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DIY Wobble Board For Your Dog

Birdie is doing well these days (knock on all the wood) and she’s been fully mobile for a while, so our new goal is to rebuild muscle in her leg. In order to do that, she has to learn that’s it’s ok to use it again, since she’s been avoiding putting weight on it for so long. (Need to catch up? You can read about Birdie’s ACL tear and rehab here and here)

One way to do that is to use a Wobble Board. At physical therapy, our therapist had Birdie stand on one as we gently moved the board around. This forced Birdie to shift her weight to the atrophied leg and activated those weaker muscles as she balanced herself.

I don’t have any photos of Birdie on the board because my hands are always full – I’m holding her in place so she’s secure, but you can see a Wobble Board in action here.

We wanted to keep this up at home, but money is tight, so I couldn’t buy a new Wobble Board. Birdie’s therapist suggested I make my own.

I found a piece of kitchen counter top from the 1950′s (check out that mid-century metallic flecking) sitting around the house and it practically screamed “I wanna rock your dog’s world!”. Who am I to deny an old kitchen counter a new life as physical therapy equipment for my dog?

And so it was born: The Kitchen Counter Weeble Wobble. Also known as the DIY project for people who don’t want to measure much or cut anything.

This is how you can make something similar at your house:

1. Find a piece of counter top, a table top, or get some plywood. It should be big enough that your dog can stand on it with all four legs.

wobble board

2. Next you’ll need a softball, an approx. 4 inch screw, and a couple of washers. Find the center of the ball and with a drill, screw that, uh, screw through the ball and into the center of the board. We stuck a washer between the board and the ball for good measure.

board back

3. Now you’ll need something to act as tread for your dogs. I used rubbery shelf liners. You can also use adhesive stair treads/strips or any variety of gripping, non-skid tape. To get my drawer liners to stick, I used Gorilla Glue (with rubber gloves because I prefer my fingertips with the skin on them).

board supplies

4. After I laid down the tread, I smushed it down real good. If you’re wondering, that’s exactly how Bob Villa describes this step in “This Old Wobble Board.”  And then I let it dry overnight.

board front

5. Done! Wobble it Baby.

board pinterest

Note: this is a pretty steeply angled board. I hold Birdie while she’s on it so she doesn’t hurt herself launching off of it. You can learn how to make a real deal, cut your own pieces of wood, lower wobble board here so you can do more rehab exercises like these.

Don’t want to make one? You can buy a Wobble Board. Check out this one from Fit Paws.

Not sure if you need one of these bad boys in your life? Here’s a few ways your dogs might benefit from the Wobble Board:

1. They improve balance, mobility, and joint strength.

2. If your dog wants to impress all the other dogs at Pilates, they’ll need one of these to work their core.

3. They can help boost your dog’s confidence. Shy dogs can benefit from from tackling weird stuff like this. Start slow and reward generously. Next thing you know, your shy dog will be boldly asking the head cheerleader to Prom.

4. They can help get your dog ready for the Teeter Totter in agility. This is a good intro to all moving thingamajigs.

5. They increase body awareness which can be helpful for just about any dog. Working with the board helps them to become more aware of all four of their limbs. Or two limbs.

 

In other Birdie-Busts-a-Move news, her physical therapist got a brand new, state of the art space ship  hydrotherapy treadmill which we got to try out for the first time last month.

birdie treadmill 2

Birdie, who is as excited about swimming as I am about doing my taxes, did much better on the treadmill than in the pool. I think she liked that she could keep her head above water. She walked at a good pace for 10 minutes. The point? To rebuild that skinny leg!

birdie treadmill

Wobble On!



365 More Chances

2013 xmas card 2

“Know how to live the time that is given to you.”- Dario Fo

 

A New Year. Another turn on the Pale Blue Dot. I’m feeling grateful for 12 fresh months of chances: to learn new things, make more mistakes, and spend time with my friends and family. Wishing you and your loved ones health and happiness in the New Year. Happy 2014 Everyone!




