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An Open Letter to People Who Walk Their Dog Without a Leash

Look, I get it — your dog is amazing and well-trained. But that doesn't mean I want them approaching my dog without a leash.

by Keith Higgons
July 8, 2021
A puppy walking without a leash outside next to owner
Happy Monkey / Adobe Stock

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Dear Neighbors Who Walk Their Dog Without a Leash,

Hi! I’m the guy with the tan Pit Bull mix named Rufus. I want to take a moment to ask you to please walk your dog with a leash.

Look, I get it. Your dog is amazing and well-trained. You’ve been through extensive training and your dog knows a slew of verbal commands. Your dog is a service animal and visits children’s cancer wards and retirement communities and is the best-behaved dog you’ve ever had. I get it.

But here's the thing: While you may be 100 percent convinced that your dog won't do anything spontaneous or harmful, at the end of the day, your dog is an animal who may react instinctively — even if they're super well-trained. Sure, it's possible that they won't cause harm, but there's just no way to know for sure.

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Yes, I’m personally invested because Rufus wasn’t socialized before I adopted him. So, he’s not good with other dogs. He loves people and tolerates children but he doesn’t like other dogs (oh and then there's squirrels...he hates squirrels).

You may have noticed that we cross the street when we see another dog. And while I've done my best to train Rufus to ignore other dogs, if your dog starts barking, he'll respond. And if your dog isn't leashed and comes running toward us, Rufus will react. And my fear is that would be bad — potentially very bad.

Part of the problem is there's still a stigma around Pit Bulls like Rufus (personally, I think breed specific bias and legislation is deplorable). But the bias exists and that's why I've trained Rufus to be a responsible canine citizen — and I consider myself a responsible pet parent who uses a leash. I’m unwilling to put my dog, or yours, in a position where they feel threatened and need to call upon their instincts.

To be fair, I was once like you. I used to have a dog who I walked without a leash. When confronted, I defended my dog like you do, saying “He won’t do anything,” “He’s friendly,” and my personal favorite: “Relax.” (When has anything good ever come from someone telling a stressed person to relax?) Looking back, I’m ashamed of my behavior. I was wrong.

So neighbor, please take this letter under consideration. The benefits of keeping your dog on a leash far outweigh the drawbacks. Thanks for reading.

See you on the sidewalk,

Keith & Rufus

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Keith Higgons

Keith Higgons is a writer and dog lover who lives in New Haven, CT.