Another Post About Leashes

I have a question for you. Before I get to it, I will share a quick back story. At least, I will try to make it quick. This is me, after all.

The other day I ended up talking to a woman while waiting for the bus. I usually avoid talking to people I don’t know because small talk gives me a rash. However, hen you live in the Maritimes, it is often unavoidable. Nova Scotians, especially those originally from Newfoundland, don’t know how not to talk to the person standing next to them. It’s just instinct for them. They simply must converse with every life form who enters their line of sight. It used to terrify me but I have learned they are also brilliant at carrying an entire conversation by themselves. As long as I put in a chuckle and an “aye b’y” every once in a while they hardly notice my lack of enthusiasm.

Anyway, somehow the topic of this conversation got around to dogs. As it does. This woman recently adopted two huskies from local organizations. She adopted them as adults and believes they spent their early lives living permanently outdoors on a chain. Due to this, she is constantly worrying about them running away. Since I lived with a husky myself for seventeen years, I know all too well how valid a concern this is with a normal Sibe. Let alone a newly adopted one. All the recall training in the world may not prevent an eventual break. The main subject of her diatribe – which is what it quickly became – was that our city completely lacks a one-hundred percent fenced-in off-leash dog park.

This is not untrue. The HRM does have many off-leash parks but most of them are more walking trails than dog runs. The  closest is the park on the harbourfront but even that one does have an open space right by the water. Most dogs won’t use the ocean as a means to escape but with a husky, you just never know.

This woman became fairly irate as our conversation continued and I prayed for the bus to speed up. She has contacted the city councillors and Animal Services and no one seems to care about the lack of fenced-in spaces for dogs. At first, I was on her side. There should be more dog friendly resources in general. Halifax is pretty old-fashioned in many ways. I’d love for city council to take a more pro-dog, pro-animal, stance. As she ranted, I started to lose sympathy.

Is it the city’s job to provide places for us to exercise our dogs? I wondered. Internally of course. I didn’t want her wrath on me that early in the morning.

Finally, her bus arrived and she left. Though relieved to be finally alone, I couldn’t stop thinking about the questions she had raised in my mind. I do think dog-friendly spaces are important. I do think it is great if these spaces can also be off-leash. I enjoy a great dog park as much as anyone. But if one can’t trust her dogs off-leash, is it up to the city to make it easier for her?

As I got on my own bus to head to work, I was hit by an even bigger question:

Does every dog have the right to run off-leash? Should people even let their dogs off-leash if they can’t trust them to stick around?

Is it morally wrong to only exercise a dog on-leash his entire life?

What do you think?

37 thoughts on “Another Post About Leashes

  1. Ooph, that’s a tough one. I’m not sure that it IS our city’s responsibility, but I think a good solution is to have a partially city-funded dog park that you have to pay a license to use. Another option would be to increase dog licenses… you know, not all kids go to public schools, but all residents pay taxes that go to those schools. Dog licenses could be set up the same way.

    The more I go to dog parks, the more I think they’re really not the best idea for adult dogs. Most dogs I’ve seen over 3 years aren’t that interested in playing with strange dogs. That said, the local fenced in dog park was invaluable to us when we adopted the puppy; I really wanted her to meet and have a ton of appropriate & positive experiences with strange dogs. THAT said, a dog park guarantees interactions, but not necessarily appropriate or positive ones. In conclusion, I’m back and forth. I used the fenced in park when I needed it, but now I avoid it in favor of the woods. More room to run away from the crazies, unlike your bus stop.

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  2. No. Dogs that cannot be trusted to leave others alone, whether it be animals or people, should not be off leash where there is a danger they might bother someone. If it is this important to her that her dogs get to roam, she should make sure it happens herself. I think there are about 2 dog parks in the enntirety of Norway. We still let our dogs off leash, but we do it when we know our dogs won’t bother people or animals. If a dog is proned to hunt, it doesn’t go off leash. Plenty of hunting dog owners never let their dogs loose outside the hunting season. It’s legal, they just can’t trust them not to run off and kill animals (or be killed by cars), and some dogs are gone for days. They exercise their dogs through biking, hiking, joring, etc.

    Not all dogs should be let off leash.

