Owning a dog is a huge responsibility. The decision to bring a dog into your life means many years of caring for a living, breathing, being. It also includes certain financial responsibilities that should be considered before deciding to adopt. Our pets rely on us for their health, well-being, and happiness. They require vaccinations and flea, tick and heart-worm medications to stay healthy, exercise and socialization to be happy, and supervision to stay safe. Not to mention tons of hugs, kisses, “pets” and attention from their owners to feel loved and accepted as a member of the “pack.” After all, they’re pack animals. For the purposes of this post, however, we’re talking solely about the importance of a leash.
For us, the most important thing we use to ensure our dog’s safety, while out-and-about, is a Leash. It’s such a simple and rather inexpensive thing, but its importance shouldn’t be under estimated. Using a leash allows a pet parent to have continuous contact with, and control of, their dog while outside the safety of their home or vehicle. It’s harder to lose something that you have constant contact with. While outside their safe spaces, our pets will encounter other dogs, animals, and vehicles that can present a threat to them. These threats can be prevented or controlled if we have control of our pets. For full-time RVers, these threats are more constant due to the frequent traveling that comes along with the lifestyle, but they’re still very present for those who don’t travel as well. Daily walks, a trip to the dog park, or a ride in the car all require the use of a leash. But if being a responsible owner isn’t enough, leashing your dog is actually the law in most, if not all, cities across the US.
It’s estimated that over one million dogs are lost every year. We can’t imagine our dog, Richey, being in an unfamiliar place and wondering how he got there or where we were. Living the RV lifestyle means we travel often and change campsites on a regular basis. This also means that each new destination is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of new scents for Richey to follow and explore. All dogs live for the “sniffles!” Using a leash in these unfamiliar and tempting situations will help you maintain control of your dog when his or her nose gets the best of them. It’s not only the scents your dog is attracted to, but all the sights and sounds as well. Nature’s creatures will scurry away when you and your dog come near, tempting him or her to give chase if not tethered to a leash. Although we like to think we know our dogs, if we had a nickel for each time we heard an owner say “that never happened before,” we’d be very rich people. Your dog can still enjoy its time outdoors on a leash if you lengthen your walks and allow him or her to follow its nose… the leash just prevents him or her from getting into trouble. And as much as your pet enjoys taking in all the sights and scents, he or she also enjoys doing it with you. Long walks with your pet are great “bonding” time… you’re just keeping him or her safe while doing it.
Some of the safest places for our furry companions to play at are dog parks, or as our friend Jack calls them, “Bark Parks.” Whenever we visit a new town we always inquire about the nearest one. Richey loves dog parks, and they’re one of the reasons he’s a very well-adjusted and socialized pet. Although the majority of parks provide a safe and confined area for your dog to play, remember these dogs are strangers to you and your companion. Dogs, and their parents, that consistently visit the same park develop friendships and understandings of behavior, but that’s not always the case in new surroundings or in the presence of new dogs. A proper introduction is essential every time. Whenever we visit a park, whether it’s the first time or the tenth, we keep Richey on his leash and walk him around the fenced area first. This gives Richey a chance to see his soon-to-be playmates and us an opportunity to observe any unusual or concerning behavior. If we decide to go in, we initially keep him on the leash just in case things don’t go well during the greeting process. Once we let him off leash, we keep it in our hand and follow him at a distance as he plays. We’re always ready to reattach it if play-time turns into a fight. Being able to readily attach your buddy’s leash is a better alternative than grabbing a handful of fur and skin as you try to regain control or get him or her to safety.
What does every RVer hope for? An awesome campsite surrounded by breath-taking views of nature’s beauty! Don’t be fooled, however. Nature’s beauty can pose a danger to your dog. Anyone who owns a dog knows how curious they are. If it moves – your dog is going to investigate. If your dog isn’t on a leash while you’re exploring nature’s beauty, they can encounter poisonous animals, insects and foliage. Other areas may have natural four-legged predators like mountain lions, bears, etc. that may attack your dog without warning. There’s also Florida’s most notorious predator, the alligator, which we observed during our visit to the Everglades National Park, that will certainly attack your dog. Not only are the obviously dangerous animals a threat to your buddy, but cute non-threatening ones like deer, rabbits or ground squirrels are as well. They can cause our dog to give chase, which can result in injury, getting lost, or encountering one of the predatory animals previously mentioned. There are also feral dogs everywhere and anywhere, and especially near wooded areas, campgrounds and sites. They will attack your furry friend. But don’t forget about domesticated dogs, too. Domesticated dogs may attack as well if your lost dog enters their property.
