Leash Your Dogs

#52toNYCmarathon
Week 35/52 recap

5.3 miles EZ – 5 miles with 10 Strides – 12 miles EZ

I fully expect to be met with passionate vitriol from dog owners who feel that they have a right to take the leash off of their dog in any public setting. My question to you is, why do you think that it is acceptable for me to be forced to physically interact with your dog? I am not talking about inside a dog park where it is obvious that dogs are allowed to be off lead and rambunctious. I am talking about places like parks, paths, neighborhoods and woodlands.

When using shared public space, it is a common courtesy to not have what you are doing interfere with other people’s activities. Bikers should pass pedestrians carefully, slower traffic to the right on bike paths and all that jazz. Dog owners should have their dogs on leash. Even in State Game or Fishing Lands where it is permissible to train your dog off lead, it clearly states that they must be under your control and on lead if not training.

A year and a half ago I mentioned one of the things I am grateful for are dogs on leashes. Large dogs look at me like I am running to play with them and run after me. I have been knocked over, slammed into and had scratches, and torn muddy clothes from paws all up to my shoulders. Once last winter, when I wasn’t prepared for impact, a solid golden retriever really hurt my arthritic SI joint while I was running.

Frequently Jim will take the lead on our runs if we see a loose dog because he knows they head right for me. I am the loose dog magnet. One time we were trying to skirt around an owner who was trying to corral his large dog when it lunged at us, playfully I assume. Jim yelled, “Hey!” at the owner and the guy laughed but the dog kept on and it really wasn’t funny. We weren’t stopping to play, we were on a focused long run.

Like PA public hunting and fishing lands, our local parks are all signed. The rules are more stringent in the municipalities requiring dogs to be on leashes (max length 6′ in length). For some reason some dog owners feel this doesn’t apply especially to early mornings or in the winter when they can’t see anyone using the park. They don’t seem to consider the half mile of paths and sidewalks that cut through our local Spring Creek Park that are frequented by runners and bikes that are passing through.

I have had dogs see me from across 2 softball fields and a soccer field zero in on me and dig in as fast as they can to catch me. The owners bellowing at their dogs to stop seems to work about 10% of the time. Of course I have to stop my run, in some cases climb onto a bench or table and yell at the top of my lungs across the fields, “Control your dog! Leash your dog!”

Last February I stood chanting those things to an owner who pulled up and just opened their car door to let a couple of large dogs freely tumble out. As she yelled, ineffectually, for her dog to stop she stumbled to reach for its collar. She looked at me in surprise as I said, “I am not moving until you have your dog on a leash.” She had to scramble into he car to find the leash she had never intended to use in the signed public park.

I am not unsympathetic. I know large dogs require exercise and sometimes a large field to run in. I think it is great our area has a very nice dog park for that. I whole-heartedly suggest that a person never take on the responsibility of a pet they cannot properly care for. If you don’t have private land to let your dog run, cannot exercise it to the extent it needs while you hold on to the other end of a lead or won’t take it to the dog park, DON’T GET A DOG!

Penn State University has many large fields that serve dual usage of parking for football games and occasionally grazing large livestock. I have biked along the access roads there and seen dog owners pull up and drop their dogs as they drive slowly along. They never get out thus allowing their dogs tear through the fields as they stay in their climate controlled vehicle. Never mind cleaning up after their dogs, they are most certainly not in control of them. I have had to dismount and prepare to wield my bike as a weapon as multiple dogs have charged me on PSU lands.

On yesterday’s 12 mile long run, I saw no fewer than 4 dogs off leash along the public bike path that had just recently put up signs reminding owners to leash their dogs. Another runner had his German Shepherd on a leash as he ran but gave me a pretty dirty look that I seemed to be in his way on the path. Jim, who was running separately from me at that point, also saw him in the same neighborhood. Jim said the guy was pretty obnoxious to him as they came toward each other, “There are certain unwritten conventions that you don’t take up the whole sidewalk and this guy just didn’t seem to want to share.”

