I recently wrote a post imploring my fellow Cascadians and dog owners to stop illegally unleashing their dogs. I included a list of very critical reasons why the rampant practice of illegally unleashing dogs was not only dangerous for dogs but bad for our communities as a whole. Some of the most important of which are the safety of your dog and wildlife, keeping our parks open to leashed dogs and consideration for dog loving and non-dog loving neighbors alike. There are so many excuses as to why people think it is okay to illegally unleash their dogs. One of the most common excuses I hear is sort of admirable: getting exercise and having fun with your dog. But there are ways to do that without putting yourself, your dog and your community in jeopardy. So, in an effort not to be such a negative Nomad, here are some ideas on how to have fun with your dog while being safe, responsible and respectful:
- Train your dog. A lot of the people illegally unleash their dogs because they cannot control their dogs on leash or they think their dogs don't enjoy leashed time. Yet taking the time to train is better exercise for a dog and bonding time for the person and the dog than playing fetch or running around off leash. If you see people like this in your neighborhood, talk to them and let them know there are myriads of ways to train a dog to walk or play nicely on a leash. If they have tried one or two or three methods, try another. New loose leash training ideas are published almost daily. The dog will be a better canine citizen and the the whole neighborhood will be a better place because of any training efforts.
- Run with your dog. There are just as many excuses why people can't run with their dog as to why they illegally unleash. There are so many different ways to mix it up when it comes to exercising your dog. I am not a runner, yet I have dogs who love to run. I dointervals with them, and mostly for them, but it is good for me too! My interval workout is as simple as a 20-30 minute brisk walk with 4 or 5 1-1/2 block runs. A few other great ideas to get running with your dog can be found here. In the city, way too many people illegally unleash because they say their yard is too small for fetch. I don't believe any space is too small for fetch; we play it in the hallway! Use one of the suggestions fromPamela and run backwards. Better yet, challenge your dog by playing nose work games in your small yard or in your home. Your dog is going to appreciate any time you spend with it in your yard or time spent training anywhere! All of these fit mind and body options are better for your dog, you and your community than illegally unleashing.
- Use the off-leash park or go where it is legal to be off-leash. There is plenty of space in the country for dogs to run where there are no leash laws. The above suggestion about training still applies since there is rarely a place with no leash law that doesn't still require your dog to be under voice control. All cities now not only have many doggy day care facilities, but the ability to rent space in the facility for play or training. It is difficult for me to advise to use municipal off-leash parks since I, personally, have made a decision to stop going to off-leash parks but there are safe ways to use them. Some examples are: do some research and go during off-peak hours, go with friends so your dog will play safely with dogs it knows, play fetch or train inside an exercise pen in a quiet corner of the off-leash park (hint, hint lady with the jumpies course set up in a "leash your pets" park!) One of the best options in finding somewhere safe for your dog to play is to get to know your neighbors. Every neighborhood has someone with a large fenced yard that they never use. Maybe their dog passed away. Maybe their kids moved out. Maybe they would be thrilled to have you and your dog over each evening to play or train in their yard. You won't know until you ask. I have had several dog loving neighbors without dogs in their lives offer their yards as play space and I didn't even have to ask!
- Join or start a dog meetup group. Many groups meet in off-leash parks and joining them makes the park a better and safer place to go. There are groups with members or coordinators who offer their large, fenced yard for meet-ups and play times. Starting or joining a group is a great way to meet neighbors with space for safe, legal dog play, gain a community in dog training and behavior and just have fun. Craigslist and your neighborhood blog or website are other good doggie play group resources. Good old neighborhood bulletin boards often have play group signs posted too.
- Use a long line. Unfortunately the City of Seattle as well as most surrounding areas leash laws say that your dog must be on a no longer than eight foot leash. Portland is the same and Vancouver, BC too (but Vancouver has SO many legal off-leash options!) Some surrounding areas have more vague leash laws that would allow for a longer line. Even if you are breaking the law to play fetch or train your dog with a long line, it is still a much safer and more responsible option than allowing your dog to run free. In my previous post, I pointed out that illegally unleashing is dangerous, a way to ensure tougher laws like no dogs in parks leashed or not will be passed and just plain rude. Playing or training on a long line you are accomplishing two out of three tasks to being a better dog owner and member of your community and that is always better than none. And it is unlikely that neighbors, upon seeing a person training or playing on a long line, will be prompted to push to create laws to keep even leashed dogs out of parks.
Any other ideas? How do you safely, legally and respectfully train, exercise and have fun with your dog? Hopefully we can all work together to keep Cascadia a dog friendly paradise and end illegal unleashing by finding ways to safely and responsibly spend quality time with our dogs.