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  3. While I agree that it would be wonderful if all cities had big, fenced-in off-leash parks, I definitely don’t think that it’s a municipal responsibility. It might be something to petition for, but I don’t think it’s a civil right. And, you’re right: It’s probably not a good idea to take an unreliable dog off-leash anywhere.

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  4. I do not think it’s the city’s job to create fenced-in off-leash places but it’s a nice bonus if they provide the space if committee can come up with the funding for fencing/water/etc or eve if they help pay for it (like they would a play ground).

    I absolutely think it is irresponsible for people to let untrained dogs off-leash in on-leash areas (meaning dogs who do not reliably recall or who are not under verbal control of their handlers to be called away from pestering other patrons–these dogs put many people and dogs [including themselves] at risk).

    Dogs who shouldn’t be off-leash in unfenced areas could try asking permission to use tennis courts during the fall/winter or using basketball courts off-season or using baseball fields off season. Or those dogs could enroll in an agility class which leads up to off-leash running/playing and does build off-leash reliability.

    If the dog is not safe to be let off-leash and other smaller fenced in places (like tennis courts) are not available.. then unfortunately I think the safest option for everyone is keeping the dog on leash. But they could always try putting the dog on a long line to let them explore and run and HAVE the illusion of being off-leash but still be under control and safe if the park/facility allows this.

    There was a park in NY where I lived that had lots of walking trails but also had a fenced in dog park… the dog park was a bit CRAZY because it was used by the dogs who weren’t trained well enough to be successful walking the trails off-leash…but it left the trails really nice and quiet and full of dog who were almost always well controlled–it was nice 🙂

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  5. I do not think having a fenced in dog park is necessarily a good thing. If you cannot control your pet then a fully fenced dark park is just a confined area for you to chase your dog. There is no place for escape for the uncontrollable pet , but there is also no place for escape for the pet which may be under attack from an uncontrolled dog. It also just gives a dog owner an a reason not to bother training their pet – if your pet is trapped – why teach it to come back –

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  6. I think dog parks, parks in general, playgrounds for kids, etc make sense as municipal responsibilities since they are shared by citizens of that municipality. Fencing a dog park just makes plain ol’ sense – for many reasons, the least of which is the particular tendency of an individual dog to pay attention to a recall or not. That being said, these things should not be basic civil rights – like education, police, etc. When a municipality has the funds to provide for these things (or a plan to fund them, like increasing pet licensing fees) then fence away, I say!

    I also say if cities can build elaborate playgrounds for kids in our public parks that you know cost a ton, they can throw a bone to the dogs once in a while and put up a basic fence. For all of us tax paying citizens who have no plans to populate this world with our offspring. 😛

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  7. Tuff questions, since some honest answers probably will rub people the wrong way. I would say it is not the citie’s responsibility but it sure help, even if there is just one. But on the other hand if the latter is the case then that one becomes rampant with out of controlled dogs and too many at that, in a small space.

    You already know it highly irritates me when people let their dogs off leash when they do not listen. Even the place I love that allows dogs to be off leash on 200+ acres stresses that they must be under immediate voice control, but I have yet to run into any that actually are outside of mine.

    I don’t think it’s a right that every dog (or owner as the they make the decision) should have (to be offleash). I wish people respected that. Is it morally wrong to exercise your dog on leash? I don’t think it is, it comes down to the relationship you build with your dog, and the quality of the outings you take with them. And you can always let a dog drag a 30+ foot light line which allows them to run it out a bit, but still allows you to catch them (hopefully). There are ways to let your dog run without running the risk of losing them, sometimes it just takes more thought and creativity to figure out ways to do so.

    I can understand where she comes from, having grown up with husky mixes, I would not trust them off leash in a public place. Why not just hook them up to a wagon or cart and let them run that way. I bet they would be just as happy.

    Speaking of which, time to go take mine for a walk
    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

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  8. Popped over from the blog roll!

    This is a great post and something I had to think about when I adopted my basenji, Indiana. Every resource on basenjis, including the adoption head, says that basenjis can never be trusted off leash because of their tenacious hunting instinct, quick shifts in attention, and the inability to train one to one hundred percent recall. I totally agree. Even if I trained Indiana more thoroughly (something I’ve been avoiding), I don’t think I would ever trust him off leash, if there was a squirrel or interesting shadow, even if I was carrying a handful of peanut butter covered bacon.

