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Off-Leash Dogs

by Sam Mazzotta
Dear Paw’s Corner: My dog Hatch and I frequently walk the trails of a state park near my house. A leash is required in the park, but many dog owners ignore this rule and allow their dogs to bound ahead. Not all of these dogs are well-socialized, and we’ve faced aggressive, unleashed dogs on the trails. I carry a walking stick in case I need to fend off an attacking dog—something that hasn’t happened yet, though it’s come close once or twice. Please help me make other dog owners aware that off-leash dogs can make other dogs, and humans, quite nervous. Keeping dogs on leash will help avoid a confrontation, fight, or injury.
—Doug S., Stoneham, Massachusetts

Dear Doug: You’re absolutely right! Dog owners, always review the rules regarding pets on park lands. Even though forested trails seem remote and safer for dogs to run free without a leash, you never know if another dog is just around the bend. Further, even a leashed dog needs to follow basic commands like sit, stay, and heel, and to come back immediately when called if the leash is accidentally dropped.

Rules are typically posted at trailheads, as well as on park websites. There’s no reason to not be familiar with leash rules before going for a hike.

If you encounter an off-leash dog while on a trail, remain calm. Shorten your dog’s leash so that he walks next to you. Stay calm and relaxed with the owner when they finally appear, too. Ask if they’re aware that there’s a leash rule on the trail, but don’t start a confrontation. The more awareness you can build of your park’s rules, the fewer off-leash meetings you’ll face.

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