lead, that doesn’t mean I know it’s probably/maybe safe.

    These are truly a matters of common courtesy – I won’t leave the toilet unflushed, even in a public toilet – this is NOT any different. Regarding leash laws, they are in place for a reason, mostly because someone’s perfect dog hurt someone else’s child or grandmother.

    I’d rather not put a leash on, too, but Lizzie thinks she needs to kiss everyone in the world and they are perhaps not interested! We save the off leash times for the 80 acres our friend lets us roam.

    PS–my absolute FAVORITE bad dog owners are the ones that think because you have more than one dog at your house, you won’t notice any more poop in your yard – take a good look folks, it’s been picked up – every day!!

  • I don’t think my city ever got any memo about responsible dog ownership. Some few people go above and beyond for their dogs, and I love to see it. Most let their dogs run loose, don’t pick up after them, don’t register or ID them, and don’t train them. There are so many aggressive and dangerously reactive dogs here.

    My first Pom was attacked when a bulldog came off his front step, unleashed, while his owner sat by, and sniffed J. J is a pleasant little guy. The bulldog realised that he was dealing with another unaltered male and bit him. I told the guy to keep his dog on a leash, and the next week the same dog attacked my boyfriend… While no one held the leash he was wearing. He was told to “just hit him in the head.”

    Peach has been accosted by “He’s friendly!” dogs, whose owners let them pull right up to her. They might be friendly (They’re mostly over-excited and rude, actually) but Peach is shy. Very shy. And insecure. She has no confidence when she feels she has lost control of a situation. A strange dog who runs up to her, pokes her in the eye, and growls at her? A terrible situation for her to be put in. And it’s happened because of “He’s friendly!” dogs.

  • K9diabetes

    Credit to Notes from a Dog Walker and “DINOS” – Dogs In Need Of Space – who works to educate the public about why dogs should be on leash any time they are in a space that requires one.


    • That’s a great term- DINOS. Thanks for the link!

      • Noooo! It’s a terrible term. I see people using it and other people going “WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT” all the time. All these silly acronyms are frustrating to people not “in the know.”

        • Edenbird

          Michelle, people with “DINOS” don’t expect dog owners like you to understand. It’a a useful acronym fo them and much nicer than some of the alternatives. If people are using it amongst people who would not understand the term without explaining it, they are idiots. You obviously have a completely different experience with your dog than others. Great. Lucky you. You say you consider other people by leashing your dog. That’s great. Now how about extending that consideration a little more. Terrible term? Oh, don’t be so silly.

        • Anonymous

          It’s not a matter of “understanding.” I very much understand that MOST dogs need space (including mine — she doesn’t like other dogs jumping all over her at all). It’s the need for silly acronyms for EVERY SINGLE THING that drives me nuts.

  • Apple

    Amen! Wish folks were more responsible. I volunteer at a shelter & we walk in the park next door (which is strictly on-leash) or through the neighborhood surrounding the shelter. There are always dogs who are off leash in both places, often times with the owner over a block behind. Poor shelter pooches are stressed enough without having strange dogs come running up to them. Naturally, we do not allow shelter dogs to say hi to any outside dogs due to liability & to ensure the safety of both dogs (if something happens, the shelter mutt gets blamed & that can mean a death sentence for them – so please don’t tell me not to worry because your dog’s friendly). When people don’t follow the rules, it ruins it for everyone. These poor dogs sit in little concrete cells all day, longing for that nice little reprieve that a walk & fresh air provide – and then someone comes along arrogantly with their dog off-leash & makes us retreat. This can cut the shelter dog’s walk short, which is not fair & downright rude & careless. The park & streets do not belong to you – take your dog to a proper off-leash park; not all dogs have that luxury. The rules exist for the safety of your dog, too. I’ve seen so many missing dogs who were fine in parks, on the streets, on hiking trails, etc., FOR YEARS but then one day, something distracts or spooks them out of the blue & they’re off – & then they are prey to numerous hazards. Every dog I have ever seen get hit by a car was OFF-LEASH & totally preventable. Also, I have to say, it is the off-leash folks who never seem to pick up after their dogs – their dog is way ahead or off in this or that direction & the person is not paying attention when the dog poops. My dog walks on leash in the park & I know when and where she poops because she is at my side, on leash, like she is supposed to be. When we are at an off-leash park, she is still always close by so I can monitor her behavior, her safety, & yes, pick up after her as soon as she poops. Her fabulous recall is a moot point – it’s just about being courteous to other park goers & looking out for your own dog’s safety.