    That said, Denver has some good dog parks. They are great to meet people and other dogs and 97% of the time the dogs get along great. We also have a huge variety of dog daycares, where you can drop off your dog to play with others in a safe area under supervision. I don’t know what I would do without these options because Indiana, like a greyhound, needs to run once in a while.

    If you can’t provide your dog some safe way to run free for a bit, you probably shouldn’t not have a dog. Even asking a friend with a backyard would work.

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  9. She doesn’t have a fenced yard, or a friend/relative with one, or somebody on Craigslist who’s willing to rent out their yard for $10/hour or so? (Many weirder requests have been made on that site…)

    A longline/drag line might be a possible alternative. Or sledding or skijoring, if your climate allows for it. (There are modified versions using roller skates or skateboards, if not.) A dog can get vigorous exercise while staying controlled either via harness or in a confined space… but you do have to be willing to sink in a fair amount of time and effort, and I think most casual owners are not up for that. It’s a lot easier to train most dogs to have a reliable recall than to pull their owner in a cart!

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  10. I am not sure how I feel about whether it is the city’s responsibility, but I have to say that currently my dog is never off leash outside. Obviously, I would love for her to have a place to run. However, I don’t like the environment in the dog park (I can’t always control/protect her the way I would like) and she jumps the fence in our yard. I think she has a good life and is happy despite the fact that she does not have a lot of off-leash time. We are working on recall and hopefully I won’t have to exercise her on-leash her entire life, but if that is what I have to do to protect her then that is what I will do. Anytime I have access to a friend’s yard with a high fence, an unused tennis court, etc. I do it and I am trying to get into agility as well, but I think dogs can lead happy lives on leash, even if it is not ideal.

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  11. I would worry that if these dogs don’t have a good enough recall to be off leash in a partially fenced area, will the owner have enough control over the dogs to keep them safe around other dogs? A recall is one of the most effective ways of taking your dog out of a potentially dangerous situation, be that a stiff legged sniffing match with the risk of turning into something more serious or a porcupine that goes across the trail, or most other situations.

    In fact, we have four “off leash” parks in my town. One is fully fenced, the others have no fencing at all. In my experience, the fully fenced park is full of dogs who are out of control being “supervised” by owners who are not paying attention or have no clue how to intervene if something does happen. After my dog was attacked by another dog there, simply because we were in a fenced area, could not walk away far enough, and the owner of the other dog wasn’t paying attention, I no longer will set foot in that park if anyone else is present. At least the people who bring their dogs to the unfenced parks that allow off leash dogs have some basic level of control over their dog’s behavior.

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  12. Before people adopt a dog they should consider how much exercise a dog will need and if they will be able to provide it. In my city almost everyone has a fenced yard and the shelter will not let a dog be adopted unless they have one.

    People should not expect someone else to provide a park for them IMHO. I always wonder why people who insist the city should provide dog parks don’t just get together, buy the land, build the fence and maintain the park themselves. They might learn some valuable lessons.

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  13. I’m kind of surprised that the dog parks there aren’t fully enclosed. Toronto/GTA seems to be of the opinion that anywhere not fully enclosed where dogs can run around will immediately turn all the dogs into ravening wolves, darting out of the fence to maim and cause destruction.
    I hate that Ontario and Canada in general is so very restricted in places where dogs are allowed off-leash. I think that if a dog is reliable at recall and well-trained, it should be allowed to let them run around off-leash in any park, not just the 500mx500m pen the city deigns to put up in a barren and isolated part of the park. I think that people with dogs use public parks at least 5x as often as the rest of the population (possibly excluding runners… ), and ought to be able to use the entire thing if they have built up the training.
    A place like a fully enclosed dog park is a great tool for practicing recall in a place other than your back yard, and a place with distractions (if there are other dogs there), when you’re at that point between long-line and full-freedom. But any dog park is better than none, and that’s probably all you can ask for the city to provide.
    I was at the dog park a few weeks ago, however, and a woman had brought her son’s dog there to run around. She was there for over two hours past when she wanted to leave, trying to get the dog to come back to her. The dog wouldn’t go near anyone, wouldn’t come for a treat, even though you could tell she was getting completely exhausted. In the end, the woman called her son to come and help catch the dog, and, I’m assuming (I left), eventually they all got back on leash. This dog, in that situation, should NOT have been allowed off-leash, even in an off-leash area.

