Fall is a gorgeous time to get out and hike. Visions of our dogs running free through the woods seems beautiful and picturesque but there are some things to consider before you unclip that leash.
1. Is it legal?
Almost all municipalities have animal control bylaws which require you to keep your dog on-leash with the exception of designated areas. Disobeying these laws can result in a fine, you being held liable for damages, and can cause others some discomfort or harm.
2. Is it fair?
The trails are for ALL to enjoy. This includes people who may be uncomfortable around or afraid of dogs- even if your Fido is the friendliest this can ruin their experience. This can also be unfair to those who are walking on leash dogs – being approached by your off-leash dog can cause them discomfort and if their dog is fearful or reactive you can undo months of hard work they have put into their dog’s training.
3. Is it safe for your dog?
Is there a major roadway nearby? What’s the terrain? Are there steep cliffs, dangerously fast water? What is the wildlife in the area? Porcupines, bears, snakes, possums, and many others can be harmful to your pet. Be aware of the risks in the area for your pet.
4. Is your dog safe for the area?
Does your dog stay on the trail or wander off into the bush? This can be a risk to the potentially delicate yet vital vegetation in the area? Does your dog leave animals alone and doesn’t chase them? We should never allow our pets to disturb or harm wildlife in the area.
5. Does your dog have incredible recall?
Does your dog come when called reliably and consistently? Can they do this in a variety of areas with intense distractions? Training your dog a recall requires YOU to invest time and energy into teaching it. It is a process where you need to teach it beyond just your backyard and set your dog up for success while offering them a variety of challenges.
If you answered “no” to any of these it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors with your dog, it just means we need to keep them leashed. Leashes are not terrible restrictive devices- they are like seatbelts – to keep your dog and others safe.
If you answered yes to all the above and your comfortable removing your dog’s leash, keep it with you in case it’s needed. Dogs are not perfect and there is always a risk when unclipping but off-leash time can be fun and exciting for you both when done safely