7 Wishes For Families With Dogs In Need Of Space

Ah, 2014. Here she comes! A new year always gets me thinking about what I want for myself in the coming months, but this year I thought: What do I want for all of YOU? For the most part, I’m wishing that you guys are happy, healthy, and discover a river of gold nugget speckled peanut butter running under your property.

But, if I ever do manage to trap a real life Genie, here’s a few other things I’d wish for DINOS families (and all the other dogs too):

1. A veterinarian that uses low-stress handling techniques and treats you and your dog with compassion. I wish this for all of us. Having a skilled, empathetic vet and vet tech that you trust to handle your dog is a huge. HUGE. Here are some leads on vets that might fit that bill.

Also, while we’re wishing, let’s ask for a vet practice with an amazing front desk staff that will make you feel like a movie star (instead of gargoyle with a troll dog) when you use the back door to get into the clinic.

2. That no one gives your dog Henrietta the Chicken. I wish that no one has to hear the sound this toy makes. It’s hysterical, but listening to Henrietta squawk for more than 45 seconds is considered a legal form of torture in at least a dozen countries. A couple of years ago, I worked in a pet store that sold these by the tub full and listened to children squeezing them. All. Day. Long. I sincerely apologize to everyone I ever gave this to as a gift (which is most of my dog walking clients).

henrietta

One squeeze of Henrietta can bring even the toughest man to his knees.


3. A vacation from your dogs. If you have a dog with behavior or medical issues then you’re probably working harder than you even realize to take care of them each day. I wish that all of you are able to take a day or seven off from caring for your dogs. Getting a little time away from your dogs (and allowing yourselves to enjoy it) can be restorative and help you hang in with them for the long haul.

Which leads to…

4. Someone you trust to pitch in. I wish that all of you are able to find a pet sitter, a boarding facility, or a friend that you can trust to help you care for your dog. Whether it’s a friend that can watch your dogs while you go away for a week or a dog walker that can provide some mid-day relief, my wish is that all of you eventually find someone you can lean on, so that you aren’t the only one who can care for your dogs.

5. At least one route to walk your dogs that is predictably safe. I wish that all of you find at least one dog walking route that you can enjoy without fear of being chased by loose dogs.  If you do find one, don’t worry about variety. Find and walk the safe route. You can spice up your dog’s life in other ways, like going Cosmic Bowling or taking a Zumba class together (or playing training games, going for group walks, and doing Noseworks).

Which leads to…

6. A magic belt to defend against rogue people and dogs. I wish all of you a set of gadgets, like the ones Data from Goonies had, that will keep loose dogs at a distance, block invasive people from petting your dogs, help you escape from a tight spot, and let you outwit Mama and her thieving sons so you get to One-Eyed Willy’s treasure first. Maybe this one is a stretch. But it’s my wish for you. You can’t stop me.

data

Respect my boundaries or you’ll get booty trapped.

7. Enough good times to counterbalance the challenges. Before January is over I want you to do this: List ten things you really love about your dog.

They can be big things:

He’s an award winning polka dance champion.

He’s totally house trained.

He never chases the cats.

He used to “debate” every dog he saw, but now he only starts rowdy philosophical discussions on Wednesdays.


Or small things:

He smells like cotton candy even when I forget to give him a bath for a year.

He sleeps in on the weekends.

He takes treats gently.

He does not have a Henrietta.

Or whatever it is that you love about your dog.

Now put this list in your drawer. The next time you have a terrible dog walk and you’re secretly thinking that it might be time to  “donate” your dog to charity: Read your list.


Ok, that’s my seven wishes, but I do have others, like: the ability to freeze time, a coat pocket that generates a never ending supply of stinky treats, and a magical dog park that only you know about. But until I find that Genie, I’ll just wish all of you happiness, health, and peanut butter gold riches in 2014!

Let The (Dog) Games Begin!

Remember that time I wrote about Dog Walking Social Groups? Not really? Here you go.

I’m a big fan of these groups for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they provide safe, structured socialization for dogs. Of course, sometimes group walks just aren’t possible. Like right now, it’s 7 degrees out.