    • Minakoi71082

      I saw a an off leash dog get hit about 3 weeks ago, it was crossing the street to come up to my dog. This is a dog who was always outside loose and it’s a fairly busy street. Just a matter of time. I don’t know if the dog survived or not, it ran off into the woods and the owner came out of the house with 3 little boys who were crying about their dog. So preventable.

  • GGgirl

    I agree with all these points and really appreciate No. 1. I have a DINO and we’re working hard to make her less scared of other dogs. I do not take her to off-leash and then complain when dogs run up to you, and I’m tired of the dirty looks and comments if she growls or barks at a loose dog in an on-leash area. She needs those spaces.

  • GGgirl

    Gah — should have re-read that comment for typos first. I don’t take her to off-leash areas and complain when dogs run up to her. I’d appreciate the same courtesy in on-leash areas, which are still a necessary part of our lives.

  • Bravo!
    My dogs (Great Danes) are WAY too big for me to pick up and get out of the way if we are charged by an off-leash dog – and even if the other dog attacked first, my dog’s justifiable reaction could easily kill or seriously injure the loose dog, and guess who would get blamed for THAT?!? So I always carry pepper spray with me. When a dog charges us growling and barking – and inevitably the owner is yelling something stupid like “He’s friendly!!” my response is to put my dog on a Stay, step in front of him (he’s on leash of course) and bellow NO to the approaching dog. 9 times out of 10 that will stop the dog – if it doesn’t they get pepper sprayed. I’ve had owners get REALLY mad at me for doing this, I don’t care. I am not going to let my well behaved, on-leash dog get traumatized or injured because some other person can’t be bothered to use a leash.

    • Bigfootandlittlefoot

      Great advice, and yeah, I could see some lame owner getting SO mad, but how would they react when your justifiably eats theirs? I think a good come back on the ‘why did you spray my dog?’ question would be ‘it’s the spray or the teeth…’
      I’m super glad you do handle your dogs this way – I applaud you!

    • We don’t carry pepper spray, but when I remember to, I carry Direct Stop on me (which is a citronella based spray). I’ve thankfully not had to use it but better safe than sorry.

  • I’d like to add that I love MDIF’s but live with a DINOS which means I love leashes and love fixed leashes even more (Flexi-leashes have broken or been yanked out of the owner’s hands by small dogs too many times to count). All dogs and their owners have the right to walk without harassment by other dogs. My dog and I hard to work through my his reactivitiy issues, I don’t need an offleash dog, friendly or unfriendly, undoing all that work.

    • What does this even mean? MDIF? DINOS?

      • LoriP401

        My Dog Is Friendly MDIF Dog In Need Of Space DINOS

  • bo’s mom

    #4 Forcing your dog on my dog
    My dog does not need to make friends with your dog. Neither I nor my dog know you or your dog…we do not know if your dog is immunized or if that goop running from your dog’s eyes is contagious. Please keep your dog under control and away from me…especially when I give you “the look!”

  • Magmapet

    It’s like you read my mind.

  • Jasouza9

    I am with you 100% on #1. My dog is fearful and used to be dog aggressive when on leash. He is absolutely fine at the dog park, but when we ‘re walking, I don’t trust him and we often run in to off-leash dogs who are always “friendly.” Don’t care. You are putting your dog and my dog at risk. There is no reason NOT to have your dog on a leash, regardless of how well-trained they are. You cannot know 100% how they will react in every situation – seeing a cat or squirrel running, strange people or noises, etc. I feel like it’s a bit of showing off, look how well-trained and friendly my dog is, even though it is not in the dog’s best interests and is potentially harmful to other people and dogs.

