Today may be the warmest Christmas Eve on record here in Northeast Ohio. It's 60 degrees and sunny. This is what I call a great day to take a hike. So you guessed it, Kelly and I took the boys on a hike.
After loading the boys up in the car and grabbing all of our gear, we arrived at the nearby hiking trail. Being Christmas Eve I didn't think that people would have time to go out and hike, but I was wrong. When Kelly and I pulled in there were 10-12 cars in the parking lot. Typically theres a max of 4-5. With all of the cars we decided to park farthest from the trail head towards the back of the parking lot.
Fast forwarding a few seconds, the boys had relieved themselves and we are walking through the parking lot to hit the trail. As we are walking a couple cars pull in and park. As we are approaching to pass by, one of the people in the car opened the door and out came a small white dog off leash heading right towards us. I instantly exclaim, "Please leash your dog!" Fortunately they were able to grab the dog rather quickly and leash it up. The reason why Kelly and I go to this trail is because there is a leash law in effect and we hope that people will follow it. So about 2 minutes later we are on the trail walking. As we are about to hit a corner that is somewhat blind, a dog appears - off leash with no owners in sight. The dog starts to approach us and once it gets within about 8 feet I had to spray her with spray shield. It was a pretty direct hit so it resulted in her retreat pretty quickly. This is a position that it really sucks to be put into. But had I not sprayed, things could've been worse. It could've turned into a dog fight resulting in multiple injuries to multiple dogs. There aren't many dogs who enjoy being approached by an off leash dog while on leash. Leashes can cause frustration and remove a dog's flight response option.
In the end, the dog who was just being a dog was sprayed in the face. It could have all been avoided had the leash law been followed. I'm not writing this to publicly shame the dog's owners. This is being written because it's not fair to dog owners that have dogs that need space. Kelly and I have both put a ton of work into helping our dogs feel comfortable around new dogs. It only takes one bad experience for a dog to start being very uncomfortable around other dogs.
Leash laws are made for a reason. No one is perfect. Years ago I was hiking in a park on a trail where I never saw anyone. I had V off leash. V has a 95% recall out on the trail. Out of the blue someone appeared with two dogs. I called V and he didn't come to me. Instead of coming to me he went up to the investigate the other two dogs. I ran up there and nothing had happened between the dogs. I apologized at least ten times, grabbed him and walked passed her with him leashed up. To this day I feel bad about the situation and no longer do I let V off leash on hiking trails. Prior to that instance we had come across dogs while he was off leash and he ran on back to me no problem when I called. It can happen even if you think your dog will come back to you every time.
Please keep your dog on leash in dog friendly areas where it's the law to keep your dog leashed. Even if you think your dog will come every time. Believe me, there will be a time when your dog doesn't come when you ask. The other big reason is because of the other dog; not all dogs like being approached by other dogs. There are lots of dogs out there that are very afraid of other dogs and their people are working hard on building their dog's confidence. One instance of a dog running up to them could cause a huge setback. And finally, your dog could very easily be sprayed in the face with a deterrent. Let's all be on the same team and follow the rules so everyone can enjoy the outdoors without having to have the added worry of being approached by an off leash dog.