Imagine a dog and her owner taking a walk, minding their own business. Suddenly, an off leash dog is headed straight for them. If they can even see the dog’s owner, requests to have the owner recall the advancing dog are often met with that most awful of phrases, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly.” Sometimes, the owner does try to recall the dog, often without success, and almost certainly with no thought whatsoever that the leashed dog may not be.
Interestingly, confrontations such as this often play out in jurisdictions where leashes are mandatory. Yet, owners of off leash dogs still sometimes chastise their law-abiding counterparts as if accepting the unwanted advances of their out of control dogs should be acceptable. (It’s not.) Fearful dogs and reactive dogs have enough challenges without others adding to their problems in areas where they should be protected by the leash law.
I’m going out on a limb here to say that anyone who cannot confidently bet $50 that their dog will come when called away from another dog, has no business allowing that dog to have off leash freedom. Recently, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a man in his 80’s was knocked down by two exuberant Boxers while walking on the beach. These dogs already have a reputation for being out of control, but even if they were first offenders, no matter. Massachusetts is a “strict liability” state, so even if the dogs were legally off leash, the owner is still responsible for their actions. If the owner is found, he or she will undoubtedly be responsible for the man’s medical bill.
Even if you are in an off leash designated area, you have an obligation not to allow your dog to interact with dogs that reject his overtures. Not all dogs like one another, or appreciate each other’s play styles. No one likes a playground bully. If your dog is that “over the top” sort, best to find a couple of compatible dogs that do like him and set up playdates of a less public nature. Conversely, if your dog is shy, or always growling or snapping at dogs that approach, then the dog park or day care may not be the right venue for exercise.
If you are the owner of a fearful or reactive dog, and are observing local laws, yet still being approached by the dogs of scofflaws, do report this to your local Animal Control Officer. If you can safely do so, film or take pictures of the offenders. Carry a repellent product, such as Spray Shield, in the event that the oncoming dog is not listening to its owner, or is unaccompanied by a human. Your dog deserves not to have his or her personal space invaded without your consent.