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  14. The way I see it, the right to be off-leash is a privilege that both owner and dog have to earn. The owner has to do the work necessary to make being off-leash safe for the dog (i.e. they have to know that the dog will not take off, or behave aggressively towards humans or other dogs). Sometimes a dog’s breed in and of itself makes being off-leash in anything other than a securely fenced area all but impossible (sighthounds and Nordic breeds spring instantly to mind here). Other times the dog’s temperament makes it unsafe for said dog to be off-leash (even IF in a securely fenced area such as a dog park) due to aggression or reactivity issues. With enough time and training most behavioral issues can be resolved, but a sighthound is always going to be a sighthound. Then there are other times when a dog can be totally trusted off-leash, but circumstances still make it unwise. (I couldn’t pay Tucker or Phoebe to take off or run away, but that still doesn’t mean I would walk them off-leash next to a busy street, because you just never know.)

    As to whether it is morally wrong to never ever let a dog off-leash, like ever, I don’t know. There’s no denying that certain breeds really need that outlet, and its often the breeds who have the toughest time with a reliable recall. But by and large, I think that in a lot of cases, dogs without yards or access to areas where they can run are better exercised than dogs with yards.

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  15. I certainly take advantage of the dog parks we have. Some are fully fenced, some are not. Some, the fences aren’t high enough to stop our terrier.
    I’m one of those owners that probably annoys others here because my dogs don’t have perfect recall. (However, we are very attentive and intervene very quickly when needed.) If our Beagle gets into the blackberry bushes, waiting it out is the only option we have.
    And while I love living in a place that has a lot of dog park options, I don’t know that I believe it is necessarily the city’s responsibility. But if the residents want it,they can certainly lobby for it, as has happened here. Plus, we have a major volunteer organization the actually maintains the two biggest off-leash areas.
    I couldn’t imagine trying to get Larry all the exercise he needs without ever letting him off leash. My knees just won’t let me run that much. (Though I could hire someone to take him running.) At the same time, while June loves the brambles, she probably wouldn’t notice that she was never off-leash, as long as we were patient with her and let her sniff.

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  16. I guess you know by now that we have off-leash parks everywhere in the little suburb where we live. there are…let me count…10 or so that are partly off leash [that means off-leash some hours of the day and/or some areas off-leash all the time] and only 1 that I can think of that is NOT off-leash, but we’re fighting that.

    Many of them have access to little patches of sand and the harbour, that we grandly call dog beaches.

    I can’t imagine not having off-leash parks for dogs. It’s good to walk them on-leash [even if it’s just for training purposes] but to not be able to stretch their legs and release some pent-up energy with a good sprint and play? That seems sad and wrong. Is it immoral – well, I wouldn’t go that far.

    Should people let their dogs off-leash if they can;t trust them…when we first got Georgia, the very first week – I let her off the leash and she ran away onto the road. Thanks goodness the traffic that day was slow. I didn;t let her off again for quite a few weeks. Even after a whole year, she ran away from me again [I think I might have posted about that]. She ran away this morning! – to look for thrown away food in all the usual dumping grounds at the park. So it’s still a problem. She never leaves home without a collar.

    My feeling is that if the area is more or less contained and the dog is “friendly”, then it’s okay. Especially after a few visits when you get to know the other dogs and their owners – everyone sort of looks out for each other. If the dog NEVER get let off, then it’ll never socialise and that could lead to worse issues. When we first got Rufus, he was very unsociable. If it wasn’t for the tolerance and patience of other dog owners [and of course TOH kept a close eye and acted responsibly to the situation]…he would never have become the friendly dog you know.
    That’s my dollar’s worth! Have a great weekend Ms K x

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  17. That’s a tough question. I’m spoiled that I live in area where pretty much everyone has a fenced yard, but that said, Meadow of course is still on a long line even while in the fenced yard. What good is a fence if a dog is skilled at climbing over them and fast? But she’s a special case. I’m not so sure a fenced dog park is the place to exercise a dog with no recall either. What if it gets into it with another dog? What if it too hops the fence?