We run long quite early on Sunday mornings and there was plenty of room for everyone so I was surprised when I saw him again. He came in from a side road from the neighborhood that met up again with the bike path. He again looked annoyed, sped up to bolt right in front of me, taking the turn so tight and cutting to the grassy side of the street sign. We were both starting up a long grind of a hill and his dog kept looking back over its shoulder at me. They were both faster than me so I had no problem that they started outdistancing me as the hill progressed.

Eventually the dog realized I wasn’t chasing them, stopped looking back at me and I started to forget about them. Even along the 5 lane main artery into town, things were quiet until I heard the man yell something. About 1/2 way up the hill, I was a bit relieved when I saw them cutting across the many lanes to get to the other side of the highway. As I watched, I heard the man yell again and the angle of their run revealed that he had lost his grip on the dog’s leash! They were running up the hill in the lanes where traffic could appear and bear down on them at any second.

There was nothing I could do, if cars crested the hill they would be on them in an instant! Unable to run anywhere but up the same hill on the bike path, it was a terrifying situation and I felt sick about it. Thank goodness there was no traffic at all coming from any direction and eventually the dog turned onto a side road and into a development. Selfishly, I was glad not to see them anymore and I was relieved the dog chose a less dangerous route.

It took me a full minute to get to the point across the road they turned down and I heard the man yelling still. I glanced down the side road and the dog was still loose, standing in the middle of the road blocking the path of a stopped car. The man was no longer running, he was all exhausted and walking toward his dog. He was still far enough away I had my doubts they would connect for a while. Unfortunate mistakes happen and hopefully they were safely reunited. There was something about the whole situation that just reminded me of this video.

Slipped lead or owners boldly defying leash laws, loose dogs can be a nuisance and really dangerous. My message to owners in this situation, I am not a stick in the mud that I don’t want to pet and socialize with your dog when I am on a run. I don’t know your dog and do not have the time to get to know it when I am running. It is not all about you, I am out to work not to socialize. I find it is really annoying and many times frightening that I have to come to a full stop until you gain control over your dog. I am not inviting your dogs to play and it is NOT MY FAULT that my running makes them want to chase me. I am well within my rights to report you to the authorities. I have and will take photos/videos of you, your loose dogs and license plate if I have the means. Please leash and control your dogs.

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4 thoughts on “Leash Your Dogs

  1. I am totally in your camp. I am always flabbergasted when I see dog owners let their dogs off leash in our parks that clearly state dogs should be on their leads. I was especially floored in NYC this spring in Central Park–I saw over a dozen dogs, not one on leash. I’m a huge dog lover, but having been bit by a dog (that was actually on a lead, but one of those retractable ones), I’m now really timid when I see them when I’m out on a run, which probably doesn’t help.

    • The retractable leads are another issue with me since our parks require no longer than 6′ leaches. Even other runners will allow their dogs lead to string out, blocking the entire path or allowing the dog to cross over to jump on me. What is with that!? I really like dogs but have also become afraid of them so I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be for you after being bitten.

  2. I am with you 100%. As a dog owner, it pisses me off to no end when dog owners do this. I get it – dogs need exercise – but as you said, there are designated places for dogs to be off leash. My dog is fear aggressive, mostly towards other dogs, but I can control him on a leash. However, we can’t walk on the miles and miles of beautiful trails where I live because most dog owners ignore the leash laws and their friendly dogs love to come up to my unfriendly dog…. And what about all those on trails who are afraid of dogs? It does not matter if your dog is friendly or well-behaved – if it’s coming up to my dog or other people, it is no bueno. Thanks for posting!

    • Thank you Tina! It is helpful to have your perspective as a dog owner. Gosh, it really isn’t hard to keep the dogs on their leads and then everyone could get their exercise without being fearful!

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