“Oh, he won’t bite.” How many of you have heard that before? How many of you unfortunately realized the owner was lying? I was two houses away from home when a 1-year-old boxer took a bite out of my left calf. I had assumed there was an electric fence (mistake #1) and kept on running. I tried to keep calm as I passed the unleashed baby. As a result, I didn’t realize his teeth were sunken in until about five seconds later. Five. Long. Seconds. Oh my God, he’s biting me! The twelve-year-old girl in charge of letting Buster out stood back in shock. Luckily there was a witness.
It turned out that she witnessed this dog at-large many times. When I got the young girl’s parents’ number, I tried to listen to the father’s story. He stated that he was under the impression that his daughter was letting Buster out with his leash on. I played family therapist and trusted that the father would engage in an important conversation with his daughter rather than pressing charges. This happened in April of 2011. I have yet to see Buster off his leash.
A dog also bit my boyfriend James while on a pizza delivery. The owner’s famous words as the dog ran out the door to bite off James’s shoe and puncture his foot? “He won’t bite.” $3,000 later, that dog owner learned his lesson. I hope.
Dog owners, I’m a dog lover. I even spent some time volunteering at an animal shelter walking dogs. I’m enough of a lover to know that I don’t have the time, space, nor the energy to own one right now. That’s why I have a cat. But my point is, I’m tired of seeing dogs off their leashes when likely IT’S THE LAW that they be leashed. I say likely because most states do not have specific mandates requiring the use of leashes. However, most public parks and city ordinances prohibit owners from walking or running with their dog unleashed. This is for EVERYONE’S safety, including the dogs.
James and I have since had our fair share of close encounters. My recent favorite incident was on a trail, where a large dog was off the leash with a pack of people. We naturally slowed down, just as you would for any type of animal that is loose. As we got closer, and stopped running altogether, the dog came charging toward me and proceeded to jump. “Oh, he’s a puppy, he likes to jump.” We carefully passed but I couldn’t help but say, “He needs to be on his leash.” Her reply? “Look how big he is! You come back here and try to walk him!”
Dog owners, if you can’t control your dog on a leash, how can you control him off the leash in a public park? If you don’t have at least an acre of land that is secured, then don’t get a dog that requires daily exercise for hours on end. Ok, that may be a bit of a stretch but seriously, know what kind of dog you are getting into before adding him to the family. Don’t bring him home because he looks cute. They all look cute! If you are not responsible enough to learn about his breed, then you need to rethink your intentions.
When we were in England, we saw many dogs off their leashes. But they were different. We slowed down for the first few, though they never even made eye contact. My guess is that the owners know their best friend. They may have even taken the time to train them or they may have watched a lot of episodes of the Dog Whisperer. Whatever it may be, the country certainly found a healthy balance between letting a dog be free and at the same time knowing its boundaries. The majority of the time, the dogs were on their leashes and not once did one look like he was uncomfortable, jumpy, or pulling the owner.
I don’t think it’s fair to say that runners shouldn’t have to slow down when approaching a dog, especially if one happens to be off the leash. Would you adjust your pace if you saw a black bear on your run? We must do the same for dogs. Dogs are not humans. When in nature, they can turn on the best of us. Running behind, at, or in front of them can potentially set them off. It would be irresponsible of you to not at least have a careful eye when approaching a dog. But at the same time, I beg you owners to…
- Think twice about the dog you are getting
- Study said dog
- Take obedience classes
- If you are in a public park, KEEP HIM ON THE LEASH!!!
Have you had any frightening experiences with dogs? Do you believe a dog should be kept on his or her leash?
This post was originally published on July 9, 2012.