We are such a family. Our dogs are well trained and disciplined. When we are able to walk our dogs off leash, they are ALWAYS within sight and hearing and are trained to remain this way. If they get close to moving outside of this boundary, they are told to return and do. They are both trained to both voice commands and the whistle. Because my husband uses them for hunting, they are specifically trained to respond to commands to stop and follow whatever instruction they are given, ESPECIALLY when they see something that excites them. When we walk with them off leash, we are constantly looking for other people/dogs (because of our past experiences) and ensure our dogs return to us instantly if we spot any. We always put them on the leash at this point to make others feel comfortable, but even then, they are so well trained it isn’t needed. Our dogs love long walks and are bred for stamina (being hunting breeds). It is not fair to them to be restricted because other people can’t be bothered to put the time and effort into training their dogs.
I do however, COMPLETELY understand the dilemma. How do you distinguish between those who are responsible and those who aren’t in an effort to allow those who deserve it the freedom to walk dogs unleashed and restrict those who don’t? You really can’t. I sympathize so much with the victims of the incidents described in past letters. Our previous dog had to be leashed constantly because of the irresponsibility of others.
My suggestion is this – why don’t we have certain trails designated for off leash dogs? Or even better, some form of rule that says within xx amount of feet/yards of built up housing, dogs must be leashed (similar to some of our hunting laws). I am aware that we have dog parks currently, but running around a fenced pen is not any different then our dogs running around the back yard. They need more than that. If we have specifically designated unleashed hikes, I think it would encourage dog owners to use these rather than just go wherever they want unleashed. It would also mean that those who don’t want to deal with unleashed dogs could have security in walking/hiking the “leashed” areas. This of course would have to have the support of law enforcement which seems to be an issue currently. If law enforcement aren’t willing to back it up, it’s a moot point.
Every resident needs to know that when they come across a dog that attacks or is out of control, they can report it and know that it will be followed up, regardless of whether they are in an unleashed area or not. Unleashed areas are NOT an excuse to let your dogs run wild. We won’t take our dogs to the dog park because many owners think it’s okay to let their dogs do whatever they want since it’s an unleashed area. That’s utter rubbish! And these owners are just allowed to get away with it. Whether in a designated area or not, if your dog is out of control (even if it’s being friendly), you need to be held accountable. It’s not fair to your dog or other people if you are not willing to put the time and effort in to train it. If you don’t have the time and effort and just want a pet, that’s up to you (unfortunately), but at the very least, keep your dog leashed for its own safety and the security of others. Stop making those who invest time and effort (and our dogs) pay the consequences.