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  18. Hmmm, we have many fully fenced dog parks in Portland, but I have always felt like we are really lucky to have so many great parks- I never thought that it was the cities duty to provide them. Even though all of our parks are fully fenced, many of them only have 4 foot fences, there are many dogs I still wouldn’t feel comfortable taking there. I can’t imagine that someone would adopt two huskies when they don’t have the space or means to exercise them (a backyard??) I would have been hard pressed to agree with her – you were so nice to listen to her rant 🙂

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  19. Well, if anyone wants to get into a moral issue with me about not letting my dogs run off leash, then they’d better stand back or start running like hell when I let them loose!! BOL!!

    Seriously though, I personally don’t agree with the idea of dog parks because of my experience with my dogs. Brut taught me very well that all dogs are not the same. It is for that same reason that we have a large fenced in yard.

    Ya know, this isn’t to say anything against anyone who runs their dogs off leash, but I have had more problems with loose friendly dogs at our local park who insisted on getting in my dog’s face and openly trying to greet them, despite the fact that my dog is openly letting them know to stay away. The owners have been too far behind the dogs to even see what is happening and control them. Which is something that has always made me wonder, who’s at fault? By all standards my dog is because he’s not dog friendly, but he is leashed and under my handling. But isn’t the friendly dog out of his owners sight and coming right up to us, just as much at fault? It brings up some good questions. What do you think?

    I’ve been meaning to bring this up on my own blog (can ya tell?)

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    • As someone who loves dog parks, can I just say Thank You! Not all dogs are good dog park dogs. And it’s nothing against the dogs, but it is something I hold against their owners when they insist on bringing them anyway.
      Larry’s a little punk, and I’m the first to admit that, but pretty much every time he’s gone beyond exhuberant play with another dog, its because the other dog was the problem- we’d hear from other folks that Larry was the 3rd or 4th dog the other dog had gotten in to it with.
      I so very much appreciate when people know that the dog park isn’t a good environment for their dogs and therefore don’t come.

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  20. Like Lexy, I like in Toronto (well, the GTA) I have easy access to 2 off leash parks, which I never use and I have visited the High Park off leash park, which is probably the biggest in the city. I have only used dog parks a hand full of times and I don’t find it plesant, I’m always on “high alert” for dogs that are out to do stupid stuff. I have witnessed countless dog fights because owners were too busy socializing.

    I almost never walk Jersey on a leash since her off leash manners are impeccable, she always leaves people & other dogs alone. Dexter, on the other hand, needs to be on a leash since he is just way to interested in meeting new people & other dogs. I usually let them have a run at the local soccer park when nobody is around. If I see a person or dog coming around, I leash the dogs up and we go the other way, but I’m observant like that.

    I feel strongly about dogs having off leash time. You know, time to just be a dog and made their own decisions. Sniff what they want, go where they want. It’s important for them mentally. When I work at my Dads place (he is in the country) and it’s warm enough, I open the workshop door and the dogs come and go as they please. Since Jersey was a little puppy, she “walked” herself every day and she never went far. A Vizsla running away would be the seventh sign of the apocalypse

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    • I grew up in rural MT. No one had any fences. The dogs all ran free. Our Vizsla never wanted to wander beyond our yard. We had a neighbor girl who liked to come by to take Sadie on walks, but she didn’t call them walks, she’d come ask to take Sadie on a “pull”- because Sadie never wanted to leave the yard.

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  21. We drive a fair distance to get to our favorite dog park, and it’s always worth the drive to us. However, I don’t know that I feel entitled to have a dog park. I don’t feel like I should have to set up special places for people to go with their kids, either. If the woman wanted a place for her dogs to run that badly, why not fence in her own yard?

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  22. Honestly? No. It is not up to the city. However, more and more cities are getting requests for off-leash dog parks (fenced in) and are responding. But, as you so clearly called out, with a Husky you never know. We have several fenced in off-leash dog parks here, but with huskies you just can’t say that will be enough. One of our friends at the dog park has two huskies and both have jumped the fence many times to chase a deer or coyote. Usually it’s the female that gets things started (the male follows her lead), so our friend keeps her on a leash at all times – even in the dog park.

