Dogs typically must be on-leash in most public places. But sometimes, there are areas where you can let your dog off-leash.
You should have good off-leash etiquette to avoid problems, confrontations, or fights between pets as a pet owner.
Let’s look at four ways to practice off-leash etiquette.
Train your dog to listen
If you’re going to set your dog loose, you need to be sure they’re trained. This means they’ll listen and respond to all commands immediately. That means sitting on command, coming to you on command, and stopping any action on command.
Unless you are in a fenced-in park where people are more forgiving and may know what they’re getting into, this is a must. Also, keep an eye out for other pups in the park who may not exhibit good recall. Staying alert can aid in the avoidance of serious situations such as a dog bite injury.
Finally, bring some treats to reward your dog, especially if it’s their first time at a dog park or around other pups.
Ask permission before letting your dog play with another dog
Do not let your dog run at another dog, whether it’s leashed or not. There are many shy canine friends, which can make them feel even more uncomfortable.
Dog play styles can vary greatly, and they are not always compatible with one another. This can lead to misunderstandings or even fights and exacerbate certain play styles. Pups who are very physical in play frequently outnumber other dogs.
If you have a puppy, stay away from any dog park, whether it’s off-leash or not. While socialization is essential for the healthy development of puppies, the dog park is not the place to teach your puppy how to interact with other dogs.
Learn to read and understand canine body language
If you come across someone attempting to put distance between your dog and theirs (or themselves), you should call your dog and away. Trust that the other dog owner knows their pet well enough to recognize when to keep their space.
Canines are social creatures, but they prefer to see familiar faces (just like us). Dogs do not need to meet with all other pups in the same way we do not greet and chat with everyone we meet on the street. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers reminds us that even friendly dogs who are nervous can appear “aggressive,” especially when meeting another pup for the first time.
No matter how well trained, there are situations when you can’t let dogs run free. Respect other dogs’ space and their owners, and keep your pet at an appropriate distance while they are off-leash.
Always keep a leash handy
This one may be a no-brainer, but you should always have a leash handy.
Even if your pup will be in a fenced dog park, having a leash on you ensures you can get control of them if things get out of hand. If it’s your dog’s first time at a dog park, having them on a leash is a good idea to avoid any accidents. And finally, you don’t know what situation may arise that will require you to leash your pup.
It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!
Final thoughts on off-leash etiquette
In general, all owners want their pets to be happy and comfortable. Being off-leash is a wonderful experience for both you and your dog. It can, however, be hazardous if you fail to follow proper off-leash etiquette.
Whether it’s making sure your dog is a good listener, asking permission of other owners, reading body language, or having a leash handy, proper off-leash etiquette will give you and your pup the best experience possible.