That’s right: 7

So maybe you and your groupies (question: what’s a nickname for group members that doesn’t make them sound like they hang out in the back of tour buses?) are looking for something new to try indoors. Or maybe you and your fellow classmates have graduated past basic Reactive Rover type exercises and y’all want to cut loose a little with your new skills.

Enter group games! Games can be a fun way to practice what you’ve learned in class or on group hikes. They keep your dog working around other dogs in a positive and controlled setting. But they’re also pretty silly. Which can be a nice change of pace.

Also, you can pretend you’re Katniss. Only instead of a bow and arrow, you have a treat bag filled with stinky tuna.  Bad. Ass.

Will your dog volunteer as tribute? Mine neither. That's cool.

Will your dog volunteer as tribute? Mine neither.


Wanna try? Here are a few silly games I’ve played (or watched others play) that might be a good fit for your crew:

‘Red Light, Green Light!’

This is my personal favorite. I’ve had a lot of laughs playing this game with leash reactive dogs and their owners.  Here’s how it’s done: Each on-leash dog stands with their person on a start line. An instructor stands (without a dog) at the other end of the room or field with their back to the group.

The objective is to be the first pair to reach the instructor/finish line. Along the way, you’ll be practicing stuff like “look”, “down” and “let’s go”.

The instructor will call out “Green Light” and the teams will walk quickly towards the finish line while engaging their dogs and encouraging loose leash walking.

When the instructor calls out “Red Light” and turns around to face the group, all the dogs must be lying down. Any pair that is caught in motion, not lying down, has to go back to the starting line. This continues until one pair makes it to the finish line and puts their dog in a down stay.

Ring Around the Rosie’

Each on-leash dog stands with their person in a large circle. The instructor (and maybe a few friends) sings the song “Ring Around the Rosie” as the pairs walk around the outside of the circle practicing loose leash walking and eye contact.

When the song ends with the line “they all fall DOWN”, all the dogs must be in a down position. The last dog to lie down is eliminated. Be mindful of space between dogs, so that you don’t run into anyone when that “down!” gets hollered.

Musical Hoops’

Another childhood favorite adapted for dogs, this game is the canine version of Musical Chairs. You’ll need as many hula hoops as there are dogs participating in the game. To give the dogs some space from one another, you can place the hoops as far away from each other as you need and they can be set up in a circle or in a row.

The dogs are on leash with their owners and, as the music plays, the dogs walk around the hoops practicing loose leash walking and eye contact. When the music stops, the dogs are asked to sit or lie down inside the nearest hula hoop. The dogs must have at least two paws inside the hoop. If a dog does not have at least two paws inside the hoop, they’re out. One hoop is then removed and the game continues!

Again, be mindful of the other dogs. Don’t run to the same hoop with nothing but the sweet taste of victory on your lips. Winning isn’t worth a head on in-hoop collision.

Hide and Seek’

If your dog prefers solo time with you, play at home! Ask your dog to sit or lie down and put them in a stay. Hide in another room and then call your dog. Wait for him to find you – try not to laugh and give away your hiding spot! It’s that simple.


Depending on how challenging these activities are for your dogs, you may need to refrain from lots of hollering, high-fiving, and giggle fits. It’ll be helpful to stay calm and cool, so the dogs don’t get too psyched (especially if you’re playing inside). But as time goes on and the dogs settle in, I highly recommend laughing and cutting loose a little. Also, there needs to be an instructor or two (or someone else without a dog), to help troubleshoot/declare the winner.

And remember different games work for different dogs. It’s cool if these aren’t your dog’s thing. Don’t give up on games all together though. Have you tried Nose Works? I haven’t met a dog yet that doesn’t like that one. And it’s the perfect winter-time activity.

But if you do decide to play, games like these can be as challenging as regular training classes and as social as a group walk. Give them a try and may the odds be ever in your dog’s favor!


p.s. If you’ve got a favorite group or solo game that you like to play with your dogs, let us know in the comments, ok?

Walking and Reading: 12|13|13

chickenfriday13_2

Happy Friday the 13th! (source)



For the Dogs:

Historical dog breed photos.  Some breeds have undergone some changes (and not for the better). What she said. 

People with Service Dogs: this one’s for you.

