Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my dogs. You might even call me a helicopter dog mom, always concerned about their health and safety.
That’s why nothing incenses me more than when we’re walking around our Newhall condo complex and see an off-leash dog. These have come in the forms of a massive Malamute barreling towards us, a tiny Chihuahua trotting over, and a pair of furious fluffies flying by, barking and snarling.
Every time, I say the same thing, “Please put your dog on a leash.”
Usually, this is met with, “Oh, don’t worry, my dog is friendly.”
That’s not the point. While my dogs will most likely not do anything to harm another dog, an introduction with one off leash dog to two on leash dogs is far from ideal. It has the potential to turn into a scuffle or worse, a full-blown fight that can cause injuries to the dogs and the people who try to break it up.
Not to mention, it’s illegal to have dogs off leash. The Los Angeles County Leash Law (10.32.010) prohibits dogs from running at large on any public street, park or other public areas or upon private property other than that of the dog owner. A dog must be restrained by a substantial leash not exceeding six feet and be in the control of a competent person when off property. Fines are $50 for the first offense, $80 for the second, and a day in court for the third.
That also means that the owner of the off-leash dog is liable for any injuries that occur as a result of their negligence.
“No matter how well trained your dog is, it’s not worth the risk of an altercation,” said Hsiawen Hull, lead volunteer at Castaic Animal Care Center.
Hull, who helps train dogs that come into the center, instead suggests learning how to walk your dog safety and comfortably on a leash…but not the retractable style, which offers very little control for dogs of any size.
“If you can’t control your dog, it’s not only unsafe, it’s a violation of the leash law,” Hull said.
On a warm summer day, he was working with a shaggy, 85-pound youngster named Spike. For maximum control, Hull prefers a 6’ soft rope slip lead leash.
“I use this one on dogs from 3 pounds to 150 pounds,” he said. “Once you know how to use it, it’s a great tool.”
Easy to slip off and on a dog’s neck, it features a soft leather “lock” that secures the leash and allows for solid control.
Hull held the slip lead two feet from the dog, wrapping two fingers around the loop rather than his whole hand.
“You shouldn’t wrap the leash around your hand. You can’t let go and it can be unsafe,” he said.
For those that prefer a more traditional collar and leash approach, there is a “soft choke” style martingale collar that evenly distributes the pressure around the neck. For dogs with tracheal or breathing issues, a harness can be an option, while dogs that are hard to handle can possibly be fitted with a gentle-leader style halter. All work best with a flat nylon leash no longer than 6’.
“You’ll know you have the right tool for your dog when you can walk him or her comfortably,” Hull said.