It’s estimated that 1.2 million dogs a year are killed by motor vehicles and, unfortunately, it’s completely preventable. Because full-time RVers, like us, are constantly on the move, we encounter traffic everywhere we go. Whether it’s a rest stop, RV park, gas station or restaurant parking lot, motor vehicle hazards are everywhere all the time. We use these spots along our travels to allow our furry friends to stretch their legs and do their “business,” and they always look forward to getting out of the car and exploring the area regardless of its location. Once you open the door your dog must be on a leash. Extreme caution should be taken at rest stops, gas stations, and parking lots, as these locations are commonly located just off of busy highways with heavy traffic, day or night. This isn’t meant to imply in any way that your dog shouldn’t be on a leash while going for a walk in a residential neighborhood or elsewhere with less traffic, as the same dangers exist there as they do anywhere. We’re simply stating that locations such as those previously mentioned place your dog at even more risk of getting struck by a vehicle if they’re not leashed. You would think this is common sense, but we’ve already seen several people allow their dogs to exit their vehicles at these locations without a leash. Undoubtedly, these are the same people who will be shocked and bewildered when their dog gets struck and killed by a vehicle, and they will say “he’s never run off like that before.” Unfortunately, it only takes one time.
“Don’t worry… Our Dog is Friendly”
We don’t know how many times we’ve heard this, but it’s too many to count. People seem to think it’s ok to let their dog run free and approach other people and their pets because their dog is “friendly.” But what about the person and pet their dog is approaching? We used to have a dog that wasn’t as social as we would have liked. She had a rough up-bringing before we adopted her and she had acquired some fears and social deficits she just couldn’t seem to overcome. She would become defensive when other dogs, off leash, would run up to her (us). We had to yell to the owners to get their dog away from ours. It’s unwise to allow your dog to run up to other dogs you’re unfamiliar with regardless of how well-behaved you think your dog is. Your dog’s behavior has nothing to do with how another dog or person will react. Your dog could get badly hurt because of this.
It’s the Law
If all the above reasons aren’t enough to keep your dog leashed, then consider this – in most, if not all cities, leashing your dog is the law. It’s a no brainer that society would make it mandatory for owners of dogs to keep them leashed while in public places. Not everyone you encounter or meet while in your neighborhood or during your travels is a dog lover. Some people may be scared of dogs, allergic to them, or just simply not fans of them and don’t want to be around them. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, though, it’s the law in most places, if not all, and it’s every dog owner’s responsibility to abide by it. Not to mention “cleaning up” after our pets!
Use a Harness
The complement to your dog’s leash is a collar or harness. It goes without saying, without one of these your leash is pretty much just a piece of fabric. Collars and harnesses are used as an attachment point for the leash and help in restraining or restricting your dog’s movements. Our experiences with collars have not been the best. We think they put too much pressure on a dog’s throat/neck, provide less control, and are too easy for dogs to slip out of if they’re not tight enough but pose a risk if they’re too tight. In our opinion, harnesses are a more effective form of restraint for your furry friend. They’re worn across a dog’s chest and rib cage, which is a much larger area than the neck, and provide greater, and easier, control of the dog… especially if he or she hasn’t been taught to properly walk on a leash or heal (if they’re a “puller”). Also, the design of a harness doesn’t put pressure on a dog’s throat, which provides a more humane control over him or her. And don’t forget, a leash or harness is only as good as its counterpart, so we recommend spending a few extra bucks on a quality harness and leash.
There really is no point in welcoming a dog, or any pet, into your life if you’re not going to ensure their safety and the safety of other people and animals. Your dog may be the best-behaved dog around, but that doesn’t mean they can’t, and won’t, get into trouble or an unsafe situation if there’s nothing preventing them from doing so. Dogs don’t think like people. They neither understand, nor have the ability to deduce the inherent risks that come along with certain situations and locations. If they did, we wouldn’t see them dead on the side of highways all the time. It’s our responsibility, as pet owners, to keep our dogs (pets) safe. We’re not suggesting that accidents don’t happen because we know they do, and even to the most diligent of us, but we are suggesting that people love and protect their dogs just as our dogs love and protect us.