    I may be making a rash judgement here, but if this lady is so worried about having an off-leash dog park because she can’t walk her dogs on a leash or it’s too much an inconvenience, then is she likely to exercise them inside a fenced park? Or, is she expecting the dogs to exercise themselves while she stands around and watches? I guess I don’t understand her vehement response over a unleashed and fenced in dog park. Seems like she has options. Am I off base in wondering why such a strong reaction?

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  23. This post, and the comments about it, make me very glad I live in England, where this just isn’t an issue. There’s no question in my mind that dogs are much better off if they are able to run off lead. And since there are so many places where you can do this here, and since most everyone who can does, there’s less of a problem than in the States, where people freak out if they see an off lead dog.

    Granted, there are certain dogs that can’t be trusted around other dogs or livestock, but they’re in the minority, and generally people here either use a muzzle or keep those dogs on lead if they’ve had problems in the past. A few times I’ve met people who’ve told me they have a runner, and just can’t trust them off lead. While good recall training would probably fix this, that’s not for everyone. I’ve learned that my dog-reactive dog is much more likely to react if he’s on lead, in fact I’ve often dropped the lead if he’s in a situation he can’t handle; that way he can simply run away from the overly friendly dogs.

    The main reason I don’t want to move back to the States is the lack of suitable places to walk your dog off lead. I will feel really sorry for my dog when that day comes.

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  24. Yes, it is a city’s job to provide spaces to exercise dogs. I say this because there are many recognised benefits for dogs AND people from having exercised pets.
    Aside from the well-documented benefits to people of pet ownership, humans also benefit when community pets are exercised and stimulated – I’m thinking, less barking complaints. Furthermore, pets are better off when they can blow off steam and potentially less likely to develop behaviour problems.

    Dog parks need dogs to still be ‘under effective control’, and it’s up to rangers to police that dogs are under effective control in all settings, including off leash areas. It is, however, a nice space for people to ‘test’ their dogs off leash ability in relative safely. Furthermore, with dogs with high prey drives, it may be the safest venue for exercise. (This means that, if people can’t trust their dogs, they shouldn’t let them off leash. Any dog off leash, not under effective control, should have its owner fined.)

    I don’t think a dog has the ‘right’ to run off leash, and I don’t think it’s cruel or wrong to keep a dog always on leash. However, I live in Australia, and everyone here has a yard where there dog has free range. I would be concerned about dogs spending the entirety of their life on a chain or on lead when outside, and not being able to naturally develop muscle through free movement.

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  25. We all pay rates for local government to maintain parks. A large proportion of us are dog owners. There are a lot of breeds that need A LOT of work for their recalls to be reliable. I think dog parks with fences are actually pretty important/useful for their training. I also think on leash exercise for their whole life isn’t the best thing for the physical and mental condition of the animal.

    I think that dogs who cannot be trusted off-leash but don’t have aggression issues should be able to have public parks to use that are safe for them. I mean we all have to start somewhere. I think if there were more of these parks around I would have had less issues with dogs pelting out of the park up the road as I walk past with my dogs, and trying to stop them from getting hit by passing cars :((

    My experience is mainly with greyhounds, but if they are onleash their whole life, their owners don’t even get to see them run – which is the best part of owning one! They also get fat and lose their muscle tone if they can’t run. I make sure Barbie gets to run at least once a week. The problem with her is not so much her recall, she is pretty good, but her sheer speed. We have way too many parks that are really tiny and she could be on the road in a couple of seconds! If it wasn’t for the availability of 3 fenced parks in which we did our recall training it would have happened a lot slower – and I still don’t trust her to run in parks that are small, close to the road and/or don’t have clearly defined boundaries.