It takes a village (or at least a few trusted friends) to raise a reactive dog.



For the Humans:

This man’s tutu is powerful medicine. 

The Mayors of New York: If you’ve ever lived in a big city, you know a few “mayors” too.

If you only click on one link, please make it this one. 



For the Laugh: 

Are you watching Bob’s Burgers? It’s my laugh-therapy. Here’s why you shouldn’t fight old people. 



And Offline:

I’m reading a collection of stories by Dorothy Parker and The Compassion Fatigue Workbook by Francois Mathieu. How about you?
 

 

Calling Team Future Us: It’s Time!

Hello Team Future Us! Did you get your message from Past You yet?

I just did. For those of you who participated, how did it feel to get an encouraging message from yourself? Did you totally forgot that you wrote that note? If you remembered that you wrote the email, was the content of your message still a surprise?

future me



I forgot what I wrote back in September, so it was really fun to read my message today. But hearing from Past Me is a little spooky too, because I only partially recognize myself in these emails.

During a typical day, I’m more likely to hear from that panicky, weepy kid that spins in circles (you met that kid here). But in these Future Me messages I get to hear from a different internal voice that I’m not as familiar with. She’s way more encouraging and almost unrecognizably calm. I imagine that while weepy kid is on the floor in the fetal position, this gal is peacefully sitting at a sunny kitchen table, drinking herbal tea, and petting my cat. She doesn’t own any clothing with zippers.

It was nice to visit with her for a minute today.

Just recently I learned that we spend 47% of our lives lost in our thoughts. Half our lives! We’re always a little here, a little bit someplace else. We’re lost in conversations with all the wackadoos that live in our heads and make a living spewing a non-stop stream of commentary at us.

Sometimes I hear from these guys too.

Some days my mind sounds like these two. It could be worse.



That peanut gallery in our heads is loud. It can be hard to tune in to the present moment. In can be hard to take time out to notice all the things were grateful for in our everyday lives. It can be hard to grab that one positive thought out of a sea of negatives.

Research shows that we need a ratio of five positive comments or events to outweigh a single negative one. Considering all the negative stuff we’re chewing on in our minds, we can stack the deck in our favor by contributing to the positive feedback for ourselves. We don’t have to wait for anyone else to do it.

So I hope that all of you got to visit with a different side of yourselves today, through that note. That instead of just hearing the din of all the anxious or angry or critical voices that we all spend so much time listening to or trying to tune out, that you got to hear something positive and encouraging instead. There is value in purposefully taking time out to care for ourselves through simple acts of self compassion. Maybe writing these notes is one way to do that.

And if your note didn’t do much of anything for you, then let me be the one to say: You’re doing awesome.



Tell me about your experience with Future Me in the comments: good, bad, funny? Will you try it again? 

In Gratitude

boogie in the sun


“Gratitude goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness  of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”

- Henri J. M. Nouwen



Please Stop Neglecting Yourself: You’re Too Important To Ignore

I just opened up this month’s issue of O Magazine. That’s right, I love me some Oprah.

They did a lovely feature where they gave makeovers to women who work as founders and program managers of nonprofits. They’re all caregivers in one way or another. I was stoked to see that Sara Alize Cross, founder of Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue was one of the recipients and that her work on behalf of homeless pets was featured right along side those who run human-focused programs.

Her rescue, founded just two years ago, has saved more than 1,000 dogs. Pretty amazing. I was feeling happy, until I read this part of her interview:

The stress has taken it’s toll. “I’ve gained 25 pounds and have thousands of dollars in credit card debt”, she says. But she has no regrets,”Being able to alleviate suffering is incredibly empowering.”

That broke my heart. Then I read this:

“…I’m really going to try to take care of myself again.”

I felt a wee bit better when Sara acknowledged that she has to make her own needs a priority again. Because the truth is: if helping others is your jam, your own needs have to come first. Not in a selfish, narcissistic way, but in a Put-Your-Own-Oxygen-Mask-On-First sort of way. Self-care is critical to the work of caring for others.