    My other one is people bringing dogs to inappropriate places. Every street fair or farmers market is crawling with dogs. Do you think these dogs are having fun walking on hot crowded streets, getting run over by strollers, with kids in their faces surrounded by tons of food they can’t eat and other stressed out dogs? And here in my neighborhood, there are several bars which are dog friendly. Fine on a Tuesday afternoon when the bar is empty, but on a Saturday night when the bar is so packed, there is no room for people, let alone dogs who are getting stepped on? And then of course, there will be more than one dog so you have two or four stressed out dogs whose owners are trying to maneuver them around a packed bar and inevitably there is growling and such. Why why why do you think your dog wants to hang out at a crowded noisy bar?

  • YES YES YES!!! I have a pack of six and almost always have a foster dog as well. My dogs go off leash ONLY in our fenced backyard. Period. I don’t even take them to the dog park anymore because parvo and distemper are rampant in our area. Mine are immunized and on all preventatives but I still don’t want to risk it. It scares the CRAP out of me when we come upon an unleashed dog because my chi/pug mix HATES all other dogs he doesn’t know. He has a serious Napoleon complex and will go nuts at the sight of any other dog while on leash. I have met numerous off-leash dogs who decided to be aggressive “back” at Brodie because he was behaving as if his 10 pound self could kill them. It pisses me off to NO END when their owner is 10 yards behind and insisting that their dog is friendly while it is showing aggression towards mine!!!

    On another note, I used to have an across the street neighbor who had two gorgeous, well behaved pits. He walked them 4 times a day. He NEVER picked up after them. We lived on a circle, and one day when I was coming up the hill walking my two little dogs (before my pack grew) he was in front of my house letting his dog dump in my yard. He saw me coming and had enough time to hurry himself into his house before I got close enough to talk to him. There was a HUGE pile of poop there!!! At the time I only had two 10 pound dogs, their poop is the size of a finger. I went across the street and knocked. Rang the doorbell. Repeatedly. No answer. I finally went back and cleaned up his mess into a bag. I attached a note that read “You left this in my yard. Please don’t do it again.” Signed Melissa, and then my address just so he was SURE of which yard it was. I left the poop and note sitting on his front porch. I still saw the piles when I walked my own dogs but his NEVER went in my yard again.

  • Here here!!1 (clapping loudly) As the owner of a dog that “just isn’t into other dogs” and a professional dog walker I whole heartedly agree!!

  • danelover

    One of my danes does not do well with other dogs if they are off leash. A yorkie ran up to me and my toddler barking one time (my dane is very protective of my son) then he charged at my dane and he attacked the little dog. I literally had to drag my dane inside the house. thankfully we were already in front of our house when all this happened.
    My other dane is a foster and she is terrified of everything. If I am not walking her then she will give you trouble especially when anyone gets near. She tries to run off and hide.
    My pitty wont go anywhere my danes are not at. I am guilty of letting her off leash in the front yard, but she will only go as far as the sidewalk even if other off leash dogs are in the area. But 95% of the time she is on leash, the times she isn’t is usually when it is raining and i take her out front because the backyard is flooded.

  • sherry

    My husband and I adopted a rescue lab from Louisiana after our beloved Rudi passed after 12 years. Bud was fostered for 1 year after being rescued by his foster mom, who had at least 6 dogs she was fostering at a time. When we first picked up Bud after his transport he was so sweet.We introduced him to our friends on the lake and their dogs,my son’s dog and he is fine with them. Then on a walk after having him for only 2 weeks we were attacked by a husky mix who broke free from a 4 ft. rope that tied him to a tree. I love dogs but there is nothing more terrifying than having a dog going for your throat in mid-air. Bud was on leash,but I couldn’t hold him. He jumped up in mid-air and brought that dog down and away from me after 2 fights.
    I found that dog and pressed charges,he was obviously mistreated.
    The sad part is that our sweet Bud is very afraid of dogs he does not know. Especially if they are off leash and he becomes very protective. We have been working with a great trainer…
    What is wrong with people who do not understand leash laws or why they are in effect?It is my goal to educate those people in our community. I give 1 warning if I see a dog off leash and the second time I call animal control.So does my husband…

  • Well said!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Amy

    I feel the same way. I take my dogs to town and many store owners complain because of dog droppings left in front of their shops. I for one have NEVER left poop on the sidewalk, but they don’t see me, they see “dog person”.

