Dog Owners! Please Put a Leash on Your Dog! A Parent’s Plea


Dog owners, I’m going to predict right now that some of you will hate me after reading this. In fact, I can feel the anger from all the way across my internet. But you know how hormones and craziness can cause a mother to lift a car off her child? I plead “Mama Bear Syndrome” on this one. I don’t care if you get mad. I need to be heard. 

Please, for the love of God, put a leash on your dog in public places!

Whew, I said it and now the cards can fall where they may. 

I want to start off by saying that I am a huge dog lover! Huge! I can’t wait until our family is in a place where we can get one again. My husband and my first child was an old greyhound we adopted shortly after we got married, named Chuck. We worshipped that dog. He was there for me when Andy would work early in the morning and there when my father died and all I wanted to do was cry into his neck while he laid on our bed. We took him everywhere with us. And it was while being the parent of Chuck, years before my children were even in the picture, that the first seeds of disliking dogs off-leash began. 

Chuck was a rescue dog, as many greyhounds are. When we first adopted him, he couldn’t even walk up stairs, as he was used to being carried in and out of race tracks in his crate. He was also not fond of small animals, something I assume was due to the fact that he never had much interaction with them aside from chasing them around a track with hundreds of people watching. Greyhounds were bred as hunting dogs, and this instinct is sharpened by encouraging them to chase a fake rabbit around a racing track.

dog chuck greyhound
Our beautiful boy, Chuck

We learned early on that while Chuck loved people, he had a very hard time around other dogs and animals, particularly ones that would invade his space without warning. 

My husband and I live in Vermont, a very dog-friendly state. Most of the offices here have one or two dogs running around and most local businesses will put out bowls of water in the summer for dogs to drink while out walking. It’s wonderful. But because we live in such a dog oriented state, the concept of following the leash law, that says that dogs must be on a leash in public areas, is often taken with a grain of salt. We didn’t think much about the problem of off-leash dogs until we had a dog ourselves and specifically until we realized that Chuck was not too keen on other dogs. Not too keen at all. 

Here’s how the situation always went. We would take Chuck out for a walk on-leash and all of a sudden a dog would come barreling right down the road to us. Chuck’s hackles would rise and the owners would yell from down the street the same thing that most unleashed dog owners always yell, “He’s totally friendly! He’s totally friendly!” 

And then we would have to act as a shield between our dog and the loose dog, and have to yell back, “Our dog’s not!” 

That’s when the other dog owner would start sprinting down the sidewalk to try to wrangle their dog from almost getting killed by ours. And now two walks are completely spoiled by one owner simply not obeying the law and having his or her dog off-leash. Years and years went by with this occurring nearly daily. We even heard one off-leash dog owner get mad at us because our dog wasn’t good around other dogs stating, “Well, that makes sense! Greyhounds are crazy!” 

When Chuck was ten, he developed a brain tumor and the year that I became pregnant with my son, he passed away. I still have his ashes and collar. I don’t have the heart to bury him. 

man, woman, greyhound dog on a leash
One of our many family photos

With Chuck’s passing, I really thought that our woes with off-leash dog owners were done. Then my beautiful son came into this world and my daughter two and a half years later, and our problem with off-leash dog owners started all over again. 

Both of my children have a fear of dogs. 

My son’s fear is beginning to fade, but my daughter’s remains strong. If a dog comes anywhere near her, she will break down crying and cling to me like her life depends on it. She is terrified. Consequently, we often find ourselves, much like we did with Chuck, trying to enjoy a day out where we believe people will be adhering to the leash law and yet so often we find ourselves with a dog racing towards us and dog owners yelling, “He’s totally friendly! He’s totally friendly!” while my daughter screams from my arms, unconvinced. 

I just stand there and wait for them to come and pull their dog away. I tell them that my daughter is afraid of dogs and sometimes the owner will repeat that their dog is friendly and sometimes they will tell me that that’s sad. 

But never an apology. It never seems to cross these dog owner’s minds that their dog jumping up at my daughter does nothing to help my daughter diminish her fear of dogs. 

I don’t want people to change their lives for my children or my future pets. I simply want them to adhere to the leash law that was put in place for a reason. 

The leash law exists for a reason. There are dog parks for a reason. If I brought my daughter into a dog park and then got mad at owners when their dogs were jumping around, that wouldn’t be fair.

That is a place designated for dogs, not humans. 

A public park, however, is a place designated for the public, not dogs. This is why I get so frustrated when unleashed dog owners think it’s fine to simply unleash their dogs and let them run free around the park. Where is my daughter supposed to go to play without being terrorized?

Also, look at this scenario from a dog owner’s perspective, as in back when we had Chuck. If Chuck, leashed, bit your dog, who is unleashed, who is really at fault? Clearly, the unleashed dog owner has no leg to stand on. They are breaking the law. But who knows what could happen if my dog were to bite yours. There would likely be vet bills, and perhaps intervention from an Animal Safety Officer. Save us both money, time, and aggravation and get a leash on your dog. 

When people are on an exercise path and trying to run, they shouldn’t have to sideskirt and break their rhythm because of your unleashed dog getting in their way. Get your dog on a leash.

Animals are wonderful companions and blessings. They can provide us with so much happiness. But we need to be responsible pet owners as well as responsible members of a community and think of the other citizens, not simply ourselves. 

I’m climbing down from my soapbox now, unleashed dog owners. You can go about your business. But if I see you out and about and your dog isn’t leashed and you yell at me that it’s, “totally friendly,” watch out. If I’m with my daughter, you might not get a totally friendly response. It will just be me, trying to be a responsible parent around an irresponsible dog owner.

Dog Owners! Please Put a Leash on Your Dog! A Parent's Plea


  1. I have a dog that I walk off leash but ONLY because I have her under my control at all times. She isn’t interested in small animals or people, and a single command will keep her from trotting off to sniff another dog. Walking a dog off leash with anything less than that is irresponsible.

  2. Thank you, this is very well said. Our dog is a rescue that loves people but doesn’t do well with other dogs. Particularly when she is on leash and they are not. It is so stressful to take her out, there is a constant lingering fear of off leash dogs running up to us and having an incident. She has only gotten more protective with our kids around. It’s so hard to explain that feeling to others. I appreciate you putting this down into words!

  3. Thank you for this! All of my children have gone through fear of dog phases. It doesn’t matter how “friendly” a dog is, in fact, a “friendly” dog tends to be more likely to approach my child which incites more fear.
    My children were more likely to try to get comfortable with adog if they were assured the dog was on a leash.
    I know this is not popular and I appreciate you sharing this, Meredith.


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