The Big Apple. The Concrete Jungle. The City That Never Sleeps. Whatever you call it, New York City is an urban playground for all types of dog and dog parents. Dogs in NYC are frequently seen shopping in stores, getting Puppacinos, having dinner on the patio, wearing fabulous outfits, riding in taxis… basically doing many of the things their human counterparts like to do.
Nola Princess Monkey definitely enjoys the perks of being a city pup.
But there’s one thing that isn’t safe for city dogs to be doing like their humans — and that’s walking around without a leash.
There are a lot of reasons that New York City law (as well as most other cities) states that dogs must be on a leash unless in a specifically designated area — and they are all for the safety of your pet. Many of these are for reasons you already know, but some you may not realize. We took a deeper look and broke it down for you:
1. Your dog is an animal and has instincts that are sometimes stronger than their desire to be next to you.
Even the most well-trained dog still has instincts that may override their judgment. Even if they’ve been walking off-leash for years, it only takes one time for something to go horribly wrong. Between loud noises that can spook your pup, squirrels and pigeons that may set off their prey drive, excited children and people, stray cats running loose, or even cops on horseback, urban living presents a unique set of challenges.
2. Puppies may follow you everywhere at first, but that will change.
Since puppies tend to follow their owners everywhere, it’s natural to think they’ll do that forever. (And you kinda hope they do.) However, puppies’ limited attention spans means they’re at a greater risk for chasing after something they think is interesting. Secondly, they’re not as likely to stay by your side as they become more independent and curious. This isn’t something you want to find out when your pup is off leash in a busy area!
3. Your dog may be friendly, but that doesn’t mean everyone else’s is.
As a trainer, I work with a lot of leash reactive and/or aggressive dogs. Something that doesn’t occur to most people is how dangerous this scenario is for their pet.
Some aggressive dogs do not present signs of aggression until your dog is right in front of them. If your dog runs over to say hi and the aggressive dog snaps, the person holding the leash cannot control their pup and keep yours at a distance at the same time. The off-leash dog still has access to keep coming at the other dog. The only person who can pull them away is you (and your bare hands), so you might end up with a bite if a fight breaks out. Worse, if a fight does break out, the blame rests with the person whose dog was not properly restrained.
4. It’s the law.
Yes, it is. NYC law states that a dog must be on a leash no more than 6 feet long. Be sure to check your city/state laws to see what they require.
5. [Insert Excuse Here]
I’ll take a minute to address some of the common excuses I hear about why a dog is off leash:
1. “Sometimes I don’t have time to get their leash on, and I’m just taking them out for a quick pee.”
It takes a few seconds to leash your dog up, and could mean the difference of saving its life.
2. “It’s not fair that the dog has to be on a leash all of the time.”
It doesn’t diminish the quality of their life whatsoever for a dog to walk on a leash. In fact, you could be hurting your dog by not having them on a leash. There are over 40 off-leash parks and dog runs in NYC alone, so feel free to take them to any one of those for some room to run!
3. “My dog is trained and/or would never run off.”
See above. There is no guarantee that it won’t happen at some point, and it only takes one time for the worst to take place.
4. “My dog won’t walk on a leash.”
That means that your dog definitely isn’t trained, so you should get on that immediately. Any dog can walk on a leash, but some do need help with learning the skills. Is cutting a few corners on teaching them basic obedience easier than risking losing your pet altogether?
5. Don’t let your ego play a role in your pup’s safety!
Thinking that your dog will never leave your side is a dire mistake. You might think you look cool when your dog follows at your side without a leash on, but will you look as cool when you’re chasing after them or having to rush them to the emergency vet because they got hurt in a situation that could have been prevented with a leash? Probably not. Getting busted and having to pay a $2,000 fee is also not cool.
At the end of the day, good leash habits come down to the safety and well-being of your pet. Even the quietest neighborhood doesn’t guarantee safety from an aggressive dog, a stray cat, or even a car that skips a stop sign while you’re crossing the street. The laws are in place for a reason — and it’s so that you and your wonderful dog can be safe!
Now, let’s talk about those retractable leashes…