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  26. You bring up some good points here. I think it should be up to the owners discretion as to whether to keep their dog on a leash or not in a fenced in area. The owner should know the dog well enough, know its habits, etc. If the owner is responsible enough, there should not be any problems. However, we all know there are irresponsible owners in the world, so I understand a city’s reluctance to have more dog parks like that… it can be a liability for them. Hm, definitely requires some more pondering… loving reading everyone’s opinions though! 🙂

    LizAnn
    All4UrPet Representative
    http://all4urpet.com/

    Check out the App store for Android and iPhone to download our mobile application! Simply search All4UrPet.

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  27. Hmmm… I’m still pondering this one. I’m not sure it’s a city’s responsibility to provide dog parks – however, at the same time if it is something that many residents desire and speak up about, then it seems like then the city could at least look into the idea. I guess it depends upon the dynamics of the particular city, to some extent.

    Where I grew up, it was very rural – so there were obviously no dog parks. However, many people had fenced in yards or just let their dogs run free some of the time. So those dogs always had off-leash time.

    When I adopted Bella, I was living in an apartment. We would make use of nearby dog parks (although I have a carsick dog and they were not super close) from time to time. However, we would also go to bigger open spaces nearby and use the flexi leash to give Bella more room to roam and sniff what she’d like. I normally avoid the flexi leash like the plague (too hard to control when interacting with other dogs), but in an open space like that without many other dogs, it kind of worked. If I were to let Bella off leash in a place that wasn’t fenced in, I’d likely never see her again. She’d follow her little Beagle nose and be gone in a blink. I think it’s a bit of an individual question – each owner has to know what her dog can handle, whether the dog could be off-leash, where it’s appropriate to be off-leash, and the like.

    In any event, when I bought a house, a fenced-in yard was very high on my list of priorities. We really wanted Bella to have a yard – I hated when I wasn’t able to give her very much time off the leash.

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  28. One word. E-collar. That is what we use to work our dogs off lead whether it be exercising, training or hunting. Of course they must first have a strong recall or the e-collar is useless.

    We do not frequent dog parks at all.

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  29. I think if city officials are elected they ought to attempt to make the citizens they represent, happy. Is it the cities job to provide public use spaces of any kind? What about places where people can walk/exercise safely? where children can play safely? I don’t have human kids or jog in the park but like living in a community that has such spaces. I suspect kids might play in the streets more if they did not have a safe place to play. Joggers might feel forced to run in high traffic areas if their neighborhood did not offer a better alternative. I appreciate there are maybe fewer kids and joggers that I have to worry about when driving because there are designated places that are more pleasant for them to be. It is the same for dog parks in my view. I live on an island surrounded by water yet almost all water access is private property and the few public access spots are off limits to dogs. Is it the city’s job to provide access? Maybe not but it is a limited resource, a small portion of which it is not unreasonable to want some access to. I would even pay for communal access if tax payers felt it was a burden. I don’t suppose I would go as far as saying I have a right to it but I guess none of the community use assets are a right. I do believe community use areas of any kind foster a sense of community and increase the quality of life . Local officials were elected to do just that in most peoples minds….

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  30. When we moved to Phoenix and found FREE off-leash dogparks provided by the city, I was amazed. In Michigan, if you can find a dog park at all, it’s a pay by the hour affair.

    The dog park is not a place to train recalls, but it is a place to work on the bonds between dog and owner. When I take my three to the park, we do at least one ‘come here and see me – okay good dog – go back to playing now’… at first I did handfuls of these, each session, each dog.

    It really helped my crew to develop a trust that I wasn’t going to take away the fun.

    So, yeah. There are lots of caveats to dog parks. You don’t know the people or the dogs you are interacting with, dog incidents do happen, there is risk. But I’ve gotten a lot of value from our local* park, and am very glad it is there.

    *(Local: a 20 minute drive)

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  31. What interesting perspectives in the comments here. We’ve been in Austin for the past few weeks, smack-dab between two huge off-leash (but unfenced) areas. It’s been fantastic for Buster to be able to run every day, but I’ve noticed he’s more interested in sniffing and checking things out than playing with the other dogs. I think Karen’s right – its great for dogs to have the freedom to make their own decisions sometimes. If fenced off-leash spaces aren’t available where you live, and the woman that you met can’t provide a fenced yard, she may have wanted to consider adopting another breed – but I guess it’s a little late for that now. Too few people focus on finding a dog that really fits their lifestyle IMHO.

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