When people let their dogs run off-leash

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When people let their dogs run off-leash

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

I am getting frustrated with people with unleashed dogs. I have a six-year-old poodle-bichon, Rosie, that we rescued three years ago. She is great with people, especially kids, but is very aggressive whenever we see other small dogs. 

As the summer is progressing, I encounter more people out in their yards with small dogs unleashed. I realize that people should be allowed to have their dogs on their private property unleashed, but they need to ensure their dogs stay put. Once Rosie sees these dogs she goes crazy, and the dogs come running to her. I pick her up and hold her, but she scratches and pulls to get down as these dogs’ bark at my feet. When the owners show up, they usually say, “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly.”

I cannot guarantee my dog won’t bite another dog. If my dog did hurt one of these unleashed dogs I would feel terrible. Would I be responsible for paying the vet bills?

– Cathy, Illinois

Dear Cathy,

It can be frustrating to walk your dog and have an unleashed dog run up to you since you have no way of knowing whether these approaching dogs are friendly or not. Since there is concern your dog could bite, you might consider walking her with a basket muzzle, which gives her room to pant and generally communicates to others to keep their dogs away. 

If a dog approaches and you’re comfortable addressing the pet owner in real-time, say, “Please call your dog. Your dog is scaring my dog, and my dog can be dog-reactive.” Pick up your dog, as you have been doing, but turn your back on the approaching dog. This keeps your dog from trying to get to the other dog. Wait until the other dog is back with their owner before putting your dog down and continuing your walk. If this happens again with the same dog, then visit the person’s house without your dog to explain your situation.

If they say their dog is friendly, simply say, “My dog doesn’t like other dogs and these encounters are stressful for both of us. Can you please help me by keeping your dog from approaching us?”

You also can carry a can of coins to shake or use a Pet Corrector (compress air) to make a noise that might halt the approaching dog.

As for paying for medical bills after a dog fight, this can be very tricky. An unleashed dog might be more to blame, but it will depend on how the fight starts and the injuries sustained. Let’s just say you are smart to pick up your dog to prevent anything from happening.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal, CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 25 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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