Walking Your Dog Off Leash: Is it Really Safe?

walking dog off leashFor most dog owners, there’s nothing more exhilarating than watching your dog bound across a park or meadow. That excitement is enough to convince many owners that off leash is the way to go.

For dogs who have been trained, off leash walking, running, or hiking is a great option and has many advantages. Unfortunately, the rest of the world might not be so cooperative.

The Risks of Walking Your Dog Off Leash

While the spring weather may compel you to get outside with your four-legged friend, there are several factors to consider before ditching the leash.

Wildlife – Keep in mind that nature is home to many species, some of which pose a threat to your fur friend. Off leash romps can result in a snake bite or dangerous encounter with a sick animal, such as a rabid skunk. Keeping your dog leashed minimizes these encounters by limiting movement and keeping your pet within eyesight. Vaccinations and parasite prevention are a must!

Untrained or aggressive dogs – Encountering other potentially aggressive animals is another risk of walking your dog off leash. Just because your pet is well-behaved doesn’t mean other owners have been as responsible as you.

Poisonous plants and toxins – Whenever your dog is free to roam, there’s an increased risk of ingesting a poisonous plant or other dangerous substance. This includes products such as antifreeze and other household toxins.

Parasites and bacteria – E. coli, giardia, salmonella, and leptospirosis often lurk in infected water, soil, and decaying matter. Unfortunately, all of these can attract the attention of curious canines.

Hunting season – Off leash dogs are at an increased risk for accidental shootings, along with serious injuries sustained by traps, baits, and poisons. Be vigilant during hunting season and around well-known hunting areas.

People – Some people aren’t enthusiastic about dogs (shocking, we know). Perhaps they’re allergic or are simply afraid of canines. For whatever reason, someone could respond to a joyful greeting from your off-the-leash pet in a negative way.

Safety Tips for Off Leash Walking

As you can see, there are many risks to wandering the world off leash. What can you do to mitigate some of these hazards?

While it’s not possible to eliminate all dangers, here are some effective tips to keep your wandering woof safe:

  • Stick with parks or other natural areas that have some type of perimeter fencing.
  • Visit off leash areas when there are fewer people and pets around.
  • Instead of a public area, visit a friend or relative with private land, where your pet won’t encounter others.
  • Ensure your dog’s ability to respond to your commands, even when there are distractions.

Please contact the team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates for more off leash safety tips or to inquire about vaccinations.