Getting out with your pooch is pretty irresistible this time of year – the sun is up longer, the snow and ice is finally gone, and flowers and greenery is spreading everywhere. But when you’re out walking your dog, unless in a specified area, there are several important reasons to keep Fido on leash.
Trapping seasons are finally nearing an end, but the indiscriminate and potentially lethal devices can still be found – particularly in areas that connect with private property or Crown land. Many traps are baited to attract canids like wolves and coyotes – and they’ll attract your dog just as easily. Having your pet on leash is one simple way to reduce the chances of a painful encounter with a trap.
Wild mothers and babies are getting to know each other right now and, for some species, they’re even exploring their surroundings. This means that mothers might be more protective than usual, and there will also be many more vulnerable non-human animals all around us. Curious dogs can pose a real threat to these babies – and a perceived threat to moms, increasing the odds of conflict.
It isn’t just wildlife that can be at risk from off leash dogs – joggers, hikers, and cyclists can frequently be frightened by, and potentially injured by, dogs that are running free.
For professional dog walkers, off leash dogs in a non-designated area is not only frustrating – it’s potentially hazardous. Suzanne Joy, owner of Wags & Wiggles Dog Walking Service, notes that she has to put herself between off leash dogs and her own leashed dogs to prevent discomfort or fear from escalating into conflict.
"Dog to dog communication is largely based on posture, and when one of the two dogs is leashed, they aren't able to communicate properly,” Joy explains. “This can lead to conflict – and owners need to be able to remove themselves and their pets before negative consequences occur."
Wags & Wiggles also encourages owners to keep dogs on leash in non-designated areas because:
- You’re able to clean up after your pet immediately (and not search);
- You can prevent them from ingesting debris, leftover waste from campers, or parasites in standing water; and,
- And in some unusual (but documented) cases, self injury on sticks, trees, or even falling from cliffs adjacent to trails.
The Fur-Bearers is filled to the brim with dog lovers (have you ever met our office dogs, Louie and Rio?). And we want all dogs and their owners to be happy and fulfilled – but please, if you’re taking your dog off leash, take them to a designated zone where other dog owners, recreational users, and even wild animals know what to expect.