I’ve written about this before. I’m writing about it again because I feel like this notion of self care bucks up against some deeply entrenched ideas we all have about what giving and caring for others is supposed to feel like.

In general, our culture promotes exhaustion, over-extension, and lack of self care as stuff that goes hand-in-hand with helping others. So we wind up wearing our lack of self care as a badge of honor. Proof that we’re doing good work. As if what we do doesn’t count unless we suffer.

Sometimes I wonder: Do we think that it somehow proves  - to ourselves or to others – that we care the most about the animals, if we don’t care about ourselves at all?

So I’m writing this, not as a criticism of Sara or to point a finger at her in any way, but because her story resonated so deeply with me. Just like her, I gained 25 pounds and compromised my financial health when I was working at an animal shelter (and later volunteering with an animal welfare group). I too felt empowered by my work, but eventually I became totally depleted. I kept putting off my own self care. It was as if I believed there was some magic, perfect day in the future where I’d suddenly have free time and everyone else’s needs were totally taken care of and then I could handle my own stuff.  Only that’s a day that never comes – for anyone. Not me and not you either.

Since I didn’t stop to take care of myself, I burned out.  And I can’t stand to see others on the same path I was on.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful – as always – for all of you who are on the front lines, taking care of the animals. So, I’m asking that you please please please take care of yourselves. The work you do is so important. You are important. We need you to stick around.

Make yourself a priority. Set boundaries. Say no sometimes. That means sometimes you won’t be able to help an animal or person in need right now. But it will mean that, down the road, you’ll still be around and can help someone else. Try to take the long view.

Know this: You can’t save them all. Or do it alone. Or do it all right now.  No one can.

Neglecting your own needs in order to take care of others isn’t a sustainable plan. You need to fill up your own tank – every day and in healthy ways – in order to give to others day after day.

If you don’t take care of your own needs, you might be a hero, but for only for a very short time. Find ways to take back some of your energy for you, so that you can do great things for a long, long time to come.

You know what I would love to read in O Magazine one day? A founder of an animal rescue who says this:

“I realized that in order to continue doing this important work, I needed to set boundaries and take care of myself first. I exercise, eat right, stay within my budget, and take regular time off to restore myself. I may not be able to help as many animals as I’d like to this way, but because I’m taking care of myself I’m going to be able to keep giving for a long, long time.”

I’d love to see caregivers celebrated – not just for the amazing work they do – but also because they model a healthy balance between giving to others and giving to themselves. I hope one day our culture promotes physical, mental, and spiritual health as something that goes hand-in-hand with caregiving. When working to alleviate the suffering of others and ourselves is considered of equal importance.


P.S. Sara, if you’re reading this: you looked smoking hot in both photos! Go on with your bad self!



Read more:

How to avoid burnout or a breakdown from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center

My own story of burnout and leaving the animal shelter

What is Compassion Fatigue? 

Simple Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Books that might be helpful

Animals From History: Interview with Artist Christina Hess

In another lifetime I worked at an Irish bar in Philadelphia called Moriarty’s. The staff back in those days was a pretty awesome bunch. One of them was the artist Christina Hess.

More than a decade later, Christina is the brilliance behind the recently released project Animal From History:

The Fitzgeralds - Copyright Christina Hess - All Rights Reserved

The Fitzgeralds – Copyright Christina Hess – All Rights Reserved

 

I love this series of illustrations. A lot. Lucky for me (and you) Chris was up for a few questions about her work. Let’s dive in!


Jessica: What was the inspiration behind Animals From History?

Christina: Animals and history always interested me, but this project came together for a few reasons. I painted a white cat (Queen Elhissabeth) for a client who wanted his cat immortalized as a queen. I did some research and felt that a generic queen would not have been as fun to do as someone that actually existed.  So I researched Queen Elisabeth and I found wonderful imagery that I could pull from. It ended up resonating with many people.

Copyright Christina Hess All Rights Reserved

Queen Elhissabeth – Copyright Christina Hess – All Rights Reserved

 

Another inspiration was our Basset Hound, Roscoe. He was a character and gave me a lot of stories. I often wondered what he would be saying if he were human and I coincided his rumbles with famous quotes or lyrics from songs.

