Your dogs are great. Put them on a leash.


As we head into an important election season, there are important issues that demand our attention – climate change, the decline of democracy, the rising cost of living.

It’s not one of those problems.

It is still important. When you go out in public, your dog must be on a leash.

I walk my dog ​​twice a day, usually on a trail near my house. It’s an old railroad converted years ago into a state park that gets busy at times, with a mix of cyclists, runners, walkers, and a random horse or two.

Almost everyone is well mannered and polite. I wish I could say the same for my dog, but that would be lying.

Rescue dogs are great, and it’s great to give an animal a new home that might otherwise face a bleak future. But the truth is, you don’t know what you’re going to get. Everything that happened in your dog’s past life will affect you.

With the last dog in my family, that meant a rage-inducing fear of bikes. And rakes. And vacuum cleaners. She loved having pets, but only on her terms – she would come to you; you weren’t to approach her unless you wanted to be harassed. She was a great dog and we loved her all her years with us, but she wasn’t exactly an easygoing companion, especially when there were young children around.

Our current dog, Barney, is much more even-tempered. He wants to be petted every minute of the day and gratefully soaks up all the attention he can get. Children can climb on him and not only will he accept it, but he will be sad when it stops.

But he has a weakness – other dogs. He’s fine at a dog park or with friends, but when he’s out for a walk and sees another dog approaching, he temporarily loses his mind. Since he’s sweet at heart, we know he just wants to play. He wants to do everything that dog does. But because you don’t know what’s going to happen when strange dogs meet in unforeseen circumstances, we’re not just going to let him walk up to anyone.

His response is then to bark. A lot. And while we know it’s playful, it’s not always clear to everyone, who sees a dog yelping, jumping, and sometimes thinks they see a dog wanting to cut someone’s throat.

He doesn’t. He could not. But, after three years in our family, he is still learning to express himself better.

Most of the time it’s fine. We’ve come a long way, the two of us. I keep him close, walk fast, and try to keep encounters brief. What doesn’t work at all is when other dogs aren’t kept close to their people.

Let me be clear so no one will object: I’m sure your dog is great. I would love your dog(s) under other circumstances, and I’m sure they are perfectly friendly and well-behaved.

Who doesn’t know? My dog.

My dog ​​will go temporarily mad at the approach of another dog, causing your well-behaved little friend to react. Maybe it’s all just a game and your dog just wants to play too. But dogs, like people, tend to misinterpret other people’s reactions. Situations tend to escalate, and before you know it, two perfectly friendly dogs are getting into the throat business.

There is a solution here. If you are in a public place, as our trail certainly is, you must leash your dog. If you want to let them roam free, there are dog parks for that. Almost every town has one these days. Go over there. Enjoy it. Run wild.

Alternatively, buy a house with a huge yard. Invite all your dog friends. Let them romp in the grass with abandon.

It’s not that common to see dogs off leash on the trail. I would say that over 90% of dog owners understand the struggles of others in this area because they have been there as well. We are all doing our best.

And if you still can’t be convinced that your perfect boyfriend needs a leash like all other dogs, consider Barney. Although he wants to, he does not understand. But he tries.

Hugh Bailey is editorial page editor for the Connecticut Post and the New Haven Register. He can be reached at [email protected]