Saturday, April 28, 2012

I am a Huge Hypocrite

As someone with a (recovering) reactive dog, I hate off-leash dogs. Like many dogs, Maisy does not want other dogs to rush up to her and get in her face. We've also had some bad experiences with both not-so-friendly and way-too-friendly off-leash dogs. In either case, the result has been the same: behavioral set backs. This is why I love leash laws so much. While they aren't perfect, they do help reduce the number of unfortunate incidents we have.

At the same time, though, I kind of hate leash laws. I strongly believe that dogs need opportunities to run free. Whether they spend the time leisurely following scent trails or zooming around as fast as they can, off-leash time enriches dogs' lives. And leash laws limit that.

It's especially hard when you live in a large city, as I do. We would have to drive a significant distance to reach a rural area where it would be legal to allow her off leash. While there are many dog parks nearby, they aren't an option for us; like I said, Maisy doesn't like having strange dogs in her face. What's more, while I'd usually encourage the use of Flexis or long-lines, Maisy is a pretty, pretty princess who can neither walk on a Flexi nor tolerate dragging a line behind her. Issues, she has them.

So what's a girl to do?

Be a hypocrite, I guess. The truth is, I let my dog off leash, and I don't always do it legally. I have a few places I do this regularly. One of them is private property, and since I don't have permission, I suppose technically I'm trespassing. I don't worry about it too much; the property in question is one of the colleges I attended, and I figure that since I'm still paying for my time there, I'm entitled to use their land. But I also let her off leash in parks or on hiking trails, despite the numerous signs warning me that my actions are illegal.

I know I shouldn't do it, but I rationalize my decision by telling myself that Maisy has a very good recall. It's not perfect, but it's rare that she'll blow me off when I call. I also know which circumstances are likely to result in her ignoring me, and I avoid them. For example, if there are winged creatures (chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, whatever), she won't listen. So I don't let her off leash in situations where we'll encounter them.

I am also very selective about when and where I let her off leash. Even though I am confident I can call her away from approaching other people or dogs, I don't want to take that risk. That's why I only let her off leash when we're alone, and only on trails where I have an unobstructed view of the trail ahead and behind us. She goes back on leash when we approach hills, turns, or heavily wooded areas, or any other situation where we might encounter others. It's still illegal, of course, but I figure the benefits outweigh the risks.

In the end, I have a real love/hate relationship with leash laws, mostly because, for all my self-righteous indignation when we're approached by an off-leash dog, I know that deep down, I'm a huge hypocrite.


K-Koira said...

I have to admit, I am the same. But, I like to think that my dogs' recalls make up for illegal off-leash time somewhat, as does careful thinking about if a certain area is going to be safe for my dogs to be off leash.

There are some places where I see people with off leash dogs all the time, where I would NEVER have my dogs run free (such as walking alongside a busy highway or through the middle of town).

Crysania said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one. I do tend to ignore leash laws in some places. But like you, I feel that the training I've put in to perfect her recall (and her stop command as well) allows me to do it. I carefully pick and choose where I do it: around the pond? ok. Near the street? Not ok. And I stay completely aware of my surroundings so if I see other dogs coming, I leash her up. Not once in nearly 4 years has she rushed up to another dog on an off leash walk.

So am I breaking the law? Sure. But I guess I see what we do as no worse than going 5 miles over the speed limit, a law most people break.

And yes, I get in trouble all the time in online forums by the folks that claim to be 100% leash law obeyers or the people who assume that I let my dog rush any dog she meets. But I've never had a problem with people in real life.

Crystal Thompson said...

I suspect there are many of us out there. We just don't admit it, because that makes us bad dog owners. ;)

Whitney said...

I am a leash law hypocrite too, but just like you I am selective as to where I let my dogs off and only dogs of mine that have reliable recalls are allowed off.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Nah, you're only a hypocrite if you let/can't prevent Maisy from approaching other people and dogs.

I really wish that leash laws had a special outing where people with trained dogs could pass a test and get permission to be off leash. Maybe the CGC + a recall with distractions type test...

Anonymous said...

I just wish there were more places to let dogs off leash that are NOT dog parks. I don't trust Shanoa's recall enough to let her off-leash very many places, especially given her high prey drive. Plus, I'm always just a little bit too nervous because of her reactivity. I'd pay BIG money to rent a fenced in place of at least a few acres where I could take the dogs to play off-leash without having to worry about other dogs or people.


Crystal Thompson said...

Laura, I'm so careful that it is rare that anyone even knows she's off leash. But I agree- I'd love to be able to get a special license! :)

Ninso said...

Rules are there for people who don't know any better. If your dog is not disturbing others you are fine and I can't imagine anyone would even care if they saw her off leash. My dogs are off leash in public from time to time, but I am EXTREMELY selective about the location. We used to play a lot more places, but I know Jun won't ignore a person and I can't call her off, so I won't put her in that situation. Same with Elo and dogs. My dogs are leashed most of the time, not because of leash laws, just because they need to be.

Shannon @theDIYdog said...

I'm another off-leash hypocrite. :) Though I'm lucky enough to have some hiking areas near me with rules that state "Dogs must be under owner's immediate control" instead of on leash. IMO, that's a much better rule - it allows well-behaved, obedient dogs some freedom, while an owner with an out-of-control dog on a flexi is technically not in compliance, even though the dog is on a leash. Well phrased rules like that do seem to be the exception, though.

Jenn said...

Letter of the law and intent of the law.

If you are not presenting a danger to others, and your dog is under vocal control, I think you are fine.

Just keep an eye out for those birds!