At that point I felt like it would be a really fun project to bring together animals and history to make a world that I could continue working with.


J: Now that I’ve seen William Wallace as a scruffy terrier and Joan of Arc as a dignified German Shepherd, I can’t imagine them as any other kind of dog. How do you choose a particular animal and historical figure pairing? Does the person’s animal alter ego speak to you or vice versa?

C: It’s funny because when I first started this idea I had wild animals involved and had animal/human personalities match up. But then it took a domestic animal turn. I had used Kickstarter.com for funding the project and through that I offered original artwork of people’s pets as their choice of historical figures.

What I found is that people did not associate their pet as a personality because of looks or general attitude – it was all about the individual animal. Sometimes the choice lined up perfectly – like Kiddy Roosevelt. The cat really looked like Teddy Roosevelt!

It really became a community project and I learned so much about people’s pets. For example, the dogs behind Joan of Bark and Henry V are canine siblings in real life. When “Henry” moved in with “Joan” she terrorized him quite a bit.  So their owner and backer thought that two opposing personalities were appropriate for both of her German Shepherds.

Joanof Bark - Copyright Christina Hess - All Rights Reserved

Joan of Bark – Copyright Christina Hess – All Rights Reserved

 

With the wild animals I wanted to pair the personalities of them with the people. Snow leopards rarely stay together, as The Fitzgeralds did not. Mountain Lions are loners who are ruthless, hence the portrayal as Steve Jobs.


J: Your late dog Roscoe, an adorable Basset Hound, is depicted as Napoleon. What inspired that particular pairing?

C: The obvious short man syndrome applies to his breed a lot. Those Bassets act like big boys, including my Roscoe! He was also very vociferous and had a bit of prissiness to him that reminded me of Napoleon and his pushy personality. He was short, pushy, loud, obnoxious and loved french bread. I’m not kidding…bread was his catnip! He had a big personality, as did Napoleon.

Also, I really wanted him to hide his paw, so it appears he is scratching his own belly.

Copyright Christina Hess - All Rights Reserved

Napoleon Boneapart – Copyright Christina Hess – All Rights Reserved


J: Is there an animal or a historical figure you’re dying to bring to life next?

C: Many! I’m currently working on a pit bull as Queen Bessie Coleman and have many others on the list. Mary Shelly as a skunk. The Wright Brothers as Kiwi birds. Frank Lloyd Wright as a Greyhound, John Smith and Pocahontas as a deer and wolf. The list goes on…

William Pawllace - Copyright Christina Hess - All RIghts Reserved

William Pawllace – Copyright Christina Hess – All RIghts Reserved


J: Where can we see more Animals From History? Is the Ebook available to purchase?

C: Right now the images are online at ChristinaHess.com and AnimalsFromHistory.com. I also have them for sale in print form and in a 2014 calendar. I had to postpone the eBook, because I’m reworking some of the writing in order for my agent to pitch it to publishers. Hopefully it’ll be out by next year. I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck!


I can’t wait for the book – I have no doubt it will be a huge success! Thank you for the interview Chris!

Should I Leash My Dog? [Flowchart]

Ever wonder when it’s ok to let your dog off leash?

Check out this handy flowchart created by the fabulous Jenny Williams. In just a few text bubbles (and with a sense of humor) it’ll help you make a responsible, respectful, safe choice!

Download and print the pdf here to share! Note: this is not available for commercial use. Jenny Williams gets all the props for this one. Please be sure to give her credit when you share it. And check out her site: ShouldILeashMyDog.com for more!

Download and print the pdf to share! Note: this is not available for commercial use. Jenny Williams gets all the props for this one. Please be sure to give her credit and check out her site: ShouldILeashMyDog.com for more!


Hate charts? Here’s the super short version: if there’s a leash law, the answer is “leash your dog.”

And just in case you’re wondering, you are not exempt from leash laws, even if you are*:

• The owner of a Lab
• A board member of an animal shelter
• A middle age white man without a criminal record
• The owner of a friendly dog
• In a parking lot near hiking trails
• A donor to your local humane society

*Yes, these are all real excuses used by real people. To my face.