    The off leash dogs KILLS me and I was would swear there are more idiots in NJ that shouldn’t own dogs for that very reason. I love the folks that are telling me, “MY DOG IS FRIENDLY”(as it is attacking my leashed dog).

    And frankly, I don’t like my dogs to say hi to everyone, I wait for someone to interact with them and wait and see if my dogs would even like to say hello, nothing should ever be forced on anone…YOU MAY LOVE YOUR DOG, BUT THE WHOLE WORLD DOESN”T HAVE TO!

    Sorry I am done.

  • Rebecca

    What a great article!! I am huge dog lover. BUT I HATE when I see unleashed dogs in leashed areas. My dog is very hipper and that can turn dogs off quickly. To Michelle Osborne who seems to be above the leash law, I want to let you know I have a friend who was walking her dog and a unleashed dog ran up to her and her dog. She carries pepper spray and sprayed the dog not knowing if the dog was friendly or not. Then the police were called and the unleashed dog was taken from his owner to be impounded over night. I only hope that your dog doesn’t have to suffer the trauma of being pepper sprayed and taken from their owner just because you feel you are above lease laws. Pick up your poop and leash your dogs, it’s for their safety!!

    • Anonymous

      My dog doesn’t run up to other dogs. So I don’t see how this applies to me. She stops when I say “stop.” She recalls when I call her (and she’s usually within 10 feet of me anyway). She’s leashed up if I see a dog anywhere in the vicinity (and I do mean anywhere — even if the dog is 500+ feet away or just a spec on the horizon). I hate unleashed dogs running up to us as much as the next person and so my dog is NEVER allowed to do that. And in 4+ years she’s never approached another dog unless she had permission to. THAT is what training gets you.

  • Kiwi

    In the country where I live it’s leash or muzzle (or both if you want, obviously). Most dogs are off leash.

    I went to a festival, with music, drinks and food, squealing kids, balls and frisbees… and plenty of roaming dogs.
    And I am fine with it! The dogs have lived like this their whole life, they are all socialized, behave well (won’t eat from the ground and will listen to their owner on the first try). The few dogs that are on leash is usually that they noticed that dog A is playing rambunctious with dog B, so they are taking turns on the leash, or dog C does not have a perfect recall (i.e. listens on the 2nd or 3rd time). Everybody is more relaxed, and I have never EVER seen any problems.

    The whole population has a great attitude with dogs, so in turn the dogs themselves have great attitudes! (I’ve never seen this in any other country than the Czech Republic)

  • Bevmo

    Leash your dog, not only for your dogs safety, but for avoidance of crazy, overly protective dog owners. Barb, you have no idea how angry I would be if you pepper sprayed my dog.

  • CaseDigidy

    Props to Crysania. My dog is an excellent off-leash walker, as she is never more than a few feet from me. She will never approach another dog or person unless I approach them first and give her the OK. Perhaps if you have dogs that are not good with other dogs you should put in the training required to correct this and socialize them. People freak out when another dog comes by and they put all that anxiety into their dog. And if you dog is so bad with other dogs that you think they might attack, maybe you shouldnt be bringing them to public areas? Why ruin it for everyone else because YOUR dog is dog aggressive? What if my child ran up to your dog? What, I have to keep them on a leash too now? Children are FAR more unpredictable than my dog. If I thought there was even a chance of my dog taking off on me, no kidding I would not take her off the leash, but she would not do that. I am sorry you do not know how to properly socialize your dog, but if you’d like, I can show you, so you will stop being so ignorant about my good dog.

    As for the ‘a law is a law’ arguement, that is a load of bull. Do you ever jay-walk? That is a law. Have you ever ridden your bicycle in an area not permitted for that? C’mon. Those laws are for the idiot owners who let untrained dogs off the leash. That is the worst of any arguement I’ve heard. How about you spend your whole life on a 6 foot leash or in someone’s backyard, then you tell me ‘a law is a law’.