Listen, let’s save some time: don’t bother with the rationalizing. It’s the law. Just like stop lights, it’s in everyone’s best interests if we obey these laws, rather than justifying why we’re the exception. Can you imagine if we all decided we were the exception to obeying red stop lights because we thought it was a dumb law and we’re better drivers than everyone else?! Crash, Bang, Blam-o.

Leash laws exist to keep all of us safe, including our dogs. They help create public spaces that are safe and welcoming to everyone, including the elderly, children, and the disabled.

There are a lot of us that don’t want to interact with loose dogs or are afraid of them. We rely on leash laws  and purposely choose to visit areas where they exist, with the expectation that dogs will not be loose. When you let your dogs loose in areas with leash laws, you take away our right to choose. Not cool.

Here’s something you may not have considered:

Simply seeing a dog that is not leashed, even when that dog is very well behaved, can cause panic for some people.

While you may know that your dog won’t cause any trouble, the other person is freaking out about what might potentially occur. They’re afraid that without the leash, your dog might suddenly approach them.

Why would they be afraid of my friendly dog? I clearly have him under voice control!

Here’s why: Many of us have had frightening encounters with dogs just seconds after their owners swore to us that their dogs were under control/friendly. We understand that not all dogs are the same, but one bitten, twice shy, you know? It just scares the pants off of us to take a gamble with another dog that may or may not be as well behaved as their owner promises us. It’s not personal.

Plus, there are these reasons people might be afraid of a potential interaction with your dog:

• They have a physical limitation, such as poor balance or lack of mobility.
• They’re senior citizens.
• They’re children.
• They rely on Service Dogs that must not be distracted or harmed.
• They (or their dogs) have been bitten or attacked in the past.
• They own dogs who are injured, sick, or otherwise unable to safely interact with other dogs.
• They have a phobia of dogs. Remember, phobias like the ones lots of us have of spiders, snakes, or of heights, are irrational. But that doesn’t make it less debilitating (this guy died trying to flee a friendly dog).


For these folks, a leash functions as a visual signal, as much as a physical restraint.

The leash says to the concerned party: “Don’t worry. My dog won’t suddenly run over, knock you off your crutches, and eat your baby.” Seeing the leash prevents the internal panic-show from starting. Please have compassion for people and use that leash. You’ll be someone’s hero, without even knowing it!

Beyond those reasons, leash laws exist because we all have different ideas and standards for what constitutes a “well trained, friendly” dog. This simple management tool provides a baseline of safety for all kinds of dogs to be out in public, even if the handler is new to dog training (we were all new at some point!). Leashes are not perfect or foolproof – learn how to use a retractable here and leash etiquette here - but with one you’re covering the bases and being responsible.

With more cars, more people, and more dogs, crammed into less space than ever before, we all need to have our dogs under our full control. Leashes keep dogs safe and out of trouble. Dogs aren’t robots. Even good, well trained dogs make not-so-great choices sometimes. A leash can keep your dog from chasing a ball in front of bus, getting spooked by gunfire and taking off into the woods, accidentally scratching a kid and bringing on a lawsuit, French kissing a porcupine, or chasing a herd of deer across a park and making you a YouTube star.

Look, just because we want you to leash your dog in certain public areas, doesn’t mean we’re scrooges. Lots of us like watching dogs run off leash. The truth is that the perfect complement to areas with leash laws are designated, accessible, and welcoming off-leash areas. This allows everyone to enjoy public recreation with their dogs, in whatever environment – on or off leash – that suits them best. When both on and off leash areas exist, it gives everyone a choice and prevents responsible dog owners who prefer off leash recreation from being unfairly marginalized. If you or someone you know is interested in increasing off-leash areas, please see the following article from Bark Magazine.

In the end, that’s what all of us want: to choose what is best for us and our dogs, to be treated with common courtesy, and to be provided with safe options for recreation in our communities. Also, some of us want free ice cream cones every Friday. But since we can’t get everything we want, we’ll settle for dog owners who obey leash laws.

Be responsible, respectful, safe!

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